Fish Reflexology

Discover the Benefits of Fish Reflexology

It is unbelievable but true- fish reflexology is the newest trend in spas, wellness centres and health resorts. The ‘garra rufa’ is a 14cm large fish which is also often referred to ‘nibble fish’, ‘doctor fish’ or simply ‘spa fish’. It is native in the Kangal region in Turkey (thus is sometimes called ‘kangal fish’) and has been used as natural remedy for skin diseases throughout the Middle East. The export of this fish has increased as particularly Asian spas have discovered this simple but very effective treatment.

The natural habitat of the garra rufa is in rivers, creeks and small lakes leading to hot springs of about 38°C. The colour of the fish can be described as ‘slightly red’ and it has been known for its healing effects on skin diseases and wounds for many centuries. A Turkish shepherd has reported that when one of his sheep was injured, he washed the wound out in a creek and observed how a swarm of little fish started nibbling on it. The sheep recovered extremely fast and well, and what worked on animals turned out to be very helpful for humans as well. In fact, people living in the region hardly complaint about any skin problems as they frequently bathed in rivers and creeks where the fish would nibble away any skin irritation.

But why does the fish feed on dead or irritated skin? Research has shown that the fish has a constant lack of protein, and to even this imbalance out, they lunge at human skin and start nourishing on it. In return, the person who is being ‘nibbled on’ will get rid of serious skin diseases even as severe as eczema and acne. At the same time, the fish dispenses a fluid that is believed to reduce a too fast skin production. The medical effect of this fluid however has not yet been proven.


Fish reflexology has been a major focus for spas and fish are held in aquariums to aid patients all over the world. The treatment is very simple, and pedicures are very popular to get rid of horny skin. The patient puts their feet in the pool where the fish are kept, and within seconds a hungry swarm of fish will gather around them and start nibbling. This procedure is not painful at all, but can be very tickly. Some spas, for instance the Underwater World Singapore, also have a separate pool with similar types of fish which come from Africa. These are a larger and a little more aggressive species, but there is nothing to worry about as these fish will also not hurt. The result of a fish reflexology treatment is truly amazing: whether you are looking for exfoliation or have a serious skin disease, these fish will eat it all up.

The treatment is certainly possible as a whole-body experience as well and the pools are usually kept outdoors as sunlight aides the healing process. Not only does the treatment get rid of disease, it has also proven to freshen up the skin and deeply cleanse it. Due to its booming success, fish reflexology has become very popular especially for those who want to avoid invasive medication or have simply tried everything else. In Turkey, the treatment is covered by health insurance, but in other countries it may not be as it is regarded as ‘alternative medicine’. If you are on a trip to China, Singapore or Japan, there are well known spas who offer a treatment (pedicure) for as little as $30. Reviews from patients have shown that fish reflexology is effective indeed and is also a fun experience and very unusual spa visit.