Maximum size : 14 cm

Red Garra - Garra Rufa : Complete Fish Profile & Care Guide

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Red Garras (Garra Rufa) are a distinctive and popular addition to the world of aquarium keeping, recognized for their unique cleaning behaviour. These fish are peaceful and thrive in well-maintained aquariums that replicate their natural habitat. With their intriguing behaviour and symbiotic interactions, these Garras continue to captivate and delight aquatic enthusiasts worldwide.

Red Garras exhibit a peaceful disposition when cohabiting with other fish, although they tend to assert a degree of territoriality, particularly towards conspecifics and similar-looking species. In their natural habitat, these fish are often observed forming loose aggregations, and as such, it is advisable to maintain them in groups comprising five individuals or more within aquarium environments featuring abundant visual barriers within the decor. In instances where their numbers fall below this threshold, occasional skirmishes may arise among group members. Therefore, it is strongly recommended to establish a sufficiently large group, thereby ensuring that no single fish endures the persistent brunt of any potential aggression, ultimately promoting a more harmonious social dynamic.

Suitable tankmates for the lower regions of the aquarium may encompass various peaceful botiid river Loaches, nemacheilid brook Loaches, and the sturdier members of the balitorid hillstream Loach category. To populate the upper levels, thoughtful selections may include Rasboras, Danios, Devarios, and smaller Barbs. While these fish typically exhibit a peaceable disposition, it is worth noting that they can display a degree of exuberance during feeding times. Therefore, it is advised to exercise caution when considering cohabitation with slower-moving, laterally-compressed fish such as Discus or Angelfish.

The aquarium suitable for Red Garras should be well-established and spacious, measuring a minimum of 4 feet (120 cm) in length. Adequate water movement and a high level of oxygenation are essential to meet their specific requirements. This species is not conducive to standard community setups, necessitating a habitat that replicates highly oxygenated, swiftly flowing waters, ideally facilitated by robust external canister filtration systems.

When aquascaping the aquarium, it is advisable to employ a soft sand or very fine rounded gravel substrate, complemented by the inclusion of cobbles, smooth rocks, and carefully selected bogwood pieces. Lighting can be moderately bright to encourage the growth of algae, which serves as a valuable food source for these fish. Shaded areas can be created through the strategic arrangement of rockwork and bogwood, in addition to fostering hardy plants such as Anubias sp. or Java fern.

A crucial consideration during the aquascaping process is the incorporation of visual barriers within the aquarium layout, allowing for potential territorial disputes to be mitigated as fish can seek refuge out of each other's line of sight. It is imperative to note that Red Garras exhibits a propensity for climbing up the glass, particularly when newly introduced or relocated. Therefore, ensuring the tank boasts a securely fitting lid and the absence of any small openings that would allow the fish to escape is of paramount importance.

Tragically, Red Garras are exploited in beauty spas for pedicures, leaving them unable to thrive in unsuitable conditions without natural enrichment. Therefore, it's crucial to ensure they receive a balanced diet and are not subjected to constant stressful movement from holding tanks to treatment tanks and starvation. 

The colouration of Red Garras' body and fins varies significantly, with most populations featuring an iridescent or dark blue spot on the caudal peduncle and opercle, typically more prominent in younger specimens. Additionally, dark markings adorn the bottom of the central dorsal fin ray, and many individuals exhibit black upper caudal fin lobes. In some cases, reddish pigmentation on the fins may also be observed.

Red Garra Photos

Sexual Dimorphism

Distinguishing between male and female Red Garras is a relatively uncomplicated task. Male specimens are typically more slender and smaller than their female counterparts and feature longer pectoral fins. During the breeding season, males develop bridal buds on the top of their mouths and cheeks, allowing for quick identification.

Quick Facts

Scientific NameGarra Rufa
Year Described1843
Other NamesDoctor Fish, Nibble Fish
OriginsJordan , Turkey , Syria , Iran , Iraq , Israel
Max Size14 cm
Aquarium LevelBottom
DifficultyBeginner - Intermediate
Best kept asGroups 5+
Diet & FeedingOmnivore
LifespanUp to 8 Years

Water Parameters

Water TypeFreshwater
pH 6.0 - 8.0
GH 8 - 12
TDS 18 - 268
Ideal Temperature
60 - 75
15 - 23

Natural Habitat

Red Garras inhabit a diverse range of aquatic ecosystems across their native regions. They can be found in various water systems, including the Seyhan, Ceyhan, and Asi River systems, as well as smaller streams within Turkey. Notably, their distribution extends to coastal watersheds in Syria, encompassing the Qweik River in both Syria and Turkey, as well as locations in Israel and the Jordan River drainage in Jordan.

In addition, these distinctive fish thrive within the Tigris-Euphrates system, which spans across Turkey, Iraq, Syria, and Iran. Further populations exist in the Mond River and Lake Maharlu Basin in southwestern Iran. Red Garras are typically associated with fast-flowing waters and can be encountered in lowland river channels, artificial reservoirs, and some rapidly flowing tributaries.


The breeding method employed for Red Garras remains uncertain, as it is unclear whether natural or hormone-induced breeding techniques are utilized. Nonetheless, wild populations exhibit continuous spawning behaviour, typically occurring between the months of April and November. Individuals scatter 200 to 500 eggs over rocks or gravel during this period. Regrettably, adult specimens do not exhibit any parental care and are known to consume most of their fry if given an opportunity.

Diet & feeding

Red Garras demonstrate a proclivity for grazing on algae when available, but a well-rounded diet must comprise frozen or live foods such as bloodworms, Artemia, and Tubifex. Additionally, a high-quality, sinking dried product that includes a significant proportion of vegetable matter, such as Spirulina flakes, is essential for their optimal nutrition. Fresh fruit and vegetables like melons, blanched spinach, cucumbers, and courgettes can also be offered for occasional indulgences. However, a well-rounded diet is critical to promoting these stunning specimens' overall health and vitality.

Other Garras of interest