15 Fin-tastic Facts About The Doctor Fish For Kids

Doctor fish facts about the Garra rufa which is known as the pedicure fish.

Have you heard of the name doctor fish? Sounds interesting, right? It is actually a small fish with some special abilities. It is also known as nibble fish. Doctor fish (garra rufa) live in freshwater and hunt out at night in the water for their prey. A large and pale area is usually present along the caudal fin base of the Doctorfish (Garra rufa) whereas the caudal spine sheath is of a dark color. The pelvic fins of these fishes have one spine and five rays on both sides of the body. These bars act as a distinguishing feature between the doctorfish and other regional Acanthurus species such as the blue tang or the surgeonfish. This freshwater fish species is widely used for the treatment of various skin conditions like psoriasis. The feeding habits include grazing on algae and organic detritus.

This species gets its common name from the sharp scalpel structures that are present on either side of the caudal fin. Their body is covered overall with small scales. Are you curious to know more about this fish? Come on, let’s find out. Here are some fun and cool facts about this super cool fish species. Afterward, do read our other articles on blobfish and herrings.  

Doctor Fish

Fact File

What do they prey on?


What do they eat?


Average litter size?

200-500 eggs

How much do they weigh?

5-9 lb (2.26-4.08 kg)

How long are they?


How tall are they?

3.1-4.7 in (7.87-11.93 cm)

What do they look like?

Blue-gray to dark brown skin with vertical bars, blue-colored dorsal fins, anal fins, and caudal fins with a faint blue ring

Skin Type


What are their main threats?

Overfishing, larger predators

What is their conservation status?

Least Concern

Where you'll find them

Coral reefs, compressed sand bed, and rocky outcrops


Northern and Central Middle East





Scientific Name

Garra rufa





Doctor Fish Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a doctor fish?

Doctor fish (Garra rufa) is known as doctor fish or nibble fish and is a species of cyprinid that lives in a freshwater habitat. Doctorfish species are found in subtropical parts of Western Asia. Garra rufa are small-sized fishes popular for their unique ability to eat diseased or dead human skin and offer relief from skin conditions like psoriasis. They are used for spa treatment in salons and other places. Even though their name is red Garra, they are black or dark brown in color.

What class of animal does a doctor fish belong to?

Doctor fish (Garra rufa) which is also called nibble fish belongs to the Cyprinidae family. These fish from genus Garra are small-sized fishes popular for their ability to eat dead human skin cells and offer relief from psoriasis. It is a prolific fish and lives in a freshwater habitat and can also live in aquariums. This fish is widely used by people across the world for a smoother skin texture.

How many doctor fish are there in the world?

There are no accurate estimates of the total number of doctor fishes in the world. The number is assumed to be stable and increasing steadily, as a result this species has been assigned the Least Concern status under IUCN and is not facing any extinction threats.

Where does a doctor fish live?

The doctorfish range distribution includes freshwater habitats like rivers, streams, and canals. Doctor fish usually live in lowland river channels and man-made reservoirs. They are also naturally adaptable. Doctorfish also live in subtropical parts of Western Asia. They need water with sufficient oxygen. They are used in skin clinics as well for their ability to graze on useless pores and skin cells on people and provide relief from psoriasis-like ailments.

What is a doctor fish's habitat?

Doctorfish are naturally adaptable and prefer freshwater habitats. They also live in man-made reservoirs and aquariums. Doctor fish do not need much maintenance. Garra rufa also live in rivers, canals, lakes, streams and avoid places with stagnant water. These doctor fish need water with sufficient oxygen.

Who do doctor fish live with?

The Garra rufa or doctorfish is a social fish that prefers to live in a group preferably in the Atlantic Ocean. They are usually peaceful and can live in a community aquarium without any difficulty.

How long does a doctor fish live?

On an average scale, a doctor fish may live up to four years which may vary according to the surroundings. Their lifespan is the same even when they are kept in an aquarium.

How do they reproduce?

Reproduction takes place in the warm season. The pH should be between 7-7.5. Usually, the laying of eggs takes place between December and March. Some eggs are eaten by the parents themselves. If the reproduction is taking place in an aquarium then the parents are removed immediately to prevent this. Usually, sexually mature female bodies are more thick-bodied than males. The males have bridal buds on the mouth and cheek during the breeding season. They are thinner but their pectoral fins are longer.

What is their conservation status?

The doctor fish or red Garra comes under the Least Concern status. Their population is significantly increasing every year since they reproduce in good numbers at a time and are commercially demanding in the market. Hence they do not face any extinction threat at present.

Doctor Fish Fun Facts

What do doctor fish look like?

The doctorfish or red Garra is a fish that belongs to the species of cyprinid. It is a tiny-sized fish that has some unique ability and is commercially in demand in the market. They have blue-gray to dark brown skin with vertical bars, blue-colored dorsal fins, anal fins, and caudal fins with a faint blue ring. Their coloration generally varies from blue-gray to dark brown. These fishes are laterally compressed and have a diamond-shaped body adorned with large eyes.

The doctorfish makes use of its scalpel as a defense mechanism against predators.

How cute are they?

A doctorfish is one of the tiny-sized fish which has certain abilities. It is lively and active. It always searches for food and likes to hide under stones. These fishes with sharp dorsal fins are not at all shy and love to be in a gang. They are social as well. All these reasons make it cute and adorable.

How do they communicate?

Even though fishes are in the water, they also communicate like other animals. A doctorfish communicates through certain motions, gestures, and sometimes sound.

How big is a doctor fish?

The doctor fish is a tiny-sized fish that has a length of 3.1-4.7 in (7.87-11.93 cm). It is 10 times smaller than a dolphin.

How fast can a doctor fish swim?

On an average scale, the doctor fish swims at a normal speed. Since they do not have to hunt for prey, their swimming speed is at a normal level. But they do need ample space to swim around freely when kept in an aquarium.

How much does a doctor fish weigh?

The doctor fish is a very small-sized fish. The length ranges from 3.1-4.7 in (7.87-11.93 cm) max. The weight of doctor fish is approximately 5-9 lb (2.26-4.08 kg).

What are the male and female names of the species?

As doctor fish is a fish, the species is Garra rufa. They are known as male doctor fish and female doctor fish respectively.

What would you call a baby doctor fish?

A baby doctor fish doesn’t have any particular name. It is called a baby fish or juvenile doctor fish.

What do they eat?

The doctorfish is an omnivore in terms of its diet. Doctor fish usually feed on algae and other tiny animals as their food source. They also eat fresh fruits as well as dead human skin cells for their food requirements. They too have predators, usually small fishes of similar size. An essential part of their diet is biofilm.

Are they dangerous?

Doctor fish is a very social and lively fish species. They are not at all dangerous and helpful to human beings. It is a prolific fish that is extremely healthy for humans as it addresses various skin problems in humans but experts advise against eating this fish species because it can lead to poisoning in humans.

Would they make a good pet?

Doctor fish is a very lively and naturally adaptable fish. They can live in man-made reservoirs too. They are usually used for commercial purposes like spa treatment rather than keeping it as a pet. They do make a good pet as they are of low maintenance and very lively.

Did you know...

Garra rufa has been used in Asia for two centuries for curing skin diseases. It is known for its skincare and has the ability to erase the skin from the cortex of aging. But later this practice was questioned because of a doubt of transmission of infection from fishes.

Why do Garra rufa fish eat skin?

Garra rufa usually feeds on algae and other tiny animals. So they have been associated with spa treatment since the 21st century. Consequently, they became popular in spas and salons for cleaning feet.

Why are doctor fish banned?

Doctor fish are used for foot cleaning in salons, but as they cannot be cleaned after each use, some people question the hygiene of the practice and call it unsanitary. As a result, they were banned due to public health concerns in several states of the United States and Canadian provinces.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other fishes from our swai fish facts and tarpon fun facts pages.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our Doctor Fish coloring pages.



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