Fish Pedicure – Benefits and Safety Concerns

Fun and quirky, this pedicure clears away dead skin and relieves stress in no time.

Medically reviewed by Dr. CP ThajudheenDr. CP Thajudheen, MD
By Monomita ChakrabortyMonomita Chakraborty  • 

Fish pedicure, often known as fish spa treatment, entails immersing your feet in a tank of water containing Garra rufa fish. This unique foot therapy helps exfoliate the skin and may aid in treating psoriasisi  XA long-term, common skin condition that causes dry, scaly, and raised patches on knees, elbows, scalp, and trunk. , eczemai  XA chronic, common skin disease that causes inflamed, cracked, red, itchy, and rough skin due to irritants and allergens. , and other skin and cutaneous conditions (1). Even though fish pedicure has grown in popularity, it poses a few risks, especially for people with compromised immune systems. This article will explain how fish pedicure works, its advantages, and potential risks. Keep reading!

What Is Fish Pedicure?

Fish nibbling away dead skin on person's feet

Image: Shutterstock

The fish pedicure involves soaking the customer’s feet in a small water tank with nearly 30 to 100 pieces of tiny Garra Rufa fish, also known as the doctor fish or nibble fish. They eat away the dead skin of your feet, revealing soft and smoother skin. They nibble away the rough, flaky skin of the toes, leaving the feet gently exfoliated. This biotherapy is like a soothing spa experience that provides relaxation while the fish nibble and scrape away the dead skin to make way for skin renewal. A fish pedicure treatment might run anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes.

protip_icon Fun Fact
Turks have used the Garra fish as a natural exfoliant for over 400 years. The practice then made its way to other parts of Asia and Europe before being introduced in the US in 2008.

Apart from exfoliation, fish pedicure offers some amazing benefits for the skin. Find out what they are in the next section.

Benefits Of Fish Pedicure

Smooth feet after a fish pedicure

Image: Shutterstock

  •  It gently exfoliates your skin by eliminating dead and dry skin cells.
  •  Your rough, uneven feet feel soft, smooth, and healthy.
  •  It helps soothe eczema and psoriasis (2), (3).
  •  It can reduce itchiness, blemishes, dark spots, and scars on the feet.
  •  It is a terrific stress reliever. It induces a mild massage sensation that is incredibly calming.
  •  It can minimize the appearance of calluses and warts.

Although a fish pedicure feels great on the skin, it has certain safety concerns. Here are some risks associated with fish pedicures.

Safety Concerns

Unhygienic fish pedicure tank

Image: Shutterstock

1. Hygiene

The water used in the fish tank is not usually replaced regularly. Many people sharing the same tank can only make things worse, and you have to compromise with hygiene and cleanliness. As a result of this, infections may spread easily, particularly if you have an open wound or bruises.

2. Fish Swap

Doctor fish resemble another fish species, Chinchin, which has teeth and bites. So, if your spa personnel mistakenly choose the wrong species for your basin, you may get bitten, leaving you vulnerable to infections.

3. Possibility Of Disease Transmission

The biggest risk is the transmission of diseases like hepatitis Ci  XAn infection caused by the hepatitis C virus that causes inflammation in the liver, and may damage it completely. .  Pathogenic bacteria can transmit from one person to another through the Garra rufa fish and spread the condition. Customers with open sores and cuts, chronic medical disorders like diabetes, or immune conditions like HIV and AIDS are more susceptible to contract infections through fish pedicures.

protip_icon Did You Know?
Peta warns against the cruelty involved in fish pedicures. The fishes are severely starved so that they feed on dead skin from human feet. So, the practice is banned in many states worldwide.

Fish pedicure can also cause onychomadesis, a condition in which the toenails blacken and fall out. This damage is most likely induced by the fish’s pressure on the nails (4).

A fish pedicure is a unique beauty treatment that involves immersing the feet in a water basin containing Garra rufa, a Middle Eastern fish. This aquatic therapy gives you much needed foot care that softens and smooths your feet. In addition, it may aid in the reduction of spots, calluses, and warts, as well as relieve eczema and psoriasis. However, there are serious safety concerns, such as the risk of infection and a lack of cleanliness. Furthermore, fish pedicure is prohibited in several parts of the world, including Texas, New York, California, and New Jersey, due to ethical issues.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do fish pedicures actually work?

Yes, fish pedicures remove dead skin and reduce itchiness and the appearance of calluses. However, the fish tanks are not replaced regularly and may increase the risk of infection (5). So think carefully and exercise caution before you opt for this.

Where did fish pedicure originate?

Fish pedicures are said to have originated in Turkey and are quite popular across various Southeast Asian and Middle Eastern countries today.

Are fish pedicures cruel?

Yes, the Garra rufa fish are starved so that they can eat the dead skin during the pedicure. Additionally, they come with a lot of health risks. That is why fish pedicures are banned in many US states and some parts of Canada.

Key Takeaways

  • A fish pedicure can reduce itchiness, blemishes, dark spots, and scars on the feet.
  • Garra Rufa fish eat away the dead skin of feet, revealing soft and smoother skin.
  • However, infections may spread easily during a fish pedicure as water used in the fish tank is not regularly replaced.


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  1. Fish Pedicure: Review of Its Current Dermatology Applications
  2. Ichthyotherapy as Alternative Treatment for Patients with Psoriasis: A Pilot Study
  3. Kangal hot spring with fish and psoriasis treatment
  4. Onychomadesis Following a Fish Pedicure
  5. Staphylococcus aureus infection of the feet following fish pedicure
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