Are Fish Tanks Good for Anxiety?

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Written by Jordan

There is something so relaxing about water. Whether it is a rushing waterfall or the crashing waves of the ocean, people do love to go to the water to get away from their problems. For those with anxiety, the idea of bringing a little bit of that peaceful feeling into your home can seem like a great way to unwind.

Fish tanks can be a great way to combat the effects of anxiety. Studies have shown that watching fish swimming around in an aquarium decreases heart rate and muscle tension, and can make you feel more at ease. This can be a huge help for us people who live with anxiety from day to day. Watching an aquarium can also lessen feelings of nervousness, which can help you feel more positive and peaceful. The act of caring for an aquarium- especially a low maintenance one that you won’t have to worry about- can also give you a sense of purpose and responsibility.

When you stare at an aquarium, you don’t usually think about the past or the future. You focus on what’s happening in front of you. This feeling is very similar to  meditation which is why watching a fish tank can not only lessen anxiety, but depression as well.

What Makes Fish Tanks Relaxing?

There are many components of a fish tank that make it perfect for reducing stress. Psychologists have long known that exposing yourself to nature and the outdoors is a great way to reduce stress- our instincts believe that natural places are safer. It has also been concluded that watching other living things going about their routines- think bird watching, ant farms or safaris- promote feelings of calmness and make us feel better connected to the rest of nature. Activities such as hiking and camping are often used as leisure activities for people who want to relax and reconnect with nature. However, it can be hard to replicate the great outdoors once you are back in the comfort of your home, and that is where aquariums can be a great addition. With a good fish tank, you can replicate a natural habitat and get the relaxation benefits of the outdoors whenever you want, without having to wait for a vacation.

There is a reason that fish tanks are often found in waiting rooms and medical offices. One study has shown that watching a fish tank can make you less nervous– making it ideal for patients who are about to get a stressful checkup. Over all, patients who looked at the aquariums reported to be 12% less anxious than those who were without. That can make a big difference to someone who feels nervousness everyday as a result of anxiety! In this study in particular, the more fish that there were in the aquarium, the more positive feelings were reported. This is a great example of how a low maintenance community tank can help someone feel less anxious.

However, even if you don’t have room for a large community tank, you can still experience the anti-anxiety benefits of an aquarium. There are many reasons for this, the main one being that aquariums offer other unique relaxation benefits that come from water. The sound of running water, such as that in a waterfall filter, can be soothing even by itself. This phenomenon is why you often will see water features and fountains in gardens. Color is another unique feature of aquariums that can help promote relaxation. Many colors on the light spectrum are connected to certain feelings and psychological reactions- with the most calming and soothing colors being the muted blue and green often found underwater.

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How to Set up a Stress-Free Fish Tank

In order to maximize the relaxation benefits of your tank, there are several things you can do. According to the study mentioned above, more and diverse species of fish will lead to an increase in the relaxing and soothing effects. In fact, the most positive changes were reported by those who were looking at large, tropical tanks with a variety of species. Tropical tanks are ideal because of the huge variety they can sustain, not to mention the wide spectrum of colors that can be seen in a big reef community. However,  if such a tank is out of scope for your budget or space, you can choose other species that have a hypnotic, soothing presence- such as a colorful scaled fish, or a schooling bunch.

While you are setting up your aquarium, pay attention to other ways you can boost the relaxing vibes. Lighting and sound can also be used to increase the anti-anxiety effects. For example, choosing a lighting system that uses the psychology of color to your advantage can be a great way to promote a restful mood. Blues, greens and other cool hues have been shown to promote feelings of restfulness and calm. As a side note, blue light has the added benefit of bringing out the best colors of tropical fish, and promoting growth in tropical corals and reefs. Add in a great waterfall filter and perhaps some bubbling decor, and you will have created a tranquil habitat to release your anxieties. Live plants can also add to the authenticity of your mini-habitat, and will add benefits for you as well as your fish.

Don’t Take Too Much On

It is important to also remember that anxiety can be triggered by feelings of guilt and pressure- which can be part and parcel of pet ownership. Being a caretaker for a pet means taking on a measure of responsibility to both keep your pet alive as well as fulfilled and happy. This is especially true of aquariums, where the health of your pet can be impacted very quickly if the water quality is poor.

If the added responsibility of keeping a pet alive is something that might stress you out, be sure to take extra lengths to obtain an aquarium that will be as low maintenance as possible. This means choosing an aquarium that will be large enough to establish a colony of healthy bacteria to keep your water quality balanced, and choosing fish that are compatible and peaceful. To establish a low-maintenance aquarium, here are some things to consider:

  • Invest in a great filter. When it comes to raising pet fish, most of the health problems that they face are the result of poor water quality. If you’re an anxious person, it’s worth it to go the extra mile for a reliable filtration system to get the peace of mind. Not only will a quality filter maximize the time between water changes, but it will also last longer and not send you into a panic by breaking down in the middle of the night.
  • Get the largest tank that you can accommodate- both size and budget. The larger aquarium that you can get, the less maintenance it will be in the long run. Larger aquariums build up their own unique colony of beneficial bacteria, and are much easier to keep balanced and healthy. Additionally, larger tanks also mean more fish- a bonus for those of you looking to maximize the relaxation benefits of your tank.
  • Seek out peaceful fish. If you are going for a large, community tank, you are not going to want to worry about a few rogue fish bullying it’s tank mates. An aggressive fish can stress out the entire tank and also can physically attack the other fish. In order to worry less about the welfare of your aquarium community, pick fish that have a reputation for being placid and friendly.
  • Be sure to place the aquarium in a good place in your home. Some people keep the fish tank in their bedroom because they enjoy the water sounds, but if you have a loud filter or are prone to insomnia, it might not be a great idea for you. Make sure you place your aquarium in a spot where you can view it often and enjoy it, and where it is not in direct sunlight. Direct sunlight might be great for live plants, but can also be a recipe for an algae bloom.

Conclusion

If you are an anxious person or deal with a lot of stress in your daily life, adding an aquarium to your home can offer some serious stress relief. Watching your fish community interact with each other and their environment has been scientifically proven to reduce anxiety, and the right aquarium has the added benefit of soothing light and sound to add a little relaxation to your home. If you have anxiety, it can be important to choose a low maintenance aquarium so that you will not be as worried about taking care of your fish all the time. Luckily, low maintenance aquariums are easy to set up with a little extra research, and will allow for all of the stress relief benefits of a large, tropical tank without a large investment of time and money. With a little planning and care, adding a fish tank to your life can definitely help with feelings of anxiety.

About the author

Jordan

Hi, my name is Jordan. I've been in the fishkeeping hobby since my childhood.
Welcome to my blog where I help fishkeepers enjoy the hobby by offering free guides, advice, & product reviews.
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