Aquariums and Wellbeing
We have written this page about aquariums and well-being, as studies have shown that keeping an aquarium can be good for our stress levels and mood.
There is a growing body of evidence showing that aquariums can decrease stress levels1, including pulse rate, muscle tension2, blood pressure and sleeping/eating problems3. They can also improve leisure satisfaction and relaxation4, and can help decrease anxiety5.
These effects may be explained by a number of factors. One explanation is the way humans naturally feel comforted by the sound of water, for example, through listening to the sounds of the sea, stream or rain. Many people purchase audio tapes or related apps to listen to these sounds at home. The appeal of these sounds may relate back to when we were still in utero, surrounded by water. Watching fish swim back and forth is thought to have a hypnotic effect on the mind 5. Coupled with the gentle sounds of bubbling and streaming water, this effect is accentuated and adds to the overall feelings of relaxation from observing the aquarium.
Aquariums are thought to help sleep difficulties, eating problems, high blood pressure, stress & anxiety, tension and stress associated with chronic illness.
If taken up as a hobby, it is important to consider what type of aquarium you would like keep. This may depend on the time you have available to maintain your tank, and also your budget.
There may be some minor stress in the set-up, but a maintenance service can help to get it up and running, and assist with maintaining the tank. We operate in the South Wales area, but there are likely to be local options for you - and alternatively, there are many manuals which provide aquarium advice on how to do it yourself. We have some brief guides on setting up freshwater tropical and marine reef aquariums on this website.
There are a number of studies illustrating the benefits of owning an aquarium, some of which are listed below.
Cole and Gawlinski (2002) found for patients awaiting a heart transplant, having an aquarium in their room reduced their 'stress levels'.
DeSchriver and Riddick (1990) found that observing aquariums reduced pulse rate and muscle tension and improved skin temperature, as well as providing a relaxing experience.
Edwards and Beck (2002) found aquarium assisted therapy to help nutritional intake in individuals with Alzheimer's disease.
Katcher et al. (1983; cited in Fine, 2010) found that blood pressure in association with the task of reading aloud, was lower after watching fish in an aquarium.
Katcher, Segal, and Beck (1984) found visualising an aquarium lowered pre-dental treatment anxiety.
Riddick (1985) found that elder individuals with hobby-fish had lower blood pressure, greater leisure satisfaction and levels of relaxation.
Cole, K. M., & Gawlinski, A. (2000). Animal-assisted therapy: The human-animal bond. AACN Advanced Critical Care, 11(1), 139-149.
DeSchriver, M. M., & Riddick, C. C. (1990). Effects of watching aquariums on elders' stress. Anthrozoos: A Multidisciplinary Journal of The Interactions of People & Animals, 4(1), 44-48.
Edwards, N. E., & Beck, A. M. (2002). Animal-assisted therapy and nutrition in Alzheimer’s disease. Western Journal of Nursing Research, 24(6), 697-712.
- Riddick, C. C. (1985). Health, aquariums, and the non-institutionalized elderly. Marriage & Family Review, 8(3-4), 163-173.
Katcher, A., Segal, H., & Beck, A. (1984). Comparison of contemplation and hypnosis for the reduction of anxiety and discomfort during dental surgery. American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 27(1), 14-21.
Fine, A. H. (Ed.). (2010). Handbook on animal-assisted therapy: Theoretical foundations and guidelines for practice. Academic Press.
Katcher, A. H., Friedmann, E., Beck, A. M., and Lynch, J. J. (1983). Talking, looking, and blood pressure: Physiological consequences of interaction with the living environment. In
“New Perspectives on Our Lives with Animal Companions” (A. H. Katcher and A. M. Beck, eds.), pp. 351–359. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, PA.