Pond location and design are the most important physical factors for successful crawfish production.
Existing rice fields often are used, but the most productive and easiest to manage ponds are those constructed specifically for producing crawfish. Proper pond construction gives the crawfish farmer better control over flooding, drainage, forage and water management, and harvesting.
Although some management practices can be changed easily to improve production, modifying or renovating ponds that were improperly constructed can be expensive.
Before construction, seek advice from your county Extension agent and the Natural Resources Conservation Service engineer in your area.
Crawfish ponds should be located in flat, open areas where soils have sufficient amounts of clay. Clay loams, sandy clay loams, and silty clay loams are satisfactory soil types. Clay soil holds water and maintains the integrity of crawfish burrows. Crawfish will die in sandy soil where burrows collapse or dry out easily.
Perimeter levees should have a core trench cleared of debris to prevent water seepage. The bases of perimeter levees should be at least 9 feet wide to prevent leakage caused by burrowing crawfish.
A levee system 3 feet high will contain the 12 to 18 inches of water necessary to cultivate crawfish. The land should have no more than a 6-inch fall between perimeter levees. Otherwise, the area should be leveled or divided into two or more ponds. A pond with a steep elevation difference complicates forage and water management and impairs harvesting efficiency. Typical ponds are 10 to 20 acres, and most producers manage 100 or fewer acres.
Ponds should be designed to drain thoroughly. Standing water hinders tillage operations and forage establishment. Ditches should be positioned outside the perimeter levees. Interior ditches reduce circulation throughout the pond, causing areas away from the channel to have low dissolved oxygen during critical times. This reduces the effective production area of the pond. Also, interior ditches may harbor predatory fish after ponds are drained.
Interior or baffle levees guide water through the pond, properly distributing aerated water and helping maintain good water quality. Baffle levees are built about 6 feet wide at the base and do not require a core trench.
They should extend at least 6 inches above the expected water level for the pond. If the part of the baffle levee above the water line is not substantial enough, settling and erosion will cause the levee to breach in a year or two.
Baffle levees should be spaced 150 to 300 feet apart for best water circulation.
Recirculating pond water is important where the surface water quality or quantity fluctuates or where well water must be pumped from great depths at higher cost. A return canal outside the perimeter levee and a re-lift pump or paddlewheel aerator will help recirculate water and minimize effluent.
Drains should be appropriate for the pond size, pumping capacity and projected rainfall. Two 10-inch drains are sufficient for a 20-acre pond. Pond levees should allow vehicle access in all weather conditions for efficient use of harvesting equipment.
Both surface and subsurface water can be acceptable for crawfish farming. Well water is free of predators but has a limited discharge capacity and higher pumping cost. Surface water is less costly to pump, but may not be reliable in quantity or quality. Surface water also can contain predatory fishes that must be removed.
Passing surface water through small mesh screens can effectively remove most fish and aerate the water. Small fish not retained by screens may compete with the crawfish for food items and prey upon small crawfish.
Pools or puddles remaining when the pond is drained in summer should be treated with a fish toxicant.
Pumps, motors and pipes must be matched to the system and to each other to obtain the most efficient performance. Lift should be minimized as much as possible to reduce pumping costs.
Article Related Questions:
- How deep should a crawfish pond be?
- How do you build a crawfish pond?
- How many crawfish can you raise per acre?
- Can you grow crawfish in a pond?
- How long does it take for crawfish to grow to full size?