You know when you think of pets, you think about animals that are warm and fuzzy or cute and cuddly, but what about those creatures that are dead set ugly or maybe a bit agro? Remember as kids trotting off with some string and net in hand to go fishing for yabbies? Well the yabbies that we keep as pets today are vastly different from the yabbies we used to catch in the dam!

These guys are actually fresh water cray fish. In the Eastern states they're called yabbies and over in the west they're called marron. They're exactly the same thing and they're found in waterways right around the whole country.

When we used to catch them as kids they were just a dirty brown colour. But in a fresh water tank, they can be really colourful - have a look at the electric blue marron above.

When you set up a tank it's very important you don't overcrowd them because they will fight. So a tank of this size will contain 2 yabbies of about 10 cm in length and certainly no more and they should be of equal size.

Setting up the tank is pretty much like setting up a fish tank. But don't fill the tank too high or your yabbies will crawl out.

One thing they do need is hidey holes because in nature, they burrow in the side of a bank or dam and that becomes their territory. So provide them with plenty of hidey holes and be sure there's a heap of gravel in the base of the tank too as they do like to dig.

Now the other thing you're going to need is a filter because these guys are very messy eaters and they waste a lot of food, so water can easily become contaminated.

What about feeding? Well in the wild yabbies are omnivores, they eat a mixture of meat and veg, so in a pond they'll eat things like aquatic plants or the carcass of a dead fish - they're great little scavengers. So what do you feed them in a tank?There's a commercial food available which is a complete food and very easy to use.Or, you can make your own. A simple mixture of food like some prawns, peas and carrots. The important thing is to break the food up in small pieces and make sure it's eaten before you give the next piece.

Give the tank a good clean once a month. If you look after these guys they should live for 10 years but be warned, they can grow up to 30 cm long!

A few more do's and don'ts about yabbies

  • Do have a plentiful supply of water plants on hand because they'll eat the ones you put in the tank to start off with.
  • Don't hold them in your hand because they'll tend to dry out and that's not good for them at all.
  • Do be very careful what fish you put in with the yabbies because those little claws are very good at catching things.
  • And last but not least, make sure you put a lid on the tank because they have a very nasty habit of getting out and going walk about.

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