In Bangkok, My Feet Are Fish Food

During our most recent visit to Bangkok, tanks full of flesh-eating fish hungry for dead skin were all the rage.

Sound like fun? We thought so.

Watch the video below to find out.

Fish Spa Video: A Dip in a Pool of Flesh-Eating Doctor Fish

 

So what kind of fish are these? When we asked the woman at the spa, she said “Hungry.”

Further research tells us they are Garra Rufa Fish, also referred to as Doctor Fish. (When I was a kid, my pediatrician was named Dr. Fish, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.)

If you think that having the surface of your feet feasted on by schools of flesh eating fish sounds like fun, here’s some practical advice to maximize your fish spa experience:

1) Go solo: This may sound selfish, but try to keep the tank to yourself. More feet and limbs in there at once means less fish attention on you.

2) Go early: As the day wears on, the fish lose their appetites as they fill up on the flesh of other clients’ feet. Try to get your limbs into the tank in the morning when the fish and their appetites are at their peak. (If anyone knows of a spa where the fish remain unfed for days, please send details.)

3) Spread your toes: OK, this may be more information than you really wanted. Spread your toes apart and the fish will love it…as will you.

Cost: A cheap thrill for the bucket list. The spa where we took a dip is located across from Phra Sumen Fort on Phra Athit Road near the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok. 15 minutes in the tank costs 150 BHT ($5) with $1.75 for each additional 5 minutes.

In case you are ever considering opening a fish spa of your own, think about the business model: you don’t really need to feed the fish. You can rely on your clients’ flesh to do that for you.

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Comments

  1. says

    Every time I have read about this experience in the past, I have to say, I have been repulsed. It just sounds so creepy to me, like using maggots to heal a wound. There must be something to it that escapes me, since everyone who does it seems to love it. Great video, btw.

  2. says

    @Sofia: We recommend it. Like I said, a cheap thrill.

    @Andrea: Bangkok, the never-ending, overflowing city of experience and weirdness. Or, according to the latest Bangkok tourism campaign: The City of Life.

    @Gray: Big thanks — glad you enjoyed the video.

    As for flesh-devouring maggots. Now that’s repulsive. That reminds me of one of the most repulsive maggot-related items ever, added by a reader to our bizarre foods post:
    http://www.uncorneredmarket.com/2010/08/nibbles-that-give-me-the-shivers/comment-page-2/#comment-39613

    I can safely say that having our feet chewed/nibbled on by little flesh-hungry fish resides in the ungross travel experience category.

    @Jill: I never considered being devoured as receiving TLC, but you have a point. I suspect you can find garra rufa/doctor fish spas all over the place. And perhaps where you are, they are even larger and hungrier!

  3. Robin says

    Nice write up. I ventured to try this in Guayabamba a few months ago. Sounded interesting and weird at the same time, so thought it was worth a try. At first the fish seemed to tickle but after little time you get used to it and actually finish very relaxed.

  4. says

    I’ve been hearing about this for a while now–probably on NPR. They have them in the US now and there were “issues” as you can imagine. Health, animal rights… the usual. But apparently the concept has taken off.
    So here’s an oddball question–are these like goldfish that just keep getting bigger and bigger? If they keep eating all the time, they should get bigger, right? And then what?
    I also agree that tickling is the first thing that comes to my mind–
    And then I was wondering how you get out of there–don’t some of them kind of stick to you when you lift your hands and feet out?
    Weird! (would try it in a heartbeat!)

  5. says

    What an experience! I’ve only watched those little fishies on TV. Dan’s version was definitely more exciting.

    Maggots on the other hand, eewww!

  6. says

    @Margaret: I am laughing out loud. Your comment is killing me. I’m imagining enormous flesh-engorged goldfish. I don’t know, really. I suppose they must grow. Huge. Can you imagine having your feet feasted on by sea bass?

    I had been hearing about this for a long time, too, thinking it was one of those things I could do only if I managed to crash a real (as in, empty my wallet) spa. Now look at me.

    When you get out of the pool, you just pull your legs out one by one, but the fish stay attached all the way to the very end. I suppose if you pulled your legs out fast enough, there might literally be flying fish in the air.

    @Lola: Thanks for the props. I don’t imagine I’ll be seeing myself on TV with this one anytime soon, but one never knows.

    Agreed on the maggots. Won’t be letting those feast on my feet anytime soon.

  7. says

    @Ben: Funny. Dr. Fish, the worldwide sensation. He’s (she’s?) everywhere. Imagine this: GelGor + Dr. Fish spa.

    Life should always turn out this way: to your amusement, particularly when something (or someone) is trying to eat you alive.

    @Craig: Man, those buzz killers in the U.S. First they outlaw foie gras. Then fish spas. What’s next?

  8. says

    I saw this on the Travel Channel, it looks like such a fun experience!! My feet are super ticklish though– I don’t know how long I could take it!
    Great video!

  9. Petra says

    Guys! I just saw it on Vaclavske namesti! A large fish tank is part of a window of this Asian massage place and people are sitting on sofas, observing passers-by.

  10. says

    @Gemma: Thanks. Glad you liked it. We enjoyed the doctor fish experience. Nothing like a few flesh eating animals to make your day.

    Even for those of us with ticklish feet, it’s OK. It feels more strange than ticklish.

    @Petra: Funny! Doctor fish in Prague? What’s next? Actually, I’m surprised there isn’t a worldwide franchise doctor fish business. Maybe that’s next.

  11. abdallah says

    hello there actually I enjoed the doctot fish
    epxperience in malisia
    my qustion is how can i get thats fish at home
    really i like it on my mind there is smal project
    so I NEED TO KNOW FROM WHER I CAN GET IT??????
    THANS ALOTS

  12. Zuzana says

    I’ve just been surfing your site and found this older post – – but I just SAW this exact same thing last week on Vaclavak! The tank is right in the window so if you get the treatment, you also provide a nice visual treat to passers-by (like me, as I said, last week).

  13. says

    @Zuzana: Nice to hear from you. Another friend from Prague mentioned that Doctor Fish have made their way to Vaclavak. Funny they put the clients on display. No better marketing than that!

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