The common shrimp is a small lobster-like animal. The thin, outside skeleton is flattened sidewise and colored to blend with the ocean floors near coasts where they live and hide from people. Edible shrimps grow to 3 inches long. Others have longer legs and small bodies.
A shrimp breathes by gills hidden in its sides. It swims by blending its abdomen which in turn moves its large tail fin. It walks on legs attached to the middle of its body and feels with its long antennae. It feeds on small sea animals and plants.
Fresh water shrimp are not really shrimp but amphipods. Some may reach a length of 1/2 inch. They have high arched backs and are colored greenish-white to brown. They are important sources of food in fish hatcheries but are too small to be eaten by man. The female lays about twenty eggs every eleven days and incubates them in a brood sac attached to her underside. The mated pairs continue to swim together. Amphipods use their numerous posterior legs to swim backwards and upside down.
The shrimp industry is important along the southern coasts of the United States. Six-inch shrimps, found on the Pacific coast and Gulf coast, are called prawns.