Why should you care about the Amino Acids in your reef tank?
Amino acids are an important part of the coral diet. Corals use amino acids to build proteins for many different functions including growth and pigment creation. There are twenty-two different amino acids that act as the building blocks for proteins in all organisms. These amino acids are linked together, forming a peptide chain which then can be combined and molded to create the necessary proteins for basic living function. There are, however, nine essential amino acids that many animals have difficultly synthesizing on their own and require an outside source such as plants or dinoflagellates for production. If the amino acid needs of the animal are not being met through synthesis, both the coral and the zooxanthellae can intake more through the transport of amino acids, dissolved at low concentration, in the water column or by consuming protein rich plankton.
The organic matrix of a coral is the scaffolding between the outer tissue and the skeleton. Made from proteins and other organic molecules, these structures help regulate and expedite calcification, or skeleton building, in corals. An investigation into the percentage of amino acids found in the matrix of several species of coral show a high ratio of aspartic acid, glutamic acid, and glycine compared to other amino acids. The presence of these amino acids in the matrix points to the idea that these specific acids are important for skeletal growth. Coral diets rich in zooplankton, a possible source of aspartic acid, have shown to increase growth rates, further supporting this claim. Additionally, long peptide chains of amino acids (200 or so acids long) create the chromoproteins and fluorescent proteins which give each coral their defining color. Some of the proteins that give coral its color include GFPs (green fluorescent protein), CFP (cyan fluorescent proteins), DsRed (discosoma red), and chromoproteins (non-fluorescent proteins). Each species of coral along with their symbiont, which also contributes to the color of the given species of coral, uses the available amino acids to create the necessary color absorbing protein.
In summary, different corals use different proteins to absorb or reflect a variable spectrum of light to enhance their zooxanthellae’s photosynthetic capability. Amino acids are important for the health of corals, growth and pigmentation. Because we are obsessed with feeding your reef the right way, we had incorporated the amino acids in to our phytoplankton culturing process in the right proportions. Your reef pets can have the best of both worlds - the phytoplankton and amino acids all in one in our Phyto2.
For further learning about amino acids in corals, we commend the following sources:
Riddle, Dana. "Coral Nutrition, Part Three: Amino Acids and Comments on Amino Acid Supplements." Advanced Aquarist. Pomacanthus Publications, LLC, 05 May 2015. Web. 30 July 2017.
Riddle, Dana. "Aquarium Corals: Making Corals Colorful: New Information on Acropora Species." Advanced Aquarist. Pomacanthus Publications, LLC, 12 Dec. 2012. Web. 30 July 2017.
Wijgerde, Tim, Ph.D. "Aquarium Corals: Amino Acids and Corals: Sources, Roles and Supplementation." Advanced Aquarist. Pomacanthus Publications, LLC, 11 Mar. 2014. Web. 30 July 2017.