Fish symbolise emotions, and I do need to point out that fish therapy is actually illegal in some parts of the United States, as well as in Mexico, Canada, and in Europe. Fish Therapy (medically known as Ichthyotherapy, or the "holiday" term is a Fish Pedicure and/or a Fish Spa) originated in Turkey, where Garra rufa (toothless) fish have nibbled on the skin of Turkish people for well over 400 years now.
Of course, this unconventional treatment to many would not come without its controversies.
Needless to say, I was intrigued on a recent holiday (and combined business trip - a healthy mix between business and leisure) when passing a place called Barefoot Fish in Surfers Paradise.
Naturally, I was not immediately sold on the idea, as $40 AUD for a 20-minute session seems to be a steep price tag for something that appears to be so simple on the surface.
After engaging in a back and forth thought process, yours truly signed up for the experience, and the timing has to be opportune, because the treatment centre do care about the welfare of the fish. In other words, these toothless fish do get fed other nutrients, apart from a human's dead skin. Furthermore, this particular treatment centre do close for an hour in the middle of the day for the welfare of the fish. In other words, to feed them other nurtrients, and to give them a hiatus from nibbling on human feet. Animals can and do get overstimulated; no different to us humans.
Researching the health benefits of Fish Therapy was helpful. The idea is for the fish to exfoliate the feet (even between the toes) despite using a loofah daily; no different to a normal pedicure, but in a more gentler fashion.
Given the choice, multiple nibbles on the heels, rather than having a scourer rubbed over you in that part is way more satisfying.
It is known that Fish Therapy/Ichthyotherapy has assisted in the treatment of skin conditions such as Eczema and Psoriasis. It is like boosting skin collagen from the feet.
A migraine like headache on the right side hand of my head also disappeared after only 15 minutes in this 20-minute treatment. And my skin felt soft and smooth, like all of the dead skin cells were removed on my feet, and right up to my lower thighs.
On the other hand, this treatment is not everyone's cup of tea, and there are concerns about infections, and a lack of fish being attached to your skin. There are other concerns about this treatment not (legally) being a real pedicure, and animal cruelty in the sense of fish not being fed other nutrients, so that they are starved to eat human skin. It also depends on how often a Fish Therapy salon cleans their tubs. These are important things to think about. Bleeding could be another side effect as well.
As the fish are toothless, I had no issues with bleeding and other side effects; and days later (at the time of writing), my feet still feel fresh, soft, and renewed.
Then again, the salon that yours truly went to, allow for part of the costs to be claimed on Medicare in extreme cases; perhaps upon the advice of a dermatologists recommendation. That goes to show that healthcare authorities in Queensland do not see this as a gimmick. I've never seen such in Sydney, Australia (where I currently live).
Once yours truly arrived for her treatment at this particular salon on the Gold Coast; I was asked if I had applied lotion to my feet earlier in the day, and if I have any cuts etc. on my feet. Furthermore, I was also asked if I was undergoing radiation or chemotherapy treatment. It was all taken seriously, and your belongings are secure. Your feet (and the other body bits that will land in the water) get washed down and sanitised prior to the 20-minute treatment in this case. Your feet are covered in plastic until your spot is allocated. Your feet get dried off at the end, with paper towels to use. The giggles were a bonus and a half.
All of these benefits certainly add to longevity/a longer, and a better quality of life.
There was an older lady who came in with a close friend of hers, around 15 minutes into my treatment, and she enthused "Oh S!@t" the moment her feet went into the water. No different to having ants in her pants kind of feeling, she took her feet right out. Thankfully for her sake, she was game to try again a couple of minutes later, and her feet managed to stay into the water for the rest of the treatment from that point. That just goes to show that her feet needed that treatment, and of course, this natural medical procedure (or pedicure, depending on your view) would naturally share some controversy.
The fish really had a feast on me, with one staying afloat at the top of the water, nibbling like crazy on my lower left thigh. They nibble on all angles; even on the soles of the feet, where it is ticklish the most. If you are a nail polish lover like me; that is not an issue, and it will not affect the fish. Facts.
The treatment is likened to a pins and needles feeling, and it was ever so ticklish. The treatment provider I went to recommends this treatment once every 4-6 weeks. This is highly unlikely to happen, as yours truly is not expecting to travel at that point. On the whole, it was a fun and novel experience to try at least once. It certainly added some joy to my holiday/combined business trip. It trumped petting cats at the local cat cafe anyway. An Instagram post of me being filmed right at the beginning of the treatment at Barefoot Fish, Surfers Paradise QLD Australia:
My OMG expressions was due to the abundance of fish "literally" nibbling on me.
The good news is that upon "retirement" from Fish Therapy, these particular fish will be re-homed to loving fish families, sold at pet shops, or sent to hydroponic farms. None of these fish will ever be thrown into a river or dam.
What do you think; is this a strange healthcare fad? Or something that you are now more curious about?
About the Creator
Freelance Internet Moderator/UX Writer/UX Consulting Designer/Graphic Designer
Lives in Sydney, Australia. Loves life.