Fish are big fans of Israeli 3D-printed coral reefs

The printed reefs are made from sustainable bioplastics in a variety of materials, colors, sizes and forms. Turns out, fish really like color.

By Brian Blum

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Climate change is decimating coral reefs around the world. That’s bad news for the 25 percent of fish that make their home in these largest living structures on the planet.

But here’s some good news: Israeli scientists have figured out how to print colorful new corals – and the fish seem to like them even more than the natural ones.

Researchers from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev scanned living coral colonies using 3D design tools. They then spatially and structurally manipulated the scans to create new ones using a 3D printer and sustainable bioplastics in a variety of materials, colors, sizes and forms.

The researchers attached four different designs to a natural reef on the northeastern coast of the Red Sea, close to the Inter-University Institute for Marine Sciences in Eilat. Surprisingly, the fish showed a preference for some of the artificial designs over the adjacent natural ones.

Color plays a strong role, it turns out. “We were surprised to discover that color mattered,” said Prof.

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