Guppies are among the most famous pets among aquarists. They are easy to take care for, affordable, readily available at pet stores, available in a variety of vibrant colors and they can peacefully live with tank mates from other species of sea creatures.
Guppies are known to be excellent breeders. If you want to have a tank full of pets, then you should keep guppies, also known as million fish for their fast rate of reproduction. They are colorful, they make every aquarium look interesting and vibrant.
Guppies are categorized as schooling fish. Schooling fish are fish that stay together in a group and they all swim in one direction. Schooling helps fish to stay together, swim faster and evade predators while in the wild.
While in the wild, guppies love to live and swim together in a group of hundreds of fish. However, in a home aquarium, they will rarely be seen schooling together, unless they feel threatened.
Schooling Versus Shoaling
To understand your guppies better, it is important to note the differences between schooling and shoaling fish. Guppies can be confused to be shoaling fish, because they are social fish that love to swim together while each of them is taking care of their business.
When they sense danger, they quickly come together to form a school, therefore referred as schooling fish. There is a huge difference, however, between shoaling and schooling fish.
Shoaling fish swim closely together in the same direction but not in the same strict synched design. Shoaling fish, swim together not for defence purposes, but to meet their need of being in a social group. Therefore, shoaling fish do not form a strict synched pattern.
Fish in a shoal can easily leave the group to find food. Guppies show shoaling characteristics when they are at ease. They will swim in a group while each of them is going about their business.
Schooling fish on the other hand, fish swim together, in one direction to form a harmonized and well-coordinated swimming pattern. Schooling fish are more disciplined, look uniform and will always stick together as compared to shoaling fish.
Schooling helps fish to form larger and stronger groups that will intimidate predators or keep them off from targeting them. Guppies tend to show schooling characteristics when they feel vulnerable and sense a potential danger.
How do Guppies Swim so Close Without Bumping into Each Other?
A group of guppies swimming together in coordinated and synchronized motion is something to marvel at. Guppies or any other type of schooling fish are able to move together without colliding through the use of a combination of senses.
In the past, people believed that each school has a leader that directs movement of the entire school, but now it is known that each fish responds to the movement of their fellow other fish.
The fish’s anatomy plays a huge significance in schooling of fish. Their eyes are placed on the side of the head, which allows fish to easily see the direction their fellows are taking.
Apart from sight, there are other senses that fish use to achieve coordinated movement. They include hearing, sense of smell and lateral line. If one fish moves in a certain direction, all the others sense it and diligently follow.
How Many Guppies to Keep to Allow Schooling?
Having known that guppies are schooling fish, it is advisable to have several guppies in a water tank in order to ensure they are comfortable and to replicate their natural habitat.
While setting up an aquarium, consider keeping your guppies in a group of three to six of their own kind. However, what really determines how many fish you keep should be the size of the tank. Experts recommend a minimum of one gallon of water per inch of a guppy.
If you are a beginner with a small fish tank of ten gallons of water, you can keep a number of five to eight guppies. However, some experts comfortably keep a group of ten to fifteen guppies in the same space.
Do Guppies School Together with Other Types of Fish?
Guppies are peaceful and calm types of fish that can comfortably live with other species of fish and sea creatures in one fish tank. However, this does not mean guppies will school or get along with just any other type of schooling or shoaling fish.
Guppies will not school with other types of fish or guppy species that look completely different from their own kind. While picking tank mates for your guppy consider tank mates that are similar to the guppy in shape, size and color.
To maintain a harmonious tank, in addition, choose tank mates that will not bully or intimidate your guppy. Large types of fish, even though they are schooling or shoaling fish, may find your guppy as a delicious meal and eat them up.
Pair your guppy with other types of fish that are calm in nature, and not large enough to find your guppy as prey. Some schooling fish that will get along with your guppy, and possibly school or shoal together include tetras, small cichlids, Cory catfish and small plecos.
Why do Guppies Like to School?
Just as we were taught when we were young, stay in a group, there is safety in numbers, the same rule has been taught to guppies by mother nature. Guppies school together in a group for safety and protection.
Predators will find it easy to attack one fish and gobble them down into their stomachs. However, it is very hard for a predator to single out a fish from a huge group and attack them. Guppies are also able to protect their territory when they live as a group. Predators and bullies will have to think twice before facing a group of hundreds of fish.
Schooling together also helps guppies to move faster. When they are swimming close together, they reduce friction which not only allows them to move faster, but also help them to conserve energy. When it is time to eat, many sets of eyes and noses to smell prey are better than a single unit. Therefore, schooling also helps guppies to easily find food.
Lastly, during spawning, a school of guppies helps to protect most of the eggs from predators. The school of fish will also ensure young guppies are not easily targeted by predators.
How Does Schooling Work?
If you are wondering whether schooling works, then you should definitely know it does. However, this does not mean there will never be any guppy preyed and devoured by predators.
Some fish will be eaten while in a school, but more fish are eaten when swimming alone. Schooling, therefore, results in lesser guppies eaten, compared to if they were living and swimming alone.
Schooling helps to keep guppies safe by achieving three effects on the predators.
Predators will always spot one of the preys to pursue and attack. However, in a school, it is difficult for a predator to single out one guppy. As they move in a group in synchronized patterns, a predator gets confused and moves to an easier to kill prey.
Dissolution effect together with confusion effect result in predators eating a smaller section of fish in a large school, as compared to a small school. Therefore, guppies prefer to swim in large schools.
Many eyes effect
When guppies swim in a school, they are more aware of their surroundings than they are when swimming alone. This makes it hard for predators to catch guppy fish unawares. With more set of eyes watching, it is easier for a school of fish to spot and evade predators faster and more efficiently. A school of fish that is alert of its neighboring environment is a safe school of fish.
Disadvantages of Schooling for Guppies
Although schooling offers guppies and schooling fish immense advantages, it also has its own set of downsides. However, it is important to note that the disadvantages do not apply to all schooling fish and different environments will result in different set of disadvantages.
In a fish tank at home, schooling may not pose any potential disadvantages, but in the wild, guppies in a school face the following disadvantages.
- When guppies swim in a large school, predators easily identify them. Some of these predators follow the school as they wait for some of the fish to drop out then they attack them. Guppies may drop out from school as they look for food, rest or mates.
- Swimming in a school means there are more bellies to feed. This can lead to competition for food within the school with other school members.
Guppies are social fish. They enjoy each other’s company as they swim together in synchronized movements. Therefore, guppies are both schooling and shoaling fish.
If you want your guppies to stay happy and comfortable in a fish tank, ensure you keep them in a group of at least five guppies, and provide enough space for them to swim around, just like they do in their natural habitat.