By Matt Leighton
More than just a fun part-time hobby, fishkeeping has serious mental and physiological benefits for those who keep aquariums. Aquariums have been shown to reduce stress in a variety of different settings…a home, certainly, there’s a zen pleasure in watching brilliantly colored fish swim by, but also in animal hospitals or any medical office where not every patient will be there to get good news, the meditative, calming benefit is immediately tangible.
51% of fish owners in the 2017-18 APPA Pet Owner’s Survey reported lower stress when interacting with their pets. Dr. Allan Schwartz believes that fish tanks bring the calming effects of nature into the home, allowing for stress and anxiety reduction. And if these less rigorous examples don’t convince you, how about a scientific study from 2015 that shows a reduction in stress, and an increase in a “calm and content” mood?
The study used large aquariums, but found that both partially and fully stocked aquariums had a positive effect. Other studies have shown that some patients of Electroconvulsive Therapy reported a decrease in anxiety in the presence of an aquarium.
And those fish tanks you see in the dentist’s office? They’re usually there for this exact reason, finding tranquility in a tough time. Fish tanks also help to improve heart health. We can’t say they will help you recover from Covid-19 or the stress of quarantine, but the calming nature of fishkeeping does take one out of oneself and help achieve a sense of wellness.
In the same 2015 study, researchers found that watching an aquarium “generally decreased blood pressure” and reduced heart rate by 5-6 beats per minute.
Aquariums are also useful in improving the lives of people suffering from Alzheimer’s, ADHD, and Autism. A Purdue study showed that Alzheimer’s patients were more relaxed and alert in the presence of an aquarium, allowing them to eat more and be more focused at mealtime.
Even more impressively, these same patients showed less aggressive and disruptive behavior when compared to patients who did not interact with an aquarium. When it comes to ADHD, Dr. Marina Gafanovich believes that children benefit from the calming and stress relieving effects, allowing them to regulate and stay focused.
Of course, these calming benefits will also appeal to parents of autistic children. There is even a fish tank designed specifically for autistic children, called the biOrb, which is “kid proof” and allows for a calm viewing experience.
Not only do the benefits of fishkeeping rival those of keeping dogs and cats, but fish are typically much less expensive to keep, they work well in small spaces like apartments, and they are fairly low maintenance, making them perfect for busy families.