Research carried out back in 2005 found that “contact with nature may provide an effective population-wide strategy in the prevention of mental ill-health”. Animals are able to provide us with a sense of calm and comfort while developing a bond with an animal can promote self-worth and self-regulation.
Many domesticated and furry animals like dogs and cats are kept as pets, and some of them become more by acting as Emotional Support Animals.
In this article, we shall elaborate on a different kind of pet that is rather common and easily reared for therapeutic purposes: fishes!
Types of Fishes for Pets
There are many types of fishes that make common choices as pets. The most popular types of pet fish include:
- betta fish (also known as Siamese fighting fish)
- common & fantail goldfish
- Achilles tang/ Achilles surgeonfish
Part of the reason why goldfish and bettas are so popular is that they can live in water temperatures that don’t always require heaters. They can tolerate some variation in water chemistry compared to other fish, are generally healthy eaters, and are hardier than other fish.
Fishes Do More Than Swimming Around
Have you ever wondered why most waiting rooms have one common thing? They all have aquariums or fish tanks right in the middle of the room and it is not purely for decor purposes. Studies have proven that watching fish reduces stress & anxiety levels while improving mental health.
So, what makes fishes an effective therapy?
Animal-assisted therapy can be helpful for those individuals who battle with addiction, schizophrenia and depression. Did you know you can get similar benefits by watching fish? Either through having your own fish tank, or through visits to an aquarium.
Research with people who keep home aquaria has indicated that some individuals consider their fish to be a source of companionship, and feel an emotional bond with the animals; this suggests social support and attachment may play a role in the beneficial effects of human-fish interaction.
Benefits of Watching Fish
Did you know, gardeners tend to include fish ponds as part of landscaping, especially in Japanese houses? Specifically, they are koi fish ponds, which are a traditional staple in a Japanese garden due to the fishes’ symbolism and tranquil appearance. Watching koi swim can be a meditative experience, especially when they gracefully glide through the water and sometimes casually jumping out of the water as their own personal trick!
Fish are known to have a tranquil, calming effect on anyone who watches them glide serenely through the water. Watching fish swimming promotes human well-being because this activity provides exposure to unthreatening nature, leading to restoration.
The benefits of fish therapy are evident for both children and adults.
- Helps with anxiety
- Lowers blood pressure
- Reduces heart rate by 5 to 6 beats per minute
- Improves mood
- Greater degree of relaxation
Fish have also been shown to help people with Alzheimer’s by reducing disruptive behaviour & physical aggression. Their appetite also increased and allowed them to eat better.
The University of Pennsylvania has also found that keeping fish is an effective therapy in helping children who have disruptive behaviour disorders. It has been proven to improve the emotional wellbeing of those with autism, behavioural issues, and certain medical conditions.
A wide variety of fish and the more vibrant coloured they will provide better results. The more fish you see, the better your mood will be.
They might not be doing much as just swimming through the water; however, fishes generally make people feel significantly happier and more relaxed.
BONUS HEALTH TIP: The Soothing Sound of Water
Another possibility that fishes provide such tranquility is that even if they do not speak to us, their surroundings do. Water sounds are a significant component in audios for relaxation because humans respond well to water’s rhythmic sounds.
The sound of flowing water and the swish of their tails provides ambient sounds. Even the small “plop” of bubbles can be comforting.
It’s Not Just A ‘Fishy’ Situation
All in all, fish make truly wonderful pets for people who don't have the time or physical space to devote to a higher-maintenance companion animal. Should you be looking for an emotional support animal that is not furry, you may consider small fishes.
Remember, fishes might not need too much attention in their care schedule, however, do look out for abnormalities in their behaviour – like if they are looking sick or a little ‘off’ and consult a vet for their advice.
NOTE: Fishes are considered low-maintenance animals, and are easier & less expensive compared to other pets. Nevertheless, they still require a proper environment and knowledgeable caretakers like the proper water quality and temperature. Fish don't develop separation anxiety and distress or destructive behaviors when left alone.
Looking for more proper and certified online advice regarding pet therapy, or just would like to get a second opinion on your pets’ health? You ask a professional vet or animal doctor online and LIVE on our WhatsDoc platform and app for free. Please note that you might need a statement from a licensed mental health professional.
9. Pet Therapy