Health Benefits of Keeping a Thriving Aquarium

A fish tank in a television
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Do you have a stressful life, high blood pressure, insomnia? Keeping an aquarium may be good therapy for you. Studies going back as far as the late 1980s have shown that gazing at aquarium fish reduces stress and subsequently lowers blood pressure.

Fish Make a Difference

Researchers have compared the effects of hypnosis versus an aquarium, fishless vs. fish-filled aquariums, and no aquarium vs. having an aquarium. In all cases, the presence of some sort of aquarium has been shown to reduce blood pressure. Additionally, greater reduction in blood pressure has occurred when there are fish in the tank, as opposed to aquariums that are attractively decorated but have no fish. Even watching a video of fish has been proven to have therapeutic effects.

Multitude of Benefits

Seniors exposed to an aquarium filled with fish have shown a significant reduction in blood pressure. Watching fish has been shown to calm children who suffer from hyperactivity disorder. Dental patients who were subjected to hypnosis vs. an aquarium have experienced the same or greater benefit from the aquarium. Other studies have shown that dental patients required less pain medication after having watched fish in the dentist's office. It's little wonder that physician offices, dental clinics, and even counseling centers have traditionally kept an aquarium in the waiting room.

Aquarium Effect on Alzheimer’s Disease

Studies have shown that seniors with Alzheimer’s disease experience a variety of health benefits from watching an aquarium. At Purdue University, researchers have found that displaying tanks of brightly colored fish may curtail disruptive behaviors and improve the eating habits of people with Alzheimer's disease. A Purdue News August 1999 Report states that "Nursing Professor Nancy Edwards tracked 60 individuals who resided in specialized units in three Indiana nursing homes. She found that patients who were exposed to the fish tanks appeared to be more relaxed and alert, and they ate up to 21 percent more food than they had before the introduction of the fish tanks. The average increase in food consumption was 17.2 percent."

During the same study, there were reports that one female patient "who never spoke to staff members or other patients, became fascinated by the fish tank, spending long periods watching the fish. One day, the woman approached Edwards and asked 'Hey, fish lady, how many fish are in this tank, six or eight?' Edwards, surprised by the question, told her there were six fish in the tank. 'Well one time I counted six and one time I counted eight,' the woman replied."

Fish Fish Anywhere

Virtually any aquarium, from large to small, can offer potential health benefits. A large aquarium is great, but if space is limited, a mini-aquarium will do. Seniors and students can usually find a place for a "desktop" aquarium. These are compact and usually come in kits with everything needed to get started.

If it’s not possible to keep an aquarium, another option is a video or DVD playing on a TV or computer screen. High-definition videos are available for download and usually include soothing music or simply the bubbling sounds of a real aquarium (and viewers can always turn off the sound).