Kangal fish

This article is about the freshwater fish used for treating skin diseases in Turkey. For the species sometimes called "doctor fish" in the UK, see Tench. For the fish known as the "surgeonfish", see Acanthuridae.

Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Cypriniformes
Family: Cyprinidae
Genus: Garra
Species: G. rufa
Binomial name
Garra rufa
(Heckel, 1843)

G. rufa turcica[1]
G. rufa obtusa[1]
G. rufa rufa[1]


Doctor fish is the name given to the species of fish Garra rufa. Other nicknames include nibble fish, kangal fish,[3] as well as the registered trademark PhysioFish®,.[4] Garra rufa is called the reddish log sucker. They live and breed in the pools of some Turkish river systems and hot springs. Modernly, they have been integrated as a spa treatment, where they feed on the skin of patients with psoriasis. While the doctor fish treatment has been shown to alleviate the symptoms of psoriasis,[5] they are not meant as a curative treatment, as no cure for psoriasis currently exists. The use of the fish as a spa treatment for the wider public is still widely debated on grounds of efficacy and validity, as the treatment is not shown to have either positive or negative effects.


Garra rufa occurs in the river basins of the Northern and Central Middle East, mainly in Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran and Oman. It is legally protected from commercial exploitation in Turkey due to concerns of overharvesting for export. Garra rufa can be kept in an aquarium at home; while not strictly a "beginner's fish", it is quite hardy. For treatment of skin diseases, aquarium specimens are not well suited as the skin-feeding behavior fully manifests only under conditions where the food supply is somewhat scarce and unpredictable.

During their activities of foraging they slough off dead skin. They are simply looking for food which in the wild consists of aufwuchs. In both marine and freshwater environments the algae – particularly green algae and diatoms – make up the dominant component of aufwuchs communities. Small crustaceans, rotifers, and protozoans are also commonly found in fresh water and the sea, but insect larvae, oligochaetes and tardigrades are peculiar to freshwater aufwuchs faunas.

Spa resorts

In 2006, doctor fish spa resorts opened in Hakone, Japan, and in Umag, Croatia, where the fish are used to clean the bathers at the spa. There are also spas in resorts in China, Belgium, the Netherlands, South Korea, Singapore, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Hungary, Rhodes (Greece), Slovakia, India, Pakistan Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Hong Kong, Bucharest, Prague (Czech Republic) and Sibiu (Romania), Madrid (Corralejo Fuerteventura Dr Fish) and Barcelona (Spain), Israel, France, Sweden, Bahrain,[6] and Trondheim (Norway). In 2008, the first widely known doctor fish pedicure service was opened in the United States in Alexandria, Virginia, and later in Woodbridge, Virginia. In 2010 the first U.K. spa opened in Sheffield.[7]

Legal status

The practice is banned in several of the United States and Canadian provinces as cosmetology regulators believe the practice is unsanitary, with the Wall Street Journal claiming that "cosmetology regulations generally mandate that tools need to be discarded or sanitized after each use. But epidermis-eating fish are too expensive to throw away".[8] The procedure is legal in Quebec, with a few clinics in Montreal.[9]

Before being outlawed in most U.S. states, the novelty of fish pedicures was viewed as a possible revenue enhancer for struggling nail salons, which had experienced less "luxury spending" from their regular clients during the recession. One New Hampshire salon owner who was shut down had assured local health authorities that she cleaned out fish tanks between pedicures and would never use the same group of fish with two different customers on the same day.[10] The state government still ruled the practice to be unsanitary.[11]

See also

Fish portal


External links

  • BBC News - 'Fish pedicure' a feet treat
  • BBC Video - Flesh-eating fish used to treat feet
  • Reuters - Turkish "doctor fish" nibble at Japanese market
  • NPR - Flesh-Eating Fish Perform 'Pedicures'
  • UK Guardian article
  • UK Telegraph article Health Risk from Fish Pedicures
  • Doctor fish (Garra rufa) at Commons
  • Encyclopedia of Life
  • ) at BioLib
  • Global Biodiversity Information Facility
  • Animal Diversity Web
  • ) at FishBol
  • FishBase
  • Ocean Biogeographic Information System
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and USA.gov, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for USA.gov and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.