Though the words ‘shrimp’ and ‘prawn’ are used interchangeably, depending on where you are in the world, they do have some differences. Both of these invertebrate crustaceans are considered Decapods. This is broken down to mean ten appendages, or different leg pairs for swimming, walking, and foraging. Shrimp are generally smaller than prawns. They also differ in body structure and gill structure. Shrimp have lamellar gills, which are plate-like in shape. Prawns have branched, tree-like shaped gills. Shrimp belong to the sub-Order Pleocyemata and prawns belong to the sub-Order Dendrobrachiata.
The subtle differences between shrimp and prawns do not keep them from being more alike than different. Both types of specimens can be found all over the world in fresh, salt, and brackish water systems. They are both opportunistic feeders, scavenging for zooplankton, algae, both dead and living organic material, small fish, and other shrimp. They both have sets of claws on their front legs. And finally, they both use chemosensory antennae structures on their heads to detect and locate food and prey items. Over 3,000 species of shrimp and prawn are found throughout the world and its water systems and oceans.
Continue to read on for the list of the world’s ten biggest shrimp and prawns.
Chinese White Shrimp
Size: 6.7 inches to 7.5 inches in length
Scientific Name: Fenneropenaeus chinensis
The Chinese White Shrimp is a cold water species found in shallow waters at depths of three to six feet. They are considered a large species of shrimp and are found off the Korean coast in the Chinese and Yellow Seas. This shrimp is all white in color.
In the 1990s, due to disease and overfishing, this population was decimated. Thanks to efforts to increase the numbers, the Chinese White Shrimp has been repopulated and has been farmed less since the early 2000s.
Deep Water Rose Shrimp
Size: 7.5 inches in length
Scientific Name: Parapenaeus longirostris
Aptly named Deep Water Rose Shrimp is found from 300 to 1,300 feet deep, even being found at their deepest of 2,300 feet. As an opportunistic predator, these shrimp can be found feeding on clams, mysids, and other small benthic organisms (referring to specimens that live at the bottom of a body of water) on the sandy and muddy ocean bottom. Their main food is foraminifera, single-celled organisms that have shells with hollow tubes and are found in the substrate and plants on the ocean floor.
This species, also called the Pink Shrimp due to its orange-pink color, is found in the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. It has become one of the most economically important to the Mediterranean coastlines for the fishing industry.
Size: 7 to 7.8 inches
Scientific Name: Litopenaeus setiferus
The White Shrimp is found in the warm waters along the coastline and estuaries within 100 feet of the shore. Their range extends from New York to Florida, the Gulf of Mexico, and the South Atlantic. They can also be found within depths of 100 to 260 feet.
The body of this shrimp is light grey, with a green tail and a yellow band around the abdomen. They have long antennae that are three times their body length. White Shrimp larvae feed on plankton, while adults are generally omnivorous. Though, they are also known to be cannibals. Young shrimp spend their time in nurseries where there is low to moderate salinity.
This species is known by many common names, including the Oriental Shrimp, Fleshy Prawn, Daytona Shrimp, Southern Shrimp, and Gray Shrimp.
White Leg Shrimp
Size: 7 to 7.8 inches in length
Scientific Name: Litopenaeus vanaamei
The White Leg Shrimp is a blue-white shrimp with pink sides and distinctive white legs. In the wild, this species is found in the Pacific Ocean from California to Peru. Because of this range, another common name for this species is the Pacific White Shrimp. They can be found at depths of 255 feet. This is an omnivorous species, eating everything from microorganisms, plant material, and organic matter to small fish.
90% of the species’ population is farmed, making this the most widely cultivated shrimp species. It is commonly farmed in Thailand, China, India, Vietnam, Mexico, and the United States.
Size: 11 inches in length
Scientific Name: Pandalus borealis
The Pink Shrimp has various common names, including the Skipper, the Hopper, the Red Shrimp, and the Pink Spotted Shrimp. It can be found at depths of six to 230 feet. The range of the Pink Shrimp is the eastern United States coastline, Bermuda, and the Gulf of Mexico. This omnivorous shrimp is known for being a prey item to various other crustaceans, water boatmen, finfish, blue crabs, and minnows.
Even though this species only lives for less than two years, during mating, they release up to one million eggs which are then fertilized after release. The male attaches his sperm to the body of the female, awaiting egg release.
These shrimp move about and hunt during the night and bury themselves in the sand during the day, hence another common name of Pink Night Shrimp.
Size: 9.8 to 11.8 inches in length
Scientific Name: Marsupenaeus japonicus
The Kuruma Prawn is an attractive species that is sometimes called the Japanese Tiger Prawn due to its beige body and brown stripes, with a touch of blue on the tail. They can be found in the muddy and sandy bottoms of up to 295 feet. This omnivorous prawn eats zooplankton, small fish, and even bivalves and small shellfish.
This prawn can survive colder waters which makes it an invasive species, especially across Europe. Its original range occurred in the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea but is known to migrate into neighboring seas and take over native shrimp populations. Because of the live seafood demand in Japan, this prawn is commercially cultivated in its home range.
California Spot Prawn
Size: 9.8 to 11.8 inches in length
Scientific Name: Pandalus platyceros
The California Spot Prawn is considered to be endemic to the northern Pacific Ocean, including from Alaska to Baja California. They can be found from depths of 150 feet to 1,600 feet. This is considered a long-lived species, living up to six years in their wild environments.
Despite being called a prawn, this is actually a shrimp. This prawn makes a diet of sea caresses, plankton worms, and other shrimp. Predators of this species include seals and octopuses.
Care should be taken when handling these shrimp as they have spikes underneath the shell of their abdomen. They are sometimes called Alaskan lobsters due to their size and the flavor of their meat.
Eastern King Prawn
Size: 11.8 inches in length
Scientific Name: Melicertus plebejus
Eastern King Prawns can be found along the east coast from the northern coast of Australia to the southern end and into Tasmania. They can be found at depths of 720 feet on the soft and sandy ocean floor. They have a translucent body and a rainbow of colors on their tail. They are most notable for a red spike on their rostrum, between their eyes, that is used to protect themselves against predators.
The female prawns of this species release their eggs directly into the water column as larvae, called nauplii, that eventually migrate into estuaries to grow into adults. Over the last 50 years, this prawn has become crucial to the fishing and restaurant industries for human food in its natural habitat.
Giant Freshwater Prawn
Size: 11.8 inches and larger in length
Scientific Name: Macrobrachium rosenbergii
Giant Freshwater Prawns are the second biggest shrimp in the world. This is a stunning prawn with a green, brown, or blue body and blue, long legs in the front. The males of this species start with orange legs, and those metamorphose into blue legs. The larger the specimen, the darker the hues of color on their bodies. This species survives on zooplankton and oligochaete, which include freshwater aquatic worms.
Giant Freshwater Prawns are native to the Indo-Pacific waters, including southeast Asia, India, and parts of northern Australia. Common names for this species include Freshwater Scampi, Malaysian Prawn, or Giant River Prawn. This is a highly cultured species in tropical regions all over the world for the food and restaurant industry. Despite being cultured all over the world and as one of the largest prawns, their lack of aggressive behavior makes them harmless to those habitats.
Giant Tiger Prawn
Size: 13 inches in length
Scientific Name: Penaeus monodon
Giant Tiger Prawns are considered the world’s biggest shrimp. It has a large native range, including the Red Sea, South Africa, Fiji, Japan, the Philippines, and Australia. They have become invasive in the United States, especially in the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. This prawn is considered omnivorous, eating small invertebrates, mollusks, plant detritus, marine worms, and decomposing waste. This brown and white striped shrimp has black and white bands on its tail. Its stripes can take on hues of orange and blue. They can be found in shallow waters to depths of 360 feet.
These warm-water prawns start their lives in estuaries, mangroves, and lagoons, where they live among a range of salinity levels. They move to deeper waters as they age into adults and spend their time buried in the sandy and muddy bottoms during the day. Considered nocturnal, these shrimp come out to feed at night. Giant Tiger Prawns have eyestalks on their head called ommatidia. They use these eyestalks at night to find prey and detect predators. They also use these eyestalks during the day to see at almost 360 degrees.
Are prawns big shrimp?
Prawns and shrimp are technically different species with notable differences in size and gill structure. However, they are more alike than different. They are both 10-legged, with claws on the front pairs, and have chemoreceptors on their antennae to help detect prey items and predators in their environment.
What is the biggest shrimp you can buy?
Shrimp size varies in the food and restaurant industry, but as a general rule, they can be found in the order below from largest to smallest: Colossal, Jumbo, Large, Medium, and Mini.
Are lobsters big shrimp?
No, they are not just big shrimp, but they are closely related. Shrimp, lobsters, and crabs belong to the Family Decapod, meaning 10-legged crustacean. Lobsters have long bodies and muscular tails and only live in saltwater sources.
How many shrimp species are there?
There are over 3,000 shrimp and prawn species found throughout the world and in abundant numbers.
Is a Mantis Shrimp a shrimp?
No, actually, the Mantis Shrimp is not a true shrimp, but in its own order, called Stomatopod. They are crustaceans which makes them a distant cousin to shrimp.