Pet Yabbies

Updated June 25, 2012, 9:34 am betterhomesgardens


Who would've thought that animals we used to catch in a dam would one day end up being popular pets?!

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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  1. C07:58pm Saturday 09th November 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    does anyone know where asparagus is okay for yabbies? no probs with carrot, peas etc, but I have some left over asparagus (fresh) and thought I'd check before I feed it to the yabbies or to the worms....

  2. andrew12:31pm Thursday 16th August 2012 ESTReport Abuse

    The comment made by Jace below is spot on. The Eastern States Yabbie is very different to our local Western Australian marron and smaller gilgie (Aboriginal name). Yabbies are much tougher and have wiped out local species from large areas of habitat. It's actually illegal to have them in an outdoor body of water anywhere west of Albany Highway.

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  3. Mrs12:02pm Wednesday 04th July 2012 ESTReport Abuse

    "shedding" is actually called moulting and happens when a yabby's exoskeleton grows to big for it, so it "sheds" the old skin and a new one is underneath. moulting is the way that yabbies grow, it happens every so often- its kind of like a yabby's birthday

  4. Leah09:18am Tuesday 26th June 2012 ESTReport Abuse

    I have a yabbie (Sonny) don’t know the sex, which I brought about 2 months ago, he is an active little thing, anyway my tank has ammonia in it which I am treating, I have brought a new tank which is all set up just waiting on my dad to set the filter in it (which he is doing tonight) and he is ready to be put in his new home, now to get down to why I am emailing you, 2 days ago I fed him a bit of carrot which he loves he never touched it, he didn’t even go running over to it like he usually does when I put it in the tank, so yesterday morning before I went to work I put a bit of turtle food in there which again he loves and will go running to it but again he didn’t it fell to the floor and that’s where it was when I left, I left so not sure if he ate it or not but anyway when I got home last night I noticed that he was a bit funny he wasn’t as active as usual and didn’t really look himself (don’t ask me how I know that but I just do), but didn’t think much of it, but I woke up this morning turned his light on and there he was flipped on his back and only moving a little bit (not much at all, his legs were the only thing moving and it was very little movement) I flipped him over and he started slowly moving and went to the top of his barrel and just stayed there I dropped in some more turtle food and it landed on the back of him he didn’t move, he just stayed there, he didn’t even flinch when the food touched him, can you tell me if he is sick and slowly dying or could he be shedding his shell? He has shed his shell before about a month ago but I was away on holidays so I didn’t see what he was like and went through. I came home to the empty shell on the floor of the fish tank :) And if he is shedding then should I leave him in that tank until he dose shed or is it safe to move him into his new tank? Can Anyone help me please!

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  5. Able-Jane08:23pm Friday 02nd March 2012 ESTReport Abuse

    I've had my yabbie for 7 months and he/she has shed twice. I know they grow quicker if the water temperature is warmer and food is abundant, but is it normal for them to shed so often? Sometimes, it can eat up to 4 garden worms in no time, especially after shedding, when it seems to have an insatiable appetite. I'd like to get a bigger tank and put a filter in it so that I can get another yabbie, hopefully a "mate", not sure what sex it is??? so that they can breed. Does anyone have any recommendations on what is the best filter to buy that does not cost a fortune??

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  6. Dalikun Smith06:14pm Sunday 17th April 2011 ESTReport Abuse

    i want to start "breeding" yabbies, but not the big blue ones, more like the tiny white-ish, brown-ish yabbies that you feed TO fish. but i have a problem, i dont know what these litte guys need to stay alive (maybe a pump of some sort) and food is a little different to the big ones. Can anyone help me!! plz!!

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  7. 02:17pm Wednesday 09th March 2011 ESTReport Abuse

    after reading the article i feel i must inform you marron and yabbies are definately not the same marron are native to wa and the carapace is very different and marron also can grow to 2kg where yabbies are nowhere near that

  8. Tulsa Wireman 58401:01am Sunday 23rd January 2011 ESTReport Abuse

    Where can you get some yabby's here in the USA??

  9. Louise09:39pm Tuesday 19th October 2010 ESTReport Abuse

    i have a female yabby had her for 6 months now she has grown alot in that time, i feed her worms from the garden which she loved also peas,carrots and on the odd time apple they also like pumkin but yabby dont like it i have a fliter and alot of places for her to hide she is very happy. They are really no different from keeping a fish, when i got her she was 3cm she is now 35cm...

  10. AstroT4mom07:03pm Wednesday 16th June 2010 ESTReport Abuse

    my friend's yabby ate the slightly smaller yabby! :-(


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