Even if you can’t get to the Great Barrier Reef this summer you can enjoy its beauty at home all year with the colourful, and living, ornament of an aquarium.

And while new-look aquariums are designed like a piece of smart furniture, fish collectors are adamant their aquariums don’t just look good, they are good for you as well.

You might have noticed that aquariums are a popular installation in doctor and dentist surgeries as studies have shown the tranquility of watching fish calms stress levels and lowers blood pressure. In workaholic city offices of Japan it’s not unusual to see mini fish tanks on workers’ desks, so could there be a healthy lesson that stressed-out Brisbane workers can learn from this?

While there’s no specific evidence to suggest mood is driving sales, Brian McGregor, owner of Clayfield Aquarium, says business is going swimmingly and he has seen a sharp spike in fish sold this year. The 42-year veteran of the industry tells bmag numbers have already surpassed last year’s total.

According to McGregor saltwater tanks and fish are the most popular at the moment, even though they are more expensive to set up, because they look more spectacular and can be “accessorised” with beautiful coral. They also are a practical choice for the time-poor as water doesn’t need changing for 12 months or more.

And, as the film Finding Nemo edges towards earnings of almost a billion dollars, no surprises guessing that the fish everyone’s looking for to brighten up their décor are colourful saltwater clownfish just like Nemo. Clownfish cost about $30 to $80 each but McGregor also sells starter kits for beginners which include a couple of clownfish and a small tank, filter, light and salt for about $300. Stocking the tank can cost anywhere from $12 a fish to up to $250 a fish for an exotic variety like the Purple Tang. Coral can cost upwards of $25 and some beautiful aquatic plants as much as $150.

Of course, the sky’s the limit on how far you can go to recreate a marine environment in the home, with built-in tanks stretching to $100,000 and sizes almost as big as a swimming pool. “It more than adds to the value of the house over what you pay for the aquarium. Anyone can furnish a house nicely but an aquarium is a lot more colourful and eye-catching,” says McGregor.

Tanks are no longer just rectangular glass boxes either. Modern tanks are often made in a curved and seamless style with no square edges and lights and filters built-in so nothing distracts from the beauty of the marine environment inside. Cabinets are attached in a choice of finishes to complement a room’s furnishings, such as teak, other woodgrains, white or, the fashionista’s perennial favourite, black.

And just like clothes off the rack, there’s plenty of fish to choose from in all colours and sizes. McGregor has about 600 species of freshwater and saltwater fish to choose from – or 3000 to 4000 fish – and they’re guaranteed to keep kids and grown-ups occupied for hours, just watching that little bit of the Great Barrier Reef right in their own room.