Difference between revisions of "Project:Glow Algae"

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(my glow algae which is different to the biohackers project)
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Latest revision as of 12:18, 8 July 2014


Pyrocystis lunula is a kind of bio-luminescent algae, also known as dinoflagellate. They use photosynthesis to produce glowy stuff. They use up this glowy stuff during their nighttime cycle whenever they're disturbed (or bumped or otherwise moved around). They mostly just flash a pin-prick of light but some glow for a few seconds longer. Shaking a bottle of them will result in a temporary bright cyan-blue glowing light, similar to a chemical glow stick. I decided to try to grow/raise these as a novelty for friends and family to have one day. It's been a difficult journey of different fertilisers and formulas and it's still not perfect but ... getting there.

Algae requirements

They're pretty simple in terms of needs but they're also pretty specific.

  • marine environment - this means sea salt-based "medium" with added nutrients to encourage reproduction
  • temperature - no higher than 25C. Unsure of lowest low temperature but generally room temperatures between 17-22C have shown to be well tolerated
  • light cycle - 12 hours light, 12 hours dark. They take a few days to adapt from original light pattern but they can have their pattern changed by regulated light patterns and kept very dark during night cycle.

Current Medium Formula - F2 based

The best medium is L1 Media from CCAP... unfortunately, it costs a fair bit - around £50 including VAT and delivery for enough to make up 5 litres of solution. My current formula uses Fluval SEA products as they are new on the market and are suppose to be the current best formula for marine aquariums. It also uses f2 fertiliser which is a well-known phytoplankton fertiliser formula in the marine aquarium community. The Fluval SEA Trace Elements are used to try to make it a little more like L1's specific blend with trace minerals in it, like real sea water.

I use bottled water. Why? Because it's pretty clean and sterile. It's a very simple way of keeping everything clean and uncontaminated from outside algae.

Per 1 litre of bottled water 30g Fluval SEA salt 0.04ml Fluval SEA Trace Elements 0.5ml F2 fertilizer

Measure out the salt on a piece of paper on small scales. You'll need to use a spoon or something to scrape the salt off the paper into the bottled water as it's very hydrophilic. Shake well and let stand for a few minutes. Shake again and make sure everything's dissolved nicely. Squirt in the liquids, being sure to wash out the syringe using the bottled salt water. Just pull out the plunger and squirt it back into the bottle a few times to make sure it gets in the water. Shake again. Now ready to use.


I used an aquarium light hood supported by some black foamcore board pillars I made using hot glue. I put the light on an automatic mechanical timer set to turn on at 7am and turn off at 7pm. To prevent excess light in the evenings, I've laid a long sheet of kitchen foil over the whole set up. I try not to close it up too tight as I don't want to overheat the algae with the heat from the light. If anyone else wants to try different lighting systems, I'd recommend LED and fluorescent lighting choices as they are much cooler running than halogens or incandescent bulbs. I'd love to try out the latest version of LED lighting for marine aquariums but they are just too pricey for me at the moment.


I use slightly-unscrewed water bottles. Freshly open a bottle, dump it out, fill with your medium, fill with your culture, cap, invert a few times to mix, loosen cap and put under the lights.


Shaking bottles in the dark

Dim lighting to show the way they "sparkle" and flicker


Fluval SEA isn't stocked by that many aquarium shops yet. The only place I could find it locally to me is Wildwoods Aquatic Superstore in Crews Hill, Enfield. It's about £6 for the salt and £6 for the trace elements and both should last you a lifetime. I believe the closest place to the Hackspace to stock these is Charterhouse Aquatics near Haggerston station, about a 10-15 minute walk away but has somewhat unusual hours. Check their website for details and confirmation before you set out.

F2 fertiliser is available from many different sellers on ebay, I think because most people don't need a huge amount but the original formula is for a massive amount - it's just more economical for someone else to mix it up in a large batch and then repackage it into small bottles for normal use. This is the stuff I bought and use currently ebay f2 seller