Fish therapy

Image via Thinkstock
Image via Thinkstock

The health benefits of keeping an aquarium

By Lauren Paulsen, Senior Columnist

Have you ever wondered why most doctorsā€™ and dentistsā€™ offices have aquariums in the waiting room? Why restaurants and malls incorporate them? Those aquariums arenā€™t just for display purposes. They actually help your wellbeing, both physically and mentally.

For a long time, researchers have known that nature has a calming effect on people.Ā  That is why there are CDs dedicated to nature sounds, such as birds, crickets, waves, or wind. That is why there are so many nature themed desktops. That is why we bring plants into our houses, and why we decorate with things like sea shells. We actually crave nature. Having those things near us actually helps fulfil a need to really connect with the natural world.

Anyone that owns an aquarium can tell you that watching their fish is soothing. It puts you in an almost meditative state. A study done by the National Marine Aquarium, Plymouth University, and the University of Exeter actually proved that watching an aquarium scientifically does benefit us both mentally and physically. They analyzed the mental and physical responses of people viewing the fish tanks and found that there is a significant effect on lowering both the peopleā€™s blood pressure and heart rate. It can actually take as little as five minutes of watching an aquarium to have this effect.

It doesnā€™t just reduce stress though, it also reduces anger and fear, and increases a personā€™s overall happiness. A study done at Purdue University found that displaying aquariums with brightly coloured fish lessened disruptive behaviour and improved the eating habits of people with Alzheimerā€™s disease.

Through further studies, it has been shown that even an empty aquarium with just plants gently swaying in a current can be beneficial. But as you increase the number of fish in the tank, overall happiness also increases. Watching the fish swimming around can be completely mesmerizing.

When you bring an aquarium into your home, you also bring in a pet (or pets) that you can bond with. Many people are amazed at how attached they became to their fish. The ritual of taking care of them, such as feeding every day, is often found to be very relaxing by aquarium enthusiasts.

Besides being so visually appealing, an aquarium is also relaxing because most people find the sound of running water very soothing and pleasant. Bigger aquariums with a lot of biodiversity are, of course, the most effective, but since most people cannot afford them, there are many options for miniature aquariums on the market. These are quite affordable and easy to maintain. Setting up an aquarium and aquascaping it can be a fun project, and afterwards it can bring you great joy for years to come.

So, as hobbyists have been saying all along, fish-keeping truly does increase your well-being. If you are still skeptical, then just go to a pet store and watch their live fish for a while. Better yet, head to the Vancouver Aquarium and spend a day relaxing surrounded by the beautiful and mesmerizing displays.