Few crustaceans are as misunderstood as shrimps and the prawn, but both decapods have few similarities. Yes, they have an external skeleton and ten legs, but one belongs to the suborder dendrobranchiata while the other is a member of the pleocyemata family.
So, what are the biggest shrimp and prawns? The former is bigger between shrimp and the prawn, but some shrimp varieties can grow to compete in size with prawns.
They’re fished in the wild, farmed, sold, and served worldwide. But you’ll find that the term ‘shrimp’ refers to the small variety while prawns are larger and fished from freshwater.
The main differences between shrimp and prawns are their body structures, as the former is equipped with long legs with three sets of claws.
While it’s impossible to deny their similarities, other differences occur between these two crustaceans. When looking at the largest of these, we shall omit the mantis shrimp, a shrimp-like crustacean in the order stomatopod.
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Giant Tiger Prawn
As one of the largest prawns in the world, the giant tiger prawn, Litopenaeus monodon, or Penaeus monodon, reaches lengths of 33 cm and above.
They’re found in the Philippines, the US, Australia, and Southeast Asia waters. Unfortunately, this prawn is considered an invasive species that inhabit areas once released from farms in many places.
The giant tiger prawn is omnivorous, eating plant material, small invertebrates, and decaying matter. It’s valued for its large size, making it a delicacy worldwide, and adults weigh up to 10 ounces.
Stripes distinguish the species across its dorsal area, which can appear orange or black. These resemble a tiger, and the prawn lives up to three years in its preferred warm waters.
The tiger prawn is the largest shrimp commercially marketed, with an average harvest size of 9 to 11 inches.
They have a mild, almost bland flavor compared to other prawns and a firmer texture than prink or gulf shrimp.
Giant Freshwater Prawn
As one of the largest prawns in the world, the giant freshwater prawn can grow to over 30 cm in length.
It’s endemic to the Indo Pacific, Southeast Asia, India, northern Australia, and other tropical regions. With a brownish-gray or greenish body, the species’ larger members have darker hues.
The giant freshwater prawn is also known as the giant river prawn, the freshwater scampi, or the Malaysian prawn.
Its larvae prefer brackish water and mature to switch to freshwater for this widely cultivated species. They feed on oligochaete and zooplankton, living in vegetated areas.
Also called giant river prawns, they average a harvest length of six to seven inches. While they occur in the wild, the farmed stock is preferred and more prevalent. These prawns have a sweet, delicate flavor and firm texture similar to lobsters.
California Spot Prawn
The spot prawn of California is endemic to the Pacific Ocean’s northern areas, where it dwells at depths between 46 and 488 meters.
Young ones of this prawn inhabit shallow waters and move the deep as they age, reaching 25 to 30 cm or 12 inches and weighing 0.25 lbs. on average.
Pandalus platyceros species can live up to six years and feed on plankton, sea caresses, worms, and shrimp.
You’ll find California spot prawns in high-end restaurants after they’re targeted and caught using specially designed traps.
They’re fed on by octopuses, seals, and other larger marine animals in the wild. They are not prawns, but shrimp and are also called the Alaskan lobster due to their superiority in sweetness and flavor.
It’s essential to take care when peeling California spot prawns as they have spikes underneath the shell. They’re also more tender than other shrimp varieties and tear in half easily.
Eastern King Prawn
Ocean eastern king prawns are found near the eastern Australian coast and are a significantly fished species around this area.
For over fifty years, the prawn has been a staple of commercial fishing, a favorite delicacy in many regions.
These prawns can grow up to 30 cm long and prefer the soft sandy sediments of the sea, dwelling at below 200 meters deep.
Eastern king prawns are beautiful, almost transparent, but have a bright tail with a rainbow of colors. Their most distinguishing feature is a long spike or rostrum between the eyes that’s red-tinged and helps protect them from predators.
The species eats small shellfish, plankton, organic matter, and worms. In Australia, it’s one of the most valuable fisheries.
Prominently known as Japanese tiger prawns, the Kuruma prawn, Marsupenaeus japonicus, inhabits waters up to 90 meters deep.
They invade multiple European seas and waters and prefer the muddy or sandy bottoms. It’s native to the Indian and southwest pacific oceans but will migrate into other seas to take over local shrimp populations.
The Kuruma prawn can survive in waters of lower temperatures compared to others and grow to lengths of 25 to 30 centimeters.
Their beige appearance is covered in brown stripes, and they have a tail shaded blue. Due to their preferred water conditions and minimal, simplistic omnivorous diet, these prawns are easy to farm.
While they were historically sold exclusively in the live form to Japanese farmers, Kuruma production has almost ceased.
For instance, only one farm produces this prawn species in Australia in limited quantities. That’s because capital and operating costs for these prawns are higher than for other varieties in terms of the desired aquaculture environment.
White Leg Shrimp
Also called King, Mexican, Ecuadorian white, or pacific white shrimp, the white leg shrimp inhabits the Pacific Ocean’s eastern regions.
They live at depths of 78 meters and prefer waters that remain above 20 degrees Celsius or 68°F. The shrimp species grows to a maximum length of 23cm or 9 inches with the proper water temperatures and reproduces prolifically.
White leg shrimp are caught in the wild or farmed, and they have a lifespan that doesn’t exceed two years.
The bluish-white shrimp has pink sides, and adults feed on plants, small fish, and other microorganisms. It starts to reproduce once it’s five inches long and has a range that extends from California to Peru on the pacific.
With 90% of the species farmed, white leg shrimps are the most widely cultivated globally. You’ll find this shrimp produced by farmers in countries like Thailand, India, Vietnam, China, the US, Brazil, and Mexico.
Found in the waters around Bermuda islands, the US east coast, and the Gulf of Mexico, Pink Shrimp are also extensively farmed.
They live at two to 70-meter depths, reaching 28 cm or longer. You’ll find this variety going by names like hopper, skipper, red shrimp, or pink and pink spotted night shrimp.
An abundant species Pandalus jordani and Pandalus duorarum, are considered one of the tastiest pink shrimp, and they feed on plankton and larvae.
They’re predated by minnows, water boatmen, finfish, and other shrimp varieties. When mating, they’ll release between 500,000 and a million eggs, and they have a lifespan of fewer than two years.
Furthermore, the pink shrimp consists of three commercially demanded species, with differences in size and flavor.
The Gulf pink prefers warmer waters than the northern or Oregon pink shrimp and reaches a maximum length of 11 inches.
These also have a milder flavor and plump firm texture, appearing white with pinkish accents when cooked.
Also called Gulf or northern white shrimp, these species are prolific on the eastern US coastline from New York to Florida.
They’re the earliest known shrimp fisheries globally, with catches dating back to 1709. White shrimp set the standard by which other varieties are compared mainly due to their heritage as a commercial crustacean.
White shrimp cannot survive below 3° C or 37 degrees Fahrenheit, so they prefer warm waters. These crustaceans grow between 18 and 20 cm in the right salinity and temperatures.
They’re found at a depth of 30 to 80 meters, feeding off the plankton and having a sweet, mild flavor with a tender texture.
Also called southern, gray, or Daytona shrimp, these crustaceans inhabit the south Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico waters.
When white shrimp mate, they produce more than a million eggs, but they live less than one year. Cannibalism has been observed in more significant members of the species.
Chinese White Shrimp
Enjoyed for their large size and tender meat, the Chinese white shrimp naturally occurs in east China and the Yellow seas. You’ll also find it in the yellow sea, East China Sea, and along the Korean coast, but it’s also farmed widely in china.
They prefer colder waters and are found at depths of 90 to 180 cm, averaging a length of 17 to 19 cm or larger.
Chinese white or oriental shrimp, Penaeus Orientalis, are also called fleshy prawns, are fairly common and have an all-white color.
They come in three grades, with Sea Swallow the best, Billow in the second tier, and the unbranded are usually low quality.
The species declined before rebounding in the wild after efforts to repopulate with young shrimp succeeded.
As some of the largest shrimp, Chinese white have a mild, somewhat watery flavor but are similar to cold water varieties in textural tenderness.
You’ll find them frozen all year round in grocery stores, but they are often substituted for white shrimp or repacked.
Deep Water Rose Shrimp
Usually found in the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, deep water rose shrimp inhabit the sandy and muddy sea floors.
They prefer a depth of 20 to 700 meters in the ocean, but larger varieties occur in deeper waters. The male of this shrimp grows to reach about 16cm while females have a length of 19cm, and their diet varies as they grow.
Deep Water rose shrimp have a long antenna and an orange pinkish tint appearance. Their main food is foraminifera, and they also feed on other benthic organisms. They’re large and eaten for their sweetmeat.