Fish Pedicure – Benefits and Safety Concerns

Written by Monomita Chakraborty

Fish pedicure involves placing your feet into a tub of water filled with Garra rufa fish. This unique foot therapy helps exfoliate the skin and may potentially aid in the treatment of psoriasis, eczema, and other skin and cutaneous conditions (1). Although the popularity of fish pedicures has expanded, they involve risks, particularly among persons with impaired immune systems. This article will walk you through the procedure, its benefits, and safety concerns. Keep reading.

What Is Fish Pedicure?

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 provides a soothing massage and a calming sensation while the fish nibble and scrape away the dead skin. A fish pedicure treatment might run anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes.

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

  •  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 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

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 C.  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.

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).


Fish pedicure can make your feet soft and smoother. It can help reduce spots, calluses, and warts and possibly soothe eczema and psoriasis. However, safety issues, such as the risk of infection and lack of sanitation, are significant concerns. Also, fish pedicure is illegal in many parts of the world, including Texas, New York, California, and New Jersey, due to its ethical concerns.

Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions

Do fish pedicures hurt?

No, Garra rufa fish do not have teeth, which mean they will suck and nibble the dead skin of your feet during the process. Many people describe the sensation as ticklish and tingly but never really painful.

Can you get infected from a fish pedicure?

Yes. A study reports a case of staph infections after fish pedicures due to the presence of pathogenic bacteria in the fish (5).

Why are fish pedicures illegal in the US?

Fish pedicures are actually prohibited in many parts of the United States due to the health hazards and animal cruelty involved.


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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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