Doctor Fish-garra Rufa Information Wanted

Discussion in 'Oddball Fish' started by GarraGirl, Aug 4, 2017.

  1. GarraGirl

    GarraGirlNew MemberMember

    So I'm new to the forums, but not-so-new to fish keeping. I have had fish for 4 years now. I've dabbled in brackish water but mainly keep freshwater tanks. My all time favourite fish is the doctor fish (aka sucker fish, spa fish, bonefish, nibble fish, kangal fish, and, the name I use the most, garra rufa). However, finding information on this fish is extremely difficult and when I do find information, I've either already read it, or I already know it.

    The posts I have found on them here, on fishlore, are mostly negative. Whether it be about their mistreatment in spas or addition to various tanks. I am saddened by this because the garra rufa is a cool little fish. Although I really do wish I had more information about them.

    What I Want to Know
    The information I am looking for would be their breeding habits, minimum tank size, companionship, compatibility, and tank specs (like recommended temperature, hardness, tank decor, etc).

    What I Know

    I am not sure what's true but I've heard they come from hot springs and streams in Turkey. So I have them in a tank with 3/4 inch of red sand, 1/4 inch river rock, a scattering of large river rocks and two large rocks. There's a bit of java moss, a moss ball, some spiderwood with java fern, and a rock with an anubias I tried to kill (haha not really tried but it did lose all its leaves) but it's still very much growing. I read they enjoy water movement so the filter is too big for the aquarium (providing a huge current they constantly play in) and there's a huge airstone (some fish like it others hate it, I think that one is up to the personality). The fish are constantly sucking on the rocks and pretty much everything else in the tank. They like sitting on the rocks when they decide to be calm, which is nearly never. It seems they enjoy the setup. But who knows. Maybe they'd like something with more plant coverage. Suggestions would be appreciated.
    Oh, also, the largest fish I have is Pop. I have had him for three years and he was an adult when I got him. He is about 3 1/2 inches long.

    Water Quality
    I use APIs Water conditioner and recently put in Seachem's Flourish. The water has an alkalinity of 125 ppm (CaCO3) and its hardness is 295 ppm (CaCO3) or 17 gpg. I would say they don't seem to care too much as I can't make them stop having babies when java moss is introduced to the tank. They are always in a fully cycled tank so the ammonia, nitrates and nitrites are zero or low (in the case of nitrates). The water temp is quite high, at just under 30*C. Again, keep in mind, the fish are reproducing in this temperature but suggestions are most welcome!

    I have twelveish fish (like I said they keep having babies and the babies hide in the rocks, so keeping a head count is hard) and they are all in one species only tank. They seem to be just fine except for little, what I assume to be territory, squabbles once in awhile. The squabbles are rare and could also be some sort of courtship. I do not know much about the fish, but, in my experience, for the most part, they are peaceful with each other.

    Compatibility does change based on different personalities. I had a male betta with the four garra rufas I started with and he was fine with them. However, they enjoyed tormenting him by sucking on his crowntail feathers. So he ended up biting Captain Crunch's (one of the garra rufas) eye out. Needless to say, Snap, Crackle, and Pop did not learn from Crunch's mistake, so the betta got a 10 gallon to himself.
    Slower moving, large finned fish are definitely not the sort of fish I would recommend to be housed with the garra rufa. Especially since garra rufas like to suck the slime coating off sleeping fish. Additionally, the high temperature of the tank is not conducive for most fish species.
    If anyone has suggestions on what fish could be housed with garra rufa I would love to hear them!

    Apparently, these guys are egg scattering fish. The eggs in my tank fall between the river rocks. Garra rufa will eat their own eggs, but they refuse to prey on their children. Once the babies hatch, the adults leave them alone.
    I only have small amounts of fry that live because most of the eggs get eaten (and I don't do anything about it). I do not condition the adult fish and they are sexually isomorphic so I cannot tell the males from the females. I do not feed the babies anything special, they fend for themselves (I do still have fish from my first fry batch so survival is possible).
    I, personally, am not interested in breeding the fish, but I will be willing to share what things I have done to the tank if someone wants to breed them.
    I heard in the spa trade, hormone injections are used. I have never done this.

    Spa Usage
    I would just like to say a few words about the misconceptions people have about this fish. I feed my garra rufa five days a week (I skip Sundays and Wednesdays). I change the water on Fridays after I have fed them. My garras are not starving, trust me. Every time I do a water change they still try to eat my arms like they haven't been fed in weeks. I understand that if they are starved they would suck on people's skin with more gusto, and I don't doubt the spas use starvation methods. What I am saying is starvation methods are not necessary.

    Illegal in the US?
    Yes, the fish is illegal in the U.S. in large quantities. Let's read that again. Now what exactly is meant by large quantities is unknown. Large quantities are illegal because it is illegal to run a fish spa. So, basically, the fish cannot be kept for commercial spa purposes. I live in the U.S. state most known for it's strict pet laws and my local fish store sells garra rufas like they were any other fish.

    This was very long winded and I apologize. I hope to find some other garra rufa owners out there and hear about their garra stories and suggestions for my brood. I do love this fish and would like to have some solid facts about them instead of relying on how I have kept them.
  2. scarface

    scarfaceFishlore VIPMember

    Nice post. They seem like an interesting fish. It's not a species I ever read about, so I can't really help you, but I did have the spa experience with them years ago. I admit I wasn't particularly bothered by it. Whatever you are doing seems to work. I'm curious what you feed them and also, what is it about them that makes them your favorite?
  3. NavigatorBlack

    NavigatorBlackFishlore VIPMember

    Everything I see you doing is what my experience and reading about the fish says is correct. They have stumbled into paradise at your place.
    If they are a favourite fish, then a single species tank is easy to justify. I think it's important for them.

    A lot of fish will nibble dead skin cells off humans. Garra rufa gets attention because of the Turkish spas, but Astyanax tetras and other fish (often fish we call nippy) will clean off an arm. We can be a reasonable food source since we are constantly shedding. They just accelerate the process.
  4. LoLo Bender

    LoLo BenderNew MemberMember

  5. LoLo Bender

    LoLo BenderNew MemberMember

    I sooo love my Garra Rufas! They are like watching puppies play! I have 4 of them and i didnt realize how much room they need so im getting a 28 gal for them. Right now they are in a 12 gal nano cube with 4 adf and 10-15 shrimps in a planted tank. They are fed tubifex worms & shrimp pellets - they love those! And they love to EAT!! The cutest thing to see is when they find a frog skin ( that has been shed-not still attached to the frog) and play with it-- toss it, drag it to the surface then dive under it and swim around with it!! Its crazy cute! They play in the water stream of the water pump like little dolphins 4 is fun but id like to get more when i get my bigger tank... i agree with you on how fun they are

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