Fish are lovely pets to have, and it can feel so calming and relaxing to just sit and watch them. Fish of all kinds, whether colorful, active, or in large numbers, can be a joy to keep and provide a great deal of satisfaction when they are healthy and growing or reproducing well. Watching your fish is like a better, more soothing form of TV to watch on a Friday night.
Is there any merit to feeling like your fish improves your mood and helps reduce your stress, though? Let’s find out.
Top 10 Health Benefits of Having a Pet Fish
1. Stress Relief
Watching fish has shown a link to reducing stress, and it’s often the reason that fish tanks are kept in some doctors’ and dentist’s offices. The movement of the fish and gentle sounds of the aquarium can provide a great deal of stress relief and may even help take your mind off of your stress when you’re waiting on the dental hygienist to call your name.
Some studies have indicated that the presence of a companion animal can help to limit your body’s stress response in some situations, and fish may be able to provide this type of response in much the same way that a dog or cat would.
2. Anxiety and Depression Support
Mental health is becoming something that more and more people are willing to talk about, but that has not filled all of the gaps that still linger when it comes to resources to help support mental health and decrease the symptoms of disorders, like anxiety and depression.
Medications can be of great benefit to people with these conditions, but there are other things that can help lessen some of the symptoms.
Watching colorful fish has been linked to an improved mental outlook and a decrease in both acute and chronic anxiety, as well as a decrease in depressive symptoms. While a fish tank isn’t the fix for these conditions, it can be one of many modalities used to decrease symptoms.
3. Reduce Blood Pressure and Heart Rate
When you’re stressed, angry, or sad, you might notice that your blood pressure and heart rate go up. Whether you can feel your heart pounding in your chest or feel your pulse pounding in your ears, you know the unpleasant sensations that can come with an elevated blood pressure or heart rate.
In stressful and upsetting situations, these responses are often completely beyond our control. There are multiple things you can do to help calm yourself and bring your vital signs back down to normal levels.
In some instances, the presence of fish can help you focus and calm down your thoughts, helping to bring down your heart rate and blood pressure. Think of watching fish in an aquarium as a form of meditation.
4. Support Cognitive Health
The presence of a pet fish doesn’t just help with your emotional and physical state. Owning pets, including fish, has been shown to have the ability to help lessen symptoms of conditions like Alzheimer’s disease.
Some studies have indicated that tanks of brightly colored fish have been able to help reduce disruptive behaviors associated with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. These disruptive behaviors are often due to someone being confused or frightened, and the fish seem to be a great way to lessen those unpleasant and scary emotions.
5. Encourage Better Sleep
Pet fish have been linked to a reduction in the symptoms of insomnia and other sleep disorders. They have also shown the ability to help improve sleep hygiene and restfulness for adults with Alzheimer’s and dementia, as well as children with ADHD.
Having a fish tank in a bedroom can help improve sleep not only by the presence of the fish but also through the soothing sounds of the water flowing. However, this can also be a distraction to some people, especially children. The good news is that watching fish before it’s time to go to bed can also improve sleep quality.
6. ADHD Support
We already know that watching fish can help children with ADHD get more and better-quality sleep, but fish can also help people with ADHD focus and be less distractible. While there are often many things to see in an aquarium, the inherently soothing nature of a fish tank and the relaxation impacts that it has may improve focus for children and adults with ADHD and other disorders that may make focusing on tasks difficult.
7. Promote Relaxation
There’s just something extremely relaxing about watching fish swim, especially those that are brightly colored or unique. It doesn’t just feel relaxing to watch fish, though. There actually are studies that have indicated that watching fish swim can enhance feelings of relaxation. This can be in relation to stress or mental health symptoms, but it can also be in relation to providing an enhanced overall sense of relaxation, whether it’s during your daily yoga session or while you’re watching TV after work.
8. Pain Relief
Watching fish swim has shown a link to helping to reduce pain in people experiencing chronic and acute pain symptoms. It’s very likely that this is related to the positive impacts of watching fish, including promoting relaxation, reducing anxiety, and reducing stress.
Pain causes physical tension, as well as emotional distress. By introducing something calming, like a fish tank, someone may be able to relax better physically, in turn reducing their tension and pain.
9. Support Better Nutrition
The presence of fish and the relaxation and stress relief that come with it have shown an unexpected positive side effect. For people with Alzheimer’s disease, they begin to eat better. Many people with Alzheimer’s suffer from poor nutrition due to multiple factors related to the disease.
With the calmness that comes from watching brightly colored fish swimming, one study showed that people with Alzheimer’s ate 21% more when there were fish to watch.
10. Reduce Heart Disease Risk and Mortality
While this has not been proven in any studies to date, there have been other links that have indicated that watching fish could lead to a reduction in the development of heart disease and mortality rates in people who have the disease. This would likely be due to the calming effect of watching fish, as well as the reduction in blood pressure, tension, and pain levels. People who are calmer and happier are also typically healthier.
While there have been studies to show some of the benefits of keeping fish, most reports and conclusions are strictly anecdotal.
It’s important to understand that keeping fish is in no way a replacement for any type of medical or mental health care, but there is a good chance that the addition of properly kept fish tanks in more places could improve the overall health and happiness of people, as well as reduce healthcare costs due to decreases in symptoms of disease and an improvement in health.
Featured Image Credit: Peter Dakomd, Pixabay