Let's face it. In the fast-paced, on-the-go world that we live in today with our endless to-do lists and only 24 hours to do them every day (if you don't eat, sleep, or relax that is), it is very easy to get stressed. Our generation has more documented cases of anxiety disorders, chronic panic attacks, and other health issues related to excessive stress and overwhelm than any other in human history.
However, scientists have determined that viewing and engaging in aquatics (by simply watching underwater environments or by expressing creativity by designing and cultivating your own marine habitat) is proven to significantly reduce not only feelings of stress and anxiety, but also their physical expression in the body.
Our first study (Kidd and Kidd) interviewed 50 men and 50 women in pet stores that sold fish products and found that a majority of pet fish owners reported “the calming, relaxation, and stress-reduction effects of just watching fish which lessened anxieties and created a sense of serenity.”
Another study (Barker, Best, Rasmussen) observed an aquarium’s effect on electroconvulsive therapy (a very invasive and uncomfortable treatment for mental disorders) patients and found an average of 12% reduced feelings of anxiety from those who viewed an aquarium for a few minutes prior to treatment than from patients who did not.
A third study (Cracknell, White, Pahl) conducted at the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth, England documented visitors’ physical and psychological reactions to viewing a large 550,000L (around 145,000 gallon) tank while restocking it with fish and other marine life.
What they found was that at all phases of restocking, even just watching an empty tank with the movement of the light through the water and of the artificial seaweed, both blood pressure and heart rate of the viewers dropped.
However, when fish were added, the drops in both blood pressure and heart rate were much more significant, and it increased the more fish there were. Additionally, the mood of the viewers greatly improved due to the number and biodiversity of the fish present in the tank.
Here's a graph showing the average reported states or emotions of the viewers over time. Notice how during all phases of restocking, the viewers became much more calm, content, and positive.
This indicates that not only the number of fish affects a viewer’s stress levels, but also things like varied species, color, size, etc. In short, the more variation, the better viewing experience and positive effect on your mood and body. Keep this in mind when designing your marine habitat.