Can a Pet Fish Impact Human Mental Health?

Having a pet fish can greatly improve your mental health. Watching fish swim has a soothing effect while caring for them helps form healthy habits.

Sep 19, 2023By Natasha Elder
can pet fish impact human mental health

Pets and mental health go hand in hand. But we typically associate this type of mental health help with cuddly animals such as cats and dogs. It’s a fact: pet fish just don’t offer the same level of companionship and engagement as other pets. But can they provide any therapeutic benefits? Can a pet fish impact human mental health? Let’s find out.

Watching Fish Can Boost Relaxation and Reduce Anxiety

betta fish swimming glass tank
Image credit: Khoa Pham on Unsplash

The act of watching fish swim can have a calming effect on the person watching them, which helps reduce overall levels of stress and anxiety. The mesmerizing movements of the fish and the soothing sound of flowing water are the perfect duo for promoting a sense of serenity. Even the gentle gurgle and slight hum of pumps and filters are perfect white noise to some!

Throw in the visual stimuli of gently swaying aquatic plants, pops of color provided by decorations, and the added ambiance brought on by the aquarium lights, and you might just have created your new happy place.

This isn’t just popular opinion, formed by people who love fish and sing their praise. It is now a well-established and scientifically proven fact that fish gazing can help soothe anxiety. Research from a 2016 study shows that fish tanks are even used in dental offices and doctor’s practices as a tool to help settle awaiting patients’ nerves. Links between keeping fish and lowered heart rate, lowered blood pressure, and even improved cognitive health for Alzheimer’s patients exist. Who knows, maybe the key to good health lies at the bottom of a fish tank!

Pet Fish Can Be Great Companions

hand holding fish bowl goldfish
Image credit: Hale Tat on Unsplash

Pet fish aren’t always an obvious choice of companion, purely because people usually gravitate towards animals that can provide them with physical companionship and feelings of comfort like cats, dogs, bunnies, and guinea pigs. But in reality, pet fish can be great therapy animals and even greater general companions. Fish are fully capable of forming emotional bonds with humans and can alleviate feelings of loneliness.

While fish might not offer as high a level of interaction as the animals mentioned above can, they can still make great companions. If companionship is the specific goal, you must make sure that you opt for a fish with lots of personality and not one that is known for being shy. Just watching fish swim around their tanks can make people feel less alone. On top of this, the general fish-keeping community is a very friendly one so you may be able to find some human friends who share this hobby with you.

Fish Can Help You Look After Yourself

woman feeding fish smiling
Image credit: FishLab

Fish are amongst the most popular pets because – on top of many other reasons why fish are fantastic pets -- they’re low maintenance and easy to care for. But there is a certain level of daily responsibility in play when it comes to owning a fish, regardless of the breed. Maintaining water conditions, cleaning the tank, and feeding the fish are all daily tasks that must be completed – all of which provide a sense of purpose and routine which benefits those battling with mental health issues like depression and loneliness.

By focusing on the well-being of your fish, the focus is shifted from your own struggles and troubles. The simple act of looking after something can make a person feel as though they are looking after themselves. Those daily tasks mentioned above can go a really long way in forming healthy habits.

Fish Tanks Can Be Entertaining

live coral aquarium aquascape
Image credit: QUI NGUYEN on Unsplash

Fish tanks can provide hours of entertainment and serve as a much-needed distraction from daily stressors. Designing and setting up the tank with aquarium essentials, researching compatible species, and always thinking of ways you can enhance your tank (and those within it) is a great form of escapism.

From picking the perfect aquatic plants to selecting the substrate, setting up and decorating a fish tank is a very rewarding task. And one of the biggest rewards of this act? Being able to sit back and admire your hard work once it’s all done. From start to finish, setting up an aquarium is a fantastic stress management project. Another great aspect of this is that when you get bored or feel like a change, there is nothing stopping you from redecorating, rearranging, customizing, or expanding your tank.

Natasha Elder
By Natasha Elder

Natasha is a mother, a wife, a writer, and a serial cat owner. Though she is currently in mourning, her heart not ready for another feline family member just yet, she has always lived life with four paws beside her. She loves – you guessed it – cats, as well as creatures of the fluffy, scaly, and finned variety. Natasha longs to meet Sir David Attenborough one day and is passionate about responsible pet ownership