[Coral-List] Suitable lighting for coral maintenance in the aquarium

Richard Dunne RichardPDunne at aol.com
Thu Jun 1 11:28:37 EDT 2017


You write that you are looking for "natural day light spectrum to mimic the natural coral environment".

The simple answer is that the type of 'aquarium' lighting that most correspondents have mentioned will not produce the 'spectral power distribution' of sunlight, and in some cases it will not be anything like it (also all LED arrays are not the same in their SPD). One component that will undoubtedly be missing is the shorter wavelengths of UVA and UVB which shallow water corals experience (particularly inter tidal corals when sub-aerially exposed).

To achieve nearly natural day light indoors would require (very expensive) solar simulators (generally Xenon lamps). I have seen some research recently where purpose built LED arrays have been used to produce similar output both in terms of power and spectrum.

The real question is what is the ultimate purpose of your experimentation, and therefore how important is it to maintain the corals as if they were still in their natural environment?

For example if it involves photophysiology (eg measuring Fv/Fm, etc) then I would suggest that it is important that your corals should be kept under realistic conditions. Natural sunlight/daylight is best. Are you are able to keep the aquaria outside at approximately the same latitude as the collection site? Light levels can be regulated (to approximate to shallow water depth) simply and cheaply using black plastic mesh which acts very well as a neutral density shade (reducing power levels uniformly across the solar spectrum). You will need a decent quality PAR (photosynthetically active radiation) sensor to determine how much shading is required, and you would need to predetermine the PAR at the sampling site (underwater). Holding the corals in outdoor aquaria also allows them to experience the natural daily cycle where the power and spectrum changes with sun altitude.

You also mention that you are collecting from the inter-tidal and sub-tidal (depth) but you do not say if this also relates to your experimental protocol. This may require you to think about water levels in the tanks and whether it is necessary to alter these dynamically.

It is difficult to advise more fully on the limited detail you have given.

Richard P Dunne

On 31/05/2017 15:42, Ulf Erlingsson wrote:
> The other week I was a searching for info on light level on natural corals and found an article saying that aquariums notoriously have too little light, so you may want to measure in the field and make sure you get the appropriate light level in lux or in energy per square meter.
> Ulf Erlingsson
> President and CEO
> Lindorm, Inc.
> 10699 NW 123 St Rd
> Medley, FL 33178
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>> On 2017-05-30, at 11:28 , Capman, William <capman at augsburg.edu> wrote:
>> People are having good results with both LED and T5 lights (and sometimes
>> with combinations of the two!).
>> Personally, my favorite lighting for small polyped stony corals is metal
>> halide - this is tried and true lighting for stony coral aquaria that can
>> give really excellent growth.  I have used 6500K bulbs as well as 10,000k
>> bulbs - the 6500K bulbs give excellent growth (some folks have told me they
>> feel 6500K bulbs give the best growth), though corals do fine under the
>> 10,000K bulbs and when appearance matters the latter look nicer.
>> A rough rule of thumb from Delbeek and Sprung's wonderful book "The Reef
>> Aquarium" is 3 - 5 watts of light per gallon (those recommendations were
>> from the days of metal halide and fluorescent lighting - I don't know how
>> to translate that into LED lighting).  Personally, when using metal halide
>> lighting I have tended to use roughly 6 to 10 watts per gallon (e.g. a 250
>> or 400 watt metal halide over a tank as small as 40 gallons), and have had
>> excellent growth with the likes of Pocillopora and various Acropora species
>> (I imagine this would be too much light for some deeper water corals
>> though?).
>> LED lights have the ability to be dimmed, and colors can be manipulated
>> (assuming you have some basis for deciding what color balance is good!).
>> Metal halides can create heat problems (not an issue though if you have
>> good temperature control in the room with your tanks).
>> There are many different lighting options here, and what you go with will
>> likely in part depend on what you have available in your area.  Note that
>> one needs to be careful about changes in light intensity, in particular
>> making adjustments to higher light gradually.
>> If there are any good quality coral reef aquarium shops in your area I
>> would visit these and see what they are using and what they recommend.
>> Even better:  See if there is a local coral reef aquarium hobbyist group in
>> your area - in the U.S anyway, I have found some of the members of our
>> local marine aquarium society to be *extremely* knowledgeable and
>> experienced, and this would likely give you the opportunity to see a
>> variety of fully functional coral reef systems in person.  This is
>> important because the lighting is only part of what it takes to keep corals
>> healthy and growing - the lighting is important, but there is so much more
>> to system design than just the lighting.
>> Also, there are some wonderful online forums, such as
>> http://web1.reefcentral.com/forums/index.php?s=
>> There is a wealth of information already in the discussion threads at such
>> forums (if you have time to wade through the many *many* threads and posts
>> and find the information relevant to you!), and there are many helpful,
>> knowledgeable people who could answer questions. And you could probably
>> find local coral reef aquarium hobbyists in your area through such forums.
>> Even though you are apparently wanting to grow corals for research, *don't
>> underestimate the value of making connections with the reef aquarium
>> hobbyist community, since quite a few of these people are extremely
>> knowledgeable, very sophisticated aquarists with great skill in growing and
>> propagating corals.*  Some of the most amazing, sophisticated coral reef
>> aquarium systems (with healthy, thriving, live corals) I have ever seen
>> have been in people's homes, and quite a lot of what we know about how to
>> grow corals in aquaria was initially figured out by advanced hobbyists.
>> I hope this helps (and I apologize for not making the metric conversions!).
>> Bill
>> On Mon, May 29, 2017 at 7:18 PM, Zachary Ostroff <zachostroff at gmail.com>
>> wrote:
>>> I suggest reaching out to the public aquarium industry. They can help you
>>> select appropriate equipment for the dimensions of the system you need to
>>> illuminate, and what you desire to grow in it.
>>> Zach Ostroff
>>> Marine Exploration Center, St. Petersburg FL
>>> www.mecstpete.org <http://www.mecstpete.org/>
>>> Facebook.com/MECStPete <http://facebook.com/MECStPete>
>>>> Message: 2
>>>> Date: Thu, 25 May 2017 15:58:11 +0000 (UTC)
>>>> From: SIVIWE ELVIS <siviweelvis at yahoo.com>
>>>> Subject: [Coral-List] Suitable lighting for coral maintenance in the
>>>>       aquarium
>>>> To: <coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov>
>>>> Message-ID: <1657713927.1964449.1495727891410 at mail.yahoo.com>
>>>> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=UTF-8
>>>> Dear fellow Coral Reef researchers
>>>> I am interested in conducting aquarium experiments with corals
>>> (Pocillopora and Anomastrea species) to be collected from the wild
>>> (inter-tidal and sub-tidal zone). This is to inquire about the best lights
>>> to use which would produce the natural day light spectrum to mimic the
>>> natural coral environment, achieving optimal growth for these coral animals
>>> while in maintained in glass tanks.
>>>> I am not good with lights but I seemingly need to make a choice between
>>> either T5 (fluorescent tube) or T8 (LED strips tube) lights for coral
>>> maintenance. Any advice and suggestions or references in this regard will
>>> be highly appreciated.
>>>> Thank you
>>>> Best regards
>>>> Siviwe Babane (MSc Marine Biology student)
>>>> University of KwaZulu Natal (UKZN)
>>>> College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science
>>>> School of Life Science
>>>> Biological Science Department
>>>> Westville, University road
>>>> Durban
>>>> 4000
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