Happy fish, healthy fishkeeper

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It’s said that aquariums are good for you, but is there any rational basis to this claim? New contributor Heather Walford investigates.

Would you believe me if I told you that keeping an aquarium in your home or office can really improve the quality of your health? You may be surprised to hear just how many mental and physical benefits there are from keeping fish.

To begin with, and as any aquarist will already know, fishkeeping provides a mental workout as owners must grapple with maths, physics, chemistry, and biology to keep their fish alive — and all of this happens before you even decide which species of fish you are going to have.

Calming the blood

The positive physiological and psychological effects of fish tanks have been the subject of several studies. One of the more recent ones was published in the journal Environment and Behaviour, and was a joint study carried out by experts from the National Marine Aquarium, Plymouth University and the University of Exeter. The stimulus? Observing fish swimming in a large aquarium. The outcome? It turns out that it can lower a person’s blood pressure.

Directly linked to this, it was found that the act of observing fish in aquaria also helps to decrease a person’s heart rate. Imagine that — spending time watching an aquarium reduces two physical symptoms commonly associated with stress. Who would have thought?

As an interesting feature of the study, the researchers noted that as the numbers of fish in the aquarium increased, peoples’ attentions were held for longer and their moods improved — at least, that’s what the participants reported. But then I’ve no doubt that many people in the hobby will already know this. Staring into an aquarium is relaxing, and for the fishkeeper there’s little better than coming in from a hard day at work and getting lost in your own underwater world. After all, it’s well known that the presence of nature and sound of water in your surroundings can have a dramatic effect on stress levels.

Did you know, for example, that humans naturally have an attraction to water? Besides which, we are literally made out of it (60% of our bodies and a colossal 90% of our blood is water) and it is hardwired within our DNA. Do not be afraid to make your aquarium the centrepiece of the room for this reason. It’s common knowledge that many dentist’s and doctor’s surgeries have aquariums in their waiting rooms, especially across in the USA. Older studies dating back to the 1980s have shown that when aquariums are placed in these waiting rooms, patient anxiety levels are reduced, and they are more relaxed in the run up to surgical procedures. With an aquarium present, it has been recorded that patient anxiety levels have been reduced by up to 12%.

 

Read the rest of the feature in the February 2022 issue. Buy the latest digital edition and read instantly on your computer, mobile or tablet device.


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