American Oceans

Are Shrimp Fish?

Shrimp are a popular seafood that are enjoyed by many, but there is often confusion about whether they are considered fish.

a shrimp underwater

Shrimp actually belong to the crustacean family, which includes lobsters, crabs, and crayfish.

The short answer is that shrimp are not fish, but there is much more to it than that. Learn about what makes shrimp similar to fish, as well as what their differences are.

Read more down below!

Understanding Shrimp and Fish

a cleaner shrimp underwater

Shrimp and fish are both aquatic animals, but they belong to different taxonomic groups. Shrimp are crustaceans, while fish are vertebrates.

Shrimp have a hard exoskeleton, which they shed periodically to grow. Fish, on the other hand, have an internal skeleton made of bone or cartilage.

Shrimp and fish have different nervous systems. Shrimp have a decentralized nervous system, which means they have ganglia or clusters of neurons distributed throughout their bodies. Fish have a centralized nervous system, which includes a brain and spinal cord.

One of the key differences between shrimp and fish is their respiratory system. Shrimp breathe through gills, which are located on the sides of their bodies. Fish also have gills, but they also have a swim bladder, which helps them control their buoyancy in the water.

Another difference between shrimp and fish is their digestive system. Shrimp have a short digestive tract and rely on their gills to absorb nutrients from the water. Fish have a longer digestive tract and absorb nutrients through their intestines.

In terms of commercial importance, both shrimp and fish are widely consumed around the world. Shrimp are often farmed in ponds or tanks, while fish can be caught in the wild or raised in aquaculture systems.

Classification of Shrimp and Fish

a close up of a shrimp

Shrimps and fish are two distinct groups of aquatic animals that are often consumed as seafood. While both are classified as animals, they belong to different phyla and have different characteristics.


Shrimps belong to the phylum Arthropoda and the subphylum Crustacea, which includes other animals such as crabs, lobsters, and crayfish.

Within the Crustacea, shrimps belong to the order Decapoda, which means “ten feet” in Greek, referring to the ten legs they possess. Shrimps are further classified into two suborders: Dendrobranchiata and Pleocyemata.

Dendrobranchiata shrimps are also known as “prawns” and have branched gills. They are typically larger than Pleocyemata shrimps, which have unbranched gills.

Pleocyemata shrimps include the Caridea, which are the most commonly consumed shrimps and are characterized by their slender bodies and long antennae.


Fish belong to the phylum Chordata and the subphylum Vertebrata, which includes other animals such as birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians.

Within the Vertebrata, fish belong to the class Actinopterygii, which means “ray-finned” in Greek, referring to the bony rays that support their fins.

Fish can be further classified into different orders, families, and species based on their characteristics, such as their body shape, size, and habitat. Some commonly consumed fish species include salmon, tuna, cod, and tilapia.

Shrimp vs. Fish

While shrimps and fish are both consumed as seafood, they have different nutritional profiles and flavor profiles.

Shrimps are a good source of protein, vitamins, and minerals, but they are also high in cholesterol. Fish, on the other hand, are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for heart health.

In terms of flavor, shrimps are known for their sweet and delicate taste, while fish can have a wide range of flavors depending on the species and how it is prepared.

Physical Characteristics

biggest shrimp and prawns in local seafood market

Shrimp are small crustaceans that have a variety of physical characteristics that help them survive in their environment.

They have a hard exoskeleton that protects their internal organs and provides support for their body. The exoskeleton is made of chitin, a tough, fibrous material that is also found in the shells of other crustaceans, such as crabs and lobsters.

Shrimp have several pairs of legs that are used for walking and swimming. The first three pairs of legs have claws, which are used for catching prey and defending themselves from predators. The remaining pairs of legs are used for walking and swimming.

Shrimp also have a pair of antennae that are used for sensing their environment, and several pairs of pleopods, which are used for swimming and reproduction.

Shrimp have gills, which are used for breathing. The gills are located on the underside of the body, and water is pumped over them to extract oxygen.

Shrimp also have a well-developed circulatory system, which helps to transport oxygen and nutrients throughout the body.

The size of shrimp can vary greatly depending on the species. Some species are only a few centimeters long, while others can grow up to 25 centimeters in length. Shrimp also come in a variety of colors, ranging from brown and green to pink and red.

Diet and Role in Food Chain

a pile of southern flounder shrimp

Shrimp are a type of crustacean that play an important role in the aquatic food chain. They are omnivores, meaning they consume both plant matter and other animals.

Shrimp feed on a variety of food sources, including small fish, plankton, algae, and detritus. They are also known to scavenge on dead or decaying organic matter.

In terms of their role in the food chain, shrimp are considered secondary consumers. This means that they are one step above primary consumers, which are typically herbivores that feed on producers such as algae or plants.

Shrimp are themselves consumed by larger predators such as fish, birds, and marine mammals.

Shrimp are also important decomposers in the food chain. As they consume dead or decaying organic matter, they help to break down this material and recycle nutrients back into the ecosystem.

This process is important for maintaining a healthy and balanced aquatic environment.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the classification of shrimp?

Shrimp are classified as decapod crustaceans, which means they have ten legs. They belong to the order Decapoda, which includes other types of crustaceans such as crabs, lobsters, and crayfish.

Are shrimp considered seafood?

Yes, shrimp are considered seafood. They are a popular type of shellfish that are enjoyed around the world. In many cultures, they are a staple food and are often served in a variety of dishes.

What are the nutritional benefits of shrimp?

Shrimp are a good source of protein and are low in fat and calories. They are also rich in vitamins and minerals, including vitamin B12, iron, and selenium.

Shrimp are also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for heart health.

How are shrimp typically prepared?

Shrimp can be prepared in a variety of ways, including grilling, boiling, frying, and baking.

They can be served as a main dish or used as an ingredient in soups, stews, salads, and other dishes.

What is the difference between shrimp and prawns?

Shrimp and prawns are both types of decapod crustaceans, but they are not the same. Prawns are generally larger and have a more elongated body than shrimp.

They also have claws on three of their five pairs of legs, while shrimp only have claws on two of their five pairs of legs.

Can shrimp be harmful to consume?

Shrimp can be harmful to consume if they are not cooked properly. Raw or undercooked shrimp can contain harmful bacteria and viruses that can cause foodborne illness.

It is important to cook shrimp to an internal temperature of 145°F (63°C) to kill any harmful bacteria.

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