Pet fish may not be the first thing you think of as a treatment for depression. After all, fish don’t communicate—at least not in the traditional sense—and they’re not the cuddliest of animals. Fish, however, may be most underrated. They do much more than swim and eat. It turns out that they’re great emotional support animals (ESA) and can help with loneliness and depression. 

Fish and the Home

The 2019-2020 National Pet Owners Survey found that fish rank third as the most frequently owned type of pet by Americans. It’s easy to understand why 13.1 million families have at least one fish as a pet; Fish are relatively easy animals to manage. They require minimal food and routine care. When it comes to grooming and toileting, fish are somewhat independent. Unlike dogs that need regular walks, the grooming and toileting needs of fish are through intermittent tank cleanings. 

What Is Loneliness and Depression 

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), loneliness and depression are treatable conditions. Depression is more common in people who have chronic conditions like heart disease and in older adults. However, loneliness and depression aren’t part of the normal process of life or growing old, and finding ways to treat both are essential. 

Treating Depression With Animals

The Human-Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) studies the effect pets have on human conditions, both mental and physical. HABRI’s research indicates that pets reduce feelings of loneliness, encourage a sense of purpose, and increase self-confidence. Pets can help treat mental health concerns, making them an excellent option for people with depression. 

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Using a Pet Fish to Alleviate Depression

Although there are distinct physical barriers that prevent humans from interacting with fish, pet fish can still benefit their owner’s mental health. Studies show that the simple act of merely observing fish in their aquariums can lift spirits. The fact that fish are so exotic and removed from our human world is a plus when watching their behavior. 

Fish ponds are in many tranquil gardens for a reason; the movement of fish are graceful and hypnotic, which places people in a peaceful state. A 2016 study documented in the journal Health Promotion International states that “nature plays a vital role in human health and well-being.” 

Fish aquariums are so different from the human world that it allows people to transport themselves away and help relieve depression.

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A Change in Routine

A pet fish is a relatively low-maintenance pet, but it still needs to be cared for. Aquariums require regular cleaning and unique treatments, which take a person out of their everyday routines and creates new ones. By establishing new habits and exposing owners to novel experiences, pet fish can help alleviate the darkness of depression.

Establishing responsibility for a pet and adapting to changes fosters self-confidence and self-reliance, both vital elements in overcoming depression. Caring for any pet also reminds people with depression to care for themselves. Attention to self-care can fall to the wayside when someone is depressed, and tending to another living thing can remind them to care for their own needs. 

Thanks to an aquarium's peaceful nature and cleaning routine, pet fish are ideal emotional support animals to help with depression. - ESA Doctors
Thanks to an aquarium’s peaceful nature and cleaning routine, pet fish are ideal emotional support animals to help with depression.

Who Can Benefit From Emotional Support Fish

A pet fish in a decorated aquarium counterbalances the rigors of daily life. It allows anyone to distract themselves from their current problems and transport themselves into the world of the fish, if just for a moment. This temporary distraction will enable individuals who struggle with anxiety or depression to put aside their concerns and enjoy life. 

A pet fish is ideal for those who can’t tolerate the daily care of a cat or a dog. Also, people with mobility issues, limited strength, or bed-ridden can benefit from having a pet fish in their room or residence. Because aquariums only need to be cleaned periodically, maintenance can be delegated to others. The owner can do feedings. 

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Emotional Support Fish Are Not Just for Depression 

Pet fish can help with depression, but they’re also helpful for other reasons. Observing fish in an aquarium can lower blood pressure, reduce stress hormones, and improve heart-health. Not only can pet fish enhance mental health, they also boost physical health. Any aquarium enthusiast will tell you that it starts with just one fish. A pet fish can start a journey into the hobby of fish keeping. The fish-keeping community is large, and one pet fish is enough to venture into a new hobby and introduce to new people. Therefore, pet fish can help in a variety of ways and may just be the emotional support you need.

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