Do home aquariums reduce stress in the owner?

Aquarium tropical fish

People buy aquariums for various reasons one which is to lower their blood pressure, reduce stress and to feel better. They are meant to have a calming effect. Is this true?

Aquarium tropical fish

Aquarium tropical fish. Photo by Valeriia Miller from Pexels.

I can refer to a study. It’s nice to refer to a bit of science rather than anecdotal evidence. Katcher et al (1983a) did a study on people’s stress response in watching an aquarium with fish in it, an aquarium which had plants in it but no fish, and also watching a wall. The scientists found decreases in blood pressure of normotensive (normal blood pressure) and hypertensive (high blood pressure) participants. Twenty normotensive and fifteen hypertensive people took part.

The duration of the decrease in blood pressure was the longest in people who watched the aquarium which had fish in it.

Watching an aquarium with fish in it also has a positive impact on how people respond to stressful activities. The scientist concluded that “watching fish swim in an aquarium could reduce the magnitude of people’s physiological responses to stressful situations” (a quote in the book which refers to the study: Companion Animals and Us – Exploring the Relationships between People and Pets).

Just to recap: being in a room with an aquarium should make you feel more relaxed and it will help you deal with stressful situations in the future in a more relaxed manner.

As for the cost of running a 10 gallon home aquarium per month, it has been estimated at $1.92 or $23.04 annually (but please do your own research). I’m not sure whether this figure includes the purchase of fish that might need replacing and perhaps veterinary care. I don’t know whether people who have home aquariums sometimes request veterinary care. That may seem laughable to some people but studies indicate that fish feel pain and have emotions. They are sentient beings and should be treated as such. This raises a further question namely whether keeping fish in an aquarium is abusive of the fish.

That is a very good question because PETA (an organisation that I trust) say that the fragile tropical fish in home aquariums suffer miserably because they spend their lives in a glass tank rather than living in the open seas amongst brilliantly coloured coral reefs.

Keeping fish is almost unregulated in the USA. I can’t comment at this time on other countries. Most fish for aquariums are taken from the wild because most saltwater fish do not breed in captivity. They come from the waters around Southeast Asia, Hawaii and Fiji. It is a $200 million industry and more than 30 million fish are captured to supply it. Some species have become endangered because of this business.