The Doctor Is In

Posted by Aquatropic Staff on July 8, 2022

The Doctor Is In thumbnail image

The Doctorfish (Garra rufa) is from the family Cyprinidae, better known as carps & minnows. Doctorfish reach about five inches in length with a mottled brown/gray body and rusty red fins. Advancements in molecular research of fishes have indicated that what we know as Garra rufa may actually be a group of several species, but for the sake of this article, we will continue to define them as they have in the past.

Doctorfish are native to Southern Eurasia, in the drainages of the Tigris/Euprhates, Jordan, & Orontes river systems. They can be found in a variety of habitats from streams to small pools and ponds. They hardy enough to live generally anywhere, but do like to be in moving water, and hide on the bottom in debris such as rocks where they feed on whatever is growing on the bottom: algae, plants, and the small invertebrates living in this plant/algae matrix.

Being such a generalist when it comes to habitat, the Doctorfish is a good candidate for the home aquarium. Ideally you would have an aquarium with some direction flow (to simulate a slow stream), that was at least 75 gallons. This sizing will allow you to have a group of at least three, which we recommend with these fish. They should be added to a mature aquarium as they feed on the biofilm growing on rocks, wood etc so putting them in a new system will leave them hungry and with nothing to do. Lids are encouraged for this species as it will jump.

Doctorfish feed on biofilm, the algae, bacteria, and small organisms that live in it. As an omnivore they should get quality sinking foods that include algae, and can be supplemented with small frozen foods and fresh vegetables. Spirulina enhanced brine or other smaller worms such as black worms or white worms would be accepted with gusto.

This fish spawns over a prolonged breeding season in the wild. They deposit their eggs over a gravely bottom and leave with no parental care in the wild. They have not yet been bred in a home aquarium but fish farms in Asia have been able to breed them for the aquarium trade using very large systems.

Well known for their use in spas for treatment of skin issues, and part of how they got their name, the use of the Doctorfish for these treatments has come under scrutiny in recent years. Tthat being said, in an appropriate home aquarium setting they can be a cute addition to a larger community tank, watching them play in the flow and graze on the hardscape of an aquarium can be very relaxing. If you are interested in a sustainably sourced Doctorfish, tell your local fish store to look no further than Aquatropic and give them a call today!