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Cultivation of Algae


Like plants, algae use the sunlight for the process of photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is an important biochemical process in which plants, algae, and some bacteria convert the energy of sunlight to chemical energy. Algae capture light energy through photosynthesis and convert inorganic substances into simple sugars using the captured energy.

There are two main methods of cultivation

  • Ponds
  • Photobioreactors


Since algae need sunlight, carbon-di-oxide and water for their growth, they can be cultivated in open ponds & lakes. More about open ponds are discussed here - Cultivation in open pond


A Photobioreactor is a controlled system that incorporates some type of light source. The term photobioreactor is more commonly used to define a closed system, as opposed to an open pond. A pond covered with a greenhouse could also be considered an unsophisticated form of photobioreactor. Because these systems are closed, everything that the algae  need to grow, (carbon dioxide, water and light) need to be introduced into the system. More about photobioreactors are discussed here - Cultivation in photobioreactors

There are several factors to determine the growth rate of algae. The following are the important factors that determine the growth rate of algae

  • Light - Light is needed for the photosynthesis process
  • Temperature: There is an ideal temperature range that is required for algae to grow
  • Medium/Nutrients - Composition of the water is an important consideration (including salinity)
  • pH - Algae typically need a pH between 7 and 9 to have an optimum growth rate
  • Algae Type -  Different types of algae have different growth rates
  • Aeration - The algae need to have contact with air, for its CO2 requirements
  • Mixing - Mixing prevents sedimentation of algae and makes sure all cells are equally exposed to light
  • Photoperiod: Light & dark cycles

A Generalized Set of Conditions for Culturing Micro-Algae

Temperature (°C)16-2718-24
Salinity (g.l-1)12-4020-24
Light intensity (lux)1,000-10,000
(depends on volume and density)
Photoperiod (light: dark, hours) 16:8 (minimum)
24:0 (maximum)


Algae cultivation can be done in a variety of environments. Algae cultivation in various environments are discussed in the following pages.

Algae cultivation is an environmentally friendly process for the production of organic material by photosynthesis from carbon dioxide, light energy  and water. The water used by algae can be of low quality, including industrial process water, effluent of biological water treatment or other waste water streams.

The open systems, in order to increase their efficiency, are generally designed as a continuous culture in which a fixed supply of culture medium or influent ensures constant dilution of the system. The organisms adapt their growth rate to this dilution regime, with the organism best adapted to the environment prevailing in the system winning the competition with the other organisms.

A drawback of the common open algae culture systems is the major risk of contamination by undesirable photosynthetic micro-organisms which can be introduced via air or rain.

An alternative to the drawback of the open system could be to carry out algae cultivation in closed photobioreactors. In these, the process conditions can be accurately controlled, and no infection carrying alga species will occur. A major drawback of the closed photobioreactors resides in the high investment costs which lead to high production costs.

Thus, cultivating algae for fuel is an area where more experimentation and research are still required.

To know more about Algae Cultivation , buy our Comprehensive Oilgae report with its recent updated version. List of contents under this topic include
  1. Introduction & Concepts
  2. Algaculture
    • 2.1 Algae Monoculture
    • 2.2 Photosynthetic Cultures
    • 2.3 Mixotrophic Cultivation of Microalgae
    • 2.4 Batch Culture
    • 2.5 Semi-continuous Culture
    • 2.6 Factors that Determine Algal Growth Rate
  3. Algae Cultivation in Various Scales
    • 3.1 Algae Cultivation in Lab-scale
      • 3.1.1 Isolation of Algae
      • 3.1.2 Cultivation in Lab Scale
      • 3.1.3 Biochemical Analysis of Algal Samples
    • 3.2 Algae cultivation in commercial scale
      • 3.2.1 Ponds
      • 3.2.2 Photobioreactors
  4. Different Methods of Cultivation
  5. Algae Cultivation –Factoids
  6. Worldwide Locations with Algae Farms & Algae Cultivation
  7. Algae Cultivation Challenges
    • Challenges in Cultivation
    • Challenge of Growth Rate of Algae
    • Challenge of Formulation of Medium
    • Provision of CO2
    • Water Circulation in Ponds
    • Photosynthesis or Fermentation
    • Land Requirements
    • Scaling Up Challenges
    • Other challenges in algae cultivation for which there is ongoing research
  8. Research & Publications
  9. Reference


A gist from the Oilgae Comprehensive Report

Culture Methods Followed for Different Algal Species

Botryococcus braunii

Medium:Chu 13 medium (for hydrocarbon production BG11 medium)
  • Modified Chu 13 medium is cultured.
  • Purification is done by serial dilution followed by plating.
  • The individual colonies are isolated and inoculated into liquid medium (modified Chu 13 medium)
  • It can be incubated at 25 ± 1oC under 1.2 ± 0.2 Klux light intensity with 16:8 hrs light photoperiod.
  • The purity of the culture is ensured by repeated plating and by regular observation under microscope.
Culture environment:
B. braunii grows best at a temperature of 23°C, a light intensity of 60 W/M², with a light period of 12 hours per day, and a salinity of 0.15 Molar NaCl.
Challenges and efforts:
B. braunii is found to be able to co-exist with a wild green alga, Chlorella sp.; the presence of either alga did not negatively affect growth of the other. They form colonies/flocs which are difficult to break down. It grows very slowly: it’s doubling time is 72 hours (Sheehan et al., 1998), and two days under laboratory conditions (Qin, 2005).

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