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Garra Rufa Fish Pedicure, Doctor Fish Eating Dead Skin For Pedicures

Updated on January 27, 2012

Garra Rufa fish pedicures are sweeping across the globe as millions of people try this ancient form of foot care. Garra Rufa, also known as Doctor Fish or the Surgeon fish amongst other names, have been used to treat psoriasis, eczema and other skin disorders for years in their homelands of Turkey, Iran, Syria, and Iraq. They are fresh water fish which only eat the affected tissue and leave the healthy skin to continue growing.

Garra Rufa fish spas' are only designed to give temporary relief and are usually visited by psoriasis patients up to twice a month. Using Garra Fish is an excellent way to exfoliate the skin, and many professional surgeon fish spas' offer full body treatments for their clients.

Dead skin eating fish is not a modern conception of treatment or a beauty aid. It has been used for years to treat any skin disorders but has only in recent years become commercially available. The fish eating dead skin phenomenon has only been commercially available since 2006 in Japan and Croatia. 2006 saw the first fish pedicure spa in America, with England following in 2008. Fish spas' are now available in most countries across the globe.

Garra Rufa Fish At Home

Surgeon fish have been kept in home aquariums for many years. They are not difficult to keep in a home environment as they are quite robust fish and may live a long time. However, they will lose their instinct for eating dead tissue as fish owners tend to overfeed them. Their primal instinct to eat dead flesh becomes diminished as food is always on hand provided by the owner.

To rear these fish at home for the sole purpose of treating skin disorders is not illegal. Some doctors back this idea to help relieve the symptoms of certain skin disorders and help reduce the toll of national health systems. Some psoriasis sufferers breed the fish and have a fish bath once or twice a month, carefully capturing the fish and placing them back in the tank after the treatment. Others just keep the tank of Garra Rufa fish on the floor and simply dip their feet in now and then.

The illegal Garra Rufa Fish

Turkey has legally protected the Garra Rufa fish from over exploitation as the demand for these fish grows rapidly. Exploitation of their natural living surgeon fish is now controlled as without this they would already be close to extinction in Turkey.

The USA has banned this type of health service as they claim it to be unsanitary. The reason being that usually any implement used for surgery should be discarded after being used only once, these fish can munch on dead skin for several days. Many states will not allow fish spas to open because of this reason. Quebec is one of the only states to allow the use of Garra Rufa Pedicures.

Full Body Garra Ruffa Treatment

Commercial Garra Rufa fish are usually only fed on dead skin, which is why this type of exfoliation works. They are not starved, but only get their food from dead tissue cells of clients. This ensures that the fish are always ready to eat. An all over body treatment may need up to 100 fish at a time to ensure a more personal treatment with excellent results.

The fish in the tanks may be swapped over several times a day to continually keep their appetites high. Garra Rufa pedicure fish also have a limited life expectancy compared to home bred or wild fish. Some of these surgeon fish may only live for several days once they have started being used commercially. This is not down to the damaged tissue cells they eat but from other possibilities such as stress from moving from tank to tank, and the water not being a suitable temperature for them.

Commercial Garra Rufa Spa Managers Opinion

We spoke to a manger of a new up and coming Garra Rufa Fish Pedicure Spa treatment chain called 'Garra Rufa Fiskespa'. His opinion of this type of beauty therapy or health treatment is mixed. He agrees that the medical benefits for psoriasis sufferers and eczema patients is extraordinary. Also that there may be other medical factors about these fish which have not yet been understood

As for the shorter life expectancy of these fish, he quoted:

"My company has not yet began trading, even though we have been breeding the fish for some months. We intend to regularly change over the fish from the pedicure tanks into fresh water which has been controlled at perfect PH balances for their longer survival, after all, you literally do not want to bite the hand that feeds you"

He then added that his breeding program and experimental water filtration systems, has seen a remarkable increase in the life expectancy of all his fish.


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    • ugina profile image


      7 years ago from Bhutan

      I have read about this fish. My daughter has itchthyosis which is a rare dry skin disorder and she has lots of dry scaling skin on her body. i wonder if this fish can help rid her of her skin problem. Thanks for sharing so much info. Very helpful


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