There are two different shrimp species sometimes called tiger shrimp. Penaeus monodon is a member of the penaeid family of saltwater shrimp, native to the waters of the Indo Pacific region and an important part of the aquaculture industry. The other species is Caridina cantonensis "Tiger," a freshwater shrimp found in the southern part of China. This tiger shrimp is sold in the aquarium trade but is not otherwise commercially important.
In addition to the tiger shrimp appellation, Penaeus monodon is also called the Asian tiger shrimp, black tiger shrimp, tiger prawn and giant tiger prawn. "Giant" is a fitting name for these shrimp, as they reach a length of 10.5 to 13 inches (26.5 to 33 cm) and weigh an average of 5.25 ounces (about 150 grams). Females are usually larger than males.
The Asian tiger shrimp is native to the ocean of south and southeast Asia, Australia, the Philippines, and East Africa. It is probably the shrimp most commonly found in aquaculture and is raised commercially not only in its native range but in other parts of the world such as the Caribbean. Specimens of this shrimp have occasionally been found in the waters off the eastern US, but there is no sign of a population established there. Authorities theorize that these isolated individuals probably escaped from commercial operations.
In the wild, adult Asian tiger shrimp live on the ocean floor at depths of 100 to 160 feet (about 20 – 50 m) Depending on the area, their shells can be brown, gray, green, red, or blue, with alternating stripes of blue or black, and yellow. Larval and juvenile stage Asian tiger shrimp live in coastal estuaries, mangrove swamps and lagoons. The shrimp are predatory, hunting all kinds of small marine life, and they also scavenge for food.
Caridina cantonensis "Tiger," the freshwater shrimp, is much smaller than the Asian tiger shrimp, reaching a maximum length of 1 to 1.25 inches (about 2.5 to 3 cm). Females are larger and have a rounder body on the underside. The young do not go through a larval stage, but instead hatch out as tiny versions of adults.
They are a popular species for aquariums, easy to care for and to breed, and not aggressive with other aquarium dwellers. The tiger shrimp itself has a yellow tail and head, with black stripes on the body. There are several other subspecies of Caridina cantonensis, varying principally in body color. Blue, red and black are some of the variations. The various subspecies can interbreed and will often produce offspring with mixed colors.