Are Guppies Schooling Fish? (Or Do They Shoal?)

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Last Updated on 2023-07-08

Guppies are one of the most popular fish kept as pets and for a good reason! They are amongst the most beautiful fish breeds out there and are small enough to fit inside the average home aquarium.  You can find guppies in every color under the sun, which is why they’re also known as “million fish.”  

Guppies are relatively easy to take care of, but this doesn’t mean that they don’t need any maintenance at all. In fact, guppies do, like any living thing, need love and care. They depend upon their owners (that’s us!) to take care of them when they’re not in the wild and also rely upon other guppies to protect them if they ever need it. 

This protective behavior is called schooling; if you’re asking yourself, “are guppies schooling fish?”, we’ve got answers! 

Are Guppies Schooling Fish Or Shoaling Fish? 

Guppies are classified as schooling fish; they can often be seeing schooling, especially when observed through an aquarium. Guppies tend to school together when they feel threatened or gain a sense of impending doom. Schooling is a way for them to protect themselves from possible harm. 

Interestingly, guppies also pass as shoaling fish. The difference between whether they act as schooling fish or as shoaling fish depends solely on the environment and circumstances.  

When swimming with the fear of being attacked, guppies will school together hence forming a barrier of sorts that can scare the predator away. Yet, when guppies are not threatened, they will shoal together; this is a result of their natural nature. 

Guppies are social fish and will always be found surrounded by others of their kind. They do not feel comfortable when kept alone, which is why if you’re planning on keeping guppies, be ready to purchase a ton of them! 

Whats The Difference Between Schooling And Shoaling Fish? 

While schooling and shoaling seem similar, there is a significant difference between the two phenomena. Remember, some fish do exhibit both characteristics, and guppies are a prime example of it. 

If you’re new to fish, understanding the difference can take a moment. Still, it’s easy to tell whether fish are schooling or shoaling together just by looking at them. Here’s how to differentiate between the two: 

Schooling Fish

 Schooling fish are those breeds that gather and swim together in a strict, organized manner when they sense a predator approaching. By doing this, they succeed in protecting themselves. If you think about it, it makes plenty of sense; isn’t it much easier to follow and attack a single, lone fish than try to prey on an entire collection of those fish swimming in flawless unity? 

Shoaling Fish

 Shoaling fish swim together in groups simply because that’s how they’re programmed to behave. These fish have an innate sense that commands them to swim alongside others, hence forming a large group or community where every member has the independence to search for their own food, look out for their young, and more, yet remain within the shoal’s boundary. 

Shoaling fish do not swim in an organized pattern; this is the primary and most important difference between schooling and shoaling. Shoaling fish do not need to swim in tightly packed unison because they have no sense of fear at that moment. However, when schooling fish, like guppies, sense a predator arriving, they immediately get into schooling formation to protect themselves. 

How Many Guppies Should There Be In A School? 

Those planning to keep guppies as pets must keep their innate schooling and shoaling abilities in mind. While you can keep a single guppy alone, it’s better to get more. In some scenarios, when you don’t keep enough guppies, you could pose a threat to their natural behavior. This may cause your guppies to feel disheartened. 

It’s amazing to think that even these little fish have feelings, but they do! Guppies do not feel their best selves when they are alone, and lonely guppies are more likely to fall sick or catch an infection; the disheartened feeling can affect their immunity and make them prone to illness. 

The best way to go is by keeping a group of three to six guppies in a single tank. As a standard metric, try to provide one gallon’s worth of water for every inch of fish. Guppies are relatively small fish, but they’ll still need about 2 gallons per fish.

If you can afford to, try keeping up to 8 or 10 guppies in a tank. If you’re an expert at maintaining fish, you can even try to keep more-but remember, never leave a guppy alone in your tank! 

Also, remember that guppies reproduce extremely fast; they’re known as “million fish” for this very reason. So, if you’re not planning on purchasing a ton of guppies right away, keep in mind that they will expand their families on their own soon enough, so make sure you have the space to cater to their needs. 

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Can Male Guppies Live Together? 

Male fish tend to attack one another and fight over territory and females; but, is this true for guppies, too? Let’s find out! 

In short, yes, you can keep male guppies together. In fact, some experts even recommend doing this. Male guppies suffer lower mortality rates when kept together; this is because when they are kept with many females, the males end up spending most of their time chasing their potential mates. As a result, the female guppies may attack their male counterparts and leave them physically hurt.  

However, you can easily keep multiple male guppies together. They may sometimes exhibit aggressive traits, but it will fade within a day or two. Generally, male guppies are able to live in peace, given that there is ample space in your fishbowl or aquarium. And as long as you’re also keeping some females with them as well.

Can Guppies Live Alone? 

Yes, guppies can live alone. However, it’s better to keep them together with other fish of their own kind, or even other compatible breeds. Being alone might stress your guppy out, especially if they were bought from a fish store where they were kept with other guppies. 

While the chances of them dying from loneliness are low, this doesn’t mean that they won’t feel stressed at all. Remember, guppies are social fish that like to shoal together, so it’s best to have more than one, and at least three, when placing them together inside a fishbowl or tank. 

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Can Guppies School With Other Fish? 

Guppies will not school with other guppies that don’t look like them, so getting them to school with other fish breeds is out of the question. You can, however, still, add in other types of fish to liven up the atmosphere. 

Guppies are known for their positive attitude and friendly behavior, which helps them live in harmony with other fish as long as they don’t attack the guppies first.  

While guppies are omnivores, they don’t enjoy eating other fish; this is also because of how small they are, which makes it difficult to prey on others of their kind. So, the chances of guppies attacking other fish are low. 

However, you should know that guppies can’t live with everyone. After all, nature depends on the circle of life to keep us all going; as a result, some fish prey on guppies, and it’s wise to keep your pets away from such breeds. 

So, which fish are compatible with guppies, and which ones should be kept in a separate tank? Fish that are roughly the same size work best. Popular choices include: 

You can also add other non-fish varieties to liven up your tank: 


Guppies are adorable little fish that flock together in times of trouble. They also enjoy shoaling together but can live alone, too. However, it’s better to keep them with other fish, be it guppies or similar-sized compatible breeds. Yet, the best possible scenario is where you have multiple guppies in one tank; this will keep them happy and make them feel safe.  

Remember that guppies will only school together if their companions look like them. So, when choosing your fish, try to buy guppies that are similar in size and color.  

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2 thoughts on “Are Guppies Schooling Fish? (Or Do They Shoal?)”

  1. Help my guppy had babies-I didn’t know she was pregnant-we have four! What should we do

    • It depends how big the tank is? If the tank is small, then you’ll need to move them somewhere else. If you have a bigger tank you can just let them stay there. Oftentimes the guppies will eat their own babies, or other fish in the tank will too!

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