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Is the Fish Spa a Con or a Cure?

Updated on January 5, 2011

Over the past few years cleansing of the skin in a Fish Spa has become a popular and increasingly fashionable treatment. Fish Spas can now be found in beauty parlors, as separate entities or attached to aquariums or oceanariums. They are now being marketed for home use and even rented out for parties. In recent years Spas have set up in Japan, China, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, USA, Philippines, Ireland and more

The Fish Spa is not a new idea. The most famous is the Kangal Spa in Turkey has been in operation since the early 1900s. There is historical evidence to suggest similar spas have been in use much longer.

Fish Spa's gained their popularity with Psoriasis sufferers and others with eczema type disease. Treatment is very simple. The patient immerses the affected part of the body, or the whole body in with the fish. The fish will then feed gently upon the loose skin removing it in a not unpleasant tickly manner. Depending on the the number of fish working on the body treatment can be over in less than half an hour. The fish tend to ignore areas of unaffected skin. The freshly cleaned and exfoliated skin feels smooth to the touch.

Treatment by the 'Doctor Fish' is not strictly limited to those with skin conditions. Fish manicures and Fish pedicures are increasing in popularity. Easy to set up and requiring limited space they provide an interesting new treatment in beauty parlours. Costs of treatment vary on where you go, but around a dollar a minute is not unusual.

There is a certain amount of discussion as to which is the best species of fish for Fish Spa use. Most Spa's favour the original, Garra rufa , which is said to be a gentler fish, removing the dead skin by a suction type nibble rather than just a nibble.

Due to the recent popularity of Fish Spas further research on the effectiveness has been carried out. It has been discovered that Garra rufa apparently actually secretes an enzyme which has been shown to be beneficial to human skin. Further work is being done looking into producing a topical application.

Other fish, like the Chin chin, a species of Tilapia, are being used but it is much scorned by others as an inferior fish.


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A Personal Experience

Back in the early seventies I found myself living in Al Ain in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. At that time Al Ain, situated on the edge of the Arabian Empty Quarter, was a dusty little town. The main street was not paved and the only real claim to fame was a Hilton Hotel and a branch of Kentucky Fried Chicken. Oh...and the Zoo where I was employed as curator.

The Hilton was built, allegedly, to house the visiting mistresses of various local Sheikhs and wealthy businessmen. I have no reason to doubt it and could just imagine them hidden away in their rooms eating KFC takeaways.

Their was a swimming pool at the Hilton but it cost and it was expensive. It left only two possibilities if one wanted to swim. A 60 mile drive through the desert the sea or a trip to Ain al Fayda.

Ain Al Fayda

Situated close to the base of the Jebel Hafeet mountain was Ain al Fayda (Abu Sukhna). This was a hot radioactive mineral spring of crystal clear water. This flowed in a strong current out of the ground and the water was collected initially in a large concrete walled basin. The minimum depth was around ten feet and was an ideal place to both swim and dive. The overflowing water spread out over the desert irrigating extensive reedbeds which were of utmost importance to migratory birds through the millenia.

The water contained numerous Mosquito Fish (Gambusia ). My first introduction to the 'Fish Spa'. They were fine if you were swimming but if you paused for a second or rested they were all over you like a shoal of minature pirhana.

They competed with each other for bits of loose skin or choice leg hairs. They were ticklish and sometimes painful, very irritating but always interesting. I would sit at the edge of the pool, my legs dangling in the water wondering if they would eat me if I fell asleep. I never dreamed for a moment that people would actually pay for such an experience,

Fish Pedicure in Action

More Recently

More recently I have visited Fish Spa's in the Philippines at the Manila Ocean Park. This was actually the first Fish Spa I had seen. When I started travelling through Asia just a few years ago there were none but now they have set up in places I previously visited.

On my visit to Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre Aquarium I found that there was a Fish Spa attached. As they were doing a special deal for customers who had paid to visit the aquarium I thought I would give it a go. A very professional, hygenic and well supervised and aided set up. To be honest though I got more out of the Gambusia at Ain al Fayda.

So Do Fish Spa's Work?

Undoubtedly the Fish Spa is fun. Somewhere to meet with friends and experience an unusual and relaxing half hour or so.

The skin will definitely look and feel better after the exfoliating efforts of Garra rufa . There may well even be something in the beneficial enzyme skin secretions of the fish.

Equally though, sunlight, elephant dung, proprietary and herbal creams may do the job for you.

But Garra rufa as a cure to anything? Well there is no proof yet. People who suffer from skin diseases who have experienced a permanent cure are few and far between. may work for you.

Learn more of the Fish Spa Phenomena. It is a lucrative business which may be right for you.



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