Red claw are probably best produced in traditional fish production ponds 3 to 4 feet deep with sloping bottoms and a drainage system. Ponds ranging from 1/4 to 2 acres have been used in red claw production, but ponds of 1 acre or less are recommended for ease of management and harvesting. Research suggests the following production strategy:
1. Stock juveniles of 1 gram or larger in the spring when water temperatures stay above 68oF;
2. Stock at a density of 10,000 to 12,000 per surface acre of pond;
3. Feed hay at 225 kg per acre per month and supplement with a commercial diet at 3 percent of estimated biomass
4. Partial harvest using traps starting 3 to 4 months after the young crayfish were stocked
5. Drain harvest when water temperatures drop below 60oF.
To reduce the chance of disease and competition, native crayfish should be eliminated from ponds in which red claw will be stocked. Fill the ponds with well water if possible to eliminate introduction of other species and their diseases. Ponds should be filled only a few weeks before stocking to prevent the establishment of predaceous aquatic insects. Ponds should be limed if hardness is below 20 ppm and fertilized to establish a plankton bloom. Survival improves significantly if a 1 gram (28 to the ounce) or larger juvenile is stocked rather than newlyhatched juveniles. Stocking densities of 0.25 to 0.3 per square foot of pond surface area (10,000 to 12,000 per acre) appear to give the best overall survival and production of larger crayfish. Dried hay should be spread around the edges of the pond monthly at a rate of about 225 kg per acre per month, divided into two or three applications. Commercial crayfish, shrimp, or fish feeds should be used in addition to the hay during the last half of the culture period. Total commercial feed input should be fed at 3 percent of estimated total crayfish weight per day but not to exceed 15 kg per pond surface acre per day.
Water quality must be maintained if red claw are to survive and grow. Aeration should be used to maintain dissolved oxygen above 3 ppm. Remember that these animals live on the pond bottom; therefore, oxygen should be checked near the pond bottom and not at the surface. Ammonia and nitrite concentrations should
be determined twice weekly toward the end of the growing season, but are not usually a problem at recommended feeding rates. If water quality declines, stop feeding and flush with clean water, if possible. Red claw may attempt to migrate from the pond if water quality is poor. Proper management should lead to the
production of 450 to 680 kgs per acre after six months. Individual red claw should weigh about 70 grams or 14 to the kg, although some individuals will weigh more than 1/8 kg.