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Whale Definition – What Does “Whale” Mean in Cryptocurrency?

What are “whales”?

Whale investors in cryptocurrencies are big investors that can change the price of a cryptocurrency by buying or selling a large amount of that cryptocurrency.

Why ‘Whale’?

If the ocean would be a metaphor for a cryptocurrency market, then whales as the biggest creatures in the ocean are the biggest market participants. So whale investors have the biggest impact on the cryptocurrency market.

How Can Whale Investors Manipulate The Prices?

More money means more market power. Investors that hold a large percentage of the total supply of a cryptocurrency can drastically change the price of that cryptocurrency. 

If a large amount of a cryptocurrency is purchased, a shortage is caused, which then increases the price of a cryptocurrency. 

If a large amount of a cryptocurrency is sold, a surplus is caused, which then decreases the price of a cryptocurrency massively.

An example of Bitcoin Whales Sell-off Putting BTC in ‘Danger Zone’, Source: Crypto Quant

However, some whale investors do not sell cryptocurrencies immediately, but rather slowly. This causes market distortion (changes in price not due to supply and demand). 

Even if whale investors do not sell their cryptocurrencies (HODL), volatility increases due to uncertainty (some might favor volatility), and liquidity can decrease due to the large market power. Hence, whale investors can cause problems for small, retail investors.

Whale Examples

Whale investors are usually institutional investors that have a lot of money at their disposal. 

The Pareto Principle (80-20 rule) suggests that 20% of cryptocurrency holders control 80% of the market (80% of the consequences come from 20% of the causes). 

This applies to big cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin (BTC). According to Investopedia, the top 100 crypto wallets hold around 32.2% of all the Bitcoin in circulation.

Since Bitcoin is the biggest cryptocurrency with the largest market capitalization, let’s look at some of the biggest Bitcoin whale investors, which as a result control the majority of the crypto market.

Bitcoin Whale Investors

It goes without saying that Satoshi Nakamoto, the unknown identity behind the pseudonym of the Bitcoin founder, is one of the largest whale investors. An estimated 1 million Bitcoins out of 21 million that will ever be supplied are owned by Satoshi Nakamoto. Even though the person that owns these Bitcoins did not do transactions that could drastically change the price of a cryptocurrency, it still plays a vital part in the volatility and liquidity of Bitcoin.

Grayscale Investments LLC owns around 656,000 Bitcoins and is the leading owner of Bitcoins besides Satoshi Nakamoto. As of April of 2021, where the price of Bitcoin is circulating around $60,000;

656,000 BTC * $60,000 $39,360,000,000 worth of Bitcoin

The following largest Bitcoin holders are the Bulgarian Government, Winklevoss Twins, Block.One, MicroStrategy, etc.


  • Whale investors in cryptocurrencies are big investors that can change the price of a cryptocurrency by buying or selling a large amount of that cryptocurrency.
  • The term originates from a metaphor that the ocean is the market and whales are the biggest market participants.
  • Since whale investors have so much market power, they can manipulate the prices of cryptocurrencies by causing surplus, shortage, volatility, or low liquidity.
  • Some Whale examples are Satoshi Nakamoto, Grayscale Investments LLC, the Bulgarian Government, Winklevoss Twins, Block.One, MicroStrategy, etc.


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