Garra rufa or doctor fish is a species of freshwater fish which breeds in the river basins of the Northern and Central Middle East, mainly in Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran. It is also called the doctor fish, because of the role it plays in healing persons affected with psoriasis.
Garra rufa is often called the nibble fish, kangal fish, and doctorfishen. In non-medical terms the fish is also called reddish log sucker.
Majority of Turkish spas breed the doctor fish in an outdoor pool, where they feed on an unusual diet- the skin of psoriasis affected patients. Just like the combfish, the doctor fish devours the affected and dead areas of the skin, while leaving the healthy skin to grow.
Though, the spas are not meant to be a treatment center, patients come here regularly for temporary cure of the symptoms. Inspite of the unpredictable nature of the disease, some patients have experienced complete cure as a result of their repeated exposure to the doctor fish.
Garra rufa can be kept in an aquarium at home, but regular food supply can effect their skin-feeding behaviour, which arises mainly due to scarcity of food and hence aquarium specimens are not suited for treatment of skin diseases.
The doctor fish is nature’s gift to mankind and we should do our best to conserve the species.