Your friend in the fish tank might seem to be just swimming, eating, and generally enjoying life, but there is more to the story. Some excellent studies confirm the benefits of your fish on your life and will change how you view them.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, one in eight households (12 million) has a fish in the home. The total estimate is more than 158 million fish, many happy Nemo’s getting fed and doing good deeds daily.
Here are five facts that fish owners might not know:
1. They See You Too
Just as we watch them, they are watching us. Scientific research says fish recognize the faces of fish of a similar species, changes in their environment, and their owners. One study presented fish with manipulated facial images of others, with the fish able to recognize a familiar face. If your fish Sam dies, his friend Jack will recognize that his replacement isn’t Sam.
Fish also recognize their owners, not just other fish. In fact, they know you’re probably coming to feed them when you approach the tank. Additionally, they know when there are changes to the environment around them, like if you move the sofa or paint the walls.
2. Fish Alleviate Stress
Medical evidence shows aquariums are a highly effective means of reducing and eliminating stress, even in very tense situations. Tending to your fish tank is a spontaneously initiated activity that requires no training or practice. The brain is calmed by the movement of your pet fish and the water.
The National Library of Medicine says the results of nineteen studies found preliminary support for effects on mood. Still, all studies had methodological issues that didn’t indicate a risk for bias.
3. Kids Benefit from Fish
Keeping fish has been shown to cultivate empathy and responsibility in children. They are manageable, smaller than your child, and foster interaction when fed. They are considered to be great “starter pets.”
Due to the calming, psychological benefits of fish, they are common as classroom pets due to the tranquil experience they provide. Often, a teacher will assign students to care for the fish on a rotating basis.
Students who are fish owners score the highest on both the math and verbal SATs, with scores 200 points higher than non-pet owners. Those in high school students that have fish or other pets have an average GPA of 3.5, whereas those without pets score an average of 3.2.
4. Fish Sleep When the Lights are Off
Fish in your aquarium sleep when the lights are off and it is possible for them to suffer sleep deprivation and sleep disorders. Since they do not have eyelids, they sleep with their eyes open and will typically rest towards the bottom of the tank. Make sure the lights stay off when you go to bed or keep them very dim so Nemo can get some rest.
5. Fish Feel Pain Similar to Humans
Dispelling an old myth about fish, a study published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, by Lynne Sneddon of Liverpool University says fish feel pain similar to humans.
In the study, fish feed less if they have previously been caught with a fishing hook. Those who received electric shocks in one part of their tank where they usually feed will avoid the area for several days afterward. Extreme heat can cause some fish distress, which is alleviated with pain relief drugs.
Fish change their behavior after experiencing pain, like becoming less active, ceasing food intake, rubbing the affected area on something, and even hyperventilating.
Great care must be taken with your beneficial pet fish. Dispelling the old myth of a goldfish’s 3-second memory, it’s actually five months, meaning the pain is remembered and has a lasting impact.
Your pet fish are a benefit to your health and happiness. They know who you are, help your kids succeed, and generally bring peace to our lives. Enjoy and love these special pets.