Innovative Intervention: Relaxing Fishtank Therapy

Alzheimer’s Fishtank – digital download

Identity Design

Creative Direction
Steve Teare

3:13 minute video

AQUARIUMS in Alzheimer’s Care Facilities
“Aquarium fish are a non-chemical. You don’t have to use medicine. It’s a no-side-effect intervention for individuals with severe dementia.”
–Dr. Nancy E. Edwards, Associate Professor of Nursing, Purdue University

Creative Brief

1. Product Description

This product is a $22.55 digital download (PDF) telling how to build a Alzheimer’s fishtank using free Android apps and a refurbished Android tablet.

Dementia and Alzheimer’s are highly debilitating disorders that seriously damage a sufferer’s quality of life. As these disorders get progressively worse over time, the process can be highly distressing to the sufferers and their loved ones.

Nontraditional Stress Therapy
Aquariums calm Alzheimer’s patients—and boosts their appetites, too.

Weight loss, which occurs in 50 percent of people diagnosed with dementia, significantly increases the risk of mortality and speeds progression of the disease. Weight loss also leads to reduced muscle mass and loss of functional independence, which increases the risk of
falls, infections, and skin irritation.

Scientific Evidence—More Food Intake
Scientific studies have shown that Alzheimer patients will maintain or gain weight if they have a fish tank to watch while they eat. They eat 21% to 30% more than typical. They also exhibit less physically aggressive or disruptive behaviors.

How do fish affect Alzheimer’s patients’ eating habits?
Patients with a history of pacing and wandering sat for longer periods observing the aquarium and consequently ate for longer periods. Patients who tended toward lethargy became more attentive and awake around the aquarium, therefore increasing food intake.

Good News for Caretakers, Too
Additionally, staff that work with the patients with dementia will 1) report less episodes of disruptive behavior and 2) report an increase in job satisfaction. Life is better for everyone—without more work.


Virtual Tank Reduces Health Care Cost
Fish tanks (real or not) reduce health care costs for nutritional supplements and medications to help calm disruptive patients. Normal aquariums for fresh water fish cost around $2,000. Sea water aquariums are much more.

No Tank Maintenance Costs
MoodTank is a small virtual fish tank built from recycled Android tablets.
No CDROM or disks required. No maintenance. No keyboard. No mouse.

The screen on my ALZTank gets dark. Is something wrong?
EVERYTHING IS WORKING PROPERLY. The tank is deliberately designed to have lighting changes just like a real reef aquarium. Normally, this is done for the health of the fish. Here it’s just for effect. There are three lighting conditions: front lighting, top lighting, and back lighting. The tank cycles through all three every 30 minutes. It adds reality and variety.

2. Features Differentiating ALZ Fishtank

You can avoid the MAJOR expense of installing a saltwater reef aquarium, the inevitable loss of valuable fish; you can avoid the service fees for cleaning the aquarium and time spent attending to the health of real fish. None of these worries will be yours with this delightful alternative. Press one small button on the front to turn it on or off. It’s so complete and such a minimal expense, you won’t be able to resist.

2 hour video demonstration of tank screen.


Little aquatic fish and rare coral habitats are miracles of life, too precious to waste.

Virtual Reef Aquarium: $22.55 digital download instructions

  • No fish deaths and habitat destruction.
  • No bulky tank, pumps, heaters, skimmers, filters, or lighting equipment.
  • No stringent water quality or chemical monitoring.
  • No heavy seawater changes every 3-4 weeks.
  • Never clean the aquarium. No spills.
  • No routine checks for disease and health of the coral.
  • No feeding brineshrimp, frozen coral and vegetable matter.
  • Real-world “equipment” value about $2,500.
  • Real-world “fish” value of over $1,000.

Almost all tropical hobby fish and ornamental coral for home aquariums are destructively harvested from wild reefs with dynamite or poison. Aquariums are the third-largest pet-industry in the United States. Of tropical fish harvested, only 1 of 10 survive. Half die in transit to America.

Dynamite Stun Fishing temporarily paralyzes hundreds of tropical fish and instantly destroys naturally-occurring live rock habitat formed over years and centuries.

Illegal Cyanide Poisoning temporarily immobilize sealife so they can be caught. The poison drifts and kills smaller fish and coral animals.

Conservation Alternative: Beautiful Digital-Art Animated Fish

The virtual marine aquarium mimics a saltwater fish tank, and does so with beautifully textured and animated fish. Incredibly rendered natural saltwater coral reef and realistic marine fish behavior is beautiful and fascinating. A saltwater aquarium with soothing sound of bubbling aerator can entertain, relax and inspire you. The three-dimensional vibrant fish bend, flutter, turn, and swim just like real fish!

Automatic Variable Tank Lighting

Cyclical aquarium lighting simulates day and night just like in a regular marine tank routine. A deep blue spectrum is designed to simulate the dominant wavelength of light a few metres below the ocean’s surface and create an optimal ambience. The lighting and coral look completely realistic, and the fish swim in front of and behind the coral and rocks. The starfish even climbs the glass.

Addis Butterflyfish, Blue Chromis Damselfish, Blue Ring Angelfish, Clown Triggerfish, Copper-Banded Butterflyfish, Emperor Angelfish, Flame Angelfish, Forceps Butterflyfish, French Angelfish, Koran Angelfish, Lionfish, Longfin Bannerfish, Percula Clownfish, Picasso Triggerfish, Powder Blue Tang, Purple Sailfin Tang, Queen Angelfish, Redfin Butterflyfish, Regal Angelfish, Regal Tang, Rock Beauty Angelfish, Royal Gramma Basselet, SeaStarfish (on glass), Squarespot Anthias, Threadfin Butterflyfish, Three Stripe Damselfish, Yellow Tang

James D. Sachs is the lead artist and developer of the marine aquarium simulation. Sachs was born in California in 1949, and grew up in the San Fernando Valley, north of Los Angeles. In College, he concentrated mainly on architecture. He was captivated by the artistic possibilities of computers.

How virtual aquariums are better than real aquariums.

    1. There’s never been a recorded death of a virtual fish. Virtually immortal.
    2. The human nose can’t detect virtual fish smells. There are none.
    3. No reef habitat destruction. You ecologically-friendly person you!
    4. No space-hogging bulky tank, pumps, heaters, skimmers, filters, or lighting equipment.
    5. A small virtual aquarium has the same nerve-soothing benefit as a large aquarium.
    6. Your virtual aquarium will never leak or spill.
    7. No yucky, messy fish food, frozen coral, and vegetable matter. Blah!
    8. Exotic virtual fish as easy to maintain as a table lamp.
    9. Fish so real they splash they splash from the screen.

Kids and adults will touch and even tap on the glass. Simply use cleaner every now and again for a screen that gleams.

SCIENTISTS SAY by having a fishtank, anxiety diminishes and heart rate slows. It’s a natural biological by-product of watching little fish swim back and forth as bubbles whoosh upward. But, you already know fish tanks have a calming and soothing effect. They’re almost hypnotic.

Keeping an aquarium is good therapy. Studies going back as far as the late ’80s have shown that gazing at aquarium fish reduces stress and subsequently lowers blood pressure. ALZ Fishtank provides a fun way to enjoy all the beauties and splendors of a saltwater fishtank without having the real-life hassle of maintaining and caring for expensive fish.

Researchers have compared the effects of hypnosis vs. aquarium, fishless vs. fish-filled aquariums, and no aquarium vs. an aquarium. In all cases, having some sort of aquarium reduced blood pressure. Interestingly enough, greater reduction in blood pressure occurred when there were fish in the tank, vs. pleasingly decorated, but fishless, tanks. Virtual fishtanks have the same therapeutic effects as “real,” more costly tanks.

Seniors who were provided with an aquarium filled with fish had significant blood pressure reduction. Watching fish has been shown to calm children who suffer from hyperactivity disorder. Dental patients who were subjected to hypnosis vs. an aquarium experienced the same or greater benefit from the aquarium. Other studies have shown that dental patients required less pain medication after having watched fish in the office. It’s little wonder physicians’ offices, dental clinics, and even counselors have traditionally kept an aquarium in the waiting room.

Studies have shown that seniors who have Alzheimer’s experience a variety of health benefits from watching an aquarium. Alzheimer patients ate 30% more, and required fewer supplements after an aquarium was placed in the dining room. They also exhibited less physically aggressive behaviors.

Experimental group members watched a fish aquarium or a fish videotape, while control group members viewed a placebo videotape. Three eight-minute treatment sessions were held one week apart. Members of all three groups perceived their treatments as relaxing. Aquarium observers tended to experience a decrease in pulse rate and muscle tension and an increase in skin temperature.

Charming virtual aquariums.

3. Target Audience
Buyers are predominately female caregivers who are a daughter or wife of the Alzheimer patient. Potentially, institutions may buy – but they aren’t the primary audience.

4. Deliverables

  1. Product Identity style guide.
  2. Multiple page PDF file electronic download showing how to assemble and install open-source or freeware apps for Android.
  3. Fish guide with names of the 26 different fish that appear randomly on the tank screen.

Can I use the Android tablet as a normal computer?
NOPE. All of the standard functions are removed except for the minimum required to keep your fish healthy and swimming smoothly through the tank. The tablet becomes a single-purpose dedicated device.

5. Competition
We have no direct competition. Aquariums indirectly compete but are very expensive.

A typical saltwater reef tank, maintained by an aquarium service, costs you $2,500 for installation; maintenance costs is about $60 every two weeks. Plus “real” fish cost up to $1,000. You get the same “anti-anxiety” relief with no maintenance.

6. Details on Tone, Message, and Style
The theme is a playful or active color palette. Icons and symbols are best if ocean reef related. There is a mix of science and whimsy.

7. Typography: A happy font.

8. Application Visionary
Steve Teare

Unexpected Collaborative Design