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Thinking of keeping a fish tank at home? Not only is a home aquarium enjoyable, entertaining and a good hobby for any family member, it is also a proven benefit to your health. In a time where stress is at an all time high with pandemics, high work stress, and increased anxiety an aquarium can really help alleviate stress.
And that’s not just me being bias about my 25 years in the hobby. My statements are backed up by various medical studies made over the years. It’s not secret that keeping a pet is great for your health, and aquarium fish are no exception. Let’s good though the various benefits in this post.
An overview on the hobby
According to a study made by the 2021 American Pet Products Association (APPA), fish are the third most popular pet behind dogs and cats and ahead from birds
|Pet||Number (in Millions)|
Freshwater and saltwater fish are separated into two separate categories on this survey. Adding them both up, that is nearly 15 million aquarium owners in the US!
The Top 5 Health Benefits of Home Aquariums
1. Reduced levels of stress
Do you have a stressful life, high blood pressure, insomnia? Studies have shown that aquarium may provide significant health benefits to you. Studies go back as far as the 80’s have shown that gazing at aquarium fish reduces stress and subsequently lowers blood pressure. It’s no wonder why it is a common site to see aquariums in doctors and dentist lobbies – they have known about the stress reliving benefits for years!
The recent study by the University of Exeter Medical School showed that exposure to natural environments and highly managed settings can have calming and stress relieving effects.
Furthermore, the study found that there was an increased stress relieving and calming effect on fish, in particular tropical and marine fish. There was a strong correlation between more biodiversity (fish and aquatic plants/corals) and reduced levels of stress and blood pressure.
Reduced stress and blood pressure are great benefits, but it goes much further than that. According to the Women’s Heart Foundation, a number of aliments have been associated with with high stress levels in daily life including heart attacks, sleep disorders, and some ulcers.
2. Improvements in Sleep Quality
According to a survey conducted by the American Pet Products Associate, 66 percent of stated that their aquarium help relieve them of stress. Lower blood pressure and lower stress contributes to better sleep. After all, there is a sleep condition linked to high blood pressure and stress called Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OCA).
We see even greater evidence in the hobby itself. I know of two such examples. The first is Travis from Fish of Hex. He was an ex vet serving in the US Army who got deployed to Afghanistan from 2007-2008. He was diagnosed with PTSD after returning home and has stated on his about us page that keep reef tanks has help him cope ever since. He is so passionate about this, he created a Reef Tank for Veterans program where he builds reef tanks for sufferers of PTSD.
3. Lowered blood pressure and heart rate
Research has shown that keeping an aquarium can help lower blood pressure and heart rates. A study found that the presence of an aquarium reduced the blood pressure and increased relaxation among patients of specialized dementia units.2
4. Decreased pain and anxiety
Ever wonder why so many dental offices have aquariums? It’s because the dentist know there are studies that show that dental patients viewing the aquariums in the waiting room experience less anxiety and need less pain medication3.
In the linked study, the key factor was the living fish. Something about viewing fish swimming in an aquarium calms are minds down. It’s no wonder we see them everywhere at Dental offices.
5. Calming effect for children and Alzheimer’s patients
Another study made by Purdue University found that display tanks of brightly colored fish may curtail disruptive behaviors and and improve eating habits of those with Alzheimer’s disease. The study also revealed that the fish tanks stimulated cognitive thoughts with Alzheimer patients.
Costs Of An Aquarium Tank
One of the biggest fears for beginners is the cost of keeping an aquarium. This fear comes from advanced hobbyists like reef tank owners or people who have made many mistakes in the past from their fish keeping journey. Aquariums are not that expensive, especially if you go with a freshwater aquarium.
Let’s compare the cost of keeping a fish to the two most popular pets in the US – cats and dogs. If we go to the ASPCA website, there is an article about annual costs for dogs and cats. According to their post, the annual cost of a dog is $1,391 while a cat is $1,149. Your initial one-time costs are $1,030 for dogs, and $455 for cats. This is before looking at grooming for a dog and dental for both pets. We total out to over $3,000 for the first year of ownership for a dog. See the summarized table below:
In the chart above, I’m comparing the cost between keeping a Dog or Cat vs. a 5 gallon freshwater fish tank. Here we can see that keeping a small freshwater fish tank can be nearly 10 times less than the cost of a Dog. Why did I pick a 5 gallon fish tank? Because in the freshwater hobby, the perfect fish for a 5 gallon fish tank is a betta fish. Betta fish are great individual pets, are highly rewarding, and you can bound with them as they are a single fish versus a community of fish.
This setup listed is on the higher end, using a premium Fluval Spec V and accounting for a quality diet and a fancier Betta Type varieties.
Why Keep A Fish Tank At Home?
Now that we know the health benefits and the cost, let’s go into further detail why purchasing a fish tank and keeping is a good idea. Sure the health benefits are great, but what about the other reasons. They are a pet after all that require responsibility. Let’s see what else they have to offer.
Peace and Quiet
One of the biggest downsides to keeping a dog that I have personally experienced is the noise factor. Some dogs can be loud with barking or particularly needy at times. Fish tanks can be noisy as well, if you invest in cheap equipment.
Education Opportunities for Kids
it’s quite common in schools to have science projects involving aquatic animals. This is because a child can learn a lot about ecosystems, the nitrogen cycle, and identifying and treating aliments. It also can unfortunately a way to introduce kids to the concept of death.
Perhaps I’m sounding morbid here, but I did remember the first time my youngest son Rhys had to see a yellow tang I quarantined that ended up passed away due to marine velvet. I did the right thing quarantining the fish since that disease didn’t go into my display tank. Still, I had to explain to my son what death was.
Fish die in our hobby. Some fish live shorter lives than other pets and they can die for various reasons. The fact that I had to explain this to a pet first instead of a family member I felt was really helping in him understanding how the cycle of life worked.
While it is true that aquariums can get very large and showy from shows like Tanked, we also know that smaller aquariums can fit on a desktop or countertop. With homes getting smaller from increased cost of living, it’s nice to have a pet option that doesn’t require a large backyard, a litter box, or a large bird cage.
Most aquariums that people purchase in this hobby are going to be 2 feet in length or shorter. It’s when you jump into 3 foot + fish tanks where space can be an issue in the home. Stick to smaller fish tanks and you won’t have a space issue.
Dogs require a lot of attention. Larger breeds require to be walked several miles a day. Cat need a little box cleaned, which can get unslightly if not regularly kept up.
I actually see a lot of similarities with cats and fish as both in general will be okay with an autonomous existence. The main difference is fish are in their own little world. They will be happy to see you feed them and are perfectly happy if you leave them alone. Many advanced hobbyist who perform aquascaping look at aquariums like living works of art.
The maintenance of a simple setup is low with a smaller tank and sticking to freshwater systems. Water changes are fairly painless and cleaning the tank is less work than cleaning a little box.
The aquarium hobby is a huge community. There are regular tradeshows like Aquashella that celebrate the diversity of the hobby and local fish clubs are great for getting mentored and getting pro tips on advanced topics like fish breeding.
Clubs are a great place to find friends and connect with other aquarium keepers. You can take the hobby further and enter competitions or learn to make money in the hobby by selling plants, baby fish, or even corals. The opportunities are endless in this hobby!
If you are going for a large aquarium or more premium setup, the aesthetics of an aquarium have big benefits in a house. Large well designed home aquarium setups are centerpieces in rooms. Rimless aquariums really show well in homes. They can become a focal point, even a point of envy by some of your quests. Both the outside and inside of the aquarium can be show stoppers. Even the equipment is starting to look fancy!
I’ve seen happy owners show off their aquariums to guest. They pop up their cabinet and show off their decked out sumps with an IPad display. It’s pretty crazy how some of the tools of our trade resemble tech toys now and as our hobby advances in technology we will see more smart tools being integrated in our aquariums.
Do fish like being in tanks?
In general, yes. In the freshwater side of the hobby, fish living in aquariums often times live longer and healthier lives than their wild counterparts. Fish do not have the mental capacity like birds or dogs to like or dislike their situation, however, they will get stressed out of they are uncomfortable. If the fish are kept with a responsible owner, they have the potential to live long and healthy lives!
Why is it good to have fish as a pet?
Fish can be great to have as pets. Not only are they long term cheaper than owning a cat and a dog, they have been proven in studies to reduce stress, improve sleep quality, lower blood pressure, reduce anxiety, improve focus, and have a calming effect.
Is it good to have an aquarium in the house?
It is a good idea to have an aquarium in the house. Studies from University of Exeter Medical school showed that there was stress relief and a calming effect with keeping fish.
Is it okay to have a fish tank in your bedroom?
Yes, it is okay to have a fish tank in your bedroom. However, there are few things to note. Having an aquarium will increase the humidity. There is also a noise factor if you have equipment that is loud. For bedroom or study areas, using higher end equipment like canister filters will keep noise levels down.
Closing Thoughts For Having A Fish Tank At Home
If you are looking for a stress management activity, you might consider maintaining a home aquarium or an aquarium in your work place. Many people maintain a home aquarium as a stress management hobby. Check out our blog about setting up a saltwater tank or check out our store and shop around for aquarium supplies and equipment.