Did you know that keeping fish is good for your mental and physical health?
Well, according to findings in a recent study, the benefits of an aquarium include reducing blood pressure and heart rates, as well as improving mood. So, it’s little wonder that, according to the National Pet Owners Survey, fishes are the third most popular pet in U.S. households after dogs and cats.
So, should you get a fish, and are fish good pets?
In this article, we explain how a fish hobby can help to keep you and your family healthy, as well as to improve your mental health.
What Are The Health Benefits of a Home Fish Aquarium?
It’s truly amazing just how many benefits can be enjoyed by keeping a home aquarium, so, if you’ve never considered fishkeeping as a hobby, here’s why you should!
1. Reduced Blood Pressure
Research has found that the presence of a home aquarium can help to reduce blood pressure, especially in seniors. Indeed, when compared, the presence of a fish tank that contains living fish produces a greater reduction in blood pressure than fishless tanks or those containing artificial creatures, such as synthetic jellyfish.
Interestingly, the more species that the aquarium contains, the more relaxing the experience for observers, resulting in significant drops in blood pressure and heart rates.
In one experiment, a live video feed was linked to local hospital waiting rooms and wards, where it was shown that hypertension patients experienced clinically meaningful reductions in their blood pressure.
And you don’t necessarily need to have a real aquarium to reap the benefits of watching fish. Scientific studies have shown that simply watching a video of fish has been shown to have relaxing, therapeutic effects. No wonder fishy screensavers are all the rage in busy offices!
2. Dental Office
Not many people enjoy a visit to the dental office. However, studies have shown that dental patients in clinics that have an aquarium in the waiting room were more relaxed and required less pain medication than those who underwent hypnosis.
The study revealed that patients were more relaxed when watching an aquarium containing living fish than they were when given the typical waiting room poster to view. Also, when patients underwent hypnosis, they were still more chilled out by watching the fish swimming in the tank.
Therefore, it’s not surprising that many medical centers, dental clinics, counseling centers, and even veterinary clinics keep an aquarium in the waiting room.
3. Calming Effects in ADHD Sufferers
If you have a child in your household who suffers from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), you’ll be interested to learn that watching fish swimming in an attractively decorated aquarium can have a calming effect.
That’s according to a study carried out by the NIH/Mars Partnership into the effect of pets on kids with ADHS and autism. Even if you don’t want to have a real aquarium in your home, DVDs that feature fish swimming can make an equally effective substitute. Watching a computer screen saver image of brightly colored marine fish swimming across the monitor also has a similar relaxing, calming effect.
4. Alzheimer’s Disease
According to the U.S. Alzheimer’s Association, over five million Americans are living with some form of Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia, and that figure is expected to rise to around 16 million by 2050.
But research carried out at Purdue University shows that watching an aquarium has a variety of health benefits for Alzheimer’s sufferers.
One study found that displaying aquariums filled with brightly colored fish can improve eating habits and curtail disruptive behaviors of people with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. The fascination of the fish tank even triggered positive interactions between patients and staff that had not been previously experienced.
5. Stress Relief
According to figures contained in the latest American Pet Products Association survey, 67% of those who keep fish as a hobby report that the simple act of watching their pets helps to relieve stress and improve their mood.
I can vouch for that! I find it incredibly relaxing to chill out in the evenings, enjoying watching my two huge fantails gliding around their tank. It’s also extremely satisfying to see my fishy friends enjoying their pristine environment after I’ve spent time cleaning it.
And although owning cats and dogs also has stress-relieving benefits, you won’t have the hassle of walking Fido in the rain after a busy day at work, or taking Tibbles to the vet because she’s sick.
Why Keep Fish As Pets?
So, given the undisputed health benefits of having fish as pets, you may now be seriously considering buying a fish tank.
But wait! Before you make a final decision, check out these other reasons why fish are a great pet to have.
1. Peace and quiet
When compared with traditional pets, such as dogs and cats, fish are a no-brainer if you want peace and quiet.
Dogs have a habit of barking, often during the night, disturbing your sleep or waking your kids when you just got them off for an afternoon nap. Even cats can be noisy, especially if yours is a bruiser that enjoys causing a commotion by fighting with every Tom in the neighborhood.
In comparison, fish don’t make a sound. Ever.
Modern filtration systems are virtually silent too. All you’ll hear is the subdued, reassuring hum of the filter pump and the soft sound of trickling water, which I find makes a super-relaxing backdrop to the street sounds outside my living room.
2. Educational for Children
A small community of fish in an aquarium makes an excellent alternative pet for kids and can be a great educational tool too.
Children learn to take on the responsibility of caring for a living creature. The health and happiness of the fish depend entirely on the quality of the care that the child gives to their pets. That’s an important lesson to learn.
Your kids will have fun feeding the fish and making sure that the tank is kept clean. Older children can learn how to recognize and treat common fish diseases and understand what steps they can take to prevent their pets from becoming sick.
There’s a science lesson too in learning about the ammonia-nitrite-nitrate cycle and why it’s so critical in fishkeeping, as well as what the pH levels in water mean and their importance. Unfortunately, there will be fishy casualties too, and the loss of a cherished fish is a helpful way to teach children about death and how to handle it.
Once you’ve purchased your aquarium, the cost of maintaining it is incredibly cheap compared with the upkeep of other popular varieties of pets.
For example, the average annual cost of keeping a fish, including the purchase of an aquarium and the fish, is around $227. Compare that with the cost of keeping a cat, which comes out at around $1,174.
Pretty much everything that you need for fishkeeping is inexpensive compared to what you would spend on other pets. For example, fish food is much less costly than dog or cat food, you don’t need insurance for a goldfish, and you won’t have vet’s bills for vaccinations, worming, etc.
4. Low Space
In many cities, space is at a premium, and our homes are getting smaller. Many families are downsizing in an attempt to cut costs, and apartment living or living in a place with no outside space often makes it impossible to keep a dog or a cat.
You don’t need a vast amount of space to keep fish. And you don’t need to purchase a huge tank either. Some mid-sized tanks come with a cabinet or stand that doubles as handy storage space for fishkeeping accessories and food, and you can even buy aquariums that are designed to be used as coffee tables too.
Although there are plenty of micro-tanks for sale online, many are totally unsuitable for fish. A fish tank should have a proper filtration and heating system, and there should be plenty of space for the fish to swim. Ideally, you need a five-gallon tank as an absolute minimum.
So, I recommend that you decide on what fish species you would like to keep and then do some research to find out what size tank you need.
5. Low Maintenance
Fish don’t need walking or entertaining, although if you decide to keep a betta, you’ll find that he can be quite an interactive pet that can even learn a few tricks.
Unlike dogs and cats, fish can be left alone while you go out to work, and it’s usually pretty easy to find someone to look after them while you’re away on vacation.
That said, you do need to invest some time in maintaining your fish tank.
Unless you buy an automatic fish feeder with a timing device, you’ll need to spend a few minutes twice per day feeding your fish. Most importantly, you must spend up to an hour every week cleaning the aquarium substrate, using a gravel vacuum, scraping algae from the glass, and carrying out a partial water change.
6. Great Hobby
Fishkeeping is a brilliant hobby, which can even become an obsession!
Most hobbyists, myself included, take pride in presenting their tanks to visitors and pamper their fish as though they were children! Some enthusiasts go on to breed fish of their favorite species, and there are many societies and clubs where you can share tips and advice.
And, if you’re competitive, you can even enter your homebred fish in shows. There’s even money to be made from your hobby if you’re a successful breeder. For example, take a look at AquaBid.com, and you’ll see many homebred betta fish for sale by auction. The record price of $1,500 for a golden betta fish was set some years ago on that site. Now, that’s a great return on your hobby!
The primary reason that people have an aquarium is that an attractively aquascaped tank that’s stocked with beautiful fish makes a stunning focal point in any room.
Watching a thriving community of fish gliding serenely around their habitat is a balm to the soul after a hectic workday. There are so many species of tropical freshwater and marine fish to choose from, not to mention fancy coldwater goldfish, that you’ll never be short of inspiration.
When it comes to aquariums, there’s a mind-boggling array of styles and sizes to consider, and you’re certain to find something that suits your budget, room size, and the look you want.
Now you know all about the myriad health and other benefits of having fish as pets; you’ll need to know where to start.
- Decide what fish species you want to keep and learn about its care needs.
- If you want to keep multiple species, do some research to make sure that the fish you want are compatible.
- Work out what size tank you will need.
- Consider where the tank will be placed, and make sure the aquarium you want will fit there.
Once you’ve bought your tank, you’ll need to set it up and allow the filter to mature for ten days or so before you can introduce the fish.
Finally, take a trip to your local fish store and choose your fish!