Biologically, both are decapods, meaning they are crustaceans with ten legs. However, shrimps belong to the sub-order Pleocyemata, and prawns belong to the sub-order Dendrobranchiata.

Both shrimps and prawns can be found in salt and fresh water globally, swimming in search of food. They are essential seafood sources that are widely consumed worldwide. While shrimps have a more pronounced and slightly salty flavor, prawns typically have a sweeter flavor.

Although they are often confused with each other because of their similar appearance, there are distinct differences between them.

Shrimp (left) vs Prawn (right): A Visual Comparison

Left image credit: Andrew Bogott

Main Differences Between Shrimp vs Prawn

  • Appearance: Shrimps have a pronounced bend or curve in their bodies, while prawns have a more gradual curve. Because of this, prawns appear longer and more slender than shrimps. In addition, prawns have three pairs of claw-like legs, while shrimps have only two.
  • Size: Prawns are generally larger, with certain species growing up to 12 inches long. On the other hand, the most significant kinds of shrimp ordinarily develop to be 3-4 inches long.
  • Diet: Another notable main difference between shrimps and prawns is their preferred diet. Shrimps are omnivorous, meaning they feed on plants and animals. They mainly feed on algae, plankton, other tiny water organisms, and dead animals and plants on the ocean floor. Prawns, on the other hand, are mainly predatory. Therefore, their diet consists of small fish and other invertebrates. Sometimes they feed on plankton and other tiny organisms, but their diet focuses more on animal-based protein.
  • Habitat: While they are aquatic animals that live in fresh and salty waters, they differ slightly in their preferential habitats. Most prawn species thrive in freshwater habitats. They prefer deeper waters and can be found in a wider range of habitats, including coral reefs, mangrove forests, and deep-sea habitats. On the contrary, shrimps are more commonly found in saltwater habitats and are more abundant in estuaries and bays.
  • Reproduction: Both prawns and shrimps have similar methods of reproduction. However, prawns lay more eggs, with some species producing up to 2 million eggs in a single spawning season, while shrimps produce only a few hundred to several thousand eggs per spawning season.


Shrimps are small, decapod crustaceans in the order Decapoda and the infra-order Caridea. They are commonly found globally in oceans, rivers, and other aquatic environments and are essential to the global seafood industry.


They are distinctive, with elongated bodies divided into segments and a pair of pincers, or chelae, on the front legs. They have ten legs, with the last five pairs used for walking and swimming, while the first two pairs are claw-like and are used for walking and manipulating food.

Shrimps have elongated bodies with a thin shell and a segmented abdomen
Shrimps have elongated bodies with a thin shell and a segmented abdomen

They have a hard exoskeleton that protects their body, and they are often brightly colored, ranging from shades of red, pink, and brown to gray, green, and even blue. Interestingly, their exact appearance varies depending on the species and their environment.

They also have long antennae, which they use for sensory perception, as well as for finding food and detecting predators.


The size of a shrimp varies greatly depending on the species. Some are tiny, measuring only a few millimeters, while others can grow several inches long. In general, the common market size of shrimp ranges between 2-3 inches.

It’s important to note that their size varies depending on their age, environment, and diet.


Since they are omnivorous, they feed on both plant and animal matter. Their specific diet can vary depending on the species and its habitat, but generally, they feed on algae, plankton, small fish, and other invertebrates.

In aquaculture, they feed on a diet with the necessary nutrients to grow and thrive.


Shrimps are tracked down in several territories, ranging from freshwater streams and waterways to saltwater seas. Their specific habitat can vary from species to species, but they prefer areas with plenty of food and salty water.

Some species can survive in various salinities and water temperatures, while others are better suited to particular habitats like freshwater streams or deep-sea environments.


The male and female shrimp mate at a right angle, the male transferring a spermatophore to a receptacle in the female’s belly. After 6-20 hours, the female produces eggs that stay in its abdomen until they develop.

Once the eggs are released, they hatch into larvae which move to saline water within 4 to 5 days. The number of eggs produced by shrimps in a single mating season ranges from a few hundred to several thousand eggs per clutch.


Prawns are a type of freshwater or saltwater crustacean that belong to the family Palaemonidae.

They are a significant food source in many societies all over the planet and are usually found in various dishes like, curries, sautés, and pasta.

They come in various forms, including marine and freshwater prawns. Tiger, king, and banana prawns are among the most well-known prawns.

Prawns have three pairs of walking legs, with the first pair ending in large claws
Prawns have three pairs of walking legs, with the first pair ending in large claws


The prawns’ color can vary depending on the species, but they are typically shades of brown, pink, or red, often with darker stripes or spots. Some species have transparent bodies that allow their internal organs to be visible.

Generally, they have elongated bodies with a distinct head, thorax, and abdomen. They typically have ten legs, with the first three pairs modified as pincers or claws.

Another notable characteristic is their long, segmented antennae and fan-like tail. Their compound eyes on the stock move independently, giving them a more expansive clear vision.


Depending on the species, prawns vary from a few centimeters in length to more than 30 centimeters. Smaller species are typically found in freshwater habitats, while larger species are typically found in marine settings.


Prawns are typically carnivorous, meaning they primarily eat other animals. Their diet consists of small fish, crustaceans, and other invertebrates. They are also known to feed on plankton and other tiny organisms, but their diet is more focused on animal-based protein.


Prawns live in several aquatic habitats, including freshwater and saltwater environments. Their specific habitat requirements vary depending on the species, but generally, they prefer habitats with clean water and abundant food sources.

They are often found in areas with a lot of vegetation or other structures, such as rocks or coral, which provide shelter and hiding places. They also require access to food sources, including algae, plankton, small fish, and other invertebrates.

Overall, the habitat requirements of prawns are diverse, and different species can be found in a wide range of aquatic environments worldwide.

Prawns can be found in rivers, lakes, ponds, and estuaries. Some prawns are even found in deep ocean waters
Prawns can be found in rivers, lakes, ponds, and estuaries. Some prawns are even found in deep ocean waters


Generally, their reproduction involves several stages, including mating, egg fertilization, and larval development. After mating, the male fertilizes the female eggs in the female’s reproductive tract, where they stay until they hatch. The eggs go through several developmental stages to become juvenile prawns.

Compared to shrimps, prawns tend to produce more eggs, with some species, such as the giant tiger prawn, producing up to 2 million eggs per female per spawning season. However, the number of eggs laid varies greatly depending on the individual’s species, size, and age.


Which is more expensive, shrimp or prawn?

Prawns are large and liked over shrimps because of their sweet taste and texture, which explains their higher price.

Are shrimp and prawns safe for human consumption?

Yes, shrimp and prawns are good sources of lean protein and are low in fat and calories. They also contain several vitamins and minerals, such as selenium and B12.

How do you cook shrimp or prawns?

There are several ways to cook shrimp or prawns. They can be prepared by boiling, grilling, sautéing, or frying and serving with soups, stews, salads, and pasta dishes.

Can shrimps and prawns cause allergic reactions?

Yes. Shrimps and prawns belong to the same family of crustaceans. So if you are allergic to shellfish, you will also be allergic to them. The symptoms of an allergic reaction to shellfish can be anything from mild reactions like itching or hives to more severe reactions like trouble breathing, swelling of the face or throat, and anaphylaxis- an allergic reaction that can kill you. It is essential to seek medical advice if you are allergic to shrimp or prawns to determine the best action.

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Shrimp vs prawn: Main differences

Shrimp vs Prawn

While these two animals look similar, there are notable main differences between shrimp and prawns, from their appearance and taste to their habitat. Read on to learn more.

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