American Oceans

Prawn vs Shrimp

When it comes to seafood, many people use the terms “prawn” and “shrimp” interchangeably.

a close up of a shrimp

But did you know there are some differences between these two popular crustaceans?

We’ll look at their physical characteristics, behavior, and other interesting facts. So read on to learn more about what makes prawn and shrimp similar and different.

What Is a Prawn?

Prawns are decapod crustaceans, as are shrimp and lobsters. It is typically larger than a shrimp and has a straight body shape with ten legs where the segment overlaps.

biggest shrimp and prawns with short shelf life

Its scientific name is Penaeus monodon, but it is also known by other names such as large shrimp or giant tiger prawn.

Prawns are found in salt water and fresh water environments, usually near the shoreline or shallow waters.

They are omnivorous creatures, feeding on small fish, plankton, algae, and other organic matter.

What Is a Shrimp?

Shrimp are small, aquatic crustaceans that belong to the Decapoda order of the Malacostraca class.

Fresh shrimps tropical marine crustaceans as crab food

They have an elongated body and a primarily swimming mode of locomotion. Shrimp come in various sizes and colors, from pink to white to brown.

The scientific name for shrimp is Caridea and Dendrobranchiata.

Shrimp are omnivores, meaning they feed on both plants and animals. They typically consume plankton, algae, mollusks, worms, and other small organisms in their natural habitats.

Shrimp can be found in oceans worldwide and in freshwater lakes and rivers.

The Difference Between Prawns and Shrimp

Prawns are a crustacean species, while shrimp is also a crustacean, so they are closely related.

biggest shrimp and prawns inside an aquarium

However, they belong to different suborders: endrobranchiata suborder and pleocyemata suborder respectively.  

Body Structure

Shrimp possess lamellar, plate-like gills and a set of claws on their front two pairs of legs. Prawns, in comparison, have branching gills and front pincers on three pairs of legs.

The head overlaps the thorax in prawns while in shrimp the thorax overlaps both the head and the abdomen.  


Shrimp have lamellar (plate-like) gills, while prawns’ gills branch.

Claws and Pincers

Prawns have front pincers on three pairs of legs and the second pincers are larger than the ones in the front. Shrimp have one clawed duo.


A good rule of thumb to differentiate between the two is size, as prawns are typically larger than shrimp.


In North America, “shrimp” is used more commonly in saltwater habitats, while “prawn” refers to species that are larger or found in fresh water.

Commonwealth countries use the word “prawn” more often for all shrimp and prawns.


Shrimp and prawns reproduce differently. While shrimp carry their eggs inside their body until they are mature, the prawns release the eggs into the water.

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