January 9 2014,

Five years after it was revealed that fishes from the Red Sea fluoresce red, new research in the ocean and in the aquarium has revealed that lots and lots of marine fish fluoresce all kinds of different colors. 180 species in a broad range of common reef fish families and genera show bio-fluorescent colors when exposed to high energy blue light. 

Familiar fishes from gobies to blennies, frogfish to surgeonfish and even some elasmobranchs like sharks adn rays all have some pigments that are active in the fluorescent lighting spectrum. What is particularly exciting about this research is how certain cryptic fish like frogfish and scorpionfish may be almost impossible to see when they are sitting camouflaged in their natural habitat, but have patterns that highlight them like a marker when viewed under lighting that makes them fluoresce.

fish-biofluorescenceAs most reefers know, the ocean water filters out the low energy red end of the spectrum leaving behind lots of narrow bandwidth light in the high energy blue spectrum – this is why our corals thrive on blue light and why so many colors we yearn for are excited under blues. Although it doesn’t surprise us that ocean life has evolved to use fluorescence for communication and visual cues, this research is the first time the ubiquity of bio-fluorescence has been demonstrated in marine fish.

So next time you’re picking out lights or lamps for your fish only aquarium, consider throwing some deep blue over them just to help their colors pop a bit more – fish kept under reef lighting always look so much better than some tired old tubes. [WIRED]



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