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Prawns vs. Shrimps: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on March 2, 2024
Prawns have branched gills, larger size, and claws on three pairs of their legs; shrimps have lamellar gills, are smaller, and claws on two pairs of legs.

Key Differences

Prawns and shrimps are both decapod crustaceans, meaning they have ten legs, but they belong to different suborders. Prawns are part of the suborder Dendrobranchiata, characterized by their branching gills. Shrimps, on the other hand, fall under the suborder Pleocyemata, notable for their plate-like gills. This distinction highlights the primary physical difference related to their biology and taxonomy.
In terms of physical appearance, prawns typically have a straighter body whereas shrimps have a more distinct bend in their body structure. This bend makes shrimps appear more curled than prawns. Prawns also have their second pincers larger than the first, and shrimps have their first pair of pincers larger than the second, which is a notable feature when comparing the two.
Prawns are usually found in fresh water, and shrimps can be found in both fresh and salt water. This environmental distinction affects their habitat and, subsequently, their availability in different regions. Prawns tend to have a slightly sweeter taste and a meatier texture compared to shrimps, which are known for their slightly more delicate flavor and texture.
In culinary terms, prawns and shrimps are often used interchangeably depending on the region. In some parts of the world, the term "prawn" is commonly used for both, whereas "shrimp" is the preferred term in the United States. This regional variation in terminology often leads to confusion, with the true biological differences being overlooked in favor of local nomenclature.
The method of reproduction between prawns and shrimps also differs. Prawns release their eggs into the water to hatch externally, while shrimps carry their eggs until they hatch. This reproductive behavior reflects the varied life cycles and ecological roles that prawns and shrimps play in their respective environments.

Comparison Chart

Gills Type

Branched gills
Lamellar (plate-like) gills

Body Shape

Straighter body
Curled body due to distinct bend

Claw Size

Larger second pincers
Larger first pincers


Mostly found in fresh water
Found in both fresh and salt water


Eggs hatch externally
Carry eggs until they hatch

Prawns and Shrimps Definitions


Studied for their unique branching gills and life cycle.
Her research focuses on the lifecycle of prawns.


Small, curved crustaceans with plate-like gills, found in various waters.
Shrimps are abundant in the coastal waters.


A popular seafood choice known for its sweet taste and meaty texture.
The chef specializes in dishes featuring prawns.


Cultivated for food in both salt and freshwater environments.
Shrimp farming is an important industry here.


Large crustaceans with branched gills, found primarily in fresh water.
We caught fresh prawns for dinner.


Valued for their delicate flavor and texture in dishes.
Shrimps scampi is my favorite pasta dish.


Farmed for food in controlled freshwater environments.
Prawn aquaculture has boosted the local economy.


Subjects of study for their diverse species and habitats.
The diversity of shrimps fascinates marine biologists.


Considered a delicacy in many cultures for their flavor.
Prawns are often the highlight of the feast.


A versatile ingredient in culinary traditions worldwide.
Fried shrimps make a quick and delicious snack.


Any of various shrimps, especially one that is large or inhabits fresh water.


Any of various small, chiefly marine, often edible decapod crustaceans that have a laterally compressed, elongated body with long antennae and long legs used for swimming. The shrimps include species belonging to the superfamily Penaeoidea of the suborder Dendrobranchiata and to the infraorder Caridea of the suborder Pleocyemata.


The flesh of a prawn, used as food.


To fish for prawns.


Plural of prawn


What are prawns?

Large crustaceans with branched gills, usually found in freshwater.

How do prawns and shrimps differ anatomically?

Prawns have straight bodies and branched gills; shrimps have curled bodies and lamellar gills.

Can you substitute prawns for shrimps in recipes?

Yes, though there may be slight differences in taste and texture.

Are prawns or shrimps healthier?

Both are nutritious, offering high protein and low fat, but their nutritional value is similar.

What are shrimps?

Smaller crustaceans with lamellar gills, found in both fresh and saltwater.

What's the best way to cook shrimps?

Shrimps are versatile and can be cooked in many ways, including sautéing, grilling, or frying.

How do prawns reproduce?

Prawns release their eggs into the water to hatch externally.

What distinguishes prawns' flavor from shrimps'?

Prawns tend to have a sweeter taste and meatier texture.

Is it easy to tell prawns and shrimps apart?

Yes, by examining their body shape, gills, and claws.

Why do some countries use the terms prawns and shrimps interchangeably?

Regional nomenclature variations and the physical similarities lead to these terms being used interchangeably.

Why are shrimps popular in global cuisine?

Their delicate flavor and versatility in recipes make them a favorite.

What's the best way to cook prawns?

Prawns can be boiled, grilled, or fried, depending on the recipe.

Why are prawns sometimes more expensive than shrimps?

Prawns are often larger and considered more of a delicacy in some cultures.

How do shrimps reproduce?

Shrimps carry their eggs until they hatch.

Are prawns found in saltwater?

While most commonly found in freshwater, some species live in saltwater.

Do shrimps live in freshwater?

Yes, some species of shrimps can live in freshwater.

Can allergic reactions to prawns and shrimps differ?

If you're allergic to one, you're likely allergic to the other due to similar proteins.

How should prawns be stored before cooking?

Keep them refrigerated or frozen to maintain freshness.

How should shrimps be prepared for cooking?

Clean them by removing the head, tail, and shell, and devein if preferred.

What makes prawns a popular choice in aquaculture?

Their size, taste, and the demand for them in culinary use.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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