Fish pedicures involve soaking your feet in a tub of water containing fish who feed on the dead skin. The fish are starved in order to make them do so.
In recent years in Asia, fish pedicures have, unfortunately, become quite popular. Garra rufa, also known as the “doctor fish,” is the species most often exploited for this treatment. The people who offer fish pedicures claim that feeding on dead skin is natural for Garra rufa and that the fish enjoy doing it. However, Garra rufa come from warm rivers and feed on algae in the wild, proving that there is absolutely nothing natural about keeping them in small, severely crowded aquariums with only dead human skin to eat.
Why are these pedicures bad for fish—and for you?
People who keep Garra rufa in their homes have observed that when they feed the fish three times a day, the fish do not bother to nibble on human body parts dipped into the tanks. When Garra rufa in salons are exposed to human limbs, however, they swarm to them. This is because fish used for pedicures in salons are purposefully starved so that they’ll eat dead human skin.
Garra rufa are bred in Asia to supply fish spas around the world. Sadly, over half the fish die from the unclean water and congested environment during transportation.
When pedicure tubs are filled with fish, the tubs can’t be sufficiently sanitized between customers, and there is no way to disinfect the fish themselves.
According to a report by the U.K.’s Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science, even the tiniest cut can quickly become infected when exposed to the bacteria thriving on fish scales or waste.
What You Can Do
There are many willing human technicians who offer safe cruelty-free pedicures. Choose to patronize one of them instead.
Written by former PETA Asia intern Rona Santos