THE SURPRISING HEALTH BENEFITS OF A HOME AQUARIUM
In March 2020, the COVID-19 crisis became real in the United States. Having seen the devastating consequences of the disease in China and Italy, American lawmakers took steps to protect the public by closing non-essential businesses and encouraging social distancing. In a time when millions of Americans are working from home and anxiety levels are running on high, any method of stress relief is a help.
It’s no secret that owning a pet has measurable benefits for your health, but these benefits are typically associated with traditional pets like dogs and cats. There’s a reason, however, that doctor’s offices and health clinics all over the world have fish tanks in them. Your home aquarium could be just as beneficial for your health as the family dog. Here’s what you need to know.
The Top 6 Health Benefits of Home Aquariums
Though cats and dogs are seen as the typical pets, the 2019 National Pet Owners Survey shows that aquarium fish are kept as household pets in over 13 million American homes. This makes them the third most popular type of pet, after dogs and cats, of course. Keeping a home aquarium is a big responsibility, but it does have its benefits.
Here are the top 6 benefits associated with keeping a home aquarium:
1. Reduced levels of stress.
It’s difficult to feel stressed when looking at a thriving home aquarium. There’s just something peaceful about it that calms you and those around you. This is part of the reason you’ll find fish tanks in high-stress environments like offices and hospitals. Managing your stress level is very important for your overall health and wellbeing. Not only can spending time around your tank help calm you down but having a routine you follow in taking care of it can be beneficial as well.
2. Improvements in sleep quality.
A good night’s sleep is the key to long-term health. Sleep is how your body recharges and repairs itself – it also gives your brain time to consolidate memory and build new connections. For many people, sleep doesn’t come easy. Watching your fish tank before bed may help calm your body and your mind enough to fall asleep, saving you from spending half the night tossing and turning. If your fish tank is in the room you sleep in, it may also provide some white noise to help you fall asleep.
3. Lowered blood pressure and heart rate.
When you feel less stress and get more sleep, your body will feel and function better. More than that, however, having a fish tank can actually improve your heart health. Looking at a fish tank can slow your heart rate and lower your blood pressure. According to one study, looking at an empty tank reduced heart rate by 3% while a tank with fish present yielded a 7% reduction. If you struggle with high blood pressure or other heart health issues, having a fish tank in your home could help you immensely.
4. Decreased pain and anxiety.
Watching a fish tank is almost hypnotic. Not only does your heart rate slow down and your blood pressure normalize, but you may find your stress and worry slipping away as well. The presence of an aquarium has been shown to reduce anxiety and pain in dental patients. According to a scientific report, having an aquarium in the waiting room decreased pain felt during dental procedures as well as the amount of pain medication needed afterward.
5. Improved focus and creativity.
The presence of a fish tank can calm both your body and your mind, freeing you from the stress and anxiety that might be holding you back. Having a fish tank in your workspace could actually improve your focus and boost creativity, helping you maximize your productivity. The visual stimulation of an active fish tank may have therapeutic effects as well, giving your mind something else to focus on for a few minutes while you work through an issue.
6. Calming effect for children and Alzheimer’s patients.
Though fish tanks provide visual stimulation that might boost your focus and creativity, they can also have a very calming effect. This particular benefit has been observed in children with hyperactivity disorders as well as Alzheimer’s patients. In one study conducted at Purdue University, the presence of a fish tank at home improved mood, alertness, and appetite in Alzheimer’s patients while reducing aggressive behavior. Children who struggle with behavioral issues, may find a fish tank calming. It may improve concentration and sleep, two things which may in turn boost performance at school.
The health benefits of aquariums extend beyond the simple fish tank at home. Studies show that spending time in public aquariums can improve both physical and mental wellbeing as well. The first controlled experiment testing the impact of aquarium on heart rate and blood pressure was conducted in 2015. Study subjects became relaxed even when watching an empty tank and the health benefits increased as more aquarium fish were introduced.
Tips for a Stress-Free Fish Tank
Being a pet owner is a wonderful thing, but it’s important to remember that it comes with responsibility as well. A dog will remind you it needs to go outside, and your cat won’t let you go for long without feeding him. When it comes to aquarium fish, however, you can’t rely on your pets to remind you of their needs – it’s your job to establish a routine to care for your aquarium.
Maintaining a fish tank at home doesn’t have to be stressful or time-consuming. If you get in the habit of performing routine water changes and test your tank water on a weekly basis, you’ll find that these tasks don’t take a lot of time and a few minutes here and there might save you the time and hassle it takes to deal with a bigger problem down the line.
Here are some simple tips for stress-free aquarium maintenance:
- Stick to a feeding schedule. Maintenance will be much easier when it becomes a habit. Stick to a schedule of feeding your fish in the morning and in the evening so it just becomes part of your daily routine and not something you have to remind yourself to do.
- Make time for weekly water changes. As water evaporates from your tank, wastes and toxins will become more concentrated so weekly water changes are recommended to keep the water quality in your tank high. You’ll need to decide what works for your tank, but you should change out between 10% and 20% of your tank water on a weekly basis.
- Test your tank water once a week. It’s a good idea to stay on top of the conditions in your tank, even if you’re not experiencing a problem. Test your tank water weekly and record the results in a journal so you’ll know right away if something looks off.
- Create a monthly maintenance checklist. Certain tasks like changing your filter media and running a check on essential equipment should be done about once a month, but you don’t necessarily need to do them all at the same time. Keep a checklist of monthly tasks and mark them off as you do them or, if you like to keep things organized, set a due date for each one to keep yourself on task.
- Automate your tank equipment. Some aquarium hobbyists like to get high-tech and there are certainly benefits to upgrading with modern equipment. High-tech aquarium equipment may give you options to automate certain functions which can keep the environment in your tank more stable and cut down on the time you have to spend on maintenance.
- Stay in stock with the essentials. It never hurts to keep a little extra of the things you find yourself using on a regular basis. Keeping a few extra carbon filters or a backup hose for your gravel vacuum ensures that you won’t have any unnecessary delays when performing routine maintenance tasks.
In addition to following these simple tips to keep your aquarium maintenance schedule stress-free, you should also make sure you set up your tank appropriately. Choosing the right location for your tank means you’ll gain the maximum benefit while avoiding additional challenges. Placing the tank too close to an air vent, for example, might cause temperature fluctuations while exposure to natural light might increase unwanted algae growth.
Keeping a home aquarium should bring you peace, not anxiety. With proper setup and a regular maintenance schedule, you can enjoy all the health benefits your aquarium has to offer while minimizing the stress of keeping your tank clean and healthy.