Introduction: Body colouration in animals can have a range of functions, with predator protection an important aspect of colour in crustaceans. Colour determination is associated with the carotenoid astaxanthin, which is taken up through the diet and stabilised in the tissues by the protein crustacyanin. As a variety of genes are found to play a role in colour formation in other systems, a holistic approach was employed in this study to determine the factors involved in Fenneropenaeus merguiensis colouration. Results: Full length F. merguiensis crustacyanin subunit A and C sequences were isolated. Crustacyanin subunit A and C were found in the F. merguiensis transcriptomes of the muscle/cuticle tissue, hepatopancreas, eye stalk and nervous system, using 454 next generation sequencing technology. Custom microarray analysis of albino, light and dark F. merguiensis cuticle tissue showed genes encoding actin, sarcoplasmic calcium-binding protein and arginine kinase to be 4-fold or greater differentially expressed (p less than 0.05) and down-regulated in albinos when compared to light and dark samples. QPCR expression analysis of crustacyanin and total astaxanthin pigment extraction revealed significantly (p less than 0.05) lower crustacyanin subunit A and C gene transcript copy numbers and total astaxanthin levels in albinos than in the light and dark samples. Additionally, crustacyanin subunit A and C expression levels correlated positively with each other. Conclusions: This study identified gene products putatively involved in crustacean colouration, such as crustacyanin, sarcoplasmic calcium-binding protein and forms of actin, and investigated differences in gene expression and astaxanthin levels between albino, light and dark coloured prawns. These genes open a path to enhance our understanding of the biology and regulation of colour formation.