If you have ever had a fish tank in your home or seen an aquarium at the dentist office, you may catch yourself looking at the beautiful colors of live rock, reef and/or fish. Have you also noticed your body reacting in a calmer manner? Maybe just by being able to breathe easier, think clearer, or feel relaxed? Us too! There are actually health benefits from enjoying the beautiful views of an aquarium that have been studied for years such as blood pressure and heart rate levels and even Alzheimer’s. In fact, “Something Fishy” is an aquarium design, maintenance and installation company that creates Mobile Aquatic Therapy aquarium tanks that are available for patient care at health facilities in the Chicagoland area. Take a look at their website to learn more here.
Blood Pressure, Heart Rate & Improved Mood
The University of Plymouth and The University of Exeter conducted an experiment in 2015 working together along with experts from the National Marine Aquarium to record and study the physical and mental responses of people viewing tanks with different numbers of fish. During the refurbishment and restocking of a large fish aquarium exhibit, the first condition was filled with just artificial decoration and seawater. The second condition presented the tank partially stocked with fish. Lastly, the third condition was a fully stocked tank which held the most diversity.
The results founded for Blood pressure, drops in systolic and diastolic were recorded from every participant in all 3 conditions, excluding 2 participants whose readings were unreliable. (Cracknell, p.1, 2016).
Heart rate results showed “Specifically, there was a main effect of time in all three conditions. In each case, the planned repeated contrasts showed significant drops in heart rate over the first 5 min but no further significant change from 5 to 10 min” (Cracknell, p.1, 2016). The fully stocked, third condition had a more significant drop in comparison to the other two.
The participants reported they felt more relaxed and that their mood was increased in a positive way in all 3 conditions. (Cracknell, p.1, 2016).
In 1999, Purdue University’s Professor Nancy Edwards studied 60 individuals who lived in 3 different homes specialized in caring for elders with Alzheimer’s in Indiana. Baseline information on each individual’s eating and behavioral patterns were recorded for four (4) weeks before introducing fish tanks in the first 2 studies and were observed for four more weeks after that. To determine if the tank had lasting effects (if any), data was collected for 6 weeks following the removal of the tanks. The third study was subject to the same treatment, but were introduced to a picture of a seascape four weeks prior to the fish tank addition.
The results were surprising. Edwards says aquariums improve attentiveness and alertness in these patients and may spark short term memory. Edwards shares her experience with one patient that asked her how many fish were in the tank she was observing. This patient had a history of not conversing with the staff or other patients in the facility. “We were absolutely amazed, because we had no idea that this woman could talk, much less count” (Gaidos, Edwards, p.1 1999).
Overall, the study found that patients who were introduced to fish tanks were more alert, relaxed, and ate an average of 17.2% more food which is a hardship for caregivers because many patients are pacing, running around, or too drowsy to stay awake to eat. Also, data suggests a decrease in common behaviors such as pacing, yelling and physical aggression. (Gaidos, Edwards, p.1 1999).
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Sources and further readings:
Marine Biota and Psychological Well-being: A Preliminary Examination Of Dose–response Effects in an Aquarium Setting – Deborah Cracknell, Mathew P. White, Sabine Pahl, Wallace J. Nichols, Michael H. Depledge, 2016
Purdue News, Susan Gaidos, Nancy Edwards 1999