The Malaysian Prawn (Macrobrachium rosenbergii)
The most popular freshwater shrimp for commercial culture is the Malaysian Prawn Macrobrachium rosenbergii. It became the preferred shrimp culture species in the 1970's when Dr. Shao-Wen Ling discovered how to raise the baby prawns to a juvenile stage. They can reach a marketable size of 10-12 whole shrimp per pound in 6-9 months. They require well oxygenated water, and consistent temperatures above 80 degrees F (27 C), but not exceeding 90 degrees F (32 C).
These temperature requirements are part of the reason why large scale commercial culture of M. rosenbergii has only succeeded in Thailand, Malaysia, and other parts of Southeast Asia. Even in Hawaii, South Texas, and South Florida, winter temperatures bring growth to a stand still. Average production in U.S. ponds is between 1,100 and 2,400 pounds of whole shrimp per acre per year.
Creative marketing strategies often allow smaller scale family-owned and operated prawn farms to be successful as far north as the Carolinas and Central California. M. rosenbergii has also been raised by farmers and aquaculturists whose primary crop is something else, such as catfish, tilapia, ornamental fish, carp, ducks, cattle or other food crops. While perhaps not profitable by itself for these farmers, freshwater shrimp can bring in extra income with little additional investment.
Macrobrachium rosenbergii breed rather easily. However, the larvae require special hatchery conditions, including 1/3 strength seawater, to develop properly. Miami Aqua-culture, Inc. offers all the necessary equipment for prawn culture, including feeds, oxygen and pH meters, refractometers, aerators, harvesting nets, and hatchery equipment.
If you want to experiment on a small scale, maybe in a home aquarium, take a look at keeping freshwater prawns as pets.
Live Prawn Prices
Postlarvae PL 1-5 size, (0-50,000) $125/thousand
Postlarvae PL 1-5 size, (55,000-150,000) $ 95/thousand
Juveniles, limited availability $0.25-$0.50 each
Adults, breeding size (4-5 per box) $35 each
Post-larvae can be stocked directly into freshwater ponds. But, juvenile Macrobrachium are often preferred for pond stocking, especially in cooler areas with short growing seasons. Final densities should be about 10 shrimp per square meter (there are 4,047 square meters in one acre). Shipping costs for juvenile's larger size can make them very expensive. We suggest buying post-larvae, stock them in acclimation tanks fitted with appropriate hiding places for 1 to 2 weeks and you have juveniles!