Can Watching Fish Improve Patient’s Nutritional Intake?

Estimated Read Time: 4 minutes

Have you noticed that a growing number of nursing homes are adding aquariums in their lobbies, dining rooms, and other communal areas?

There are many reasons why nursing homes have fish tanks, like relaxation, interaction, and improved sleep.

But today, we’re going to focus on one surprising benefit: Observing a fish tank can increase food consumption and nutritional intake.

How does this happen? And how can you experience this in your nursing home?

Let’s find out.

Purdue Study on Aquarium Fish and Nutritional Intake

nurse grabbing coffee for a patient

In 1999, Nancy Edwards, Nursing Professor at Purdue University, was researching ways to soothe the symptoms of Alzheimer’s patients.

After including a fish tank in 3 Alzheimer’s units, she found that those patients were feeling more relaxed and alert when around it.

The other surprising stat?

Edwards said, “They ate up to 21% more food than they had before the introduction of the fish tanks. The average increase in food consumption was 17.2%.

But wouldn’t patients be more distracted and thereby eat less?

The data says otherwise, and here’s a few reasons why.

How Does a Fish Tank Increase Nutritional Intake?

aquarium in the corner of a dining room

Attraction and Entertainment

Think of a time you were eating dinner with friends or family while engaged in conversation.

Before you knew it, your meal was almost gone and you didn’t even realize it.

And all it took was your divided attention.

In the same way, this may encourage Alzheimer’s patients to increase their nutritional intake.

Even if communication skills have weakened, watching the soft movements of colorful fish has been shown to stimulate the mind enough to attract attention, calm the body, and improve eating patterns.

Stress Reduction

Everyone experiences stress differently.

Some people lose their appetites when stressed and others feel the need to eat more.

But regardless of the stress reaction, lower levels of it may positively impact eating habits.

For instance, watching fish swim in a tank has been shown to reduce stress levels, giving patients a calmer and clearer mind at the dinner table.

Distraction from Eating Difficulties

Disruptive behaviors are a primary reason why nutritional intake is low.

The best way to alleviate physical and cognitive impairments is with activities that engage their minds and senses.

You’ll need something passive yet engaging to help with eating, and observing a fish tank can be that activity.

By focusing on stimuli like the unhurried fish, the sound of the humming filter, and the sight of the deep blue water, Alzheimer’s patients feel more “in the moment.”

This may help reduce behaviors that may have kept them from eating before.

Experience a Soothing Fish Tank in Your Dining Room

serenity aquarium by a dinner table

Serenity USA has been offering peaceful experiences through aquariums and fish for over a decade.

Our sister company, Custom Aquariums, handcrafts all of our fish tanks, while at Serenity, we clean and maintain them for our clients.

This means you get a world-class aquarium without the hassle.

We work exclusively in the B2B space, and we service more nursing home fish tanks than anyone in the USA!


Nancy Edward’s study ignited the discussion on how a seemingly simple aquarium can greatly impact mental and physical health.

Plus, this data uncovers another possible benefit: Reduced healthcare costs.

If your residents are getting adequate nutritional value, there may be less of a need for supplements and medications.

While the research on aquariums in memory care units is still limited, previous studies have shown that these aquascapes offer more benefits than meets the eye!

Are you considering a fish tank at your facility? Reach out today!

We’ll help you understand our aquariums, services, and the costs!