Discovered in the Jordan, Orontes, and Tigris Euphrates River Basin on about 1880, Garra Rufa fish survived in a hostile environment.
They feed on Algae, Protoplantons, and Zooplantons, but if unavailable, they feed on dead skin of human bathers. They live in waters of temperatures from 35 to 43 C, which often kills nutrient life. A Middle Eastern shepherd stumbled upon its therapeutic value when after injuring his foot, submerged it into the water, and the fish swarmed it. The fish have no teeth, so he allowed them to suck on the wound. When it healed, he spread the wondrous news, attracting people to the warm waters. Soon, Kangal, and Sivas, towns in Turkey, began breeding and exporting them.
The “treatment” is familiar in many countries across Europe, Asia, and the US. It was slow to take off due to skeptical dermatologists. It has been used to alleviate psoriasis and eczema. Even today, physicians worry about contagion but this could be controlled by prudent precautions.
During the past few months, I have noticed this fish therapy has proliferated throughout many towns and cities in Thailand. There were probes throughout various Asian cities, but it was the Thai entrepreneurs who seized the business opportunity, particularly when it was connected to the tourism industry. The most elaborate is The Rock Valley Hot Spring and Fish Spa in Kanchanaburi located near The Bridge of The River Kawi. The premises are landscaped like a garden grotto, with the pools in a natural setting. In other locales, “The Fish Treatment” would be found in massage parlors, and beauty salons. In Bangkok, they can be found on Khaosan Road, Phra Athit, Luan Som, and Siam Square. At Phra Athit, relaxation is almost devoted entirely on the fish with tanks set in an open chamber close to the front window, an inducement for walk-in customers. I was one of them. I tried it. It was a novel and pleasant experience. For a while, my calloused feet were planed smooth.