Emotional Support Fish: Can a Pet Fish Boost Mental Health?

Emotional Support Fish: Can a Pet Fish Boost Mental Health?

Updated on May 8, 2024
Written by Brenda Mejia

fact checked by Andre Gregatti

Emotional support fish offer a unique form of companionship for people who need them. Individuals with mental health issues could find pet fish useful as they provide a soothing presence through their tranquil behavior. 

Studies have shown that watching fish swim in an aquarium can have calming effects. It can bring amazing benefits, reducing stress, anxiety, and depression. One study by university students says that watching fish can reduce blood pressure. 

This guide will explore the benefits of pet fish as emotional support animals. You’ll learn great insights into how they can positively impact mental health. 

Can Fish Be Emotional Support Animals?

Can fish be emotional support animals? Yes, they can.

That’s why large hospitals and dental clinics keep aquariums in their lobbies. It’s not for aesthetic purposes only. Though beautiful, they’re there to induce a calming effect.

Many will be more familiar with dogs and cats as emotional support animals (ESAs). But even fish can also provide valuable emotional support. Yet, some differences exist between keeping fish as an ESA and having a dog or a cat in this role.

For starters, the key difference is the level of interaction and companionship.

Dogs and cats are mammals and as such, they exhibit social behaviors. This includes personal touch and emotional bonding with their owners. They can provide comfort directly through cuddling and playing. And they’re very responsive to their owner’s emotional cues. In contrast, fish are aquatic creatures. And so, they may not exhibit the same level of interaction.

While watching fish swim can be calming and therapeutic, the relationship between a fish and its owner is generally more observational.

Another difference lies in the care requirements.

Dogs and cats need regular exercise, grooming, and so on. Attention to their physical and emotional needs is part of the requirements. They often form strong emotional attachments with their owners. They also rely on their owners for companionship and care. Aquatic animals have different care requirements. Maintaining water quality, providing appropriate food, and monitoring fish tank conditions are important.

Fish may not require the same hands-on interaction as other animals. But, they still depend on their owners to care for and maintain their aquarium environment.

Legally, both dogs and cats, as well as fish, can qualify as emotional support animals. However, keeping fish may need accommodating different regulations. Different types of ESA laws exist in various settings. An example is in the real estate industry. Some landlords may restrict the types of ESAs allowed in rental properties.

While many properties are pet-friendly, keeping fish may require additional documentation or clarification to be recognized as ESAs in certain situations.

Bottom line? Fish may not provide the same level of direct interaction as dogs or cats. But that doesn’t mean they don’t offer valuable emotional support. Watching fish swim can be calming and relaxing. Taking the responsibility to care for them can be fulfilling. And so, fish can play a meaningful role in promoting emotional well-being.

Is Fish an Effective Emotional Support Animal?

Yes, fish can be an effective emotional support animal for many individuals. 

To reiterate, fish may not provide the same level of direct interaction or companionship as dogs or cats. Regardless, they offer unique benefits that can contribute to emotional well-being.

Ideally, pets can be just as effective without being furry. The Human-Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) states that the “Pet Effect” applies to all pets. Pets range from mammals to reptiles, birds, and even fish.

It is important to note that as many as 34000 fish species exist today. Fish are vertebrates  (phylum Chordata) and live in the fresh and salt waters of the world. 

Now, the calming effect of watching fish swim in an aquarium is beneficial in many ways. It can help reduce anxiety and stress levels. This promotes a sense of relaxation. Likewise, caring for pet fish can help promote mental health by actively engaging the brain. It engages parts of the brain responsible for feelings of calmness.

Even the very act of feeding and caring for pet fish can instill a sense of responsibility and purpose. This can be particularly beneficial for individuals struggling with mental health challenges.

Remember: While fish may not be the first choice for everyone seeking emotional support animals, they can still play a valuable role in promoting emotional well-being for those who appreciate their presence.

Emotional Support Fish and Mental Health

Emotional support animals, including fish, can have a tremendous positive impact on mental health.

Let’s consider the case of Sarah, who suffers from anxiety and depression. Sarah found solace in caring for a small aquarium of colorful fish. Watching them swim helped calm her racing thoughts. It provided a much-needed distraction from her worries. 

Over time, Sarah noticed a significant improvement in her mood. The therapeutic presence of her emotional support fish had worked its magic.

Similarly, John, a busy professional, struggled with chronic stress and burnout. He decided to set up a relaxing aquarium in his office, filled with various fish species. Taking short breaks to observe his fish helped John recharge and refocus throughout the day. 

The serene atmosphere of the aquarium provided a welcome respite from the demands of his job. In the end, he achieved a more balanced and resilient mindset.

These examples highlight how emotional support animals like pet fish can positively impact mental health. These animals can provide companionship, distraction, and a sense of purpose. 

From the calming effect of watching them swim to the joy of caring for their well-being, emotional support fish can offer valuable support. They can be the best fit for individuals seeking relief from mental health issues.

Can a Pet Fish Help with Anxiety

Yes, a pet fish can help alleviate anxiety in several ways.

The simple act of watching fish swim in a fish tank can have a remarkably calming effect on the mind. It can reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. The rhythmic motion of fish swimming can be hypnotic. It can quiet racing thoughts and promote relaxation.

Additionally, caring for pet fish can provide a sense of routine and responsibility. This act can be grounding and reassuring for individuals experiencing anxiety. 

How do Emotional Support Fish Work?

Emotional support fish work by providing companionship and calmness to their owners. Individuals can develop good mental health by observing their graceful movements. Watching fish swim can help individuals reduce stress levels, anxiety, and loneliness. 

The simple act of watching fish swim in an aquarium can have a soothing effect on the mind, promoting relaxation and emotional stability.

Emotional Support Fish Benefits

Below are the various benefits of having emotional support fish:

Stress Reduction

Watching fish swim gracefully in an aquarium has been scientifically proven to lower cortisol levels, the hormone associated with stress. 

This stress reduction can lead to a greater sense of tranquility and relaxation. For someone experiencing anxiety or tension, it can provide much-needed relief. Not forgetting that the rhythmic motion of fish swimming can have a hypnotic effect. This can further calm the mind and promote inner peace.


The companionship provided by pet fish can be incredibly comforting. It’s even better during the feeding routine. Enjoying their presence, fish can offer a sense of connection that can help avoid loneliness. 

Furthermore, caring for fish fosters a bond between owner and pet. Individuals can create a deeply fulfilling sense of mutual understanding and trust.


Caring for pet fish provides a valuable distraction from negative thoughts and worries. It refocuses one’s thoughts on the needs of these emotional support animals. Away from stressors. The result? A greater sense of presence at the moment. 

The soothing routine of feeding, cleaning, and maintaining an aquarium can also serve as a form of mindfulness practice. It can ground individuals in the present and help them to let go of anxious thoughts about the past or future.

Sense of Purpose

Maintaining an aquarium can be therapeutic. It gives individuals a sense of purpose. Creating and maintaining thriving aquatic environments for their fish is a one-of-a-kind achievement. This sense of achievement can boost self-esteem and mood. Then, it contributes to a more positive outlook.

Additionally, the structured routine of caring for fish provides a sense of stability and predictability. This can be particularly beneficial for individuals struggling with mental health challenges.

Mood Enhancement

The beauty of a well-maintained aquarium can uplift mood and promote a sense of well-being. The fish’s vibrant colors and graceful movements in a tranquil aquatic environment create a visual appeal that can have a positive impact on mood and emotional health. 

What’s more? The gentle hum of the aquarium filter and the sound of water bubbling can create a relaxing ambiance. It sets the tone for enjoying the therapeutic benefits of owning pet fish. 

Social Connection

Sharing experiences and stories about pet fish can foster social connections. Besides, it can create a sense of community among aquarium enthusiasts. Whether online or in-person, bonding over a shared love for these aquatic animals can provide a sense of belonging and support.

Furthermore, joining fishkeeping communities or clubs allows individuals to connect with like-minded individuals. Here, people can exchange advice and tips, and form meaningful friendships based on a common interest in fishkeeping.

ESAs are Exempt from Pet Fees for Housing

According to the FHA, Emotional Support Animals and Service Dogs are exempt from any pet fees, deposits or pet rents.

Learn More about Pet Fees

Types of Fish Suitable for Emotional Support Fish

Below, we’ll explore some types of fish that are particularly well-suited for providing comfort and companionship.


Goldfish are known for their vibrant colors and graceful swimming patterns. They are a great choice among aquarium enthusiasts. They are relatively low-maintenance and can thrive in a variety of tank conditions. Their calming presence and captivating appearance make them excellent companions for emotional support.


Angelfish are prized for their elegant appearance, long fins, and distinctive shape. They are naturally peaceful and can coexist well with other fish in a fish tank. Angelfish can promote tranquility and beauty. Thus, they enhance the therapeutic benefits of having an aquarium.

Neon Tetra

Neon Tetras are small, colorful fish. They are easy to care for and ideal for beginner aquarists. They are known for their neon-bright stripes, which add a vibrant pop of color to any aquarium. Neon Tetras are active swimmers. They create a lively and dynamic environment, perfect for easing stress and anxiety.


Swordtails are lively and social fish that thrive in community tanks. They come in various colors and patterns, adding visual interest to your aquarium. Swordtails are known for their playful behavior. They can provide hours of entertainment, helping to lift your spirits and promote relaxation.


Other fish species, such as Bettas, Guppies, and Corydoras, can also make excellent emotional support fish. Each species has its own unique characteristics and care requirements. So it’s essential to research and choose fish that align with your preferences and lifestyle.

How to Get an ESA Letter for Your Pet Fish?

If you find support in the company of your pet fish, consider obtaining an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) letter. The process is simpler than you might think. ESA Pet offers a straightforward and convenient obtaining solution. Getting a fish recognized as an Emotional Support Animal takes a few steps. This letter grants you legal rights and accommodations.

Here’s how you can get started:

Step 1: Complete ESA Pet’s Online Assessment

Fill out the online assessment form. Showcase your mental health condition and how your pet fish provides emotional support.

Step 2: Consult With a Licensed Mental Health Professional

After submitting your assessment, you’ll get connected with a licensed mental health professional. The professional will evaluate your request for an ESA letter.

Step 3: Receive your ESA letter

Once approved, you will receive your ESA letter via email. This letter will allow you to register your pet fish as an Emotional Support Animal. It also grants you certain rights and accommodations under the law.

Step 4: Enjoy the benefits of ESA Pet

An ESA letter lets you confidently enjoy the companionship and support of your pet fish. Your pet will be officially recognized as part of your emotional support network.

Get your Official ESA Letter Consultation from a licensed therapist.

Get ESA Letter Now

FAQs About Emotional Support Fish

Do Pet Fish Help With Anxiety?

Absolutely! Pet fish can help with anxiety. Many people find that they feel calm by observing fish swim in an aquarium. This simple act can alleviate feelings of anxiety and promote relaxation. The results may vary, but the presence of pet fish can contribute to a more serene environment.

Having a pet fish can offer a soothing and tranquil presence in your home. Fish can provide a sense of peace and routine that can be beneficial for managing anxiety. Caring for fish can also serve as a mindful and meditative activity. It can promote a sense of calmness and well-being.

Do Fish Tanks Help With Depression?

While there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for depression, fish tanks do help. Many individuals find solace in the serene beauty of a well-maintained fish tank. Watching fish glide gracefully through the water can bring moments of joy. Individuals can get a gentle reprieve from the challenges of depression.

Can You Get an ESA Letter for Fish?

Why not! Pet fish can qualify as Emotional Support Animals. So, you can get an ESA letter for fish. Note that a licensed therapist must determine your need for a pet fish to hand you the letter. You may need to prove that the presence of a pet fish indeed gives you valuable emotional support.

Can Fish Be Therapy Animals?

Fish can promote mental health, even though they’re less recognized as therapy animals. At least not compared to dogs or horses. Interacting with pet fish can offer moments of joy. Caring for their environment can contribute to overall mental health.

Are Pet Fish Good for Mental Health?

Absolutely! For many, pet fish’s companionship and serenity can positively impact mental health. Observing their graceful movements can provide calming effects. At the same time, caring for them can promote a sense of purpose. Thus, pet fish can be valuable allies in maintaining mental well-being.


Emotional support fish offer a unique companionship and comfort for individuals facing mental health challenges. They work differently than other pets. But their tranquil presence can be soothing all the same.

Watching fish swim in an aquarium can have a remarkably calming effect, reducing stress, anxiety, and depression, contributing to lower blood pressure, and improving overall human health. 

Best of all, pet fish are known for their low-maintenance nature. So they are accessible companions for individuals with varying needs and lifestyles. Fish do not require regular walks or extensive training. The same cannot be said of other pets, such as emotional support cats or dogs. This makes them suitable for people with limited mobility or busy schedules.

As individuals continue to explore alternative methods for managing mental health conditions, emotional support fish offer a promising avenue for providing comfort, companionship, and therapeutic benefits.

Contact ESA Pet for Personalized Assistance