In our previous article we discussed the numerous benefits of microalgae for a home aquarium. Most organisms benefit from variety in their diet and your tank dwellers are no exception. Moreover, since dietary requirements vary by species and their different developmental stages, the importance of adding multiple microalgae species to your tank, can’t be overstated.
Whether you are keeping a reef tank with corals, clams and countless other magnificent filter feeders or are culturing zooplankton for your fish, phytoplankton is a must to keep all your aquatic critters nourished and safe from starvation and nutrient deficiency, from the bottom of the food chain to the top.
So, which marine microalgae are best for culturing at home, keeping in mind that variety is important? Following is a list and description of microalgae species suitable for home growers based on their nutritional value and ease of culturing. Whether you are a beginner or experienced in growing microalgae, we recommend using this list (and its order, depending on your goals) as a guide when you decide to start or expand your own algae culturing setup at home.
- Nannochloropsis is deservingly one of the most popular choices amongst home hobbyists and professional aquaculturists alike- its excellent nutritional profile and small cell size make it a great little all-rounder in the microalgae world. It is a yellow-green alga rich in Omega-3 fatty acids and carotenoid pigments. Even better, its fast growth rate and resilience make it easy to culture and therefore very suitable for a beginner.
- Another fast grower is Chaetoceros muelleri. It is a species of diatom and is popular in bivalve hatcheries thanks to its ease of culturing and excellent nutritional profile. Its shell (frustule) is weaky silicated, making the cells easier to ingest. Like other diatoms, C. muelleri consumes silicates, restricting the growth of harmful algae and bacteria and can reduce the cycle time of your tank.
- Tetraselmis is a green microalga with a relatively large cell and medium to fast growth rate. It is a fast swimmer thanks to the 4 flagella that propel the cell around. With a rich and varied amino/ fatty acid profile, this strain provides a very nutritional feed for your marine life. Recent studies have shown that Tetraselmis sp possesses significant antimicrobial properties and can therefore help control the bacterial load and reduce the number of pathogenic bacteria (e.g. Vibrio, Staphylococcus) in your tank.
- Tisochrysis lutea is a golden-brown biflagellate microalga and one of the most widely used phytoplankton species in commercial aquaculture due to its high content of polyunsaturated fatty acids such as docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and carotenoid fucoxanthin (a pigment found in brown algae), which play a key role in health, development and resilience of aquatic organisms. T-iso is an excellent feed for enriching zooplankton like rotifers, copepods and brine and is equally loved by bivalves. It is medium to fast-growing and is relatively easy to culture.
- Dunaliella is a halophilic genus (thrives in high salinity) with medium growth rate and is popular for beta-carotene production. It is very hardy, and can turn pink under certain environmental conditions (high salinity and light). Dunaliella cells can move around in water thanks to a pair of flagella. D. tertiolecta is considered to be the best feed for breeding artemia (brine shrimp), showing superior growth and survival rate in comparison to other aquaculturally valuable microalgae species.
- Phaeodactylum is a large pennate diatom that is rich in carbohydrates and carotenoid fucoxanthin and like other diatoms, consumes silicates, restricting the growth of harmful algae and bacteria and reducing the cycle time of your tank. What makes PHAEO special is its ability to build a silica-free frustule, which means that it can survive and keep consuming excess nutrients even in a silica-limited or -depleted tank. In addition, PHAEO can tolerate iron deficiency which is common in reef aquariums. Phaeo too is hardy, making it easy to grow at home.
What you will need
You can also purchase ALF ready-made sterile culture media (nutrients already added).
However, if you consider growing a variety of algal species at home to be too much of a hassle, but still want your aquatic life to get the amazing benefits of dosing phytoplankton, then do your aquarium a favor and purchase some fresh high quality multi-species phytoplankton online. We recommend Micro Magic set and forget subscription as the easiest and most cost-effective way to get phytoplankton for your tank. With this subscription you receive a bottle of fresh laboratory grown mixed phytoplankton every fortnight.
Micro Magic Marine 5 species mix is designed to cater for most reef invertebrates, consisting of 2 species of golden-brown flagellates, 1 green, 1 yellow-green alga and 1 diatom, with particle size ranging from 1 to 35 microns. With 5 species of live algae, Micro Magic provides the nutrition that your aquatic invertebrates need, in the most natural form, and helps to keep your aquarium thriving from the ground up.