Unlocking The Secrets Of Guppy Schooling: Quantity Matters!

Guppies are not strict schooling fish, but they can exhibit pseudo shoaling behavior in groups. This behavior may include tail fanning and chasing as they establish their hierarchy.

Both male and female guppies will create their own hierarchy within the tank, and their calmer chasing can sometimes resemble schooling behavior.

Are Guppies Schooling Fish?

Hiding Spots In My Guppy Tank
My Guppy Tank

Guppies are not schooling fish, but they are social and will shoal in tight groups under certain conditions.

This behavior is often mistaken for schooling, but shoaling is slightly different. Additionally, guppies may sometimes appear to be shoaling when they are simply congregating in a specific area of their tank.

For example, my guppies usually come to the front of the tank when I’m near because they think it’s feeding time, but this isn’t schooling or shoaling behavior.

I keep several live plants in my guppy tank and have noticed that some of my guppies group up to pick algae off certain plants. This feeding behavior can resemble schooling or shoaling at first glance, but they are just gathering around a food source.

To avoid influencing their behavior, I observe my tanks from a distance. I’ve witnessed my guppies shoaling numerous times, but it usually only lasts for short periods.

Generally, guppies prefer to forage around their tank individually rather than group up and shoal. This is the most common behavior I observe in my own guppies.

This solo exploration could be a positive sign, suggesting that my guppies feel safe enough to venture off alone without the protection of the group and explore their home.

Schooling Vs Shoaling

Guppies Shoaling In My Tank

Schooling refers to a behavior where a group of fish swim in unison, maintaining the same speed and direction and turning simultaneously. In contrast, shoaling is when fish group together without coordinated movement.

These two terms are often confused and used interchangeably on social media.

I have observed my guppies shoaling many times in their tank, but I have never seen them actively schooling with each other.

Here are the main differences between schooling and shoaling.

AspectSchoolingShoaling
DefinitionA coordinated and synchronized group movement where fish maintain the same speed and direction.A loose aggregation of fish staying together without necessarily moving in sync.
CoordinationHigh – Fish move in a highly organized manner, turning, and swimming together.Low – Fish are in a group but do not move in a coordinated way.
PurposeOften occurs for protection from predators, enhanced hydrodynamics, and increased foraging efficiency.Can occur for various reasons, including social interactions, protection, foraging, and resting.
UniformityUsually involves fish of the same species and similar size.Can involve fish of different species and sizes.
FormationStrict – Fish maintain specific positions relative to each other.Flexible – Positions of individual fish within the group are not fixed.
Response to ThreatWhen threatened, schooling fish often form a tighter, more coordinated group.Shoaling fish might scatter or form a tighter group depending on the species and situation.
Differences Between Schooling And Shoaling

How Many Guppies Are Required To Exhibit Schooling Behavior?

Guppy Shoaling Behaviour

My guppies began to shoal more frequently once I added more of them to the tank.

The common recommendation is to keep at least five guppies to encourage shoaling behavior, but more is always better.

I increased the number of guppies in my tank from three to eight to reduce aggression, and thankfully, it worked.

My guppies are definitely grouping up more often now that there are eight of them in the tank.

However, as I mentioned earlier, my guppies still spend the majority of their time foraging individually around the tank.

Why Don’t Guppies School Or Shoal In My Tank?

A Guppy In My Guppy Tank
A Guppy In My Guppy Tank

It can actually be a positive sign if your guppies are not schooling or shoaling in your tank, as it indicates that they are comfortable and happy in their environment and don’t feel the need to shoal.

I’ve seen people on social media report that their guppies stopped shoaling after the first few months in the tank. This could be because the guppies have become accustomed to their new home and realize there are no threats, so they don’t feel the need to shoal or school.

As mentioned earlier, my guppies enjoy picking at algae in the tank, which might be another reason they aren’t shoaling.

My guppies are highly motivated by food, and if they have the opportunity to venture out alone and nibble on algae, they might not feel the need to gather and shoal.

Additionally, keeping too few guppies in your tank can also reduce the chances of them grouping up and shoaling.

Final Thoughts

Guppies may not exhibit true schooling behavior, but they are social fish that can shoal together in specific conditions.

The distinction between schooling and shoaling is essential, with guppies more inclined to shoal, especially in groups of five or more, under stable conditions.

While some guppies may appear to be schooling, they often prefer individual exploration in their tanks, a sign of their comfort and security in their environment.

Overall, understanding the nuances of guppy behavior can lead to better care and enjoyment of these captivating aquatic companions.