In the vast and mysterious world of seafood, few creatures capture our imagination, like shrimp. From the depths of icy Alaskan waters to the tranquil embrace of freshwater habitats, various types of shrimp have carved their place in our aquariums and plates.
Among the intriguing shrimp species, we have the ever-convenient frozen shrimp, preserving the ocean's bounty to grace our tables year-round. Meanwhile, lesser-known but equally captivating freshwater shrimp thrive in the hidden oases of freshwater ecosystems.
Join us as we dive into their unique characteristics, landscapes they call home, behavioral tendencies, and more.
21 Types of Shrimp Species
1. White Shrimp (Litopenaeus setiferus)
Fun Fact: Did you know that white shrimp are excellent jumpers? These agile creatures can propel themselves out of the water using muscular tails.
White shrimp can be categorized into three main sub-varieties based on their geographical distribution and common names. The Pacific White Shrimp2, also known as White Leg Shrimp, stands out for its rapid growth and adaptability, making it one of the most widely farmed shrimp species globally. There are also Mexican and Chinese white shrimp, farmed species, and not wild-caught shrimp (usually less sustainable).
The Gulf White Shrimp, alternatively called Atlantic White Shrimp, Green Shrimp, Gray Shrimp, or Camaron Blanco, thrives in the Gulf of Mexico and the southeastern coast of the United States. This sub-variety holds significant commercial value and is highly sought after for its delectable taste.
2. Brown Shrimp (Farfantepenaeus aztecus)
Brown shrimp are a species found along the Atlantic coast of North and South America. They have a brownish color with dark spots and bands. Brown varieties of shrimp have two main sub-varieties, namely the Northern brown shrimp (also known as redtails, Brazil shrimp, red shrimp, and golden shrimp) and Mexican brown shrimp (also known as Yellowlegs).
This type of shrimp has muscular tails that allow it to swim quickly and efficiently through the water.
3. Pink Shrimp (Farfantepenaeus duorarum)
Pink shrimp, like white shrimp, have different types too. The main ones are Southern pink shrimp (Brazilian Pinks), Gulf pink shrimp (Skippers, Hoppers, and Northern Pinks), Oregon pink shrimp (Pacific Pink Shrimp), and Northern shrimp or prawns (Maine shrimp, Deepwater Prawn, and Great Northern Prawn). They are found in different regions and have unique flavors.
This shrimp species can change color to match their surroundings, helping them blend perfectly with their environment.
4. Tiger Shrimp (Penaeus monodon)
Fun Fact: Did you know that the Tiger Shrimp, also known as the Black Tiger Shrimp, is one of the largest species of shrimp in the world? These magnificent creatures can grow up to a whopping 13 inches long!
Tiger Prawns, also known as Black Tiger Prawn, Giant Tiger Prawn, or Jumbo Tiger Shrimp, are the largest commercially marketed shrimp species. On average, they are about 9 to 11 inches long but can grow as large as 13 inches. They thrive in warm waters in the Indo-Pacific region. Tiger Prawns are available as wild-caught and farmed products in the seafood market.
5. Blue Shrimp (Litopenaeus stylirostris)
Fun Fact: Did you know that the Blue Shrimp got its vibrant blue color from a pigment called astaxanthin? This pigment is not naturally produced by the shrimp but is acquired through their diet.
Blue shrimp, or Blue Leg shrimp, is a species with eye-catching blue legs. They grow to about 6 to 8 inches long and are found in the eastern Pacific Ocean. Blue shrimp are omnivorous, active at night, and commercially important for seafood. Sustainable management is crucial to protect their populations and marine ecosystems.
6. Rock Shrimp (Sicyonia brevirostris)
Rock shrimp, also known as brown rock shrimp, are warm-water shrimp in the Atlantic Ocean. They inhabit the waters from Florida to the Gulf of Mexico, Cuba, and the Caribbean. One notable feature of rock shrimp is their hard, rock-like shell, which protects them in their marine habitat.
These little critters can change color to match their surroundings, making them practically invisible to predators.
7. Royal Red Shrimp (Hymenopenaeus robustus)
Fun Fact: Did you know that the Royal Red Shrimp is often called the "Lobster of the Gulf"? This is because of its striking resemblance to a miniature lobster.
Royal red shrimp are deep-sea shrimp found in the Gulf of Mexico and the southeastern U.S. coast. They are about 6 to 9 inches long, have a striking red color, and are prized for their sweet taste. Catching them requires specialized fishing due to their deep-sea habitat.
This type of shrimp is well-managed for sustainability and is a unique and delicious seafood option. Despite their small size, they offer sweet and tender meat that can be a delightful substitute for chopped lobster or langostinos in various recipes.
8. Ghost Shrimp (Neotrypaea californiensis)
Fun Fact: Did you know that Ghost Shrimp, also known as California Ghost Shrimp, are expert architects? These tiny creatures are known for their impressive tunneling skills.
Ghost Shrimp are fascinating crustaceans along the Pacific coast. Their almost transparent bodies help them blend in3, earning them the nickname "ghost." They are skilled burrowers, creating homes underground to escape predators and endure harsh conditions.
9. Banded Coral Shrimp (Stenopus hispidus)
Fun Fact: Did you know that the Banded Coral Shrimp has a unique cleaning behavior? These shrimp are known to set up cleaning stations on coral reefs, where they wave their long antennae to attract fish.
The banded coral shrimp is a small, vibrant crustacean in tropical coral reefs. It has striking red and white bands on its body and legs. These shrimp play a valuable role by cleaning reef fish and removing parasites and dead skin. They are opportunistic feeders and lay eggs for reproduction4. Their bright color serves as a warning to potential predators. Banded coral shrimp are famous in the aquarium trade but need specific care to thrive.
10. Harlequin Shrimp (Hymenocera picta)
Fun Fact: Did you know the Harlequin Shrimp has a peculiar diet? Unlike other shrimp species, the Harlequin Shrimp exclusively feeds on starfish!
With its stunning colors and small size, the Harlequin Shrimp stands out in the marine world. It has a unique diet, feasting mainly on starfish. Surprisingly, this tiny type of shrimp protects coral reefs by eating the Crown-of-Thorns starfish, which harms the reefs.
11. Mantis Shrimp (Squilla mantis)
Fun Fact: Did you know the mantis shrimp is not a shrimp? Despite its name, the mantis shrimp is more closely related to crabs and lobsters than actual shrimp.
The Mantis Shrimp, particularly the Squilla mantis, is a fascinating ocean dweller with impressive dart-like claws. They use these claws to impale prey.
Furthermore, mantis shrimp species have the most complex eyes in the animal kingdom, enabling them to see a broad spectrum of colors and calculate depth with remarkable precision. Living a solitary life, they prefer warm, shallow waters in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, creating burrows for safety.
Related Read: Mantis Shrimp Facts
12. Cleaner Shrimp (Lysmata amboinensis)
Fun Fact: Did you know the Cleaner Shrimp, as the name suggests, are expert cleaners with unique social behavior? They have a symbiotic relationship with fish and sea turtles, providing cleaning services to them in the marine world.
These diligent creatures create "underwater spas" known as cleaning stations. Larger fish are drawn to these stations by the shrimp's inviting dance, where they provide grooming services. With precision, the Cleaner Shrimp removes parasites and harmful materials from the fish's body and gills.
Besides their cleaning services, this type of shrimp is a natural omnivore, happily feasting on plankton and other tiny organisms in the water. This adaptability allows them to thrive in the diverse marine ecosystem.
13. Peppermint Shrimp (Lysmata wurdemanni)
Fun Fact: Did you know the Peppermint Shrimp is a beautiful and valuable addition to aquariums? It acts as a natural cleaner by eating harmful parasites and dead skin off fish, keeping the tank clean and healthy in an eco-friendly way.
One remarkable ability of the Peppermint Shrimp is its talent for taming Aiptasia, a troublesome anemone in reef aquariums. This helps maintain harmony in their underwater world. Additionally, their adventurous diet includes small sea creatures, algae, and detritus found on the ocean floor.
14. Pistol Shrimp (Alpheus bellulus)
Fun Fact: Did you know the Pistol Shrimp wields one of the most potent weapons in the animal kingdom? Its specialized claw can create a cavitation bubble when it snaps shut.
The Pistol Shrimp wields an impressive oversized claw that creates a cavitation bubble, stunning its prey with a powerful shockwave. It is one of the sea's loudest creatures, reaching up to 218 decibels. This tiny shrimp uniquely partners with the goby fish, sharing a burrow and cooperating in their underwater realm.
15. Northern Shrimp (Pandalus borealis)
Fun Fact: Did you know the Northern Shrimp can change their color uniquely? These shrimps can adjust their pigmentation to blend with their surroundings, making them excellent masters of disguise.
One fascinating quirk of the Northern Shrimp is its unique way of swimming backward1! By flexing their abdomen and tail, they move swiftly in a backward motion, adding a touch of whimsy to their survival instincts. Despite their small size, these shrimps play a crucial role in the food chain, serving as a vital food source for marine giants like cod, haddock, and flounder.
16. Pacific Pink Shrimp (Pandalus jordani)
Fun Fact: Did you know the Pacific Pink Shrimp can change color to blend in with their environment? This makes them excellent at camouflage in their natural habitat.
You'll find the stunning Pacific Pink Shrimp in the cool and shadowy depths of the Pacific Ocean. Their vibrant pink bodies stand out against their underwater home's beige sands and silt. These 120-millimeters-long shrimps prefer the twilight world, hiding 100 to 600 meters below the surface during the day and surfacing at night.
17. Southern Rough Shrimp (Trachysalambria curvirostris)
Fun Fact: Did you know the Southern Rough Shrimp has a unique defense mechanism? When threatened, it makes a loud snapping sound by rapidly closing its pincers.
In the western Pacific Ocean, you can find the Southern Rough Shrimp. They live on sandy, muddy ocean floors and are most active at night. They are commonly found near Japan, China, and Korea and are enjoyed for their taste in Asian cuisine.
During the day, this type of shrimp hides in its tough shells; at night, it scavenges for food like tiny invertebrates and plankton. Their unique reproducing method involves the male passing sperm to the female, who carries the eggs until they hatch.
18. Grass Shrimp (Palaemonetes paludosus)
Fun Fact: Did you know Grass Shrimp is not exactly a shrimp? They belong to a group of crustaceans called amphipods.
Gliding through the waterways from New Jersey to Texas, the Grass Shrimp are masters of disguise. Their almost invisible bodies blend seamlessly with aquatic vegetation, making them hard to spot. At just an inch or two in length, they are tiny creatures that prefer the cover of darkness, coming out at night to explore their underwater world.
However, their size makes them an easy target for larger sea residents like fish, water birds, and larger invertebrates, making Grass Shrimp a delicious snack. Despite their small stature, Grass Shrimp play a crucial role in maintaining the marine food chain and balancing the ecosystem.
19. Japanese Tiger Shrimp (Marsupenaeus japonicus)
The Japanese Tiger Shrimp thrives in the Western Pacific Ocean's depths. With distinctive dark stripes on its body, this 23-centimeter-long shrimp is well-suited for survival. Preferring sandy or muddy ocean floors, they stay hidden during the day and venture out to feed on small fish and plankton at night.
In aquaculture, these shrimps are famous in Japan, China, and Vietnam for their fast growth and resilience. They undergo "molting," shedding their exoskeletons throughout their lives. However, they face threats from diseases like white spot syndrome and yellow head virus.
20. Atlantic White Shrimp (Litopenaeus setiferus)
Fun Fact: Did you know Atlantic White Shrimps are excellent jumpers? These shrimp have muscular tails that propel themselves out of the water and cover impressive distances.
In the waters of the United States Atlantic coast, from New Jersey to Florida and the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic White Shrimp. These shrimps are masters of disguise, with light grey or greenish-yellow bodies blending perfectly into their muddy surroundings. Their bellies, in contrast, are stark white, giving them their name.
This type of shrimp can grow up to 8 inches, although most reach around 6 inches. They are creatures of the night, coming alive after sunset to hunt for algae, detritus, worms, and tiny fish. Every few weeks, they shed their exoskeletons to accommodate growth.
21. Spot Shrimp (Pandalus platyceros)
Spot shrimp are a type of shrimp known for their beautiful appearance, with reddish-brown bodies and white spots. For instance, salad shrimp can come from various species, including the Gulf Pink Shrimp (also known as Spot Shrimp). These shrimp are typically available in spring and early summer along the west coast of North America.
They are harvested sustainably to protect their population. Spot shrimp are used in various delicious dishes and hold economic importance for the fishing industry in their regions.
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Okpala, C. O. R., Choo, W. S., & Dykes, G. A. (2014).Quality and shelf life assessment of Pacific white shrimp (Litopenaeus vannamei) freshly harvested and stored on ice. Lebensmittel-Wissenschaft & Technologie, 55(1), 110–116.
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