MicroRNAs (miRNAs) function as regulators in a broad range of phenotypes. The Oriental River Prawn (Macrobrachium nipponense) is an important commercial species that is widely distributed in freshwater and low-salinity estuarine regions of China and other Asian countries. To date, there are no reports describing M. nipponense miRNAs. In this study, Solexa deep sequencing technology was used for high-throughput analysis of miRNAs in a small RNA library isolated from four M. nipponense tissues (gill, hepatopancreas, muscle and hemocytes). In total, 9,227,356 reads were obtained, 4,293,155 of which were related to 267 unique miRNAs, including 203 conserved and 64 prawn-specific miRNAs. Furthermore, miRNA features including length distribution and end variations were characterized. Annotation of targets revealed a broad range of biological processes and signal transduction pathways regulated by M. nipponense miRNAs. In addition, 880 co-expressed and 39 specific (25 normoxia-specific and 14 hypoxia-specific) miRNAs of four combined tissues of prawns that may be involved in the response to hypoxia were confirmed using miRNA microarray analysis. Real-time quantitative PCR (qPCR) analysis of eight miRNAs in the normoxia and hypoxia groups showed good concordance between the sequencing and qPCR data. This study provides the first large-scale identification and characterization of M. nipponense miRNAs and their potential targets, and represents a foundation for further characterization of their roles in the regulation of the diversity of hypoxia processes.