COPENHAGEN - This isn't an aquarium, but a spa. And these little Gara Rufa fish are its hungry workers. Here at Fish Kiss Spa in Copenhagen, Danes are trying out a quirky trend for fish pedicures.
It's an age-old treatment that's been practiced in Turkey for around 400 years, but now it's gradually appearing around the globe. But these fish - also known as 'Doctor Fish' - don't have teeth. Instead they slowly suck and nibble away dead skin from customers' feet.
Fish Kiss Spa offers the fishy treatment, in addition to more conventional ones, such as body massages, foot massages and manicures. "It feels slightly odd to have fish eat your feet," says 21-year-old sales assistant Andrei Jinaru. "And it's really ticklish in the beginning, especially if you haven't tried it before, but you get used to it in a couple of minutes."
"I would opt for always trying something new. I've done foot scrubs before and they're not as interesting as having fish eat your feet (laughs). So, yeah." Copenhagen-based podiatrist Heidi Gabrielsen says aside from the fun factor, fish pedicures may also be a useful treatment for those suffering with certain skin conditions.
"If it helps people with psoriasis and eczema all over the body, then it's amazing, because we as podiatrists can't treat people with eczema on the legs, or here, or on the face," she says.
"Here, we can't cut on their face, we only cut on their feet so it helps those eczema, psoriasis, all over the body. But when it comes to the feet, those fish can't do anything that a podiatrist can't."
Fish pedicures like this have become particularly popular in Asia.But the practice has been outlawed in some US states due to health concerns. It's claimed the fish are a tool for skin exfoliation, but can't be sanitised between uses.
Gabrielsen says cleanliness is always important. "If someone comes in with dirty feet or feet with scabs then it's obviously not very nice," she says. "So it has to be feet which are completely clean and without cuts and scabs to optimise the conditions for the fish and the feet that go into the water."
For hygiene reasons, Fish Kiss Spa requires customers to thoroughly wash their feet before the therapy. People with foot warts, fungus or ulcers, or infectious diseases and other hygiene-related conditions are not allowed to undergo the therapy.
Fish Kiss Spa charges 129 krone (approx. $19 USD) for a 20-minute fish pedicure session and 179 krone (approx. $26 USD) for a 40-minute session.