England's first spa offering icthyotherapy has opened this month, giving customers the chance to have their feet â€œpedicuredâ€ by fish.
Customers to the new venue in Meadowhall are being invited to dunk their toes into tanks of doctor fish, Garra rufa, which procede to remove dead and callused skin through gentle nibbling and sucking.
Their appearance in a Sheffield spa follows a trend that has been rolling out across Japan, the USA and Ireland for several years and is a far cry from their natural homes, hot water springs in Turkey and the Middle East.
Fish therapy has previously been tested as an alternative treatment for psoriasis and there is some clinical evidence to suggest it may be viable treatment option in some cases. However, such therapies were carried out under stringent clinical constraints to ensure fish only ever came into contact with one person. It appears that fish in the UK centre will be re-used between different customers, although all clients are required to wash their feet before coming into contact with the animals.
Several US states have moved to ban fish therapy over safety concerns.
The owner of the UK venture was unavailable for comment when invited to discuss these issues.
Loach expert Emma Turner of Maidenhead Aquatics at Peterborough has also expressed concern over the welfare of the fish used in beauty spas for this kind of treatment.