What Is A Group Of Fish Called?

Have you ever marveled at the mesmerizing sight of a shimmering school of fish gracefully gliding through the water? These coordinated movements and social interactions are a hallmark of many fish species. But when referring to a group of fish, what’s the proper term?

While you might use descriptive phrases like “a bunch of fish” or “a crowd of fish,” the world of collective nouns offers a more specific and interesting answer. Let’s dive into the fascinating world of fish terminology and discover the two main terms used to describe a group of these underwater companions!

Schooling Together: The Classic “School” of Fish

When exploring the collective behavior of fish, the term most commonly used to describe a group is a school. This evocative term paints a picture of numerous fish swimming together in perfect synchrony. Schooling behavior is frequently observed in species like sardines, herring, and mackerel. The advantages of schooling are manifold for these fish. Firstly, the coordinated movement of a school can bewilder predators, rendering it challenging for them to target and capture individual fish. The sheer number and synchronized motion create a visual spectacle that confounds potential threats.

Additionally, swimming in a school allows fish to conserve energy. By swimming nearby, individual fish benefit from the currents generated by the collective movement of the group. This hydrodynamic advantage enables them to navigate with greater ease and efficiency, expending less energy in the process. Thus, the concept of schooling not only showcases the remarkable social dynamics of fish but also highlights the adaptive advantages that arise from their collective behavior.

Beyond Schools: Exposing the “Shoal”

In the series I recently watched, they introduced an alternative term for a group of fish: a shoal. Unlike a tightly coordinated school, a shoal represents a looser gathering of fish that may consist of different species. It evokes images of a diverse underwater congregation, where fish of various sizes and colors come together. Shoals are often seen among bottom-dwelling fish or those gathering for feeding or breeding purposes. It reminded me of the intricate connections and vibrant tapestry of life that exist within underwater ecosystems.


The term “pod” is commonly associated with certain species of marine mammals, such as dolphins and whales. However, it is also used to describe a group of fish, particularly when referring to species like herring. A pod of fish typically refers to a tightly knit group that moves and feeds together, often displaying synchronized behavior.


When fish gather in large numbers and exhibit rapid, chaotic movements, they are often referred to as a swarm. Swarms can occur during specific behaviors, such as spawning or feeding frenzies, where fish converge in vast numbers, creating a mesmerizing spectacle.

Term Description Example Species
School Large, tightly packed group of fish swimming in a coordinated fashion. Sardines, herring, mackerel
Shoal Looser grouping of fish, often of different species and sizes. Can be bottom-dwelling or gather for feeding/breeding. Bottom feeders like catfish, and flatfish. Can also describe mixed groups feeding or spawning.
Pod Tightly knit group of fish displaying synchronized movement, often used for marine mammals but also applies to some fish. Herring
Swarm Large gathering of fish exhibiting rapid, chaotic movement, often associated with spawning or feeding frenzies. Anchovies, menhaden


Choosing the Right Term: School vs. Shoal

So, when to use “school” or “shoal”? Here’s a simple guideline:

  • Use schoolfor a large, tightly packed group of fish swimming in a coordinated manner, usually of the same species.
  • Use shoalfor a looser grouping of fish that may be different species or swimming in a less organized way.


The underwater world is teeming with life and fascinating displays of collective behavior. From the harmonized movements of a school to the loosely connected shoals, the terminology used to describe groups of fish adds depth to our understanding of their social dynamics. Whether swimming in unison for protection, maintaining proximity for increased awareness, or converging in massive swarms, these formations showcase the remarkable cohesion and adaptability of aquatic life.

So, the next time you witness a mesmerizing congregation of fish, remember the intriguing names that define their collective existence. By delving into the wonders of aquatic cohesion, we gain a deeper appreciation for the intricate tapestry of life beneath the waves. Let us continue to explore and marvel at the mysteries that unfold in the captivating world of fish and their remarkable collective gatherings.


Q: What’s the difference between a school and a shoal of fish?

A: A school refers to a large, tightly packed group of fish swimming in a synchronized way, usually of the same species. Imagine a shimmering wave of sardines! On the other hand, a shoal describes a looser grouping of fish that may be different species or swimming less organized, like a mixed underwater gathering.

Q: Are there any other collective nouns for fish?

A! While “school” and “shoal” are the most common, some less frequent terms exist. For instance, a group of sharks might be called a shiver or a pack, and a gathering of sturgeon can be termed a troop.

Q: Why do fish swim in groups?

There are several advantages to schooling or shoaling. The coordinated movement can confuse predators, making it harder for them to target a single fish. Additionally, swimming in a group can help conserve energy as fish benefit from the currents created by others.

Q: Can any fish form schools or shoals?

Not all fish exhibit schooling or shoaling behavior. Solitary fish species, like anglerfish or catfish, prefer to live and hunt alone.

Q: I saw a group of jellyfish together. Is that a shoal?

Technically, no! While jellyfish might appear to swim in groups, they aren’t true fish. They are invertebrates and lack the swimming bladders and bone structure that define fish. A group of jellyfish might be called a swarm or a bloom.

Leave a Comment