Please, stop with the goofy fads

OK, this is a weird one: getting a “pedicure” by putting your feet in a tub with Garra rufa, a small fish that then industriously nibbles dead skin away. That’s not a pedicure, for one, and two, it probably doesn’t do anything for you, although it does feed the fish, and three…your toenails might fall off, probably due to secondary infections.

The CDC has a few things to say about the practice.

  • The fish pedicure tubs cannot be sufficiently cleaned between customers when the fish are present.
  • The fish themselves cannot be disinfected or sanitized between customers. Due to the cost of the fish, salon owners are likely to use the same fish multiple times with different customers, which increases the risk of spreading infection.
  • Chinese Chinchin, another species of fish that is often mislabeled as Garra rufa and used in fish pedicures, grows teeth and can draw blood, increasing the risk of infection.
  • According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Garra rufa could pose a threat to native plant and animal life if released into the wild because the fish is not native to the United States.
  • Fish pedicures do not meet the legal definition of a pedicure.
  • Regulations specifying that fish at a salon must be contained in an aquarium.
  • The fish must be starved to eat skin, which might be considered animal cruelty.

Next step up: dunk your toes in a tank full of piranha.


  1. jrkrideau says

    Well-known alternate medical treatment, aka woo. “The treatment draws out all kinds of toxins and so on”. May also cure hangnails.
    Up there with homeopathy as a health treatment. I had never heard of it as a pedicure before. Maybe a way to recycle the fish?

  2. microraptor says

    Piranhas aren’t likely to do much unless they’ve been starved, either.

    I recommend lionfish.

  3. davidnangle says

    Walden Pond, last time I was there, had a population of small fish that would surround your feet like an audience, at a gradually-shrinking distance. You usually don’t see them until suddenly your visual cortex locks in on the shape and color and there they are! Hold still long enough, (using your nerves of steel,) and you’ll get the nibbling action. It tickles.

  4. Ed Seedhouse says

    This is *not* how I want to fulfill my fantasy of having my toes nibbled…

  5. says

    I want to lie shipwrecked and comatose
    Drinking fresh mango juice
    Goldfish shoals, nibbling at my toes
    Fun, Fun, Fun in the Sun, Sun, Sun…

    —second verse, “Red Dwarf” theme

  6. wzrd1 says

    Next step up: dunk your toes in a tank full of piranha.

    Nah, I far prefer Oscars.
    Infamous for jumping out of their tanks and smart enough to stay away from my nasty feet. ;)

  7. Thomas Scott says

    This is actually a popular spa treatment for psoriasis in Eastern Europe. The difference is that the water in the spa is continually refreshed with artesian geothermal sping water which is naturally oligotrphic. The endiginous population of fish in the spring/river ecosystem are naturally stunted by the near sterile water and are hungry for whatever they can get.

  8. cartomancer says

    The Roman Emperor Tiberius (allegedly) had a specially trained shoal of “little fishes” in his palace swimming pool on the island of Capri. They were trained to nibble at his genitals when he got in. They were also not really fishes, but small boys.

    Or so the legend goes.

  9. unclefrogy says

    what ever the benefits are for such a procedure maybe even if it is as good as pumice stone and a foot massage I will bet one thing for sure it ain’t cheap.
    uncle frogy

  10. mntraveler says

    I love to eat them mousies
    Mousies what I love to eat
    I bite they little heads off
    I nibble on they tiny feet

    (From one of my favorite Kliban cartoons)

  11. tacitus says

    Fad? I remember my nieces going into town to have this done (in the UK) years ago.

    Here in Texas, you can dip your feet into some rivers in the Hill Country and have fish nibble at your toes for free.

  12. chigau (違う) says

    A headline in John Morales’s #20 link
    University distanced itself from ad
    ooh quantumn
    John Morales #21

  13. emergence says

    Does anyone remember that incident in Australia where that kid had his feet gnawed on by amphipods?

  14. blf says

    As others have pointed out, this is not new, albeit perhaps some of the claims might be. I myself recall toe-eating-fish-food(-fad?) from something in the last century.

    The mildly deranged penguin maintains that this is, whilst not exactly backwards, certainly skewed. Instead of small fish chewing on yer webbed feet, it should be small fish soaked in vin and olive oil with sun-dried tomatoes, and eaten with yer fingers. With melon and limoncello to follow. (You may guess what I just had for lunch, albeit I used a fork, and there was some pasta involved. The mildly deranged penguin ate the cheese, so I is cheese-depraveddeprived.)

  15. says

    ♫ I want to lie shipwrecked and comatose
    Drinking fresh mango juice
    Goldfish shoals nibbling at my toes
    Fun, fun, fun
    In the sun, sun, sun… ♫

  16. says

    I never heard the word “shoals” in that till I looked it up for my comment. The things you can learn on this internet. (And some of them are true!)

  17. cherbear says

    Hmm That’s what I want to do. Stick my feet in a bowl of water where fish poop.

  18. erichoug says

    When we used to go to mo ranch
    There were minnows that would do this. You could sit in the pools at the rapids and they wouldn’t bother you. But if you stood in the shallow, sandstone bottom upstream, they would start in like piranhas. Always used to creep me the hell out.