Are Guppies Schooling Fish?

Guppies are primarily schooling fish, but they exhibit both schooling and shoaling characteristics. 

If they sense an incoming predator or an impending threat, they’ll get into a fixed, tight-knit schooling formation. This is a defense mechanism that allows them to benefit from strength in numbers and discourage any predators from attacking them.

However, guppies are also highly sociable fish. Shoaling is perfectly in line with their nature, and they will swim in communities in order to fulfill their social needs.

Guppies are a subject of great interest for fish and aquatic life enthusiasts.

They’re amongst the most popular species to keep in a home aquarium due to their low maintenance, vibrant aesthetic, and peaceful demeanor.

So, are guppies schooling fish? Read on to find out.

Are Guppies Schooling Fish?

Guppies can be characterized as schooling fish. When they sense an incoming threat to their wellbeing, they’ll swiftly get into a tightly packed formation. That’s to dissuade potential predators from coming their way.

However, guppies also exhibit shoaling characteristics. The side of guppies you observe is predicated on how they’re feeling at the moment. If their surrounding environment is safe and threat-free, you’ll see them shoaling.

On the other hand, if they sense any red flags in their surroundings they’ll resort to schooling straight away.

Guppies are community fish, and you’ll never see one traveling alone in the wild as they’re simply not comfortable that way. They constantly desire to be surrounded by other fish, especially other guppies.

This is something you need to keep in mind if you intend to keep guppies as pets, you’re going to have to get a bunch of them.

Group of Guppies

Schooling vs Shoaling: What’s The Difference?

To the untrained eye, schooling and shoaling may seem like the exact same behavior. However, in reality, they are very different behaviors with distinct motivations. Here’s how you can spot the distinction between these two phenomena.


Schooling is a defense mechanism adopted by fish when they feel an impending threat or a predator nearby.

In such cases, fish will swim in unison in a fixed formation. This allows them to discourage predators from attacking them.

Schooling makes small fish seem much bigger, and this strength in numbers gives them an advantage that each of them wouldn’t have when traveling in isolation


The rationale behind shoaling is something else entirely. Fish will shoal because of their instinctive social nature.

By swimming together as a unit, fish fulfill their need for a sense of community while maintaining their individual autonomy in seeking out food and caring for their offspring.

Spotting the difference

Unlike schooling fish, shoaling fish swim together with no clear formation. This is the main difference between schooling and shoaling.

There’s no need for a tight, strict swimming formation due to the lack of any threat or fear. Only when fish sense a threat approaching will they get into their trusted schooling formation. They do so in order to shield themselves from the perceived threat.

How Many Guppies You Should Have in Your Tank

The fact that fish have emotions can be a strange or foreign idea to some, but the truth is that they do.

Guppies are no different, keeping just one guppy alone in a tank can severely dampen its spirits and have significant adverse effects on its health.

One of those health hazards is that a guppy that isn’t getting its social needs met will have a weakened immune system, and will be more susceptible to illnesses.

It’s simply against guppies’ nature to live alone. They are extremely social fish, and you must keep their schooling and shoaling nature in consideration if you’re going to keep them as pets.

The ideal number of guppies to have in your tank is 8 to 10, and if you’re an experienced fish owner having more would be even better. However, this may be infeasible due to the limitations of your tank’s size. If this is the case keeping 3 to 6 guppies in your tank will do just fine.

Just remember, never leave a guppy in a tank by itself.

Guppies in My Tank Aren’t Schooling: Is This Normal?

As we’ve established above, guppies will only exhibit schooling behavior when they sense that their environment is threatening. Therefore, if your guppies aren’t schooling, there’s nothing to worry about, it’s in fact a positive indication that they feel safe and at ease.

If you do see your guppies schooling, they’re probably doing so due to an external factor that’s irking them. This may be that the room the tank occupies is overly crowded at the moment, or maybe someone unfamiliar has come closer to their tank than they would like.

This is also not something that raises concern, as they’ll revert back to their normal behavior when the thing that’s bothering them is gone.

You are most likely to see your guppies shoaling in your tank. However, since you probably won’t have very many, this behavior won’t stand out.

Close up shot of orange, black, and silver guppy

Do Guppies School With Other Species?

Due to their natural social and peaceful demeanor, guppies will shoal with other species as long as those species share that same laid-back temperament.

However, guppies only school amongst themselves. Not only that, but they also prefer to school with other guppies that actually look like them.


Guppies can be classified as schooling fish, however, they’re also an incredibly social species that will engage in shoaling behavior. This is why you should never have a guppy living in a tank all by itself!

Guppies will school with each other if they have reason to believe that there’s a threat or a predator nearby. By swimming in a strict, tightly packed formation, they protect themselves from potential harm

When their surroundings are safe and comfortable, guppies will shoal with each other and even with other fish species.