By Aaron Guzman
Most aquarists in need of an algae eating fish will seek out some variety of Plecostomus. But for those in search of more personable and unique characteristics in an algae eater, the Garra Rufa may be the perfect choice. They may not be the easiest fish to obtain, but they are fascinating additions to the freshwater aquarium.
General Information about Garra Rufa
Garra Rufa, also known as Doctor Fish or Garra Logsuckers, originate from various regions in the Middle East and eastern Mediterranean, including Syria, Turkey, Iran, and Iraq.
Though they are hardy and capable of tolerating cooler waters, Garra Rufa are a tropical fish and will prefer such conditions. Unlike most algae eating fish and bottom feeders, Garra Rufa are rarely sedentary and will frequently swim the entire region of the aquarium. They are very peaceful and should be kept with other peaceful fish in community aquariums.
Specialized medical procedures have formed around the husbandry of Garra Rufa. These “Doctor Fish” are being used in clinics to help clean and remove skin infected with psoriasis, while leaving healthy skin intact. While not a cure for the disease, Doctor Fish have been noted as being an effective therapeutic treatment for temporary alleviation of symptoms. Because of their success in the medical field, their use has become progressively more widespread.
Unfortunately, Garra Rufa rarely breed in captivity. When they do, they act like typical egg scatterers. The parents must be removed to avoid predation upon the eggs. Males can be identified by their tubercles and they tend to have longer pectoral fins than female Garra Rufa.
These days most breeders and clinics resort to hormone injections to initiate spawning between Garra Rufa. There is much controversy over the ethics of this approach—not simply because injections and the introduction of hormones are an unnatural method for initiating breeding, but also because of the pain and physical damage the fish must endure.
Housing Garra Rufa
Garra Rufa can reach a maximum length of 16 centimeters (about 6-7 inches). While they are not the largest fish, they should be provided with plenty of swimming space and hiding places. They should be kept in an aquarium of at least 30 gallons.
Garra Rufa are a peaceful fish and should be kept with fish that possess a similar temperament. Much as their common name suggests, Garra Logsuckers enjoy sucking onto and eating algae from various objects, including other fish. While this is not necessarily an act of aggression, the Garra Rufa can inadvertently cause damage to fish by either sucking off their slime coat or even removing scales. Garra Rufa will most likely target larger, slow-moving fish. As such, these types of fish should be avoided as tankmates.
Garra Rufa can tolerate a range of water conditions and temperatures. PH should be maintained at 7.0 (neutral) and temperature should be held constant between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit (18-30 degrees Centigrade).
Feeding Garra Rufa
While typically sold as algae eaters, Garra Rufa are not picky when it comes to other foods. They are omnivores and will require a balanced diet. Algae and comparable vegetable mater should compose the core of their diet. Algae wafers, spirulina, and seaweed are great choices. Pieces of zucchini and unsalted green beans are also great choices.
Occasionally meaty foods should be included in the diet. Pieces of fish flesh, shrimp flesh, and live foods such as bloodworms, blackworms, and brine shrimp are all happily accepted. If live foods are not available, make use of frozen substitutes.
Garra Rufa are an intriguing species. They are hardy and capable of living within a range of conditions and communities. While there is a rising demand for this fish, great challenges revolve around its breeding and husbandry. Until these issues are resolved, many ethical and moral debates will surround the Garra Rufa.
Source: Baensch, Hans; Fischer, Gero. Aquarium Atlas Photo Index. 2nd Edition. 1997.
Photo Sources (top to bottom): Dances, Michelle Jo, Dina Middin, Giniro, U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Chelsea Kennedy