The life cycle of the crayfish is like that of many animals. After mating, the female crayfish lays eggs, which hatch and grow into adult crayfish, at which point the cycle starts again.
The crayfish life cycle begins when a male and female crayfish mate. Reproduction is sexual and most often occurs in the spring. During mating, the male crayfish deposits sperm into the sperm receptacle of the female. Once she is impregnated, the female lays eggs.
Crayfish lay hundreds of eggs at a time. Unlike some animals that abandon their eggs, the crayfish mother holds all of the eggs under her swimming appendages, called swimmeretes or pleopods, according to EcoSpark. This can last for any amount of time between two and 20 weeks. The small babies that emerge from the eggs are essentially the same as adult crayfish, only smaller.
These babies stay in the protection of their mother for up to two weeks. Then, they gradually begin to live on their own, eventually leaving the mother entirely. During this time, many crayfish are eaten by predators because they are so small.
As they grow, the crayfish begin to moult their outer layer by shedding and regrowing it. Maturity is reached in about three to four months, or by moulting six to 10 times. The lifespan of a crayfish is about three to eight years.
Once they reach maturity, the crayfish seek out a mate, and the crayfish life cycle begins again.