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Fishkeeping and Mental Health


If I had to stop keeping fish:  

49 members have voted

  1. 1. If I had to stop keeping fish:

    • I could find another hobby. I'd be okay.
      26
    • I would probably need some form of mental health help.
      16
    • I'm not sure how much it would affect me.
      7


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I wonder to what extent you guys will relate to this:

I specifically keep aquariums to buffer debilitating anxiety, and some other emotional issues. (A prescription helps, but isn't enough.) I'm certain that if I no longer could keep fish, I would need to access professional mental health care more than I already do.

Anyone else?

 

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Aquariums are such a calming outlet for me I love the work of them as much as the beauty. Over the last couple of years I’ve come to realize my anxiety issues had to be dealt with. although they been with me over 30 years I never had the courage to face them until now. A wonderful wife and amazing children were to much to lose to my pride. Through all the chaos in my head, with my aquariums is the only place I could find peace. So my wife has encouraged the hobby as long as I worked on my issues. Therapy and meds do help but without my fish I feel I would still be lost.

 

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I used to be very active (walk 5 miles a day/ work excessive hours/travel) back then I would have found another hobby.  I can no longer do that and the things that I find interesting are growing live things such as hydroponics and gardening do not take enough time. Non living hobbies other than reading do not interest me I don’t even watch TV unless it’s in the background while hubby watches. I know when I went through the worst of my medical issues and surgeries I was immobile for the better part of 3 years. Deep depression set in from not being able to be active and I took down my tanks prior to the worst hitting because I knew I could not care for them. It was when I was able to set them back up (on a much smaller scale) and start focusing on them that I was able to completely pull out of the depression. There is always something I can be doing with them or just sheer watching enjoyment.  So if I could not fish keep i know depression would rear its head again. 

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Is there another hobby that could replace fishkeeping, in the sense that it has so many facets? Learning about biology, water chemistry, plants, fish anatomy, behaviors and identification, being part of a pleasant forum with tons of knowledgeable people, the physical work, relaxing and just watching our fish and nonfish inhabitants go about their daily lives and achieving inner peace from that, watching our fish color up and get excited when we feed them live foods, watching our fry develop and grow, learning about plumbing and carpentry and gadgetry and how to be creative with using household items in aquariums, and even the not so great parts of fishkeeping like diseases, pests, issues with plants and algae, fish death, and all the frustration, that we learn from and try to do better next time. I know I've missed a few things, but what other hobby does all that?

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I have clinical OCD and intense anxiety, and fishkeeping is a bit of a double-edged sword. I love my wet pets, I love maintaining their tanks, and I love to watch them... but I also find myself fretting over them an awful lot, and I wish I didn't. I am medicated but it only helps to control my symptoms to a point, and the rest is on me. I know with time, practice, and exposure I will calm down, but, for instance, when I post a question on the disease board, it's probably because I was watching my tank on and off for hours and obsessively monitoring any eccentricity as ill health. 🤭

When I stop to remind myself that I'm doing a good job, that there's no such thing as 'perfection' in any hobby, and that my water-box ecosystems are thriving enough for my fish and shrimp to breed... I'm happy. But like everything else in life I would be lying if I said I wasn't struggling sometimes!

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Just as my signature states I picked up the hobby after moving to a metro area.  I used to have access to 300 lakes within 15 miles of me.  Growing up yes I had an aquarium but as soon as I could drive and go hunting and fishing on my own I lost interest in the hobby.  Outdoors was my happy place.  Either by myself or with good trusted friends it was mentally calming for me and absolutely recharged my batteries.  

Now that I am in this metro area, it is a 3+ hour drive to get away to my happy place.  Keeping aquariums has brought that home for me.  As long as I live in this metro area I will have tanks and ponds.  I do not know what will happen when my daughter graduates in 10 years and I have the freedom to move rural again.  I have no doubt, as long as I have the time I will still have an aquarium wherever I end up, I just don't know if it will be the 35+ that I have now.

 

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On 8/27/2021 at 3:53 AM, MAC said:

I used to have a higher stress job and spent alot of time away. I never had time or the place for a hobby. After making some lifestyle changes getting into fishkeeping has been a big help in giving me something to focus on and dial down. 

My experience exactly! I am currently in the transition, (finishing at the place I hate, getting things prepared at the place I am going to, AND fixing and selling my current house, though luckally I am at least mostly moved out of that house already) its nice to come home and stare at fish sometimes!

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On 8/26/2021 at 11:47 PM, lefty o said:

watching the fish is somewhat calming, but for me the actual setting up of a new tank is even better, as it takes my mind off other things for a while.

Agreed. For me setting up a new tank is the best part. Not to take away from enjoying a finished tank, I certainly do but planning out a new tank can't be matched imo. If I didn't have fishkeeping I'm sure I'd find something else to do. For me once the tank is settled in there isn't really much time spent maintaining it so it doesn't occupy a lot of my time anyway. I've always been a gamer since I was a kid starting with board games. Today I still love RPG's on pc. Recently been playing Lord of the Rings online. I consider music a hobby as I listen to what I want every day. I could also go fishing or hiking in my area pretty easily if I wanted to.

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I would be fine, though I can completely understand how others could feel differently.  It's a little world that you built and maintain.  I'm sure it provides some feelings of control over the sometimes chaotic nature of our daily lives.  I only have a little 10-gallon tank, but I can get lost just watching it for an hour and it would not be wasted time. 

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Personally it is also a double edged sword. I am an addict. Seems like a life time ago that I was shooting heroin and was homeless. I am clean and sober 10 years this Oct 1. I have had no relapses or even urges to do anything that stupid again. As a matter of fact, it frightened me. Aquarium keeping is my favorite hobby as I have a few. Setting up an aquarium, maintaining it, and watching the fish are all extremely soothing and it easily gets my mind as close to meditative as possible. The problem comes in when I begin thinking of my next aquarium. It can be an obsession and it takes quite a bit to check myself. My anxiety levels elevate and it can be quite a bummer when I realize that I can’t just go blow $500 on a new 75 setup. My favorite fish are rainbows and I would never purchase less than a dozen. This can get quite expensive. My other hobbies aren’t quite as expensive. 
I keep myself in check through perspective. I have a roof, a place to lay my butt down to go to sleep, a lovely pregnant wife, and a son that is way cooler than I’ll ever be. These thoughts keep my grounded and then I realize how silly the fish anxiety is. I am very self aware and keep myself sternly in check. 
This forum, watching/listening to Cory’s livestreams help a ton as well. Thank you 

Edited by Manny
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On 8/28/2021 at 4:33 AM, Taco Playz said:

I love my tanks. I honestly would probably be very depressed without them. There are some days when I am not motivated to do water changes because I am very tired but I do them anyway just for the fish. Baby fish is what has kept me motivated in the hobby.

Yup, the necessity of caring for these animals is a great motivator. Getting up and doing something is a terrific help for depression. 

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@Patrick_G Thank you for the kind words. Currently I only have 1 40 gallon with assorted platies and a muck bucket “pond” with Gold white clouds. About 4 months ago, I had 4 75 gallons, each with Wapoga’s, Boesmani Lake Ayntinjo’s, axelrodi’s, and lastly Bleheri’s. Excuse the misspellings. However 4 months ago, we sold our home. I was in the process of preparing to move everything when I got an offer of $4k for all the aquariums as is. Obviously I went with it because I knew we would be living in a much smaller apt until our home was built. The new home should be ready in January and then the rainbow journey will begin again. Again thank you for the kind words. 

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Watching the fish is very calming for me.  Watching them in a lovely, plant filled tank is even better.  I get a little stressed when the tanks aren’t looking like I want them, but that stress is nothing compared to my job as an emergency clinic vet.  I’ve recently switched to a new clinic with a much better environment, so that helps.

I would be fine without the tanks, I have other hobbies, and I would find other hobbies, but I’m definitely better with the tanks.

I really like hearing how much the hobby helps other people.  Makes me feel even better about being a small part of such a great, supportive, group of people.

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On 8/28/2021 at 11:39 AM, Odd Duck said:

Watching the fish is very calming for me.  Watching them in a lovely, plant filled tank is even better.  I get a little stressed when the tanks aren’t looking like I want them, but that stress is nothing compared to my job as an emergency clinic vet.  I’ve recently switched to a new clinic with a much better environment, so that helps.

I would be fine without the tanks, I have other hobbies, and I would find other hobbies, but I’m definitely better with the tanks.

I really like hearing how much the hobby helps other people.  Makes me feel even better about being a small part of such a great, supportive, group of people.

You have my admiration.  Vets see a much smaller amount of health and wellness visits I imagine than trauma.  Hats off to you!

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