Related to lobsters, crawfish look like a miniature version of their larger relatives. They also live in fresh water while lobsters thrive in salty or brackish water. As in the case with most natural food in the United States, Native Americans enjoyed crawfish and taught the white settlers how to find and eat them. The Acadians and other settlers took to the often necessary supplement to their diets, but they were not sold commercially until the late 1800's. The first real farming of the crustacean really took off in the 1980's, as they became more popular. Louisiana now produces about 90% of the domestic crawfish supply.
Most crawfish farmers also grow rice. Both crops require ponded fields and water control, and its semi-aquatic nature makes rice the main forage crop for crawfish. Ironically, the best rice varieties for grain production aren't necessarily the best for crawfish, says Dr. Ray McClain, aquaculturist at the Louisiana State University Rice Research Station, Crowley. The highest-yielding rices mature early, are short, and have a high grain-to-foliage ratio. But crawfish farmers often prefer the older rice varieties for opposite traits. This symbiotic relationship provides a steady living for the farmers and a steady supply of locally grown rice and crawfish for the people of Louisiana.