How does a fish pedicure work?

Fish Pedicure Controversies

Fish pedicures might sound like a win-win situation -- the fish get to eat, and you lose the dead skin -- but they're not without controversy. In fact, in the U.S. fish pedicures are banned in 10 states for hygiene reasons.

Although no infections or illnesses from fish pedicures have yet been reported, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists several reasons why one should be cautious about fish pedicures:

  • Fish pedicure tubs can't be completely sanitized when the fish are present.
  • The fish themselves can't be disinfected between customers, but due to financial constraints, spas can't use new fish for each customer.
  • Chinese "Chinchin" fish are sometimes mistaken for and sold as garra rufa. Chinchin can grow teeth, increasing the risk of drawing blood and infection.
  • Garra rufa are not native to the United States and could cause a threat to plant and animal life if released into the wild.
  • The fish will only eat skin if not provided with any other food, which can constitute as animal cruelty.

Although fish pedicures do remain legal in many states and across the U.K., British and U.S. officials do warn certain people to avoid them:

  • Anyone with open sores or cuts
  • Diabetics
  • Anyone with a compromised immune system (e.g. AIDS or cancer)
  • Those of advanced age

In April 2011, British authorities discovered a bacterial outbreak among some 6,000 fish imported from Indonesia to British salons. The fish were infected with Streptococcus agalactiae (group B Streptococcus), a bacteria that can cause pneumonia as well as infections of the blood, joints and bones. No illnesses were reported.

What do you think? Does it sound fishy to you? Or, would you try it?

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Related Articles


  • BBC. "'Doctor Fish' Clear Skin Disease." Nov. 21, 2008. (June 2, 2012)
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Fish Pedicures and Fish Spas." May 17, 2012. (June 2, 2012)
  • Fish Spa Solutions. "FAQs." 2010. (June 2, 2012)
  • Middleton, Christopher. "A Pedicure With 100 Hungry Creatures." Telegraph Weekend. June 19, 2010. (June 2, 2012)
  • Mozes, Alan. "'Fish Pedicure' a Recipe for Bacterial Infection, Researchers Warn." U.S. News & World Report. May 17, 2012. (June 2, 2012)
  • "Tiny Carp Nibble Your Toes in Fishy Pedicure." July 21, 2008. (June 2, 2012)