The importance of Vitamin C in the Coral Calcification Process

by | Jun 3, 2016 | Science | 2 comments


There have been many empirical trials demonstrating the importance of vitamin C in the growth of beloved corals.

In a series of collaborative articles, biophysicists, biologists, neuroscientists like Yael Helman, Frank Natale, Miche`le LaVigne, Valentin Starovoytov, Maxim Y. and Paul G. Falkowski, and many others, have explained just how extracellular matrices are produced during coral growth in order to organize the space for cellular growth, similar to a scaffold.

In the coral world, there seem to be three main matrix involved:

  • One of organic origin, called “ECM“; the different cells interact with each other and with the substrate, and organize themselves. The photograph at the beginning of this article, taken by a scanning electron microscope, shows this process.
  • A “skeletal matrix” called “SOM“, where the calcium carbonate molecules of the coral’s skeleton will be produced and stored.
  • The third matrix is the skeleton itself, which will be the support of the coral.

Scientists have focused on two species of corals for their experiments: Xenia elongata and Montipora Digitata, the first belonging to the soft coral (subclass Alcyonaria) group and the second to the hard corals (Scleractinia order of the subclass Hexacorallia). I’m sure these two are well-known to our coral keepers!


Collagen is the main protein of the ECM matrix of both coral species, and it cannot be produced without Ascorbic acid. This coenzyme, more commonly called Vitamin C, is known for its important role in the human body as an antioxidant and enzymatic cofactor; it also plays a key role in the hydroxylation of the amino acid, proline. Through hyrdoxylation, Proline is converted into hydroxyproline, which is an essential element of collagen.

In vitro supplementation of Vitamin C demonstrated an increase in the collagen protein production, and therefore of the ECM matrix. The species Montipora digitata also showed an increase of extracellular minerals produced by the SOM matrix.

image-2Analysis of these minerals with a mass spectrophotometer revealed their nature, in particular the interaction between Strontium and Calcium, which resulted in skeletal aragonite, defined as 7,83 mmol/mol.


The hypothesis that certain cells specialize in the production of calcium carbonate was confirmed after surveys and data showed the presence of radioactive calcium (Calcium 45) in the skeletal tissue.

Could this possibly lead to coral growth products based on vitamin C?


[translated by Giorgia Lombardi]

  • danireef

    Danilo Ronchi, aka DaniReef lives in Italy where he is hydraulic engineer, but starting from his love for reef aquarium and photography, he began to write about marine aquariums from 2006 and now he's published his first book "Marine Aquarium". From 2007 Danilo writes on his blog where publishes articles, pictures, product reviews, aquariums coverage, reportage and history of his tank. Now he's happy to be part of


  1. Brandon Lolling

    Been dosing Vit C since 2008. This is also a form of carbon dosing. There is a Huge thread on RC about it a while back one of the main contributors was puffer punk? I think if that helps anybody search the archives for it. I noticed a difference in the coloration and growth of all corals (more so in zoas). It wasn’t a huge difference but it was noticeable. I don’t do water changes and I only dose Kalk through top off as well as AAs once a week. When I stopped using the Vit c it was noticeable. You can’t just use any Vit c though, many have additives and buffers that can potentially be harmful. The Ascorbic acid supplement I used is noted throughout the above mentioned RC thread.

    • DaniReef

      Thanks for you comment. Very Useful. I’ll go to search the thread on RC!



Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Upcoming Events