Doctor Fish Pedicures and Fish Spas
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Doctor Fish Pedicures and Fish Spas

What are doctor fish? What are fish spas? What is a fish pedicure? Where can I get a fish pedicure? Are fish spas safe? Can I get HIV from a fish pedicure? What are the little fish that eat dead skin? What kind of fish are used for pedicures? A cool new trend of fish spas and fish pedicures is under attack by some groups who offer health and safety concerns.

Although not legal everywhere, fish pedicures have become recently popular. The fish commonly used are from Turkey and have been named “Doctor Fish”, whose species name is Garra rufa, which are a type of carp. Another species, Cyprinion macrostomus, or kangal fish are also used.

The small fish are typically kept slightly underfed which then triggers them to try to find food on the humans that submerse parts of their body,usually feet and legs, in the water where the fish are kept. As they nibble at the skin they release the dead skin, loosened by the water, into the water. The fish are not actually eating the skin, they are looking for food.

The idea behind fish pedicures, and fish spas, is that the fish remove the dead skin leaving healthy skin. This is said to offer relief to people suffering from skin problems such as psoriasis and eczema. Even people without such problems have enjoyed the fish pedicures.

In some cases only one person at a time is in the water with the fish, but in many cases the fish are in a large pool where many people can soak their feet at the same time.  There may be hundreds or thousands of doctor fish in the pools at any time.

Fish spas have been seen as natural business additions to nail salons, but many businesses have been shut down due to health concerns.

Concerns in regards to the use of doctor fish, and fish pedicures circles around laws that would normally require “cosmetic tools” to be sterilized or discarded after use, but of course, this would mean throwing the fish away after one use. Once the fish are conditioned to the point they are ready to nibble at human limbs throwing them away, and replacing them, would be too expensive for the business to remain profitable.

Although there have been no documented cases there is a concern that HIV could be spread through the water if a person had a cut. Of course this is a bit of a stretch since the fish do not have teeth so could not actually cause such an injury, and would then put a person at no greater risk of HIV infection than if they were in a swimming pool.

At the time of writing, January, 2012, fish spas are illegal in most United States, and most places in Canada, the exception being Quebec. They are also popular in Turkey, where the fish come from, Japan, Indonesia, the Philippines, and some other European countries.

Other concerns may be raised by the animal welfare people in regards to how risky it is to starve the fish so that they become hungry enough to look for food on human skin. 

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Comments (7)

Not for me. Thanks for the write-up.

It had become increasingly popular here too.

Good points made! I saw similar things on a documentary on skin issues when a man visited a natural hot spring and other cooler water pools where fish were administered to eat the dead skin. I like what you pose though on HIV and even animal welfare situations.

Thank you dear Brenda for this interesting article. Voted up. Appreciate your friendship and support.

Great one to vote up!

I think I'm much too ticklish for this to work on my feet! Good article, for sure! Voting up.

well researched..thank you for sharing ...