News ArticleFeeling Stressed? Watching aquarium fish can help.
By Dr. Marty Becker

While eating fish such as salmon has been shown to be beneficial to human health, so too is watching fish swimming in a fish tank. And that’s no whopper of a fish story.

Three former University of Pennsylvania researchers found that quietly watching fish swimming in a home aquarium eases stress and may offer a means of treating hypertension.

FishUrban ecologist Alan Beck, psychiatrist Aaron Katcher and biologist Erika Freidmann knew that research had shown that petting a dog or cat lowered stress and they wanted to see if interactions with other animals produced similar results. They selected fish because they are such common pets. The American Pet Products Manufacturers Association reports that fish ownership in the United States is the highest it’s been in a decade, with 14.7 million households owning more that 148 million fish.

In the study, the volunteers were asked to read aloud, a proven stress inducer. Then they would have a period of rest, then watch an aquarium. Some subjects watched the aquarium first, then rested, then read. The researchers automatically recorded the participants’ blood pressure. Those who had fish in the room had the greatest reduction of blood pressure.

A reduction of blood pressure is one way to measure a reduction of stress. A number of ailments have been associated with high stress in daily life, including heart attacks, sleep disorders and some ulcers.

Watch the bubbles, articulated ornaments, dancing plants and rainbow colored gravel and you get less blood pressure reduction and it creeps back up much  faster says Alan Beck. The fish are the key to better human health. “With fish in the tanks, you truly get relaxation.”

Knowing that fish can help people live happier, healthier lives, some companies have more than gotten their feet wet when it comes to raising the tide of aquariums.

“For many years, our company has provided high quality products that have helped to promote healthy fish and aquariums because we recognize the important role and the health benefits of aquarium fish for people,” said Dr. Albert Ahn, veterinarian and corporate vice president of the Hartz Mountain Corp.

Fish“An increasing number of offices, classrooms and homes are being equipped with aquariums, as additional studies show watching fish contributes to stress and anxiety reduction, relaxation and even leads to enhanced creativity and learning environments,” said Bob Vetere, managing director of the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association.

The evidence that pets may improve health is strong enough to justify implementation of carefully designed and monitored pet placement programs for people in special settings and institutions says Beck, now with the Purdue College of Veterinary Medicine.

“Ordinary interactions with animals can reduce blood pressure and alter survival after a heart attack. Pets, for some, afford increased opportunities to meet people, while for others, pets permit people to be alone without being lonely.”

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