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Color and depth of waterFeatured science projectScience project video


This experiment was conducted to determine how the depth of water can affect the visibility of colors. The experiment was done by taking photos of various colored balls (i.e. red, yellow, green, and blue) at depths of 5 meters, 10 meters, 15 meters and 20 meters underwater.


The color of the red and yellow balls seems to reduce in intensity as the balls are submerged deeper into the water.

Scientific Terms

Color spectrum, wavelength


Colors and water depth

Each color that we see in the color spectrum has its unique wavelength. Violet and blue have shorter wavelengths. The wavelengths gradually increase for green, yellow, orange and red. Red has the longest wavelength.

The colors that we see on an object are due to the light that is being reflected by the surface of the object. A red object will absorb all other colors but red. Red light is reflected off the surface and our eyes detected the color. A white object will not absorb any light and instead reflects all the colors while a black object will absorb all the colors and reflect none of the light.

When light penetrates water, some parts of the spectrum of light will be absorbed by water. This causes perceived color changes. Given perfect conditions, red  which has one of the longest wavelengths, will be absorbed first by water. Blue and violet lights have shorter wavelengths and will penetrate deeper into water. This means that a red object may appear to be black in color, in deep water because red light is of a wavelength that is more readily absorbed by water

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Complexity level:
Project cost ($):
Time required:
1 day to prepare, 1 day for observation
Material availability:
Scuba diving gear, a boat, and lighting equipment may be rented from a scuba diving rental shop
Safety concerns:

Be extremely careful to ensure the safety of all participants. Life jackets must be worn at all times, and adult involvement is mandatory. The involvement of a qualified and experienced scuba diver is absolutely necessary.