Are Fish Pedicures Dangerous?

Are Fish Pedicures Dangerous?

Are Fish Pedicures Dangerous?

With beauty treatments becoming increasingly popular, fish pedicures are gaining steam as a unique and extravagant way to pamper yourself. In a fish pedicure, small fish called Garra rufa, or doctorfish, feed off the dead skin on the feet. At first glance, this treatment may seem like a harmless indulgence. But there is still some debate over whether fish pedicures are dangerous or not.

What Is A Fish Pedicure?

A fish pedicure is a type of water-based spa treatment that involves submerging the feet into a basin containing Garra rufa (doctorfish). These small fish are a type of carp that feed on dead skin cells. As they nibble away at your feet, the remaining healthy skin cells are left smoother and moisturized from being in the water. The fish pedicures have grown in popularity amongst celebrities and regular people alike for their calming and nourishing qualities.

Potential Dangers of Fish Pedicures

While this treatment may sound relaxing, some experts warn it can come with risk. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), fish pedicures can potentially expose patrons to bacteria, fungi, and parasites. In particular, fish pedicures pose a risk to those with weakened immune systems, such as pregnant women, donating blood, and individuals undergoing chemotherapy.

Further, scientists are concerned about the public health implications of fish pedicures, specifically as fish become vectors of transferring diseases. Since these tanks are unlikely to be chlorinated, there’s no effective way of controlling the spread of disease-causing microbes.

According to NPR, in 2009, the U.K.'s Health Protection Agency conducted an investigation and found several cases where individuals suffered skin infections after getting a fish pedicure. Additionally, several states including Arizona, New Hampshire and Wisconsin have banned the procedure due to health concerns.

Benefits of Fish Pedicures

Despite these risks, proponents of the fish pedicure contend that the treatment can be beneficial. According to one study published in the Indian Journal of Dermatology, fish pedicures were found to reduce symptoms of eczema and psoriasis. Another study published in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science found that benefits may also extend to better blood circulation, increased regenerative skin cells, and decreased inflammation.

Proponents suggest that the risk of infection can be reduced through sterilization methods and proper maintenance of the fish tanks, thereby making the treatment safe. For example, one salon in Nevada took extra precautions by using filtered tank water, changing the water between customers, and running tests regularly to ensure sanitation.


Ultimately, while fish pedicures can offer some benefits, they have the potential to pose serious risks to health and safety. Salons and consumers should exercise caution when considering this type of service, and closely evaluate all safety protocols. If you are considering a fish pedicure, the best advice is to seek out a licensed professional or medical expert beforehand to make sure you are doing so safely.