Aquariums are good for the soul

Science has now confirmed what fishkeeping fans have known for some time: watching fish, shrimps and so on in their underwater world is relaxing and promotes well-being. Standing by a gently babbling river, watching the water or gazing out over a favourite landscape – again and again, studies confirm that calm moments in nature help people to relax.

Researchers at the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth have now proven that aquariums – and the fish that live in them – offer the same form of relaxation. Its huge tanks have been pulling in the crowds for a long time now. When one of the tanks was restored and gradually filled with new aquatic creatures, the scientists seized the opportunity to conduct a small study.

Observing the observers

The researchers watched the visitors who looked at the new aquarium and measured various parameters – in particular their blood pressure and pulse to draw conclusions about their stress levels. They also used surveys to ask about the visitors’ health. Participants provided information about their mental well-being. And the results were clear: ‘We were able to show that the underwater landscapes had a positive effect on people’s moods’, explains head researcher Deborah Cracknell.

Watching fish in an aquarium

Lots to see

Watching the fish in their underwater world had a quantifiable effect on visitors’ stress levels. The longer they spent watching the fish, the greater the impact. To make this clear, the scientists recorded data at three different points: when the aquarium contained only water, when it was half-filled with creatures, and again when the aquarium was completely set up with all fish and plants. They concluded that the more creatures the aquarium contains, the greater the effect. Looking at the aquarium reduced visitors’ heart rates and made them more relaxed.

Haven of relaxation

Up to now, large aquarium experience centres have seen themselves primarily as places of education and clarification. ‘But they can offer totally different benefits as well’, states Dr Sabine Pahl, co-author of the study. In stressful times, underwater worlds could serve as havens of calm and relaxation – particularly for people who do not have the opportunity to enjoy nature. Watching fish swimming around an aquarium and losing yourself in the experience for long periods reduces stress and helps you stay healthy for longer. And as Cracknell explains, the aquarium does not necessarily have to be huge: ‘It has already been shown several times that even small home aquariums have a calming effect on the body and reduce stress.’

Aquariums are a great choice for everyone, not just experienced aquarists. As well as their calming effect, they are easy to maintain and do not take up too much time. But maintenance is important – only a well-kept aquarium will look nice, keep your fish healthy and help you to feel good too. With various aquatic plants, fish and creatures, an aquarium can be an eye-catching feature in any home and good for the soul – both for you and your guests.