Aquariums and mental health
Health and, more specifically mental health, is extremely important. As our understanding of mental health issues grows, so does our understanding of what can help.
The aquarium hobby is very addictive and it’s often hard to explain to our none fish keeping friends and family why we suddenly have 15 aquariums.
The reason that it is addictive is likely that your aquarium makes you feel better, even if you don’t realise it.
Have you ever noticed that most doctors and dentist waiting areas have an aquarium? They have them for this very reason.
Many studies have been conducted on the health benefits of aquariums and the effects are not restricted to only our mental health. Just looking at an aquarium can cause actual physical changes in your body to improve your health.
Not only are aquariums good for general health, but they also have some more specific benefits. The effects of the presence of an aquarium have been shown to be useful in children with Autism and those suffering from Alzheimer’s and Dementia.
This is all true of most animals and is one of the reasons we keep pets. Nature, in general, is good for us, so having some in your home, whether that be a dog or a fish tank, can make you feel better.
In fact, water is good for us, not only as a drink. Observing a body of water has been shown to have a positive and calming effect on us, so water + fish must be even better!
In this article, we’re going to have a look through some of the health benefits to owning an aquarium, so next time someone asks ‘why do you have 15 aquariums in your house?’, you may have some more ammo to answer with.
Fishkeeping and mental health
There have been several investigations over the years into the effects of aquariums on our health, many of these have shown positive results.
In general, nature is good for us. Going for a walk in the woods can improve your mood, so if we can have a slice of nature in our living room we can gain this effect without leaving the sofa.
(Although exercise is good for you too! So maybe consider that walk anyway if you’re feeling blue).
Keeping pets, in general, is good for us, they provide entertainment, companionship, along with many other benefits. There are many people though who are not equipped to keep a pet such as a dog.
This could be as simple as a lack of a garden for a dog to exercise and play etc. Fish, however, do not need long walks or outdoor exercise areas.
So this can make their care a little easier and means more people are able to keep a fish as a pet.
Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that your fish is going to sit on your lap for a cuddle, but it will certainly give you something to look at and many fish are quite interactive, even if it is through a pane of glass.
So, if you are unable to have larger pets, then fishkeeping may be a good way of improving your mental health with pets.
Many fish will quickly learn who you are and will appear at the glass when you are near the aquarium, this mainly seems to be an attempt to gain more food and many will follow your finger on the glass. Some fish will hand feed, and some will even jump from the water to eat food from your fingers.
Aquariums and mental health – the benefits
Fishkeeping, or simply observing an aquarium has been shown to have several health benefits.
There have been several studies, but more information is needed to gain a clearer picture of the full effects. However, many of the studies I have found showed some common benefits:
Heart rate and blood pressure
Observing an aquarium for as little as a few minutes has been shown to be an effective way to lower both your blood pressure and your heart rate. This is particularly handy if you suffer with hypotension.
Lower blood pressure and heart rate lead to less risk of cardiac arrest or disease, so this is a great effect for everyone to take advantage of.
In many cases, observing fish in an aquarium has been shown to be an effective stress reliever.
Oxytocin and seratonin
Oxytocin is our body’s ‘feel-good drug’, Seratonin is a mood enhancer as well as a memory booster that can help to improve your sleep.
An aquarium can encourage your body’s production of both. This leaves you in a better mood with improved cognitive function.
Alzheimer’s is a common form of dementia, it is a terrible illness that causes a decline in brain function. This affects memory and a common side effect is a lack of appetite, leading to weight loss and malnutrition.
The effect of an aquarium has been tested with Alzheimers patients, observing fish has been shown to create a calm mood and increase appetite in many cases.
One study showed an increase in food and nutritional uptake in all three establishments that were being studied. The presence of an aquarium in common areas of the facility increased the nutritional uptake in 87% of the Alzheimer’s patients that resided there.
Some studies have shown that aquariums can also have a calming effect on children with Autism.
It is thought that an aquarium can improve attention span and cognitive ability, not just in children with autism, but in all children.
Some have gone as far as creating digital, interactive aquariums for this very purpose and have seen great results.
Aquariums have also been used in sleep therapy. It has been shown that looking at fish combined with the sound of the water can aid us in getting a good nights rest.
The sight and sound combination can produce increased levels of serotonin, which stimulates the production of endorphins in the brain. This reduces stress and anxiety levels leading to better sleep.
So, there are lots of health benefits of fishkeeping and it can be good for us.
I don’t have an aquarium, how can I benefit?
If you are unable to, or don’t own an aquarium yourself, or simply don’t want to, then that’s ok, the effects are the same if you visit your local public aquarium more frequently.
Reports have shown that the longer you observe a fish tank, the better the results, but the largest improvements happen in the first 5 minutes of observing the tank.
Heart rate and blood pressure decrease most significantly and your mood can improve drastically in this short space of time.
This means that if you don’t own an aquarium you can give it a try first before you fork out a load of cash on a new setup.
Studies have shown though, that the more care you personally take of the fish, the better the results, so whilst visiting an aquarium can have a great effect, owning your own aquarium provides more long term and increased results.
Colourful fish work better
Brightly coloured fish have been shown to have the best effect when it comes to improving mental health and stress levels.
It has also been shown that viewing a variety of different fish works better too. So an aquarium containing a mix of brightly coloured fish should work perfectly.
Aquarium size isn’t a factor here, just make sure the tank is big enough to house this array of fish.
Aquariums and mental health – Is it for everyone?
There have been a good few studies on this and most have shown positive effects from viewing aquariums.
Some though have shown no result at all in certain test subjects, and some showed negative results. If you don’t like fish, then it’s unlikely this will work for you.
The same goes for if you have a fear of fish, it will likely have the opposite effect.
If you’re unsure, then try it out first, visit your local public aquarium or zoo and stand in front of an aquarium for 5 minutes. If you don’t feel any better afterwards then maybe fish arent your cup of tea.
If you do feel better then it may be for you.
Got a stressful job? Stick one in your office (if you’re allowed).
Aquariums and mental health – Summary
Why not give it a go?
There are loads of potential health benefits that come with fishkeeping.
So if it is something that interests you and you don’t already own an aquarium then it may be time to give it a try. Try it first at a local zoo or aquarium before you purchase your own and see how you feel about it.
If, like me, your house is full of aquariums and you have friends and family wondering why. Then maybe this is part of the explanation. Maybe have them look at your tanks for a while and see how they feel afterwards.
Their heart rate may have slowed, blood pressure lowered and their overall mood improved. If that happens then maybe they need a fish tank in their life too?
Maybe just looking at the colourful aquarium related photos in this article have made you feel a little more chirpy?
If you are looking to set up your first aquarium then check out our Aquarium shop, you can find it on our home page or click HERE. Here you will find links to tried and tested aquarium products that are available through Amazon.
Once you have your kit, use our cycling guide to get the tank up and running!
Let us know in the comments if this has worked for you. If you want to know more, google ‘fish mental health’ and you should get a few results from the studies conducted. Check out google scholar too, there are many studies available there.