Is a Shrimp a Fish? Or Is It Something Else?

Published Categorized as Journal, Ingredients Tagged

If you love eating fish or shrimp, you may have found yourself wondering, “Is a shrimp a fish? Are they the same” Indeed, you’ve likely heard rumors swirling about which is which, but in today’s article, I’m going to put those rumors to rest by giving you the truth about the matter. So, if you’re ready, let’s prepare to find out whether shrimp can truly be classified as a fish–or not!

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Table of Contents

Is A Shrimp A Fish? Or Is It Something Else?

Are Shrimp Fish or Mammals?

Shrimp are not fish nor are they mammals. Shrimp are crustaceans. So, what qualifies a sea creature to be placed in a crustacean category? Merriam-Webster describes crustacean fish as:

Any of a large class (Crustacea) of mostly aquatic mandibulate arthropods that have a chitinous or calcareous and chitinous exoskeleton, a pair of often much modified appendages on each segment, and two pairs of antennae and that include the lobsters, shrimp, crabs, wood lice, water fleas, and barnacles.”

In laymen’s terms, this means that shrimp and other aquatic animals that share crustacean qualities will have an exoskeleton, limbs, and antennae. Marine creatures also considered a part of the crustacean group include lobsters, crabs, barnacles, and more.

Shrimp would not be considered mammals as mammals have hair or fur, are warm-blooded, produce milk for their babies, and have complex brains. Thus, because shrimp doesn’t meet these requirements, this aquatic animal cannot be considered a mammal.

is a shrimp a fish

Are Shrimp Fish or Meat?

As mentioned, shrimp aren’t considered fish. But they are often considered meat.

Allow us to explain.

Starting with the fish category first, shrimp aren’t defined as fish for several reasons. To begin, fish have an internal skeleton, much like humans, cats, and dogs do. They also have a complex central nervous system, fins to help them mobilize, and scales to protect their bodies.

This isn’t the case with shrimp. Wild shrimp are a popular seafood category, like fish, but are a different entity entirely. Instead of having an internal skeleton as a fish does, shrimp have exoskeletons. This means that their bodies are encased in a hardened shell-like exterior that protects them from the outside. This is often why the term “shellfish” is utilized when describing shrimp meat used for seafood cuisine.

Other key differences between shrimp and fish are that shrimp have limbs to help them swim, have antennae, don’t have teeth, and don’t have complex nervous systems.

Why Are Shrimp Considered To Be Meat?

If shrimp aren’t considered fish, you may be wondering why they are still referred to as meat.

Well, although shrimp don’t possess the same physical attributes as fish, one thing they do share in common is their ability to be consumed. White shrimp, Whiteleg shrimp, pink shrimp, tiger shrimp, and other shrimp are often consumed as food items.

Know, however, that not all shrimp species are considered good eating. Many shrimp are much too small to be consumed. Thus, it is usually the larger shrimp that are harvested for their shrimp meat; and boy, is it delicious!

Is a Shrimp a Fish? Or Is It Something Else?

How Are Fish and Shrimp Different?

Remember that although fish and shrimp aren’t the same, they do share a few attributes that can make them seem similar.

The following are a few of the most significant similarities and differences between fish and shrimp:

Similarities Between Shrimp and Fish

  • They Both Live in Water: The most obvious similarity between shrimp and fish is that they both live in water. In fact, this is often what makes people wonder if shrimp really are fish. But as we’ve already explored, this isn’t the case. Shrimp are crustaceans, which is a totally different category from fish.
  • They Both Move in Water: Both shrimp and fish can move about in water, albeit, they do so in different ways. Fish get around in water by using their fins. Shrimp dart about by using their abdominals.
  • Both Can Be Scavengers: Although all shrimp are notorious for being scavengers, there are certain types of fish that are considered scavengers as well. Catfish and eels are only a couple examples of common scavenger fish.
  • They Both Make Good Seafood: Most of us can agree that one thing that shrimp and fish have in common is the fact that they’re both rather tasty! Both taste great fried or grilled and drizzled with butter.

Differences Between Shrimp and Fish

  • Shrimp Have Antennae: Unlike fish, shrimp have antennae that function for multiple uses. These uses include assessing their prey and using antennae to orient themselves with their immediate surroundings
  • Fish Have Scales: Another major difference between shrimp and fish is that fish have scales. These scales help protect the body of the fish. Shrimp, on the other hand, have an exoskeleton or “shell” that keeps them safe.
  • All Fish Have Teeth: Believe it or not, no matter what type of fish you think of, they all have teeth! This isn’t the case with shrimp. Actually, the truth is that shrimp have no bones or teeth whatsoever. How interesting!
  • Shrimp Don’t Have Very Complex Nervous Systems: Shrimp do not have the complexity of nervous systems that fish do. This is yet another reason that shrimp are classified differently than fish.
  • Fish Have Fins: As previously mentioned, shrimp do not have fins. Instead, they propel themselves throughout water by pulling their abdomen close to their body before flailing themselves at a fast rate across the deep sea. Cool!
  • Shrimp Are Eaten Differently: Because of their physical makeup, shrimp and fish are often consumed differently. Whether you’re eating farmed shrimp or fresh, shrimp seafood can be served with the shell on. In fact, it is often the preferred method as the shell can protect the meat from heat, rendering more tender and juicy results. Fish seafood, on the other hand, won’t come with a shell, although it is often served with the skin still on as this can provide additional nutritional benefits.

Note: Because of the risks of food poisoning, it is not recommended that you eat raw shrimp.

is a shrimp a fish

What Is a Shrimp Classified As?

As mentioned, seafood shrimp classified as crustacean sea animals is correct! They aren’t fish and they aren’t mammals. The are many types of shrimp, some of which are inedible either due to size or other factors. Other types of crustacean sea animals include lobsters, barnabas, crabs, and water fleas.

What Type of Seafood Is Shrimp?

Apart from being known as part of the crustacean family, shrimp are also referred to as shellfish. This is a very common term used to describe oysters, lobsters, clams, crayfish, scallops, and mussels. It is also a common term used to describe prawns.

In case you are wondering, prawns are different than shrimp though the two are in the same family. Prawns tend to be much larger. Edible prawn varieties include Northern prawn, Tiger prawn, and others.

Most shellfish can be found frolicking happily in saltwater. However, there are some varieties that can be found in freshwater as well. Shellfish tend to be an excellent source of nutrition. Although, if you’ve never eaten shellfish before, you should do so with caution. There are many people who find themselves to be allergic to shellfish. Thus, you should be sure to report any rashes, hives, or swelling you may experience after consuming seafood to your doctor.

Some ways in which shellfish can add nutrients to your diet include:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Good source of protein
  • Low fat
  • Low calories

What Type of Fish Is a Shrimp?

Remember that shrimp isn’t a type of fish at all!

Nevertheless, let’s individually answer some of the common questions people have related to shrimp and their relation to fish.

Let’s delve deeper into those questions now!

Is Shrimp a Cold Water Fish?

Some shrimp will survive in water at very cold temperatures. Ghost shrimp and cherry shrimp are good examples of these types.

Is Shrimp a Deep Sea Fish?

While most sources agree that there aren’t any living creatures in the Dead Sea, some claim that there are indeed brine shrimp that inhabit the waters.

Is Shrimp Considered a Fatty Fish?

Shrimp are low in fat. Surprisingly though, shrimp are very high in cholesterol. Depending on your dietary needs, you may or may not need to moderate the amount of shrimp meat you eat. Be sure to speak with your doctor if you have any dietary-related questions concerning the consumption of shrimp.

Is Shrimp a Scavenger Fish?

Although not a fish, shrimp are known to eat any and everything that falls to the bottom of the sea. This includes both dead and living plants and animals. As a result, shrimp are classified as scavengers.

shrimp on plate

Believe it or not, shrimp may be more closely related to spiders or even grasshoppers than they are fish. This is because many of the characteristics that shrimp have aren’t aligned with the characteristics that fish have. Therefore, shrimp and fish are not closely related.

Why Are Shrimp Not Classified As Fish?

Remember that shrimp cannot be classified as fish. This is because they don’t have an internal skeleton, don’t have teeth, have no fins, no scales, and don’t have complex nervous systems. In essence, though shrimp are indeed aquatic animals, they are entirely different from fish. With this in mind, we do not classify shrimp as fish, but rather as crustacean marine animals. Others in this crustacean category include other popular types of seafood such as prawns, lobster, and crab.

Is Shrimp a Fish? It Isn’t!

Though both shrimp and fish share spaces underwater, they aren’t the same thing. These marine animals differ greatly in that their internal and external characteristics are much different. These two are also consumed differently, though they are both enjoyed as an integral part of seafood cuisine.

We hope this helps answer the question, “Is shrimp a fish?” See you next time!


Are shrimp considered animals?

Shrimp are not considered animals. They are crustaceans which are a form of shellfish, much like lobsters and crabs.

Is shrimp halal?

According to most Islamic schools of thought, shellfish are indeed regarded as halal. So, if you’re of the Islamic faith, you can feel free to dig in!

What religion cannot eat shrimp?

According to Judaism, shrimp is considered unclean and therefore should not be consumed by Jews.

What is the black vein in shrimp?

The vein is the digestive tract and can be full of grit. Still, people that eat the vein aren’t compromising their safety by doing so. Nevertheless, the vein is often removed as it can be unsightly upon presentation.

Are shrimp bigger than prawns?

No, typically it is the other way around. Prawns, though similar to shrimp, are usually bigger.

Why is shrimp considered a shellfish?

Shrimp is considered shellfish because it has an exterior “shell” to keep its body safe. This shell is more accurately called an “exoskeleton” which is a skeleton on the outside rather than on the inside of a shellfish’s body.

By Anna

Anna Brooks, the voice behind, is a seasoned writer and editor with an insatiable love for food. While not a professional chef, her culinary adventures and unique insights have captivated readers for years. Anna believes in the transformative power of food, stating it "feeds the soul." Dive into her writings for a mix of inspiration, entertainment, and culinary wisdom. Author Pinterest Facebook Twitter Instagram YouTube Tumblr Reddit Quora

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