Monday, November 07, 2011

The Fish! The Fish!

Now my normal reaction to hearing about fish, is to quote that bit from Red Dwarf where Cat repeatedly orders fish from the spaceship vending machine ... but this blog isn't about that sort of fish ... it's about the sort which have sprung up in just about every town centre at the moment - the little tankfuls of the critters which nibble your feet ...

I mean, what a strange thing to do. Get some fish to nibble all the dry skin off your feet ... but they are all pervasive and everywhere, and the other weekend in Whitby I succumbed to the ministrations of the fish myself.

It was something of an interesting experience.  You sit with your feet dangling in a tank of luke warm water and let these fish swarm and nibble at you. The initial tickling when you first pop your feet in the tank is excuciating, resulting in much squirming and shuddering, but it soon settles down and you have all these fish swimming about around your feet and sort of sucking on the patches of dead and hard skin. They don't have any teeth, so it's all about the sucking and cleaning. And it tickles. A lot.

The fish are called garra rufa and come from Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran, and they don't actually eat the dead skin. They are looking for algae which normally grows on rocks and other hard surfaces, but their sucking action cleans and softens the skin on the feet. There was even a typical UK tabloid scare-story about them in the papers in October, something that the NHS was quick to decry: If only the papers would print the factual denial as large and as prominent as they printed the original scare stories.

What interested me, however, was how anyone discovered about these fish in the first place!  Can you imagine going for a dip in a natural pool or river somewhere and being literally surrounded by hundreds of these fish, all attaching themselves to your body and nibbling away! I would have thought you'd be out of the water like a flash!  And how many people mistakenly go for a dip in a river of piranah fish, thinking they might be garra rufa?  It doesn't bear thinking about. At least they wouldn't make the same mistake twice ...

Another thing crossed my mind too while all these little fish were nibbling away ... they seemed to have a taste for it ... so what would happen if people stopped coming?  Would the fish somehow escape from the tanks and come after humanity in some sort of feeding frenzy?  Or would the action of the fish on the feet transfer some fishy DNA into the human subjects, leading to some incredible half-breeds like something out of Lovecraft's witch-cursed Innsmouth?

Even now I might have some fishy DNA swimming around in my body, converting me into a water-breathing creature of horror ... So far there has been no sign of any gills opening up ... but I'll keep you in the loop if it happens.

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