The first face to greet clients of The Village Family Service Center’s Fargo office is often Joe, our front desk receptionist.
Across the lobby, seven fishier faces wait to say hello.
A focal point of the waiting area is a 50-gallon aquarium that houses African Cichlids, a popular freshwater fish.
Despite all being the same type of fish, the current crew occupying The Village’s tank are diverse in size, color and pattern. Co-worker Julie named some of them – Lemon, Tank, Camo, Stripy. They dart among greenery in the tank. One hides under a rock.
“A lot of kids, that’s the first thing they see,” Joe says of the fish tank.
Joe feeds the fish once a day. They seem to know him when he approaches the tank and follow his movements.
His desk provides a prime vantage point to see how clients interact with the fish. He notices some people choose to sit next to the tank and watch them.
“I think it calms people down,” Joe says.
Research backs this up. A 2015 study showed that viewing an aquarium display led to lower blood pressure and heart rates. The more fish, the more the display improved attention span and mood. The study provided evidence that fish tanks in waiting rooms can have a positive impact on people’s wellbeing, said Deborah Cracknell, a lead researcher at the National Marine Aquarium.
Other research has shown watching fish in an aquarium can reduce the anxiety felt before medical procedures, can improve the nutritional intake and decrease aggressive behaviors of patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, and can calm children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Whether the fish are entertaining kids or helping to calm a nervous client, they're part of The Village Family, and one way we try to make people feel more at home here.
Watch Joe feed the fish in this video ...