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What Is a Tiger Prawn?

By DM Gutierrez
Updated Mar 05, 2024
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A tiger prawn, or penaeus monodon, is a crustacean that lives in the ocean. Since the 1970s, this prawn has been produced in rapidly increasing quantities by international aqauculturists — also known as aqua farmers — primarily in Australia and Thailand. Like other prawns, tiger prawns are prepared and eaten in a variety of ways.

Tiger prawns are known by several names. In Taiwan, they are called "grass shrimp," while in Hong Kong they are known as "ghost prawns." Australian names for tiger prawns include the black tiger prawn, leader, prawn, and panda prawn. In the Philippines, these crustaceans are known as "jumbo tiger prawns," while in the United States, "giant tiger prawn" is often used when referring to this large shrimp.

Tiger prawns are one of the larger species of prawns. The average male is generally nine inches (22 centimeters) and 4.75 ounces (135 grams), while females are typically larger at 11 inches (27 cm) and 10 ounces (260 g). Their coloration can vary from black or brown to a greenish-blue hue. Dark stripes on the shell give the tiger prawn its name. The color and stripes of wild tiger prawns are less pronounced than those of tiger prawns raised in farms.

As decapods, this has 10 legs with pincers that are similar to those of crabs and lobsters. Tiger prawns have a hard, thin carapace that covers their soft inner body. To grown larger, they typically shed their skins. Prawns are often confused with shrimp, but gill structure and the length and size of legs and pincers vary between the two species.

Fishing of wild tiger prawns is generally done using bottom trawling equipment, but the vast majority of tiger prawns sold in supermarkets and restaurants are raised in aquaculture ponds. Farming the tiger prawn has been a growing industry since the 1970s. By 1980, 21,000 tons (a little over 19,000 metric tons) of this prawn species were being farmed. By 1993, half a million tons (roughly 454,000 metric tons) were being raised; this increased to almost 800,000 tons (about 725,000 metric tons) at the height of the tiger prawn’s popularity. Other prawns and shrimp gained market share after 2000, but the tiger prawn still remains a popular food choice.

Tiger prawns are usually prepared by boiling, steaming, grilling, or stir-frying. These crustaceans are large and firm and do not break up on kabob skewers or in sauces or soups. Typical flavorings associated with tiger prawns include citrus juices, chili, and garlic. They are also often dipped in butter, mayonnaise, or cocktail sauce.

Frequently Asked Questions

What exactly is a tiger prawn?

A tiger prawn, scientifically known as Penaeus monodon, is a marine crustacean notable for its distinctive dark stripes on its shell. It's one of the largest shrimp species, with adults reaching up to 36 centimeters in length. They are a popular choice for aquaculture due to their rapid growth and high market value.

Where can tiger prawns be found in the wild?

Tiger prawns are indigenous to the Indo-Pacific region, thriving in the warm waters from the eastern coast of Africa to the southern part of Asia and Australia. They inhabit the bottoms of coastal areas, estuaries, and lagoons, often burrowing into soft sediments to hide during the day.

What do tiger prawns eat?

Tiger prawns are omnivorous scavengers, feeding on a mix of plant and animal matter. Their diet includes algae, plankton, mollusks, and small fish. This diverse diet contributes to their growth and is a key factor in their success as a species both in the wild and in aquaculture settings.

How are tiger prawns important to the ecosystem?

Tiger prawns play a crucial role in their ecosystem by acting as both predator and prey. They help maintain the balance by consuming various organisms and in turn, provide nutrition for a range of predators, including fish and humans. Their burrowing behavior also aerates and recycles nutrients in the sediment.

What is the lifespan of a tiger prawn?

In the wild, tiger prawns typically live for about 1 to 2 years. However, their lifespan can be influenced by various factors such as predation, environmental conditions, and availability of food. In aquaculture, their life cycle is often shorter, as they are usually harvested before reaching full maturity.

Are tiger prawns overfished or endangered?

Tiger prawns are not currently listed as endangered, but there are concerns about overfishing and the environmental impact of prawn farming. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, responsible farming practices and management are essential to ensure the sustainability of tiger prawn populations and the health of marine ecosystems.

AllThingsNature is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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