It has often been reported that fish tanks have a calming effect on the physical and mental well being of humans, so much so that medical offices often have fish tanks in their waiting rooms. The notion that aquariums can have positive and calming effects on people is now supported by a study put out by Plymouth University and the University of Exeter that is published in the journal Environment & Behavior.
Ph.D Student Deborah Cracknell talks through her research which has found aquariums could provide important health and wellbeing benefits.
Researchers at the National Marine Aquarium, Plymouth University and the University of Exeter took assessments of people’s mood, heart rate and blood pressure as they were exposed to various fish tanks that contained certain numbers of fishes. What they found that as people looked at an aquarium full of fish, there were reductions in the test subjects’ heart rates and blood pressure. When these folks looked at aquariums that have larger populations of fish in them, their attention spans were longer and their moods improved noticeably.
“Our findings have shown improvements for health and wellbeing in highly managed settings, providing an exciting possibility for people who aren’t able to access outdoor natural environments,” Dr. Mathew White, an environmental psychologist at the University of Exeter, said in a statement put out by the university. “If we can identify the mechanisms that underpin the benefits we’re seeing, we can effectively bring some of the ‘outside inside’ and improve the wellbeing of people without ready access to nature.”
The research was given the opportunity to conduct their study with the concurrent refurbishment of a 550,000 litre fish tank At the National Marine Aquarium that was the subject of a reintroduction of different fish species.
The researchers looked at people’s assessments during three phases of the restocking of the aquarium and found that they noticed a drop in heart rate in all three phases, said Ph.D student Deborah Cracknell. She noted that the researchers noticed a relaxing effect when people observed the tank with just light and the swaying of the artificial seaweed. When fish were added to the tank, the heart rates of the study subjects dropped even more and people seemed to feel much better. One aspect of the study that they found interesting was that people really liked the marine species found in the aquarium.
“While large public aquariums typically focus on their educational mission, our study suggests they could offer a number of previously undiscovered benefits,” Dr. Sabine Pahl, Associate Professor in Psychology at Plymouth University said in a statement. “In times of higher work stress and crowded urban living, perhaps aquariums can step in and provide an oasis of calm and relaxation.”
John B. Virata has been keeping fish since he was 10 years old. He currently keeps an 80 gallon cichlid tank, a 20 gallon freshwater community tank and a 29 gallon BioCube with a Percula clown, a blue green chromis, and a firefish all in his kitchen, and a 55 gallon FOWLR tank with a pair of Ocellaris clowns, two blue green chromis, a six line wrasse, a peppermint shrimp, assorted algae and a few aiptasia anemones in his living room. Follow him on Twitter @johnvirata