It's official: fishkeeping is good for your health! Researchers have found that people who spend their time watching fish in aquariums benefit from enhanced physical and mental wellbeing.
In the first study of its kind, experts from the National Marine Aquarium, Plymouth University, and the University of Exeter assessed people’s physical and mental responses to tanks containing varying numbers of fish.
They discovered that viewing aquarium displays led to appreciable reductions in both blood pressure and heart rate, with higher numbers of fish holding people's attention for longer and subsequently having a positive effect on their mood.
Whilst its long been known that spending time amongst nature has a soothing effect on the body, there has been little in the way of reliable research into the effect that spending time viewing underwater life has on our health. It has always been assumed that it helped to relax people, hence the presence of fish tanks in dental waiting rooms and doctor's surgeries in order to try and calm the nerves. However, this study has, for the first time, provided solid evidence that exposure to underwater life has a positive impact on our wellbeing.
A unique opportunity arose when a 550,000 litre (120,983 imp gal) display aquarium at the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth was due to be refurbished. When it was up and running again, a phased introduction of different fish species took place. Participants in the study had their blood pressure, heart rate, and mood assessed as fish were released back into the exhibit in stages, and numbers of them gradually increased. The researchers found that the blood pressure and heart rate of those watching the fish decreased as they gazed at the goings on in the aquarium. Greater numbers of fish seemed to keep their attention focussed, and this helped them to unwind and brought about a boost in their general mood.
Whilst public aquaria exist for educational, research, and conservational purposes, this study clearly shows that time spent observing the tranquil rituals of underwater life is beneficial for the health. In recent times, when stress (and its association with numerous health problems) has become so prevalent for many, fish tanks in the home or workplace can provide an oasis of calm in an otherwise hectic environment. It is an especially significant and exciting find for those who are unable to spend regular time outside, bringing a small piece of nature indoors. And for those of us already reaping the healthy rewards of the hobby, it's a great excuse to squeeze in yet another tank and pay more visits to your local branch of Maidenhead Aquatics!
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