Mark’s fed to the fishes

The fish shoal up in the tank as Mark Thompson and Joyce Griffiths look on
The fish shoal up in the tank as Mark Thompson and Joyce Griffiths look on

MOST people will be tucking into a big cod or haddock to mark Good Friday.

But the roles were reversed when I was eaten alive by a shoal of 500 hungry fish.

Hartlepool Mail reporter Mark Thompson in a tank of Garra Rufa fish

Hartlepool Mail reporter Mark Thompson in a tank of Garra Rufa fish

I had been sent to try out only the second full-body garra rufa bath in the country at Perfect Pedicures, in York Road, Hartlepool.

The little garra rufa (pictured), which are also known as doctor fish, eat dead skin and release an enzyme that is said to help people with conditions like eczema, psoriasis or dermatitis.

They latch on to all parts of the body and use their sandpaper-like tongues to remove the loose tissue without doing any damage to living skin.

Joyce Griffiths, company director of Perfect Pedicures, said: “They only eat dry skin and that allows the new, healthier skin to come through. In the wild they would eat anything that fell into a river that was dead. They are natural scavengers.

“But they have no teeth so can only rub away dead skin and are quite clever so quickly find the most common areas, on feet, elbows and knees.”

They were definitely hungry when I shed my clothes to give it a go.

The fish, which ranged from half-an-inch to two inches long, swarmed to the surface of the water as they sensed my flesh overhead and instantly latched onto my feet as I stepped in the enormous bath.

Within seconds I was covered from the neck downwards and could feel every single one nibbling on every inch of my body. It was a strange sensation to say the least, a mixture between being tickled and nipped at the same time.

Each £30 session lasts 45 minutes and only four can be carried out a day as the filter needs an hour to clean the water.

Joyce’s bath is the second in the country after a salon was opened in Essex.

But there are many smaller pools elsewhere in the country where people can have their hands or feet treated.

Joyce, 55, who runs the salon with husband Albert, 54, added: “It has proved popular. People are coming in and making appointments to come back straight away. People liked the foot treatments so we thought we would give it a go. It seems to be working.”

The use of garra rufas on humans is said to go back to the 1800s when a shepherd put his cut foot into a stream full of the fish and found that it quickly healed.

But there are strict rules regarding using the fish at the salon as no-one can go in with an open wound, fungal infections or any other condition that could dirty the water.

Each person has to get a shower before going in and substances such as fake tan and moisturisers are banned as they can contain chemicals that can kill the fish.

Customers are advised not to get a shower afterwards as it washes off the enzymes that are said to be so beneficial to the skin.