I had an all-natural pedicure last night. No softener lotions applied on my toes, no cuticle scissors used to cut any edges around the nails.
Some type of “doctor fish,” living in the warm spring waters of a resort in Calamba, Laguna, did the superb job of cleaning up my feet while tickling me and all my cousins who joined the evening excursion. After my first foray into that picnic ground / watering hole / dipping pool many years ago, I jokingly referred to them as “nibbler fishies” because they did bite your toes, heels, and soles ever so gently.
From my own observations and information from staff at Laguna Hot Springs Resort, the fish that inhabit the spring waters are, in fact, tilapia. Doctor fish, Acanthurus chirurgus, are an entirely different species; the literature notes that doctor fish sport the nickname “nibble fish.”
Both tilapia and doctor fish belong to the family Cichlidae, freshwater fishes of tropical America, Africa and Asia. Cichlids can be either herbivores or detrivores; the former eat algae and plants, while the latter — to which the tilapia belong — eat organic materials including plankton and detritus.
Detritus: here’s an opportunity to learn a new term which you can drop in conversation to impress your vocabulary-challenged friends.
Detritus is any debris or small particle material worn or broken away from a mass. This includes dead skin cells from one’s heels, toes, soles of the feet — the very things that the nibbler fishes bit off my feet!
It has been my part of my practice everytime I visit the Philippines that I take a trip to Calamba, Laguna the day after my arrival, and again before I fly back to the San Francisco Bay Area. It’s a treat not to be missed!
There are tons of articles on foot spa treatments through immersion with nibbler fishes. Just go to your favorite search engine and type fish pedicure, foot spa fish, or your own set of relevant words.