The term “whale” is used to describe an individual or organization that holds a large amount of a particular cryptocurrency. There is no exact cutoff threshold for this definition, but some say a Bitcoin
whale should hold at least 1,000 BTC. A whale may also be defined as a person that has enough coins or tokens to cause a significant impact on the market prices, either by buying or selling large amounts.
Although we often call a wealthy individual a whale, the term can also describe an institution or organization that holds a significant amount of cryptocurrencies, and thus, have the power to move the markets up and down. In the crypto space, examples of such whales include investment groups like Pantera Capital, Fortress Investment Group, and Falcon Global Capital.
In practice, however, most of those big players don’t really trade on conventional cryptocurrency markets, as their large orders could overwhelm the volume available on the order books. Instead, they buy and sell coins off the exchange books, in what is known as Over the Counter (OTC) trading.
When it comes to Proof of Stake (PoS)
blockchains, whales have a considerable influence in on-chain governance processes (more funds at stake gives them more voting power). For these chains, the presence of whales can be both a good sign (in terms of stability) as they have strong incentives to act honestly and help the network grow. On the other hand, having whales controlling the majority of funds can bring a negative effect in regards to power centralization.