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Aquariums and mental health

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Fishkeeping and mental health – can fish improve your mood?

Are Aquariums good for you?

Aquariums and mental health

Is an aquarium good for your health?

The short answer to this question is yes, fish keeping is good for you.  Just like keeping any other pet, keeping fish can have some benefits, not just to your mental health, but physical too.

Have you ever noticed that many dentist and doctors waiting rooms have an aquarium in them?  There’s a reason for that.  Studies have shown that just observing fish in an aquarium for as little as 5 minutes can reduce your heart rate, blood pressure, and generally put you in a better mood.

So there you have it, fishkeeping is good for both your mental and physical health, so if you haven’t already, get some fish.  But first, we’ll cover exactly how you can be benefitted by keeping fish.


mental health



What are the health benefits of fishkeeping?

There have been several investigations over the years into the effects of fishkeeping and mental health, many of these have shown positive results.

In general, nature is good for us.  Just like going for a walk in the woods, where observing nature has positive effects on us, we can have a slice of nature in our living rooms which could be even more effective.

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.  Fish, however, do not need long walks so this makes 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, surprisingly, many fish are quite interactive.  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.

I’ve listed a couple of health benefits to keeping fish already, lower blood pressure and heart rate lead to less risk of cardiac arrest or disease.  It’s also been proven that observing fish can help children with disruptive tendencies to remain calm.

Likewise with Alzheimers patients, observing fish was shown to improve calm moods and increase appetite in many cases.

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.

fishkeeping and mental health



You don’t need your own tank

If you are unable to own an aquarium yourself, or simply don’t want to, then that’s ok, the effects are the same if you visit your local 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, 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.

health benefits of fishkeeping



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.


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.

However, if you do enjoy watching/keeping fish, then it may be for you.  If you don’t have fish already then maybe give it a try first, pop to your local aquarium, or doctors office, see if your mood improves, if it does, maybe you ought to get an aquarium.

Got a stressful job?  Stick one in your office (if you’re allowed).



So why not give it a go?  There are loads of health benefits of fishkeeping.  If you’re feeling stressed, anxious, or struggling to sleep, go have a look at some fish, observe an aquarium for 5 minutes and see how your mood/feeling changes in that time.

If it works, maybe consider your own aquarium.  The more colour and variety you can add, the better it works.


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.

If you’re now thinking of starting up your own aquarium, read our quick guide here.





Sage journals

BBC News

Fishkeeping world


About the author

James @Seriously Fishy

I am a fish keeping enthusiast with over 20 years experience. I currently keep American Cichlids (CA) which are my favourite fish to keep so far. I started Seriously Fishy as I noticed a large volume of people on various web pages looking for help with Aquarium basics. I created the first Seriously Fishy book to solve the issue in 28 pages, that led to the Seriously Fishy UK fish forum and blog.

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