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Facts About Doctor Fish

Dhanashree Patane
Also known as the Garra rufa, doctor fish are making a big name in the lifestyle industry. Their popularity is increasing worldwide for spa and skin treatments. We give you some interesting facts about doctor fish. Read on ...
In Turkey, there still are 'fish spa tours', for people from all over the world to experience the magical cures of the 'Garra rufa' fish.
Fish spas are getting more and more popular by the day. This trend has captured the attention of people all around the globe, and with it the popularity of doctor fish has increased. Doctor fish are also known as Garra rufas, and are freshwater fish.
These fish are known to nibble dead skin, which encourages growth of new and healthy skin.

These fish also have various legends that talk of their origin. In the following article we, at Buzzle, have enlisted some interesting facts and information about Garra rufas, commonly known as 'Doctor Fish'.

Interesting Facts About Doctor Fish

Doctor fish breed in the river basins of many Northern and Middle Eastern countries, like Turkey, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria. They are usually found in muddy water; however, in Turkey they are found in hot-water springs.
These fish are believed to have originated in the Middle east, in Turkey. They were most commonly found in springs and rivers with thermal temperatures ranging from 38 to 42 degrees Celsius.
These fish live in waters with high mineral content and warmth. This creates a shortage of food for these fish. It is this shortage that is the possible reason behind doctor fish nibbling on dead skin. It is believed they ate dead skin of people when they were hungry, and over the years they evolved with the same habit.
According to a legend, in the early 19th century, two Turkish brothers saw a hot spring one fine day. They decided to relax their feet in the water. So they dipped their feet in the warm waters of the spring. Immediately after, a group of fish gathered around their feet. They started nibbling their skin. By nibbling skin on their feet, the fish gave them a slight tingling massage.
Soon the brothers were visiting the spring often. One of the brothers had a type of skin disease. He observed that on visiting the spring regularly, the symptoms of his skin disease slowly disappeared.
Soon the news of these fish and their nibbling massage spread, and people from all over visited the spring. Most of them who had skin diseases were cured of the symptoms after regular visits. Ever since, the town of the spring, which is known as 'Kangal', became the unofficial origin of what we know in the modern world as a fish spa.
These fish belong to the Carp family. Some of the common names for the Garra rufa are Reddish Log Sucker, Nibble Fish, Kangal Fish, Little Dermatologists, and the most popular one, Doctor Fish.
Doctor fish grow up to 7 cm in length, and have a lifespan of 6 - 7 years! They are not very attractive. They can be kept in aquariums, in water that has a neutral pH, and a temperature of 26 to 27 degree Celsius. They may not be a 'beginners fish', but are quite hardy.
They can eat almost anything; they survive on algae that grow in the aquarium. Garra rufas also snack on their own eggs! So, it is always advisable to use a protective mesh on the base of the spawning tank. Young Garra rufas must also be removed from the tank, as they also face the risk of being eaten.
These fish simply nibble on human dead skin. But, they do so with their lips, as they do not have teeth. Their lips are puffy, but strong. They are the only species from the Garra family who nibble on food even after they are full, consuming dry and dead skin.
Doctor fish nibble on dead and dry skin, which helps in healthy skin growth. This nibbling is similar to exfoliation, but done in a natural way. Research has found that these fish produce an enzyme, called diathanol, in their saliva. This enzyme fastens the regeneration process of the skin.
With their increasing popularity, many people end up purchasing Garra rufa lookalikes. The Garra family has around 200 species. An original Garra rufa has a black mark on its tail. It has smooth pigmentation, and also has a distinct black dot on the gill area.
Doctor fish are legally protected from commercial exploitation in Turkey. Since they are so popular, exploiting them for trade and export is on the rise.
Most people who experienced this spa therapy using doctor fish, did not experience any pain. People who suffered from skin diseases like psoriasis and eczema, witnessed considerable relief from signs and symptoms. In some cases, the signs and symptoms completely disappeared.
However, these fish treatment options to cure skin diseases completely. They can only, at times, reduce and alleviate symptoms of skin diseases.
Even though these fish are so popular, the legal status of these fish is blurred. Most states in America and Canada have banned the use of doctor fish. They suggest this treatment is unhygienic for commercial use.