Taxon profile


Palestine Doctor Fish
Garra rufa wadiqana Khalaf, 2013

kingdom Animalia - animals »  phylum Chordata - chordates »  class Actinopterygii - ray-finned fishes »  order Cypriniformes »  family Cyprinidae - minnows and carps »  genus Garra - garras »  species Garra rufa - Doctor Fish

Other names

= Wadi Qana Doctor Fish


The Wadi Qana new subspecies Garra rufa wadiqana Khalaf, 2013 have a smaller size than Garra rufa rufa Heckel, 1843. The specimens measured were between 5 - 12 centimeters.


Garra rufa are sometimes referred to as “doctor fish” because they eat away dead skin found on peoples’ feet, leaving newer skin exposed. They have been used as a medical treatment for individuals with skin diseases, like psoriasis and neurodermitis.


Garra rufa wadiqana has a laterally elongated body shape. Two pairs of barbels are present. The adhesive disc is well developed with a free anterior margin. Abundant mucous cells in the epidermis of the disc gives an oily appearance, and with the dorso-ventrally compressed snout, offers minimal resistance to water currents. Teeth are hooked at the tip. The short gill rakers number 14-26. The upper lip is delicately fimbriated. Scales on lateral line: 29 -38. The dorsal fin has 8 branched rays modally, and the caudal fin 17 branched rays modally. Total vertebrae in the Palestinian specimens 32-37.
Overall colour is brownish-olive to dark green with darkly mottled flanks and a yellowish to whitish belly. The head and flanks may be a rusty-red, bronze or golden. A dark or bluish-green band runs along the whole flank ending in a spot on the caudal fin base.


The species Garra rufa lives in the Jordan, Ceyhan, Orontes, and Tigris-Euphrates river basins. Also in some coastal rivers in southern Turkey and northern Syria and coastal drainages of the eastern Mediterranean as well as some springs and pools in Lebanon, Palestine, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Iran. The Palestinian subspecies Garra rufa wadiqana Khalaf, 2013 is endemic to Wadi Qana Nature Reserve, Salfit Governorate, State of Palestine.

Etymology / Derivation of the Scientific Name:

The Genus name Garra is native from Burma (Myanmar) and means a “big nose”; the rhino horn fish from Burma. The species Latin name rufa means “red”, referring to the reddish body colouration. The Arabic subspecies name wadiqana refers to “Wadi Qana” Nature Reserve, Salfit Governorate, State of Palestine where the new subspecies was discovered by the Palestinian-German Zoologist Prof. Dr. Norman Ali Bassam Khalaf-von Jaffa in 2013.


Garra rufa is omnivorous and feeds on organic detritus, filamentous algae, diatoms, copepods, arthropods and insects. This species is a grazer on aquatic plants, mostly consisting of benthic cyanobacteria, chrysophytes and phytoplankton with included rotifers and protozoans. Both season and location in a stream affects the composition of the diet with season the most important factor.

Found in different habitats such as rivers, lakes, small ponds, and small muddy streams. Hides under and among stones and vegetation. Bottom dweller, feeding on aufwuchs.

Khalaf-Sakerfalke von Jaffa, Prof. Dr. Sc. Norman Ali Bassam Ali Taher (2013). Garra rufa wadiqana Khalaf, 2013: A New Freshwater Doctor Fish Subspecies from Wadi Qana Nature Reserve, Salfit Governorate, State of Palestine. Gazelle: The Palestinian Biological Bulletin. ISSN 0178 – 6288. Number 103, July 2013, Ramadan 1434 AH. pp. 1-25. Dubai and Sharjah, United Arab Emirates.


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