Difference Between Crawfish and Shrimp

The main difference between crawfish and shrimp is that the crawfish is an exclusively freshwater decapod with a pair of large, front claws whereas the shrimp is usually a saltwater decapod with a long tail. Furthermore, shrimps are larger than crawfish. 

Crawfish and shrimp are two types of crustaceans that are famous as seafood. 

Key Areas Covered 

1. Crawfish
     – Definition, Characteristics, Behavior
2. Shrimp
     – Definition, Characteristics, Behavior
3. What are the Similarities Between Crawfish and Shrimp
     – Outline of Common Features
4. What is the Difference Between Crawfish and Shrimp
     – Comparison of Key Differences

Key Terms 

Crawfish, Crayfish, Decapod, Front Claws, Habitat, Long Abdomen, ShrimpDifference Between Crawfish and Shrimp - Comparison Summary

What is Crawfish

Crawfish is a type of small decapod also known as crayfish, crawdad, red swamp crayfish, mudbug, or spiny lobster. Since crawfish have a pair of large front claws, they are always confused with lobsters, which are saltwater relatives of the crawfish. Over 250 species of crawfish are native to North American rivers, lakes, canals, swamps, wetlands, and irrigation ditches. However, around 400 crawfish species can be identified worldwide. Crawfish are a type of nocturnal creatures that hide underneath rocks.  

Difference Between Crawfish and Shrimp_Figure 01

Figure 1: Red Swamp Crawfish (Procambarus clarkii)

Since crawfish are most active during the night, they can be grown in combination with rice paddies and swampy waters.  

What is Shrimp

Shrimp is mainly a saltwater crustacean with a fish-like, long double tail. One of their two pairs of antennae are long and the remaining is short. Further, their long abdomen is made up of several stacks. Around 2000 species of shrimps live worldwide and are more common in the US.  

Difference Between Crawfish and Shrimp_Figure 02

Figure 2: Mantis Shrimp (Odontodactylus scyllarus)

Shrimps are generally known as cleaner shrimps since they clear off parasites and fungi from fish. Also, shrimps live as commensals with sea urchins and starfish. 

Similarities Between Crawfish and Shrimp 

  • Crawfish and shrimp are two types of crustaceans. 
  • Their body is covered by an exoskeleton made up of chitin. 
  • Both have five pairs of swimmerets and other five pairs of legs. Hence, they are called decapods. 
  • Cephalothorax and abdomen are the two body segments of them. Their abdomen is made up of several segmented stacks. 
  • Both have two pairs of antennae and a pair of compound eyes. 
  • They crawl along the muddy or sandy bottom. 
  • Both are rich in calories, proteins, and cholesterol and low in fat. 

Difference Between Crawfish and Shrimp 


Crawfish refers to a large edible crustacean with a spiny shell and long heavy antennae, but lacking the large claws of true lobsters while shrimp refers to a decapod with long antennae, slender legs, and a laterally compressed, muscular abdomen that is highly adapted for both forward swimming and a backward (retrograde) escape response. 


When comparing their habitats, crawfish chiefly live in freshwater while shrimp mainly live in saltwater. 


Shrimps are bigger than crawfish as crawfish is 3-4 inches long while shrimp is 8 inches long. 


Crawfish can be red, orange, dark green, black or white in color while shrimp can be brown, pink or white in color. 

Front Claws 

While crawfish have a pair of large, front claws, shrimp does not have large front claws. 

Feeding Habitats 

These two crustaceans also have different feeding habitats. Crawfish are active at night while shrimp clean fungi and parasites from fish. 


Crawfish, crayfish, or spiny lobster is a small, freshwater decapod with large, front claws while shrimps are comparatively large, saltwater decapod with a long abdomen. Both of them are tasty as seafood. The main difference between crawfish and shrimp is the anatomical features and the habitat. 


1. “Crawfish.” Seafoodsource.com, Available Here
2. “Shrimp.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 11 Oct. 2017, Available Here

Image Courtesy:

1. “Cray-fish August 2008-1” By Alvesgaspar – Own work (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia      
2. “OdontodactylusScyllarus2” By Roy L. Caldwell, Department of Integrative Biology, University of California, Berkeley – National Science Foundation [1] (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia 

About the Author: Lakna

Lakna, a graduate in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, is a Molecular Biologist and has a broad and keen interest in the discovery of nature related things. She has a keen interest in writing articles regarding science.

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