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ALEXANDRIA, Virginia - Ready for the latest in spa pampering? Prepare to dunk your feet in a tank of water and let tiny carp nibble away.

Fish pedicures are creating something of a splash in the Washington D.C. area, where a northern Virginia spa has been offering them for the past four months. John Ho, who runs the Yvonne Hair and Nails salon with his wife, Yvonne Le, said 5,000 people have taken the plunge so far.

"This is a good treatment for everyone who likes to have nice feet," Ho said.


He said he wanted to come up with something unique while finding a replacement for pedicures that use razors to scrape off dead skin. The razors have fallen out of favor with state regulators because of concerns about whether they're sanitary.

Ho was skeptical at first about the fish, which are called garra rufa but typically known as doctor fish. They were first used in Turkey and have become popular in some Asian countries.

But Ho doubted they would thrive in the warm water needed for a comfortable footbath. And he didn't know if customers would like the idea.

"I know people were a little intimidated at first," Ho said. "But I just said, 'Let's give it a shot.' "

Customers were quickly hooked.

Tracy Roberts, 33, heard about it on a local radio show. She said it was "the best pedicure I ever had" and has spread the word to friends and co-workers.

"I'd been an athlete all my life, so I've always had calluses on my feet. This was the first time somebody got rid of my calluses completely," she said.

'Feels like your foot's asleep'
First time customer KaNin Reese, 32, described the tingling sensation created by the toothless fish: "It kind of feels like your foot's asleep," she said.

The fish don't do the job alone. After 15 to 30 minutes in the tank, customers get a standard pedicure, made easier by the soft skin the doctor fish leave behind.

Ho believes his is the only salon in the country to offer the treatment, which costs $35 for 15 minutes and $50 for 30 minutes. The spa has more than 1,000 fish, with about 100 in each individual pedicure tank at any given time.

Dennis Arnold, a podiatrist who four years ago established the International Pedicure Association, said he had never heard of the treatment and doubts it will become widespread.

"I think most people would be afraid of it," he said
 

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I don't think this is a new idea, perhaps for pedicures/salons...but not terribly 'new'.
I remember reading several years ago about these types of fish being used to help treat people who suffer from psoriasis (excessive dry flaky skin).
 

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Oh gawd. Another potentially harmful invasive species. Weren't the frankenfish enough??? Imagine if these things got into the rivers and lakes? I would never swim in fresh water again.
 

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I don't swim in any 'wild' water. I saw "Jaws" when I was ten. 8O I can't even swim in a pool that has that sweepy-thing floating/swimming around.
 
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