Collective motion is beautiful. We have all seen it when a school of fishes evades the attacks of a predator, or a flock of starlings performs a similar dance in the skies above Rome. But how does this work? How do the fish or the birds know where and when to move?

Collective motion has long been modeled with simple rules between neighboring individuals with astonishing results. Birds and fish seem to use very similar rules to move collectively. But still, there are many exceptions to these general rules. A fish swarm is composed of quite different individuals, all exhibiting variation in their behavior. Some swim slow and some fast, some lead the swarm, while others follow more often. Besides, collective motion often translates into group decisions, e.g. when all fish move to food source A rather than B. So, how do these individual differences influence the collective motion and collective decisions? How is information perceived by, and transmitted and processed within the group when there are so many different “personalities”?

Using a biomimetic fish robot we are able to test various hypotheses: we can make the Robofish thin or big, fast or slow, we can make it act risk-averse or adventurous, nervous or calm. This way we can uncouple the natural network of interactions and study the effects of cues over which we have full control. This way we can study the underlying mechanics of collective behavior in great detail and can understand better how other swarms, such as flocks or human groups reach a common goal with different personalities.


Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries and Humboldt University Berlin

Prof. Dr. Jens Krause, Dr. David Bierbach, Dr. Pawel Romanczuk 

Biorobotics Lab, Institute of Computer Science, Free University Berlin

Dr. Gregor Gebhardt, Mathis Hocke, Moritz Maxeiner, Moritz Birghan, Tim Landgraf (PI)

Former Members (Thank you!): Rami Akkad, Stefan Forgo, Christoph Krüger, Jan Schneider, Joseph Schröer, Henrik Matzke, Romain Clément, Hai Nguyen, Yanlei Lei, Victor Brekenfeld, Angelika Szengel


Currently, RoboFish is funded by the DFG (LA 3534/1-1).

We are thankful for the support of the Andrea-von-Braun Foundation who granted a PhD scholarship to Hauke Mönck.

Pawel Romanczuk and David Bierbach are funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG).

Latest posts in RoboFish

TV report: Tim gives talk on RoboFish and BeeCharge (11/22/2019) Posted in: Biorobotics in the Media, General, News, Project in the Media, RoboFish, Talks and Presentations - The TV network "Bayerischer Rundfunk" records short science talks in Berlin's famous "Roter Salon" and broadcasts them on ARD alpha. Read More
New RoboFish Paper published! (1/12/2016) Posted in: General, News, Publication, RoboFish - Our new paper "RoboFish: increased acceptance of interactive robotic fish with realistic eyes and natural motion patterns by live Trinidadian guppies" Read More
ROBOFISH on Radio – “Die Durchblicker” (10/14/2015) Posted in: General, News, Project in the Media, RoboFish - The german radio channel "Die Durchblicker"  has interviewed David researching on fish personality using the Robofish-System. The german article can Read More
Article in the “Tierfreund” (5/15/2015) Posted in: General, News, Project in the Media, RoboFish - The German magazine "Tierfreund" published an article that features our RoboFish and an interview with David. Read more in the PDF Version Read More
Robots in Animal Societies: Article in (2/14/2014) Posted in: Biorobotics in the Media, General, RoboBee, RoboFish - The magazine has published an article on the general practise of using robots to investigate animal behavior. The article Read More
Collaboration with Prof. Dr. von der Emde (Uni Bonn) (2/12/2014) Posted in: Announcement, General, News, RoboFish - In a new collaboration with neuroethologists in Bonn we are employing our RoboFish system to investigate electro-communication in weakly electric fishes.
RoboFish in German TV (2/10/2014) Posted in: General, Project in the Media, RoboFish - The young science show "Loop", broadcasted on RTL, featured the RoboFish Project in their 5th episode, aired Feb 8: Watch Read More
New Interactive RoboFish Behaviors!! (1/31/2014) Posted in: General, News, RoboFish - Joseph has finished his thesis and made huge progress with the interactive behaviors. This video shows the implementations of Couzin Read More
Rebuild Setup Complete (10/30/2013) Posted in: General, News, RoboFish - After eight hours of cleaning, building and shoving tables we finally finished the setup of water tank, computers and robots! Read More