Fish are (therapists), not food

How getting a tiny aquatic friend can improve your mental health

I’m not going to lie, I’ve been going through it lately. The first couple weeks of this semester have been hitting me hard. 

I already struggle with anxiety and depression, and they’ve been getting increasingly harder to deal with as the stress of school and work have begun to pile up on top of everything I’m already trying to navigate. 

In the past week, I got so tired of lying in bed being depressed and not having anything to look forward to every day but getting up and working my ass off until it was time to go to bed. 

I decided enough was enough. I wanted to do something that gave me a little bit of joy in my dark days. I’ve always loved animals and they’ve always brought me immense happiness. I talked to one of my roommates and we decided we were going out to get a betta fish.

After scouring the aisles of Petsmart on a Saturday afternoon with my roommate and our mutual friend, we decided on a big tank with a filter, which is a luxury compared to what most bettas in college dorms get. I wanted to be the best fish mom possible and give my child clean, cycled water. I picked out some natural colored gravel for the bottom of the tank, a live plant that could grow over time and a taller silk plant (pro tip: plastic plants cut betta fins). I also got a “betta leaf” which is a plastic leaf on the end of a suction cup – bettas like to sit on them at the surface of the water and breathe air while they relax up there, because that’s a habit of theirs in the wild.

I went to Care-A-Lot Pet Supply to get my fish the following day after my water had cycled for about 24 hours to give my new little friend the cleanest and safest environment possible. It was impossible at first to choose which fish I wanted because they were all adorable. 

I eventually decided on a iridescent male with white accents. His little body shimmered as he swam around in the water and I could tell he was active and friendly. After bringing him home I decided to name him Mochi after the white Japanese rice cake that’s often filled with ice cream – a sweet name for my sweet new friend.

I’ve only had Mochi for a couple of days and he already makes me happier just by his presence. He just sits there, looks cute and gives me something simple to focus on instead of how much work I have to do or the latest friend group drama that I have to deal with. Buying a pet fish is one of the best natural ways I could have boosted my serotonin levels. Studies have shown that watching fish swim lowers blood pressure and heart rate, effectively calming you down, and I can already tell that’s true. 

Having something to take care of is one of the best things I could have done for myself. Having a pet, even if it’s as small as a betta fish, helps me to get out of bed every morning and have something to look forward to every morning. 

His tank sits on the top of my desk and I swear I catch him looking down at me sometimes while I’m doing some work. The simple routine and act of caring for an animal helps you to get out of yourself and your own head, giving you something else to focus on. As circular as it may sound, taking care of something other than yourself can help you care for yourself better. And at the end of the day, having a little friend in my corner makes every day a little bit easier.

~Anna Dorl, Lifestyle Editor~


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