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Aquarium Therapy: How Fish Tanks Can Reduce Stress and Improve Wellbeing

September 18, 2020

Watching colourful fish swim has always been a fun experience, for young and for old. But did you know it can have a positive effect on the body, helping us to relax, unwind and feel at one with nature?

Such is the power of watching fish that it’s become a form of treatment for a range of physical and mental health conditions. The process is called aquarium therapy, and it’s gaining popularity for the positive impact it can have on our bodies.

Here, we’re taking a closer look at aquarium therapy, from how it works to the benefits it can offer.

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What is Aquarium Therapy?

Aquarium therapy is a concept whereby interacting with fish can have a positive effect on a person’s wellbeing and mental health. Though not recognised as an official form of treatment, it falls within the field of animal-assisted therapies (AAT) – where certified therapy animals are used to lessen the symptoms of specific conditions in humans.

The term ‘aquarium therapy’ was coined in the late 1990s, when studies first began into the effects of people suffering conditions like anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, and Alzheimer’s watching fish. Since then, more research has confirmed these early findings: that fish can indeed have a positive effect on a person’s physical and mental health.

fish in aquarium

How Does Aquarium Therapy Work?

Scientists are still debating just how watching fish can help with physical and mental health conditions in people. Most put it down to the hypnotic effect of watching fish swim back and forth in their tank; it’s an innately calming movement, and one that can help to relax the mind and ease muscle tension.

Others think it goes deeper than that, to something buried in the human psyche. Alan Beck, director of the Centre of Human-Animal Bond at Purdue University, in the US, argues that humans have a genetic predisposition towards nature, and that our preference for seeking out natural environments is a product of our biological evolution. He believes that people naturally focus on life and lifelike processes – a tendency which can have many positive effects within the body.

Whatever it is about watching fish swim, there is now solid evidence to suggest that it can be highly beneficial, invoking either a physical or mental response in people with a range of conditions. And, as new findings continue to emerge, it’s hoped that aquarium therapy will become a recognised treatment, with ways of tailoring it to specific conditions and diseases.

One last thing that is interesting to note about how aquarium therapy works is that it is fish, not water, which seems to provide the most positive effects – an issue that scientists have grappled with for years. In a recent study conducted at the University of Exeter, fish were slowly added to a large tank in front of a group of test participants. Researchers found that the more fish, the greater the effect on mood and heart rate – confirming definitively that watching fish, and not just water, can have a positive impact.

relaxing in aquarium

What Are the Benefits of Aquarium Therapy?

In the handful of studies focused on the potential positive effects of aquarium therapy, the treatment has been found to offer a range of benefits – both for a person’s physical and mental wellbeing. Here, we take a closer look at the beneficial effects of watching fish swim.

Reduces Heart Rate

In a recent study, aquarium therapy was found to reduce heart rate by as much as 3% in just 10 minutes – helping an individual feel calm and relaxed. It’s hoped that such treatment could be of particular benefit to those with anxiety and panic disorders.

Lowers Blood Pressure

The same study also revealed that watching an aquarium display can help lower blood pressure, in some cases by as much as 4%. This effect increased as fish were added – demonstrating the potential power of aquarium therapy in treating physical ailments related to the heart.

Decreases Muscle Tension

Almost every study into the effects of aquarium therapy found that it can help to decrease muscle tension, an ailment which contributes to a range of physical and mental conditions. It’s hoped that repeat treatments could help reduce chronic pain and ease the symptoms of conditions like anxiety.

Boosts Mood

Watching colourful fish swim about merrily has always been an enjoyable experience, so it makes sense that it helps to boost mood. Several studies have reported a notable improvement in people’s moods after watching an aquarium display, confirming that our gilled friends can indeed make us feel happier and more relaxed.

family in aquarium

Getting the Most from Your Aquarium Visit to Improve Wellbeing

Given the positive effects watching fish can have, it’s small wonder aquariums – both commercial and at-home versions – are gaining popularity. Experts in the field have already started encouraging schools, doctor’s surgeries and individuals to install aquariums as a means of boosting mood and aiding relaxation, but remember, there’s one place you can always visit for your fish-watching fix – and that’s Blue Reef Aquarium.

Here, we offer some tips on how to make the most of your visit to our aquarium, with a view to improving your health and wellbeing:

  • Don’t rush – the longer you watch our fish swim, the more at peace you’ll feel. So, feel free to linger over the exhibits, and start to really feel at ease.
  • Plan your visit during off-peak hours – if you’re visiting our aquarium specifically to relax and enjoy the exhibits, we’d recommend planning your visit during off-peak hours. That way, you’ll enjoy more peace and quiet, and feel like you can stay at each exhibit a little longer.
  • Find the colourful fish – whether it’s our adorable clownfish or our big-bellied seahorses, seek out the colourful members of our family for the most stimulating and relaxing experience.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this introduction to aquarium therapy and the benefits it can offer. To start planning your visit to Blue Reef Aquarium, visit the homepage to book your tickets or give our team a call on 01424 718776.

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