Keeping Fish Helps Reduce Stress and Improve Mental Health

Posted by Amber King
Woman feeding beta fish in aquarium at home.

Forty million Americans will battle a mental health illness this year and finding a cost-effective treatment isn't that simple.

Researchers are looking for better ways to treat those affected by mental illness. One of their discoveries is that animal assisted therapy (i.e. keeping a pet) can help reduce the negative side effects of mental illness.


People find emotional support in dogs and cats, and even chickens, but there's one type of pet that's been underestimated: fish.

Fish won't fetch the morning paper or greet you at the door, but aquatic animal experts with Fish Keeping World have found that owning fish can reduce stress and make overall improvements in mental health.

Manager of the Fish Keeping World website, Robert, wants to spread the message that aquatic pets have a significant quality that naturally helps improve a person's well-being. He compiled data related to mental health in the U.S. and applied that to the emotional and psychological benefits of owning fish.

Fish swimming in saltwater aquarium in front of the colorful corals
According to researchers from Plymouth University and the University of Exeter, something as simple as gazing into an aquarium and watching fish swim can lead to noticeable drops in heart rate and blood pressure. There's a reason why people often find aquariums full of colorful fish in the waiting room at the doctor's or dentist's office. Healthcare practitioners use fish to help their patients reach a sense of calm.

Aquariums are also used in nursing homes. There's evidence that brightly colored fish help stave off disruptive behavior with people with Alzheimer's - making them feel more serene and less prone to outbursts of aggression.

Female dentist showing X-ray report to young woman in clinic

The science behind why fish help improve mental health isn't exact, but the reassuring nature of watching an animal swim effortlessly through the water connects with people on a subconscious level. Also, the gentle burbling of the filter creates a tranquil ambiance, and the interesting-looking fish and neatly arranged vegetation captivates attention.

Robert and the rest of the team at Fish Keeping World promote the benefits of fish over the extravagant expenses of other treatment methods. The idea behind animal assisted therapy is relevant for all domestic animals, including dogs, birds, and even mini horses, but there are certain advantages fish have over their terrestrial companions.

Robert told Wide Open Pets:

"Fish keeping is a fairly inexpensive way to keep pets and also requires less time commitment than other pets."

Keeping a personal fish tank in your home is relatively inexpensive and requires less upkeep than taking a dog for a walk. Even small tanks have the potential to affect mental health. And if owning a tank isn't an option, public aquariums aren't hard to find.

Check out the infographic designed and researched by the team at Fish Keeping World for more information. You can also learn how to start your own fish tank on their website.

fish infographic Do you have a fish tank at home? Let us know in the comments.

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Keeping Fish Helps Reduce Stress and Improve Mental Health