Contest outcomes are usually determined by differences in resource-holding potential, the social histories of the combatants, and perceptions of resource value. One aspect of gaining an advantage is the residency effect. Prior occupancy of a particular place can affect the knowledge and motivation of the resident. There could be a tactical advantage in knowing the terrain or an increased willingness to fight to maintain control of a familiar area. In this study, we evaluated the importance of shelter residency effects relative to size differences between rusty crayfish (Orconectes rusticus) as potential competitors for access to shelter. The intensity of any residency effects was manipulated by altering the number of shelters in the arena. Our results suggest that any residency effect is very weak in this system, and if present, may often be masked by the strong and pervasive influence on contest outcome of the relative body sizes of the contestants. We also found that both shelter number and crayfish size asymmetries had strong, independent effects on levels of aggression. Dominance, but not residency status, was a factor in shelter use.