We frequently get questions about fish and their effect in Feng Shui. This is a Feng Shui topic that has a lot of misunderstanding, primarily because there is some basis for what is discussed, but also there is a lot of misunderstanding.
In traditional Chinese Feng Shui, the only recommended solutions are the five elements of wood, fire, earth, metal, and water element strengthens wood qi. Fish have been confused to be a Feng Shui remedy, but this is not in itself true. What it is, is a combination of superstition and misunderstanding. In Feng Shui, the number 6 and 7 are used in the calculations of the trigrams and are representative of metal, and 7= Dui or soft metal). Five Element theory says that metal strengthens water. Chinese folklore says that adding 6 gold fish and one black fish makes the water stronger. What this is trying to do is to strengthen the water effect with metal. Actually, the fish only add decoration to the tank. To really strengthen the water element, the tank should have the real metal element with the water.
Fish do add a couple of things though. One is beauty and the other is to add circulation to the water. Further, they are living creatures and they bring life to the environment. This is good Feng Shui, but it is not needed in a strict sense for the Water element to be effective. Personally, I like fish and if I were to add water to an area, I might add the fish, but for the beauty and serenity they bring, but not for the reason of strengthening the Water element. That is environmental Feng Shui, but not elemental Feng Shui. The water element will work with or without the fish, so long as it is kept clean and circulating. Avoid stagnant water. This becomes a “sha” (negative influence) and is not helpful.
Let me give you an example of how people apply fish to Feng Shui. There is a restaurant near our school that was “Feng Shui’d” by someone who knew only the folklore beliefs. All their remedies blatantly stood out. They have a giant (8 foot) fish tank at the entrance with 6 gold fish and 1 black fish. Nothing else in the tank! First, the poor gold fish have no environment to interact with and it appears very stark. This in itself is poorly applied Feng Shui. Second, all the other remedies stand out so much that they feel out of place. This is a not the way to resolve Feng Shui issues. Feng Shui is a natural science. Everything should appear natural. Properly applied, Feng Shui should be so natural that you don’t even notice that a Feng Shui master has been there, except for the feeling that the building is very comfortable. As an example, perhaps you need the Metal element in a room. By putting a beautiful bronze statue of a horse or perhaps a brass plate on the wall, you get the metal influence without it appearing out of place.
Lastly, everything in Feng Shui has an explanation. Feng Shui is based on logic and practical application. If in doubt about the information presented, question “why?” Also remember that Feng Shui properly applied, should appear natural and comfortable, both to people and to fish.