Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Do Workplace Fish Tanks Influence Employee Wellbeing and Cognitive Performance? An Embedded Mixed-Methods Study

Clements, Heather; Valentin, Stephanie; Jenkins, Nicholas; Rankin, Jean; Gee, Nancy R.; Snellgrove, Donna; Sloman, Katherine A.


Heather Clements

Nicholas Jenkins

Jean Rankin

Nancy R. Gee

Donna Snellgrove

Katherine A. Sloman


Evidence from “pet-friendly” workplaces highlights potential benefits associated with taking companion animals to work, including reduced stress among employees. Ornamental fishes carry a much lower risk than other companion animals and may be a suitable alternative in situations where other animals would introduce too great a risk (e.g., allergy, accidental injury). The aim of this study was to investigate whether watching an aquarium during the working day influenced employee wellbeing through the reduction of stress and improvements in stress-related outcomes. An embedded mixed-methods study was conducted, comprising two within-subjects trials (Trials A and B) and a qualitative follow-up. Participants were university employees and research students who participated during their working day. In Trial A (n = 30), the immediate effects of watching live fishes on mood, physiological stress, and cognitive performance were compared with the effects of watching a fish video or resting quietly. Although some outcomes improved from pre- to post-activity, there was no evidence that watching fishes (live or video) had greater effects than resting quietly. In Trial B (n = 27), the effects of repeatedly engaging in the same three activities over several weeks were examined. Watching fish videos was associated with improvements in “high pleasure-low arousal” and overall job-related affective wellbeing, but no further effects of condition were found. Qualitative follow-up data collected from a subset of participants from the experimental trials (n = 13) indicated that all three activities may be beneficial as leaving their desks provided detachment from work for a short period. Qualitative data suggested that live fishes were perceived as more engaging, but this did not translate to quantitative findings. Locating fish aquaria within offices (rather than a separate workplace location) may promote wellbeing by encouraging “microbreaks”; further research is needed to investigate this hypothesis.


Clements, H., Valentin, S., Jenkins, N., Rankin, J., Gee, N. R., Snellgrove, D., & Sloman, K. A. (in press). Do Workplace Fish Tanks Influence Employee Wellbeing and Cognitive Performance? An Embedded Mixed-Methods Study. Anthrozoös,

Journal Article Type Article
Online Publication Date Jan 31, 2024
Deposit Date Feb 9, 2024
Publicly Available Date Feb 9, 2024
Journal Anthrozoös
Print ISSN 0892-7936
Electronic ISSN 1753-0377
Publisher Routledge
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Keywords Employee wellbeing, human–animal interaction, ornamental fishes, work-related stress
Public URL


You might also like

Downloadable Citations