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I've always wondered if a fish pedicure (where people let fish nibble on their feet to remove dead skin) actually has any real discernible benefits for the amount of time that people put their feet in tanks for. To me, it looks like a bit of a fad, especially with the high prices that some operators are charging. There are also some health warnings.

So, my question is this: is there any scientific evidence that shows that a fish pedicure actually does any good?

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From a purely anecdotal stance, I can say whole-heartedly that it was a very relaxing experience - sitting with your feet in a vat of warm water is relaxing. Having the little nibbles on dead skin is a bizarre sensation at first, but my feet were definitely less calloused and smoother when it was over. Can't speak to any of the health risks - the spa where I was had very strict cleaning procedures (including kicking you out if you put your hands in the water - even after a foot wash prior to letting them soak). – warren Apr 26 '11 at 15:15
And there I was, about to point out that fish don't need pedicures. – DJClayworth Apr 27 '11 at 15:23
I cannot speak to pedicures per se, but "fish therapy" for psoriasis has been around for decades. A skeptic might say that fish lips are unlikely to be the critical part of the treatment, which is essentially exfoliating and moisturizing the skin, while likely exposing it to relatively strong solar UV. – Larry OBrien May 11 '11 at 0:15
I'm not sure if you are more interested in whether the treatment is effective/worth the money, or whether it is dangerous? For the latter, there is no published research I could find, but: As of 2011, there is at least one insurance broker in the UK who insure harra rufa fish pedicures: Considering the amount of convincing that the underwriters of such an insurance would require, that means that there was enough evidence of its general safety provided to them by the broker company. – Lola May 17 '11 at 16:39
@Konrad - they don't cover it against it failing to work. They cover it against being unsafe. Ditto here. Though it's an interesting data point - AFAIK American insurers don't routinely cover homepathy, though I saw some coverage of chirpractors – Lola May 19 '11 at 0:59

1 Answer 1

A bit late for the party but here is your answer: fish pedicure has good benefits on, it comes with minor risks also.

For those who do not know what fish pedicure is:

A fish pedicure, also known as a fish spa, involves patrons dipping their feet in a tub of water filled with small fish called Garra rufa. Garra rufa are sometimes referred to as “doctor fish” because they eat away dead skin found on peoples’ feet, leaving newer skin exposed.

Lancet in 1989 mentioned one unusual alternative treatment for Psoriasis which is so-called ‘Doctorfish of Kangal’. These fish feed on the skin scales of bathers, reportedly reducing illnesses such as psoriasis and atopic dermatitis.

It seems also that a spa in Turkey has been offering a fish pedicure service for more than 100 years, to treat serious skin conditions in 3,000 patients every year, such as psoriasis and eczema. In 1988 it seems that it became an official treatment center for people who have psoriasis.

But fish pedicure could transfer bacteria and diseases to you.

The CDC has published a report by U.K.’s Centre for Environment, Fisheries & Aquaculture Science, which investigated the types of bacteria associated with fish pedicure. Results showed that those fish carried strains of several bacteria that could cause soft tissue infections for people with open sores, skin cuts, underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, AIDS, cancer, or advanced age.


Warwick D, Warwick J. The doctor fish—a cure for psoriasis? Lancet. 1989;335:1093–4.

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(Sigh) Who would have thought that, back when I was a kid who enjoyed wading in the creek and letting minnows nibble my toes, I was missing out on a major money-making opportunity? – jamesqf Mar 9 at 5:40

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