Bioluminescent Algae

algae that glow in the dark

This tutorial is based on an instructable on bioluminescent algae.

Materials and Tools

  • Clear and clean growing containers (flat containers with lots of surface work best)
  • Sea Salt
  • Distilled Water (from Hardwarestore)
  • Grow light(s) (T8 or T5 with a 9.56 light spectrum are recommended)
  • Dropper or Syringe

Chair for CAAD, ETH Zürich

Manuel Kretzer

Maike Lorenz (Culture Collection of Algae, Goettingen University), Marin Sawa

1. Growth medium
The salt-water solution, which will become the grow medium, is made by mixing 33 g of sea salt, which can be obtained in any pet-shop, with one liter of distilled water. It is easier to mix a larger batch and then split it up in smaller quantities. The amount of salt has to be measured precisely, since too much salt might harm the organisms. As growing containers cell culture bottles, which are sterile and clean, work well. After mixing the medium it should be shaken thoroughly until the salt has dissolved completely.

2. Growth Solution
The growth medium will be equally distributed among the growing containers. The starter cultures come in 10 ml and should be added to 50 ml of growth medium and 0.025 ml of Micro Algae Grow. Both starter culture and solution should have the same temperature before mixing (between 18 – 23 °C).

3. Growth
The containers should be placed in a dark place together with the grow lights. It is necessary to precisely control and time how much light they receive. The timer needs to be set so the organisms remain in a constant cycle of light (14 h) and darkness (10 h). The cultures can be programmed to light up during daytime. During their night cycle they will not emit any light.
During growth the cultures should be observed carefully and be gently shaken every day to prevent sediment collection on the bottom of the container. Once the culture starts emitting light it might be split into two batches. This should be done at least every three to four weeks in order to provide sufficient nutrition. The dinoflagellates will only flash when disturbed or stressed and only during their night cycle. Too much stress will however tire and harm them.