Shrimp Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Diane Sieverson

Diane has taught all subjects at the elementary level, was the principal of a K-8 private school and has a master's degree in Measurement and Evaluation.

You may have eaten shrimp, but you might not know much about them. Come learn about shrimp, including where they live, what they like to eat and what eats them.

What Is a Shrimp?

It's almost dinner time and you can't wait, because tonight one of your favorite foods is on the menu. It's pink and white and curly, and is sometimes served in its shell. It's a shrimp.

Brown shrimp
Brown Shrimp

A shrimp is a small shellfish with long legs and a long body that has a hard casing. Shrimp don't have a backbone like you do. In fact, they don't have a skeleton inside their body at all. Instead, they have a hard, shell-like covering called an exoskeleton that protects them and gives their body its shape. You may have even peeled that hard covering off a cooked shrimp so you could take a bite.

Their exoskeleton isn't their only protection. They also have a hard, pointed, beak-like nose that they use to stab at enemies, including people.

Where Do Shrimp Live?

There are about 2,000 different kinds of shrimp, and they don't all look like the shrimp you see on your plate. They are good at adjusting to their surroundings and are found in both saltwater and freshwater all over the world. Some are so tiny that you can hardly see them, while others can be as long as 12 inches.

Durban dancing shrimp
Durban Dancing Shrimp

Shrimp like to hang out with other shrimp, so they live together in groups called 'schools' and talk to each other by making snappy, clicking noises. (Your teacher probably wouldn't be happy with you if you made those noises in your school, though.)

A Shrimp Spa for Fish

One special kind of shrimp, called a cleaner shrimp, has a very important job - they actually clean fish. Cleaner shrimp will get together in groups called cleaning stations. Fish will swim up to a cleaning station, like going through a drive-through. The shrimp will clean leftover food and pests out of the fish's mouth and off its body, and they will eat what they clean off. They even climb into the fish's mouth, go down its throat and pop back out through its gills to make sure it leaves clean and happy, inside and out!

Cleaner shrimp cleaning the mouth of an eel
Cleaner Shrimp Cleaning the Mouth of an Eel

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