What attracts you to the world of aquariums? Some are drawn to the peaceful effect that an aquarium can have on a viewer. For others, it’s more about the vivid colors and exotic species. Some people just like having something to do in their spare time. A select few raise fish to eat their feet.
Huh? Well, it’s true. Aquarists typically don’t focus on foot health, but some health and beauty spas are letting people take a dip in swimming pool-sized aquariums to let fish chow down on their skin.
Now, before I get too far into this, don’t think of this as piranha swarms or sharks reducing swimmers to a murky red splotch in the water. Think “pedicure,” not “Jaws.” And to think: you normally have to pay hundreds of dollars to experience underwater dining.
This treatment operates under a very simple idea. You put body parts into water that’s filled with tiny toothless Garra rufa or Cyprinion macrostomum, commonly known as “doctor fish.” These little guys feed on dead skin cells, but they have no interest in living skin cells. So, if you just sit back and let them work their magic, they’ll chomp off all of your dead skin cells and leave your skin feeling smooth, vibrant, and healthy. It may seem gross to us, but that’s five-star, healthy dining for the fish.
People with skin disorders such as psoriasis and eczema claim that the doctor fish work wonders. These picky eaters are much more precise than sharp razors or irritating files that people typically need to use to scrape off dead skin. In fact, the whole event is completely pain-free. I just hope you aren’t ticklish.
As neat as fish pedicures are, there’s one major catch: it’s not legal in much of Europe and the US. Public sanitation laws typically require these fish to undergo the same sanitation treatment as all other medical equipment. You can’t use a scalpel on one guy and then immediately use it on another person without sterilizing it first. The same applies to doctor fish, except that you can’t exactly dip them in bleach. And since throwing out doctor fish and bringing in a fresh batch for each new customer is prohibitively expensive, fish pedicures didn’t last long in the US before they were banned.
If you’re just dying to have fish munch on your toes, then I’m happy to report that there’s an alternative. Fish pedicures are relatively common in Asian countries and places like Turkey or some of Iraq’s modernized regions. Just be careful: some evidence suggests that fish pedicures can spread infection and disease.