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Discover a World of Health Benefits in Your Home Aquarium

By Skye Sherman  •   January 4, 2022

Photo Credit: by Ironfanyu, @instagram
Photo Credit: by Ironfanyu, @instagram

If you’ve ever seen an aquarium at a home, restaurant, zoo, or even out in public, you know how fun it can be to watch the creatures living within.

Fish tanks can be filled with colorful fish, corals, interesting underwater structures, and more. They can house freshwater fish or saltwater fish and can be sized anywhere from a small goldfish bowl to a massive wall-length aquarium.

You’ll have to venture out to a museum or aquarium to see one, but some fish tanks are massive. The biggest aquarium in the world, Chimelong Ocean Kingdom in China, holds 13 million gallons of water! The Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta is another huge aquarium, holding around 11 million gallons. You can even go scuba diving in it.

Surprisingly, fish tanks offer a wide range of health benefits to your mental, emotional, and even physical health. But there are also reports of fish tanks having the power to make you sick.

So what are the health benefits and risks of having a home aquarium? In stressful times like these, most of us are open to whatever we can find to help chill out and find joy. Read on to discover more about the health benefits and potential risks of having a fish tank at home.

The popularity of home aquariums

It’s true that cats and dogs are the most typical and common pets. But did you know that fish tanks are very popular as well?

The most recent APPA National Pet Owners Survey reports that there are 11.8 million households in the United States with freshwater fish as a pet, and about 2.9 million households with saltwater fish. That’s a lot of people with home aquariums! Fish are the third most popular type of pet after dogs and cats, beating out other pet types such as horses, birds, reptiles, and other small animals.

It is a big responsibility to manage a home aquarium, but fish are relatively low maintenance pets, which is why many people love having a fish aquarium in their home. They don’t need quite as much care, attention, time, and money as the typical dog or cat does.

But that’s not the only reason people love to have a home aquarium. In addition to the fact that they are a pretty easy pet to manage, especially for children or those who are away from home often, there are some health benefits that fish can bring as well.

Health benefits of having a fish tank at home: reduce your stress levels

If you have a fish tank at home or have ever enjoyed watching one for hours on end, it may not surprise you to learn that fish tanks might be good for your health. Many of us know that home aquariums bring joy and peace even if we can’t explain why.

Like other elements not commonly found in our modern world, fish tanks bring a bit of nature into our homes. That’s one of the biggest benefits. Did you know that even roses offer health and beauty benefits? When you expose your body and mind to glimpses of nature, they respond accordingly. In our fast-paced world, we crave the simple pleasures of nature.

Fish tanks benefit us because they are a source of stress relief. An article on the RateMyFishTank website states, “It’s no secret that owning a pet has measurable benefits for your health, but these benefits are typically associated with traditional pets like dogs and cats. There’s a reason, however, that doctor’s offices and health clinics all over the world have fish tanks in them. Your home aquarium could be just as beneficial for your health as the family dog.”

The article also provides some of the top health benefits of home aquariums. Probably the biggest and most tangible benefit of having a fish tank at home is that a home aquarium can reduce your stress levels.

The article explains, “It’s difficult to feel stressed when looking at a thriving home aquarium. There’s just something peaceful about it that calms you and those around you. This is part of the reason you’ll find fish tanks in high-stress environments like offices and hospitals. Managing your stress level is very important for your overall health and wellbeing. Not only can spending time around your tank help calm you down but having a routine you follow in taking care of it can be beneficial as well.”

Stress is one of the biggest silent killers out there. It can decrease your overall health and lead straight to disease and major life complications. Keeping your stress levels low is an essential piece of health care maintenance and illness prevention.

A fish tank can help you sleep better and lower your blood pressure

A lower stress level is not the only health benefit of a fish tank, though. Some speculate that home aquariums can also improve your sleep quality, whether by providing white noise if it’s located in the room you sleep in or simply giving you something calming to watch as you wind down at night.

All of this peacefulness can also lead to lower blood pressure and a slower heart rate. RateMyFishTank reports that having a home aquarium can actually improve your heart health. “Looking at a fish tank can slow your heart rate and lower your blood pressure. According to one study, looking at an empty tank reduced heart rate by 3% while a tank with fish present yielded a 7% reduction.”

If you have high blood pressure or other issues with your heart health, placing a fish tank in your home might be a major factor in you feeling better.

Fish tanks can lower anxiety and pain levels

Consider your home aquarium a safe and healthy form of hypnosis. “Not only does your heart rate slow down and your blood pressure normalizes, but you may find your stress and worry slipping away as well. The presence of an aquarium has been shown to reduce anxiety and pain in dental patients. According to a scientific report, having an aquarium in the waiting room decreased pain felt during dental procedures as well as the amount of pain medication needed afterward.”

Yes, that’s right: your home fish tank might lead to less anxiety and physical pain, which not only helps your mental health but your overall physical health, too. Even spending time in a public aquarium can help.

Fish tanks can benefit people with conditions like hyperactivity and Alzheimer’s

Aquariums can be especially helpful to children with hyperactivity disorders and Alzheimer's patients. The article reports, “In one study conducted at Purdue University, the presence of a fish tank at home improved mood, alertness, and appetite in Alzheimer’s patients while reducing aggressive behavior.” Improving alertness and happiness can be a very good thing to those battling mental health issues.

On top of these clear and direct health benefits, a home aquarium can also help improve your focus and creativity levels by providing an inspiring source of healthy entertainment and a place for your mind to take a restful break.

Risks of having a fish tank at home: the dangers of melioidosis

Now we know about all the health benefits of having a home fish tank. But are there any risks? It seems home aquariums have a very low risk of harming you, but it’s best to be aware of all the possibilities, even if bad situations are rare.

According to the CDC, “Although fish and aquarium water can spread germs to people, illness due to keeping fish is rare. By giving routine care to your fish and their aquarium as well as following some simple health tips you are less likely to get sick from touching, feeding, or owning aquarium fish.” The CDC says the most common diseases people can get from aquarium fish come from bacteria such as Aeromonas, Mycobacterium marinum, salmonella, and Streptococcus iniae.

An article published in LiveScience addresses another of the risks of having a fish tank. While fish tanks are generally very low-risk, one woman in Maryland recently made the news after she contracted a rare bacterial infection called melioidosis from her fish tank. The illness is usually not seen in the United States, but she contracted it from an unlikely place: her home aquarium.

The article states, “The disease, called melioidosis, is usually seen only in tropical areas outside of the U.S., and when cases do appear in the U.S., they almost always occur in people who have traveled to other countries. The Maryland case, which occurred in 2019 and is described in a report published Sept. 27 in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, is unusual because the woman had never traveled outside the U.S. Her case is also the first in the world to be connected to a home aquarium.”

Though it’s very rare, melioidosis usually comes from an imported product. It is caused by the bacterium Burkholderia pseudomallei, which grows in tropical climates. It is typically seen in Southeast Asia and northern Australia, and infection can come from contact with contaminated soil or water, including inhaling, touching, consuming, or swallowing.

The woman, aged 56, had a history of diabetes and was hospitalized with symptoms of a lung infection, such as a cough, chest pain, and high fever. Preliminary tests showed that she had pneumonia, but further testing revealed that she was infected with Burkholderia pseudomallei. Doctors began treating her with the antibiotic meropenem and it took her about 12 weeks of continued antibiotic treatment before her infection cleared.

It’s likely that the infection happened because the woman cleaned her fish tank and handled fish tank supplies with her bare hands, and she may have had an open wound while doing so. If you have a fish tank, it’s a good idea to wash your hands before and after cleaning your aquarium or when feeding your fish. Wearing gloves won’t hurt, either.

Anti-infective and antibiotic medications can be very effective in treating infections, but you still want to avoid infections at all costs, as they can be deadly or cause long-term health complications. Always consult a trusted doctor or pharmacist before taking any medication.

Other potential risks of having a fish tank at home include the risk of contracting salmonella. Do not place it in your bedroom, and always protect yourself when cleaning the tank by wearing gloves and safety goggles.

Overall, the risks of having a fish tank are very low while the potential benefits to your mental and physical health are very high, so it’s likely that these far outweigh the slim chances of you catching an infection from your home fish tank.

Maybe it’s time for you to make a trip to the pet store! You can set up a budget home DIY aquarium by ordering the various parts online or visit your local pet store to purchase everything you need and pick up tips from the trained employees there.

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Disclaimer:

The purpose of the above content is to raise awareness only and does not advocate treatment or diagnosis. This information should not be substituted for your physician's consultation and it should not indicate that use of the drug is safe and suitable for you or your (pet). Seek professional medical advice and treatment if you have any questions or concerns.