Symphysodon discus aquariums by Okeanos Group
Symphysodon discus aquariums by Okeanos Group

My great grandmother had Alzheimer’s. It was really hard to watch sometimes because she would get really confused and forget who we were. My family, especially my grandmother (her daughter), was there for her throughout the ordeal. If I had known then what I know now, I definitely would have gotten my great grandmother an aquarium.

Research from Purdue University has found that aquariums with brightly colored fish can help treat patients with Alzheimer’s. Who would have thought?

Professor Nancy Edwards performed a study on 60 individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Edwards discovered that the test subjects who were regularly exposed to vibrant fish tanks appeared to be more relaxed and alert. They also ate up to 21 percent more food than they had before, for an average food consumption increase of 17.2 percent.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the disease, getting a patient who’s been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s to eat can be an uphill battle. Edwards explained, “Feeding is often a terrible problem, because the patients are either running up and down the hall, or they’re so lethargic that they can’t stay awake to eat.”

Alzheimer Disease Infographic

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Getting the proper nutrients is vital for everybody, but it’s especially important for elderly citizens who are suffering from Alzheimer’s. Edwards added, “We thought if we could calm these patients and keep their attention, we could perhaps increase their nutritional intake and decrease the amount of supplements they required. This not only would help reduce the cost of patients’ care, but it’s also healthier for the patients to get their nutrition from food rather than supplements.”

And aquariums didn’t just improve the subjects’ appetites – the subjects were also much less likely to exhibit disruptive behavior such as yelling or wandering.

Elderly Person with Aquarium

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Unfortunately, Edward’s research did not examine the “why” behind this phenomenon. For that, we can only speculate. Edwards theorizes, “I think the combination of movement, color and sound provides a stimulating experience for the patients. Often long-term care environments do not offer a lot of stimulation, but fish move around in various patterns, so there’s enough variability to keep patients’ interest.”

One of the patients, who hadn’t uttered a word in weeks, spoke up for the first time and asked the researchers questions about the fish. Another patient would share stories about his early days running a bait shop.

Elderly Man Viewing Aquarium

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It’s surprising to think that something as simple as a fish tank could combat the effects of Alzheimer’s. With all of these benefits, aquariums almost seem like some sort of miracle drug that improves alertness and overall health.

If you have a loved one who’s suffering from Alzheimer’s, then you really should consider investing in an aquarium. Not only will it give your loved one a beautiful aquascape to enjoy, but it will also improve the person’s mental and physical health. Just think of a custom aquascape as a daily dose of medicine that’s actually fun to take.

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