A tankful of goldfish provides good feng shui, and has been shown to lower blood pressure and reduce anxiety in older people, which may be why many Central Otago rest-homes have at least one aquarium.
Blue Eco Systems Ltd has the franchise for Live Environments, which leases out the fish tanks and their residents, and supplies staff to maintain them every three weeks.
Central Lakes Trust has provided $13,410 a year funding for three years to pay for leasing the aquariums in Teviot Valley Resthome in Roxburgh, Ripponburn Hospital and Home and Lifestyle Village in Cromwell, Wakatipu Resthome in Frankton, Ranui Home in Alexandra (two aquariums), Castlewood Nursing Home in Alexandra and Abbeyfield Home in Queenstown.
Business owner Michelle Liddy, of Dunedin, a marine biologist, has owned the business for two years.
“I love talking to the residents, as they tell me about what the fish have got up to, which is really lovely,” Ms Liddy said
Castlewood diversional therapist Pat O’Connor said the residents loved watching the fish.
Ms Liddy said Central Lakes Trust had given grants for the contract for the aquariums for six or seven years and it was renewed every three years.
“Quite a few of the rest-homes throughout Otago and Southland have aquariums,” she said.
Ms Liddy said studies had been done in the United States that showed fish tanks in rest-homes contributed to a decrease in aggressive behaviour in dementia wards, as well as reducing residents’ blood pressure, anxiety levels, heart rates and the need for medication.
She said there had also been an increase in food intake by residents in the studies, which was attributed to the calming influence of goldfish in rest-homes.
“There was better overall health,” she said.
Feng shui teachings talk about having eight gold fish in one tank – to attract harmony, wealth and abundance – along with one black one, to provide protection against bad luck.
“Feng shui covers the five elements of nature – water, wood, earth, metal and fire [which the fish represent] – and it was calming, removed negative energy and added positive energy or ‘chi’.”
The tank at Castlewood Nursing Home has six gold fish and one black one – called “The Cleaner” as it eats algae.
Castlewood resident Mervyn Smitheram said he enjoyed watching the fish.
“They are marvellous,” he said.