Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Cherax cainii
(smooth marron)



Cherax cainii (smooth marron)


  • Last modified
  • 02 April 2019
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Threatened Species
  • Host Animal
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Cherax cainii
  • Preferred Common Name
  • smooth marron
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Metazoa
  •     Phylum: Arthropoda
  •       Subphylum: Crustacea
  •         Class: Malacostraca
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • Cherax cainii is a robust freshwater crayfish species originally native to Southwest Australia. Due to its high aquaculture interest, the species has been largely translocated in Australia, being now widespread...

  • There are no pictures available for this datasheet

    If you can supply pictures for this datasheet please contact:

    CAB International
    OX10 8DE
  • Distribution map More information

Don't need the entire report?

Generate a print friendly version containing only the sections you need.

Generate report


Top of page


Top of page

Preferred Scientific Name

  • Cherax cainii Austin and Ryan, 2002

Preferred Common Name

  • smooth marron

Other Scientific Names

  • Chaeraps tenuimanus Smith, 1912
  • Cherax tenuimanus (Smith, 1912)

International Common Names

  • English: marron; marron crayfish

Summary of Invasiveness

Top of page

Cherax cainii is a robust freshwater crayfish species originally native to Southwest Australia. Due to its high aquaculture interest, the species has been largely translocated in Australia, being now widespread in a variety of natural and artificial water bodies of Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. In Kangaroo Island (South Australia) it is considered a significant pest (Government of South Australia, 2013). Mainly for commercial aquaculture reasons, the species has also been introduced to several countries around the world, namely New Zealand, North America, Japan, Chile, South Africa and Zambia. However, there are no reports of current populations established in the wild in these countries.

The introduction of this species into new habitats is cause for concern due to their potential ability to compete with and displace native species, cause significant habitat alteration and introduce associated undesirable parasites and diseases. At the moment, the largest concern is related to its increasingly dense populations in the Margaret River (Australia), where the species seems to outcompete and hybridize with the endemic and critically endangered C. tenuimanus (Graaf et al., 2009).  

Taxonomic Tree

Top of page
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Metazoa
  •         Phylum: Arthropoda
  •             Subphylum: Crustacea
  •                 Class: Malacostraca
  •                     Subclass: Eumalacostraca
  •                         Order: Decapoda
  •                             Suborder: Reptantia
  •                                 Unknown: Parastacoidea
  •                                     Family: Parastacidae
  •                                         Genus: Cherax
  •                                             Species: Cherax cainii

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

Top of page

The taxonomy of Cherax species is complex and the status of a number of species is still in dispute. The smooth marron had been known as Cherax tenuimanus since 1912 until genetic studies by Austin and Ryan (2002) demonstrated that C. tenuimanus was not a homogeneous species and comprised two genetically distinct forms. As the original description of the marron was based on specimens from the Margaret River area (Australia), the form native to this river system retains the name C. tenuimanus and is listed as Critically Endangered in the IUCN red list (see The new species name Cherax cainii is now used for the more widespread marron species that is used in aquaculture worldwide.


Top of page

In females, oviduct pores are located at the base of the third or middle pair of legs, whereas in males, the genital papillae are located at the base of the fifth pair of legs, nearest the tail.


Top of page

C. cainii is native to the main permanent rivers in the forested, high-rainfall areas in the southwest of Western Australia. Its distribution extends as far east as Esperance and as far north as Geraldton. International interest in its aquaculture potential has resulted in the species being introduced to Chile, Ecuador, Great Britain (indoor intensive culture), Malawi, New Zealand, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Japan, southeastern and Central USA, China, the Caribbean (Morrissy et al., 1990; Alderman and Wickins, 1996) and other Australian states. Although few of these industries outside Australia have been successful, in the late 1990s C. cainii farming expanded rapidly in both Western Australia and South Australia. C. cainii is currently farmed in Western Australia, South Australia and New South Wales. Areas in Australia potentially suitable for farming C. cainii are determined by temperature, water supply and the presence of clay soils suitable for ponds (Lawrence et al., 1995).

Distribution Table

Top of page

The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasiveReferenceNotes


ChinaPresentIntroducedLawrence and Jones, 2002
JapanPresentIntroducedLawrence and Jones, 2002


MalawiPresentIntroducedLawrence and Jones, 2002
South AfricaPresentIntroducedLawrence and Jones, 2002
ZambiaPresentIntroducedMikkola, 1996
ZimbabwePresentIntroducedLawrence and Jones, 2002

North America

USAPresentIntroducedLawrence and Jones, 2002

South America

ChilePresentIntroducedLawrence and Jones, 2002
EcuadorPresentIntroducedLawrence and Jones, 2002


UKPresentIntroducedLawrence and Jones, 2002


AustraliaPresentNativePresent based on regional distribution.
-New South WalesPresentIntroducedLawrence and Jones, 2002
-South AustraliaPresentIntroducedLawrence and Jones, 2002
-Western AustraliaPresentNativeLawrence and Jones, 2002
New ZealandPresentIntroducedLawrence and Jones, 2002


Top of page
Introduced toIntroduced fromYearReasonIntroduced byEstablished in wild throughReferencesNotes
Natural reproductionContinuous restocking
China Aquaculture (pathway cause)Unknown No No
Japan Aquaculture (pathway cause)Unknown No No
South Africa Aquaculture (pathway cause)Unknown No No
Zambia South Africa Aquaculture (pathway cause)Individual No No Mikkola (1996) Introduced by CJ Grubb
Zimbabwe Aquaculture (pathway cause)Unknown No No
USA Aquaculture (pathway cause)Unknown No No


Top of page
A - Tropical/Megathermal climate Preferred Average temp. of coolest month > 18°C, > 1500mm precipitation annually Average temp. of coolest month > 18°C, > 1500mm precipitation annually

Water Tolerances

Top of page
ParameterMinimum ValueMaximum ValueTypical ValueStatusLife StageNotes
Dissolved oxygen (mg/l) <3 Harmful Adult
Dissolved oxygen (mg/l) 6 Optimum Adult
Salinity (part per thousand) <6-8 Optimum Adult
Salinity (part per thousand) >15 Harmful Adult
Water pH (pH) 7.0 8.5 Optimum Adult
Water temperature (ºC temperature) 24 Optimum Adult
Water temperature (ºC temperature) <12.5 >30 Harmful Adult

Impact Summary

Top of page
Environment (generally) Negative
Fisheries / aquaculture Positive

Threatened Species

Top of page
Threatened SpeciesConservation StatusWhere ThreatenedMechanismReferencesNotes
Cherax tenuimanus (hairy marron)CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered) CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered)AustraliaCompetitionGraaf, 2002

Uses List

Top of page

Human food and beverage

  • Fresh meat
  • Live product for human consumption
  • Whole


Top of page

Alderman DJ, Wickins JF, 1996. Crayfish culture. Lowestoft, UK, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Directorate of Fisheries Research, 76:23 pp

Austin CM, Ryan SG, 2002. Allozyme evidence for new species of freshwater crayfish of the genus Cherax Erichson (Decapoda: Parastacidae) from the south-west of Western Australia. Invertebrate Systematics, 16:357–367

Beatty S, 2005. Translocations of freshwater crayfish: contributions from life histories, trophic relations and diseases of three species in Western Australia. Western Australia, Australia: Murdoch University

Beatty S, Morgan D, Gill H, 2005. Role of life history strategy in the colonisation of Western Australian aquatic systems by the introduced crayfish Cherax destructor Clark, 1936. Hydrobiologia, 549:219-237

Beatty SJ, 2006. The diet and trophic positions of translocated, sympatric populations of Cherax destructor and Cherax cainii in the Hutt River, Western Australia: evidence of resource overlap. Marine and Freshwater Research, 57(8):825-835

Beatty SJ, Morgan DL, Gill HS, 2004. Biology of a translocated population of the large freshwater crayfish, Cherax cainii Austin & Ryan, 2002 in a Western Australian river. Crustaceana, 77(11):1329-1351

Government of South Australia, 2013. Marron (Cherax cainii) factsheet. Biosecurity South Australia.

Graaf, M. de, Lawrence, C., Vercoe, P., 2009. Rapid replacement of the critically endangered hairy marron by the introduced smooth marron (Decapoda, Parastacidae) in the Margaret River (Western Australia). Crustaceana, 82(11), 1469-1476. doi: 10.1163/156854009X463937

Holker DS, 1989. Marron - Cherax tenuimanus. Unpublished report, 16 pp

Jussila J, Evans LH, 1996. On the factors afecting marron, Cherax tenuimanus, grown in intensive culture. Freshwater Crayfish, 11:428-440

Lawrence C, Jones C, 2002. Cherax. In: Holdich DM, ed. Biology of freshwater crayfish. Oxford, UK: Blackwell Science, 702 pp

Lawrence CS, Morrissy NM, Penn J, Jacoby K, 1995. Yabbies (Cherax albidus). Aquaculture WA, No. 4. 4 pp

Lynas J, Storey A, Knott B, 2007. Introduction and spread of crayfish (Parastacidae) in Western Australia and their potential to displace indigenous species. In: Biological invaders in inland waters: profiles, distribution and threats [ed. by Gherardi, F.]. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer, 577-596

Mikkola H, 1996. Alien freshwater crustacean and indigenous mollusc species with aquaculture potential in eastern and southern Africa. South African Journal of Aquatic Science, 22:90-99

Mills BJ, Morrissy, NM, Huner, JV, 1994. Cultivation of freshwater crayfishes in Australia. In: Huner JV, ed. Freshwater Crayfish Aquaculture, New York, USA: The Haworth Press, 217-289

Moloney J, 1993. Feeding in freshwater crayfish. Aquaculture Sourcebook 5, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia: Turtle Press

Morrissy NM, 1976. Aquaculture of marron, Cherax tenuimanus (Smith). Part 1. Site selection and the potential of marron for aquaculture. Part 2. Breeding and early rearing. Fisheries Research Bulletin, Western Australia, No. 17. 27 + 32 pp

Morrissy NM, 1980. Production of marron in Western Australian wheatbelt farm dams. Fisheries Research Bulletin, Western Australia, No. 24:1-80

Morrissy NM, 1984. Assessment of artificial feeds for battery culture of a freshwater crayfish, marron, Cherax tenuimanus (Decapoda: Parastacidae). Report (WA Department of Fisheries and Wildlife), 63:1-24

Morrissy NM, 1990. Optimum and favourable temperatures for growth of Cherax tenuimanus (Smith) (Decapoda: Parastacidae). Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research, 41:735-746

Morrissy NM, 1992. An introduction to marron and freshwater crayfish farming in Western Australia. Fisheries Department of Western Australia, Australia

Morrissy NM, 1992. Feed development for marron, Cherax tenuimanus, in Western Australia. In: Allan GD, Dall W, eds. Proceedings of the Aquaculture Nutrition Workshop, Salamander Bay, 15-17 April 1991, Australia, Salamander Bay, NSW Fisheries, Brackish Water Fish Culture Research Station, 72-76

Morrissy NM, Bird C, Cassells G, 1995. Density-dependent growth of a freshwater crayfish, Cherax tenuimanus. Freshwater Crayfish, 10:560-568

Morrissy NM, Evans L, Huner JV, 1990. Australian freshwater crayfish: aquaculture species. World Aquaculture, 21:113-122

Mosig J, 1999. Hothouse yabbies keep growing all winter. Austasia Aquaculture Magazine, 5:3-5

O'Sullivan D, Camkin J, LaiKoon AC, Joseph R, 1994. Reducing predation on freshwater crayfish farms. Aquaculture Sourcebook 9. Hobart, Tasmania, Australia: Turtle Press

Thorne T, 1995. Fish health for fish farmers in Western Australia. Australia: Fisheries Western Australia

Whisson GJ, 1999. Interaction between juvenile marron (Cherax tenuimanus) and fingerling silver perch (Bidyanus bidyanus) in a recirculating tank system. Freshwater Crayfish, 12:593-603

Wickins JF, Lee DO’C, 2002. Crustacean farming. Ranching and culture. Second edition. Oxford, UK: Blackwell Science


Top of page

Main Author
Uma Sabapathy Allen
Human Sciences, CAB International, Wallingford, Oxon, OX10 8DE, UK

Distribution Maps

Top of page
You can pan and zoom the map
Save map