The Life Cycle of Shrimp


The different ways of preparing shrimp were outlined in the movie "Forrest Gump." But nothing was mentioned about the life of the shrimp as it grows into adulthood. The shrimp goes through several stages before it becomes an adult, with shrimp spawning about four miles out in the ocean at depths of 40 to 60 feet. A female can release between 500,000 to one million fertilized eggs into the ocean.


  • The female shrimp lays fertilized eggs, nauplii. The eggs drift in the ocean currents. The eggs are almost undetectable since they are so tiny. The eggs do not drift for very long. They hatch within 24 hours of being released into the ocean.

Zoeae/Mysis larval stage

  • After hatching and being exposed to the ocean waters, the hatched shrimp resembles a tiny mite. It is left to the mercy of the waters since it cannot control its movement and cannot swim. During this vulnerable time the larvae can become a meal for small fish or filter feeders. The larva attaches itself to microscopic plants or animals and continues to drift in the ocean. This stage lasts from two to three weeks.


  • This stage lasts from four to five weeks. It is during this stage that the shrimp resembles a miniature version of an adult shrimp, though it's transparent during the beginning of this stage. Also during this stage, much of its development takes place. The shrimp grows swimming and walking legs. The shrimp begins to feed during this stage, eating worms, micro-animals and decaying animals. The shrimp, about 1/4- to 1/2-inch long, begins moving toward the shore, migrating to creeks and tidal marshes and other estuaries


  • The shrimp begin to grow as they settle into the salt waters of the estuaries. They settle at the bottom of these areas and begin to feed and grow. They feed on algae, small animals and debris. But as they grow, they also become prey for small fish living in the waters. The shrimp stay in these areas for two to three months.


  • After departing the marshes and creeks, the shrimp return to the ocean and continue to grow. When they return to the ocean, they mature to spawn and the cycle starts again. If shrimp escape the hungry mouths of predators or fishermen's nets, they can grow to the ripe old age of two years before they die.

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