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Coral Keeping & Near UV Light

Date Published - 13th July 2015 - Published by - iQuatics Ltd

Continuing on with our recent theme of coral maintenance, our latest article looks at achieving the optimum amount of near UV light to develop a vibrant artificial reef without causing any long-lasting damage. Artificial reef maintenance is a delicate balance of patience and precision, and striking the right saturation of near UV light is no exception. As we will go on to explain, too much (or rather, highly intensive) UV light can in fact prove harmful to your corals, so it’s imperative to carefully monitor the level of light they regularly receive.

The Light is Right
Don’t worry, we’re not going to put you through the nightmare of GCSE biology for long, but to acknowledge the harmful effects of excessive UV light, it’s important to understand how your corals react to the amount of light they receive. Corals need a certain amount of UV light in order to photosynthesize properly and produce substances for nourishment. What fewer people know, however, is that the bright pigmentation that corals are defined by (and the reason most people want to fill their tanks with them) is actually a reaction to the UV light they’re exposed to. Corals actually produce these pigments (which range from tones of blue and purple to deep oranges and reds) from their zooxanthellae cells, as a form of protection from UV-A & UV-B rays.
Okay so the corals get all they need to make some food, us aquarium keepers get a stunning set piece for our living rooms – everyone’s a winner, right? Not exactly…
Come to the Dark Side
Corals are actually extremely sensitive to these forms of light, which isn’t necessarily a problem in their natural ecosystem, but can prove harmful in artificial reefs. Whilst you might be fooled into believing that your aquarium lighting couldn’t possibly match up to the glaring tropical sun, it’s actually the case that these powerful rays are filtered out by the sea, which provides an effective form of protection for the corals. This is why, as you might have noticed, shallow water corals produce a wider array of colours than their deep water counterparts.
So what does this mean for your tank? Well, first of all, it means you need to consider your aquarium lighting very carefully. Certain systems, in particular metal halide lights, produce UV rays that are much more intense than those to which your corals would be acclimated to in their natural environment. iQuatics specialists would only recommend using metal halide lights over a glass aquarium canopy, which will effectively protect your corals from the majority of harmful UV rays.
More often than not, your corals will tell you if they’re being over saturated with UV light; be careful to look out for early warning signs such as wilting and stark discolouration. As always, if you need some further advice on aquarium lighting or just keeping a healthy tank, we’re always happy to get involved.

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