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GARRA RUFA (Garra Rufa) "Doctor Fish"

GARRA RUFA (Garra Rufa) "Doctor Fish"

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G. rufa are most commonly referred to as “Doctor Fish”, as they can feed on dead skin and hence have been used for the treatment of psoriasis and by the spa industry for pedicures (Ozcelik et al. 2000; Grassberger and Hoch 2006; Ozcelik and Akyol 2011). The fish originates in the river basins of the Northern and Central Middle East, mainly in Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran. G. rufa is found in a range of different lotic (moving water) habitats such as rivers, lakes, and small muddy streams in the Middle East (Coad 2014). It is a non-migratory bottom dwelling species, generally found hiding under and among stones and vegetation in swiftly flowing water (Coad 2014). This fish is famous for its ability to eat dead or diseased human skin while leaving healthy skin untouched. Doctor fish is the name given to two species of fish: Garra rufa and Cyprinion Macrostomus. Other nicknames include nibble fish, kangal fish and little dermatologists; in nonmedical contexts, G. rufa is called the reddish log sucker. They live and breed in the outdoor pools of some Turkish spas, where they feed on the skin of patients with psoriasis. The G. rufa diet consists of Aufwuchs (Fishbase 2011), the benthic community growing on open surfaces. Gut content analysis on fish caught in the Asi River and its tributaries (Turkey) found mostly benthic plant material, dominated by Chrysophta, Cyanobacteria and Chlorophyta, with rotifers and protozoa also being recorded (Yalçin-Özdilek and Ekmekçi 2006). A recent fad for "fish pedicures" has sprung up, initially in health and beauty resorts, but soon spreading to shopping malls and salons, where you can pay to sit for a few minutes with your feet immersed in tanks full of the little buggers. The spas are not meant as a treatment option, only as a temporary cure for symptoms, and patients usually revisit the spas every few months. This species is not one of the 5600 animals listed on CITES Appendix I, II or III (CITES 2014). Nor has it been listed or assessed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN 2014).

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