It’s time to get schooled on a “school of fish” vs. “shoal of fish.” Here’s your hint: one of them shoals, and one of them “schools.” Did that help? What do you mean “No”?
This is a tip designed to make you look savvy, since most people aren’t aware of a difference.
You can think about a “school of fish” vs. “shoal of fish” in terms of fish independence. Just because a fish is swimming in a group, doesn’t mean that it’s following the crowd.
Some fish shoal and some fish school. Here’s the difference:
- A shoal of fish swims together, but they are not swimming in unison or in any coordinated formation. In addition, any fish in the group may stop or break off at any time. If, when swimming with the group, one fish decides to turn in the opposite direction to chat with one of its fishy friends, it’s still shoaling. If it looks down, up, left, right, or at the beautiful coral behind it, it’s still shoaling. Shoaling fish include tetras and most fresh water aquarium small egg-laying fish, among many others.
- A school of fish swims together as one fluid formation, with the movements of each fish an essential part of the whole. Fish that school have a team mentality. There’s no “I” in team, and there’s no independent behavior in a school of fish. Tuna are fish that school, as are herring, anchovy, and sometimes Atlantic cod.
Schooling fish go with the crowd. Uniformity of movement and position is essential. Shoaling fish sometimes go with the crowd, and sometimes do their own thing while hanging out in close proximity.
Schooling fish evade their predators by creating the formation and behavior of a larger creature. A shoal is a similar group of fish, but there’s less strategy in play. It’s working with safety in numbers but without the intricate, synchronized dance.
Just like “poisonous” vs. “venomous” snakes, when it comes to nature, it’s good to know the difference. It’s not just vocabulary. It’s the joy of discovering the world around us, don’t you think?
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