What Is A Crypto Whale & Why Should Crypto Investors Care?
We explain what a crypto whale is & how they move markets, plus crypto whale examples.
- Writer Mitchell Grant
- andEditor Shannon Ullman
- May 17, 2023
- •3 Min Read
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What Is A Crypto Whale?
A crypto whale is an individual trader or investor who holds so much crypto that their actions affect markets. Whales are able to swing markets in their favor by making trades in blocks that shake the market. If you’ve ever been trading and seen an enormous candle emerge, chances are a crypto whale is either loading up or dumping crypto.
They’re called whales because they eat smaller fish.
According to some, to be classified as a whale, you’d need to have at least 1,000 Bitcoins (BTC). If BTC is worth 30k, that means a whale has a minimum of $30m USD.
Then there are holders like Satoshi Nakamoto, who are just chilling somewhere with billions in crypto. Satoshi is estimated to have over 1.1m Bitcoins.
History Of Crypto Whales
Whales have been around since crypto was birthed. The term whale comes from, well, whales. Have you seen one? They’re huge. The term’s been used to describe holders of any equity for a long time. There are real estate whales, AAPL whales, etc. It isn’t a new term.
Remember that a whale is considered as such when they have enough crypto that their trading can impact the movement of a market. An example would be if there are 100 milkycoins (MKC) in existence, if you have, say, 20, you’re a whale.
There are other types of heavy investors. These are called sharks.
They aren’t as dangerous as whales are in the market, but they can still make the price move their way, especially in markets with low liquidity—more on that later.
How Whales Affect The Crypto Market
Whales are able to swing markets their way. If they want a lower entry point for a long-term play, they can attempt to momentarily crash a market. If they want to unload, they can instigate a rally and then dump their holdings.
A whale’s effect on liquidity is twofold:
Number One: If the whale isn’t a whale that trades very much, they may just buy up a bunch of crypto and hold it. That limits the amount of available crypto to trade, which will scare many investors and traders off because who wants to own something they can’t sell if they want to or buy if they see an entry?
Number Two: Liquidity dumps occur when a whale sells a bunch of crypto at once. This may cause investors to see the increased float—available crypto—as a little suspect. They’d be right, and so they’d forego trading in an environment that sees such extreme liquidity shifts.
Whales care about price just like anyone else, the difference is they can move it.
The effect whales have on price is largely based on major movements. Crypto whales want prices to go their way, so if they want to get in at a lower price, they can dump current shares en masse to create a panic sell as they drive the buy-side bids lower.
The same goes for if the whale wants to sell. They can buy buy buy and drive up the price. When the price hits their target, adios. This also lowers the price so they can reenter, and the cycle continues.
How Much Money Do You Need To Be A Crypto Whale?
There is no answer here because it will depend on the market. Bitcoin whales? Thousands of coins equaling millions of fiat currency. Nonamecoins? You could hold less than $20 USD and move the market.
See: Big Fish, Small Pond
One of the whales' favorite places is these medium-liquidity markets. They can move the price and control liquidity with less capital when compared to what they would need to move Ethereum or Bitcoin. These markets are also where whales can be the most dangerous to retail traders and investors.
Biggest Crypto Whales
The biggest whale is listed below, so instead, let’s focus on three others:
- Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss: The Winklevoss brothers hold something like 70k Bitcoins. However, they seem more like the buy-and-hold crowd than pattern traders.
- Changpeng Zhao: Is it surprising the co-founder and CEO of Binance has an enviable wallet? With a 30% stake in the exchange, he brings in billions, and although his crypto wallet contents are unknown, it’s safe to assume CZ isn’t hurting for crypto.
- Brian Armstrong: Like CZ, Brian founded an exchange: Coinbase—maybe you’ve heard of it. Armstrong went from coding at Airbnb to being worth around $2b. He owns 19% of Coinbase’s shares.
Who Is The Biggest Crypto Whale In The World?
Bitcoin has the largest market share of crypto at around 45%. Satoshi Nakamoto holds the most Bitcoin of any individual. That makes Nakamoto the world’s largest crypto whale that isn’t an exchange. In case you missed it above, Satoshi is rumored to have around 1.1 million Bitcoins.
Why Should Investors Care About Crypto Whales?
The short answer is—most shouldn’t. If you are a casual buy-and-sell trader who isn’t looking to profit tremendously from crypto trading, don’t worry about it.
If you trade heavily or have a significant investment in crypto, be afraid. Be very afraid. Too often, a trader enters right before a whale does—many traders use the same technical markers—and get absolutely flamed when the whale buys or sells.
How To Track Whales
Looking for a crypto whale tracker? You can’t really track whales as you’ll only become aware of them after they trade, but there are some ways to watch movement:
Mitchell Grant has been working with both small businesses and Fortune 100 companies—such as Citigroup and Investopedia—for years. A prolific writer, his work is read hundreds of thousands of times per day.
Shannon Ullman is the managing editor for Milk Road. She specializes in cryptocurrency and personal finance content. Her work has appeared in publications like Insider Inc.
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