The Best Calming Videos Are of People Tending to Aquarium Tanks

In these uncertain times we're all looking for calming content. And like most people living in the world right now, I'm prone to plenty of anxiety in my daily life, even without the threat of a pandemic hanging over my head. Sometimes it lasts for maybe a minute or two, and sometimes it makes it harder to get to sleep at night. In those instances -- which, of course, have been compounded by the current state of the entire world right now -- I turn to YouTube, which is home to the most calming subcultures on the Internet. 

I love a bullet journal video, I'm big into ASMR, I love those videos where people show off the menagerie of snakes or moths or whatever creatures they choose to spend their time caring for and collecting, but, recently, I've found that the videos that give me the fuzziest sense of serenity of all are aquaculture videos. 

What is aquaculture, you ask? In simple terms, it's fish tank making, though the fish themselves aren't always a requirement. You can have a tank with nothing in it at all but plants and water and some rocks and skip adding in any other little critters if that doesn't appeal to you. Even for many fish tank havers, the fish are sometimes secondary to the design of the tank itself. 

There isn't really a place to start with aquaculture videos, or anything, really, to know about them in order to enjoy them. That's the beauty of this entire enterprise. You just google something like "aquaculture videos" on a whim and are immediately sucked into this world. One of my favorite channels is Foo the Flowerhorn, who creates small tanks full of substrate and a couple interesting plants and maybe some shrimp or a fish or two, and then posts regular videos tracking the tanks' weekly progress. My favorite tank of theirs is a tank full of shrimp that, in every video, get a tiny piece of some sort of fruit or vegetable to snack on in time-lapse. In this one, they go wild for a slice of carrot: 

Another enthusiast, who goes by Asu, makes these wonderful "aquaterrariums" designed to look like miniature versions of mountains or waterfalls or Japanese gardens. Every step in all of his videos is shown, so you could, if you wanted to, recreate the projects yourself -- but it's much more fun to watch them being built from scratch. 

And then there's this guy, who goes by SerpaDesign, who makes these giant paludariums either for himself or on commission from other people, filling enormous tanks with logs and plants and water features and, often, animals. Here is one he made (and, for the fans that had been following along, had been teasing for a while before he put the video up) for a family of fire-bellied toads, some of the coolest-looking toads around. 

See? Aren't these great? A lot of these people have been maintaining their channels for quite a while, so you're looking at hours and hours of entertainment right here. I don't have the discipline or patience to keep a bullet journal; I don't have an interesting or aesthetically pleasing morning routine; I will never attempt any of Claire Saffitz's gourmet snack recipes from the Bon Appetit Test Kitchen; and I will probably never make a giant tank and fill it with plants I have to meticulously care for and fish I have to make sure don't suddenly die or eat each other -- though I've always wanted to live in a giant house with one entire wall of my sitting room taken up by a massive aquarium like the rich old guy at the beginning of Atlantis: The Lost Empire. It's aspirational in the sense that I love to look at it, I love to daydream about it, and if I had a Pinterest I would be making inspo boards about it.

There's a very particular sense of calm gathered from watching people make things you have no responsibility to recreate yourself -- that's part of the allure of Adam Savage's channel where he decides to try his hand at making whatever he wants. With my aquaculture videos, for 10 or 20 minutes a day, I can imagine myself shrinking, becoming shrimpkind, diving deep into my tiny waterfall, gorging myself on one single slice of carrot and thinking about absolutely nothing. 

Need help finding something to watch? Sign up here for our weekly Streamail newsletter to get streaming recommendations delivered straight to your inbox.

Emma Stefansky is a staff entertainment writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @stefabsky.