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Fish and Their Psychological Benefits 

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Fish and Their Psychological Benefits

Fish, particularly in the context of aquariums, have long been recognised for their potential therapeutic and mood-enhancing properties. Watching fish glide gracefully in their watery habitats can have several positive impacts on human mental health.

While fish might not offer the interactive or tactile companionship of pets such as dogs or cats, their serene presence, combined with the aesthetics of their environment, offers a unique set of therapeutic benefits, without risk, especially for those with limited outdoor access. It’s a gentle reminder of the diverse ways nature can influence and improve human well-being.

Fish and Their Psychological Benefits

Stress Reduction: One of the most frequently-cited benefits of watching fish in aquariums is the reduction of stress and anxiety. The slow, fluid movements of fish combined with the gentle murmur of water can induce a meditative state, helping to lower cortisol levels, and increase feelings of calm.

Improved Focus and Attention: Observing the intricacies of an aquarium – from the behaviour of fish to the sway of aquatic plants – can improve concentration and attention span. This can be particularly beneficial in educational or therapeutic settings.

Decrease in Blood Pressure and Heart Rate: Several studies have indicated that observing fish in aquariums can lead to reductions in blood pressure and heart rate, which are physiological markers associated with relaxation.

Enhanced Mood: The aesthetics and beauty of a well-maintained aquarium, with its diverse range of colours and species, can be a mood enhancer. Engaging with this form of nature indoors can help alleviate feelings of sadness or depression for some individuals.

Therapeutic for Alzheimer’s Patients: Some research has suggested that exposure to aquariums can benefit Alzheimer’s patients by reducing aggressive behaviours and improving eating habits.

Research and Observations

A pioneering study conducted by experts from the National Marine Aquarium, the University of Plymouth, and the University of Exeter assessed people’s physical and mental responses to observing varying levels of fish in tanks. The findings suggest that observing fish in an aquarium led to noticeable reductions in blood pressure and heart rate (1).

A systematic study expanded observation of fish in aquariums to include non-live alternatives such as videos, robotic fish, and computer simulations. Early results would indicate “positive effects on well-being outcomes, such as loneliness, depression, and anxiety in older adults” (2).

Meanwhile, research at Purdue University indicated that displaying tanks with fish in Alzheimer’s units resulted in patients being more relaxed, alert, and in a better mood. There was also a reduction in disruptive behaviours and an increase in weight among these patients (3).

Incorporating Fish for Therapeutic Benefits

Workplace and Education: Introducing aquariums in high-stress environments, such as certain workplaces or special education settings, can help reduce anxiety and promote relaxation.

Medical Settings: Having fish tanks in dental and medical waiting rooms can help patients relax before appointments.

Personal Spaces: Incorporating a fish tank in personal spaces, like homes, can provide daily doses of relaxation and beauty.

(See also our articles Birds And Their Therapeutic Brilliance, Cats And Calmness – The Silent Soothers, The Healing Paws – How Your Canine Helps Relieve Anxiety, Reptiles and Their Therapeutic Potential)

Further Reading and Recommendations

The Simple Guide to Freshwater Aquariums by David E Boruchowitz – An introductory guide to setting up and maintaining freshwater aquariums.

Handbook of Fish Biology and Fisheries by Paul JB Hart and John D Reynolds (2 volumes) – A more in-depth understanding of fish behaviours and their environments. 


1. Williams A. Aquariums deliver health and wellbeing benefits: Joint research shows that viewing aquarium displays leads to noticeable reductions in blood pressure and heart rate. University of Plymouth Press Office, 30 July, 2015.

2. Clements H, Valentin S, Jenkins N, Rankin J, Baker JS, Gee N, et al. The effects of interacting with fish in aquariums on human health and well-being: A systematic review. PLoS ONE 2019 14(7): e0220524.

3. Edwards NE, Beck AM. The influence of aquariums on weight in individuals with dementia. Alzheimer Dis Assoc Disord. 2013 Oct-Dec;27(4):379-83. doi: 10.1097/WAD.0b013e3182769b34. PMID: 23138175.

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