Food of the Future: Window DIY Spirulina Superfood

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Picture of Food of the Future: Window DIY Spirulina Superfood
Having your own spirulina window farm is one of the easiest most satisfying things you could ever take on. It is an environmentally friendly way to produce and consume a complete protein and nutritional source! Algae Spirulina is 25 times more efficient per squared foot than any other plant, which makes it optimal for indoor growth. Integrating algae into our homes can be one of the most significant things that can impact our nutrition. It is truly the food of the future as it contains all of the amino acids and is a complete protein!
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Step 1: Hardware

Picture of Hardware
To grow Spirulina at home you are going to need some hardware to optimize and automize the process. Most of it is readily available at your local pet or fish store.

10-20 Gallon Aquarium Tank
Air Pump
Air Line
Bubble Wand
Food Grade Harvesting tube
Ph Strips
Bi Valve
Harvesting Cloth (50 micron filter cloth)

The only thing that you will need to get from a specific source is your initial spirulina culture. is the most affordable source.

Step 2: Tank Setup

Picture of Tank Setup
Find a south facing window for your tank. You can either use a table to place tank, or you can place a piece of wood on the window sill to make a shelf for the tank. Place tank on top. You can also grow spirulina in a greenhouse!

Step 3: Hardware Setup

Picture of Hardware Setup
Start by arranging the bubble wand around the wall of the tank. This will aerate the spirulina and feed CO2 into the culture. Next, suction cup your heater to the wall of the tank. Set your heater to 88 degrees because the optimum growing temperature of spirulina is 92 degrees F. The clear harvesting tube is also suctioned to the glass of the tank. Now, run your air line to the bivalve: then to the bubble wand and the bottom of the food grade tube. The Bi-valve allows you to switch from aerating to harvesting with minimal effort.
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How does wet, raw algae compare volumetrically / nutritionally to dehydrated spirulina by the tablespoon?

Great instructable! One question though; you mentioned (in some of your replies) having multiple aquariums for greater yields. But what if you just used a bigger aquarium? Wouldn't that yield more spirulina? Ultimately, I'm looking to produce 3 to 4 tablespoons daily. I'd prefer working with only one aquarium and I don't mind if it's bigger. Any recommendations?

omnibot1 year ago
Spirulina is not a superfood. As far as I've seen there is no evidence of any health benefits, in fact it is toxic.
bpfh omnibot1 year ago
What the Quackwatch article was promoting was the companies that are selling this product as a medicin rather than as food, and then classifying it as food but selling it in medicinal quanties at medicinal prices!

Now, a part from that, there is a very valid point in this article: in the wild, you avoid eating any blue-green algae, as yes, there is a real risk of poisoning. What I do not like about this is that you start growing your algae, but it can be so easy to grow somthing else that could make you sick. With a plantation, you can pull out the weeds and keep the veggies, but here you cannot tell the difference between good and bad. As much as I believe that algae based products are good for you and in some cases wiil be a staple of the future, I would want clear testing guidelines to make sure that the algae I want to grow is actually what *is* growing... clean and fresh water is one thing... but it's not a guarantee !

I have been growing and eating my own Spirulina both indoors and out for many years, with continuous microscopic monitoring. If you maintain the alkalinity of the medium, it is rare for other species to grow (most often Chlorella, which is harmless). Spirulina itself has never been known to produce toxins (see Wikipedia, there is a reference there). It is important to check your culture with a microscope occasionally.

I believe Spirulina is a superfood as the term is ill defined. It can be grown cheaply and replace 60% of your protien intake without any ill health effects. This should be a cash crop that should be up there with corn (maze). It is a complete protien that has more protien then all other usual plant sources.
Yes, don't grow it in rancid water. Don't go harvesting it from nature with who knows what in the water. However, in a tank at home where you can control everything should have no toxic ill effects.

My research
Chamorro-Cevallos, G.; B.L. Barron, J. Vasquez-Sanchez (2008). "Toxicologic Studies and Antitoxic Properties of Spirulina". In Gershwin, M.E. Spirulina in Human Nutrition and Health (CRC Press).
Omnibot, according to your link, Spirulina is nontoxic, but other blue-green algae had detectable levels of a particular toxin.
Algaescientist (author)  omnibot1 year ago
Hello Omnibot,
Do you speak from experience or just a vague google search? I have personally been consuming fresh spirulina for the last two years with positive benefits to my health and energy levels. Your link mentions pharmaceutical companies that were trying to rip people off by selling it at 300 dollars a pound. Yes, algae can become toxic if you grow it in contaminated water. The same way that if you grow a vegetable in lead contaminated soil, it will be toxic. That is why people question commercial sources of spirulina, but if you grow it at home you know the purity of your water source. As far as the term superfood, there is no consensus on its exact definition and I use it to convey the efficiency as a solar energy collector and oxygen producer in a small space. Algae as a food source produces oxygen and CO2 sequestration while most other food sources require fossil fuels to make and transport.
perhaps you could confirm that those nasties mentioned in the article are killed by the ph of 10?
i have been a tablet and capsule consumer from many different sources for over five years off and on. when i am flagging i start and pickup noticeably in a day or two.
except with my most recent capsule purchases from a supplier i think has gone bad or changed hands. these recent capsules also fail to turn the water into purple blue hue that i had always tested for in the past.

This guy makes some highly suspect claims on his website, such as that 1 gram of Spirulina is equivalent to 1000 grams of fruit and vegetables... This guy pretends that he came up with this stuff, but there are other providers of Spirulina grow systems with a much longer track record who are a lot more honest.

El Mano12 months ago
When you harvest, how much material do you get? Harvesting 1/3 of the tank would of course give you different amounts depending on the size of your tank (you use a 20 gallon tank?); how dense is the growth, and what size tank would you need in order to eat the stuff as more than just a teaspoon sized supplement? SpirulinaSystems's nutrient kits give enough nutrients for about 6 pounds of the stuff, or about 192 tablespoons of it; how many harvests will that produce, and how long will the nutrient mix last?

Also, how much does it cost to maintain, with nutrients, iron and all? You mention how much sodium bicarbonate to add to a liter of water, but do you know how much of the other nutrients to add? It might be cheaper to buy them in bulk from a food-grade supplier (if possible to find) and mix them yourself.

I'm looking for healthy alternative food sources, and spirulina seems to fit the bill. If the most I'll ever get is a teaspoon a day, however, or I bankrupt myself in the process, it would probably not be worth it.
spider87 El Mano3 months ago

I can't really answer your questions but I'd definitely suggest more research than just this instructable. Not saying you weren't planning on it but this instructable seems a bit suspicious to me. It uses the same/related images as are used on and just happens to also recommend buying stuff from them. I'd suggest this is a sales tool. There's probably a much cheaper way to get going with this. I'm hoping that there is too because $60 is NOT affordable as a starter culture for some water with some algae in it.

Algaescientist (author) 10 months ago

So sad how people resort to name calling and accusations. The idea of sharing is only hindered by those wanting to take credit and make profit. Why can't different sources of information exist without jeopardizing the growth of each.

fully agree. this is equality. thank you for the instructable.

tsantakallio10 months ago

How much Spirulina would you have to grow until you reach a production of 1 kg daily? I'm planning to set up an experimental rig: 150 litre plexiglass tanks, three or four stacked on top of each other, two columns next to each other. 600 Watt multi-metal high pressure lamps, two per column, and smaller high pressure multi-metal lamps between the rows. The tanks would be added in setups of eight tanks in each until one kilogram per day is reached in optimal growth conditions. Nitrogen can be obtained from compost tea and powdered silica mix, as well as urine, but nitrogen-rich compost from legumes does the trick as well, air curtain to add oxygen in the water, air pump to pump some air in it, and some nutrient mix meant normally for houseplants with some extra nitrogen perhaps. What's the optimal temperature? does it need a light cycle? It doesn't flower, so I assume it can grow even without a cycle, right?

Like this:

Algaescientist (author)  tsantakallio8 months ago

The average output is 20 grams per meter squared in a pond set up (10" height). You would have to translate that to vertical space to get a good idea. I think you will definitely get a good return if you use lamps and keep the culture at around 95 degrees. Please update if you create the project

phmanzano1 year ago
I was interested in spirulina, as a humanitarian mission.
I read that it needs nitrogen to grow and there are no organic way to get nitrogen except from nettle (Urtica dioica) ... which need nitrogen from the soil.
Of course urea was used too, like in the wonderful 80's spirulina farm ( but I heard that urea gives a bad taste). Is it true?
Of course you can also use nitrogen rich fertilizers which are not good to find in your liver. So do you know other (organic) nitrogen source?
About starting growing I have some concerns:
A used tank (previously with fishes) might keep unknown dried algae in corners that can "restart" as you put water back into it, so you must deep clean it, is chlorine best or alcohol or else?
About distilled water from evaporator, dryer or air conditioning: I was surprised that my distilled water from dryer was actually containing "stuff" (I don't know what), because it's conductive (and should not).

I also wonder about e-coli that is present everywhere ... in a house, not in a lab (see conclusion of Everlasting producing spirulina in house in the same tank may grow a nice colony of other things that can be problematic with time. Am I right?

Since I read some comments here, I'd like to prevent people from using the Brita way to get "purified" water: NO, an active carbon filter is not enough to remove other algae, just leave water in your brita for 3 weeks on the kitchen table and drink it, you'll literally feel and smell the algae (experienced by my family when coming back from holidays, I didn't because I prefer the naturally distilled water present in grapes with alcohol called ... wine). Carbon filter is good for capturing salts and metals (AFAIK).
If you start wrong, you'll end up with wrong algae in your mix and you don't want that.

May be a good way to find if you have something in your water BEFORE starting spirulina is to clean-prepare and fill your tank, raise ph and temp and leave it without anything in it for 3 weeks (or more) and see what happens. What do you think?

And finally, do you have any chance to start growing pazifica from powder? I mean even a 0.001% chance? Or, how to get a live source? Is it naturally present in Hawaii?
Thanks for your light on my questions.
Algaescientist (author)  phmanzano1 year ago
Humanitarian use will almost always use urea from animals or human. It is free and abundant. I personally have not grown it in urea but hope to in the future as I am planning a waste water spirulina treatment system. I might personally not it the spirulina grown from it but I could feed fish from my own waste. But in complete honest, urine is sterile when it leaves your body and it is non toxic to the body, there is actually urea therapy.

If you start with a pre used tank, wash with soap let it dry completely. The high alkalinity will prevent most other organisms from growing in the tank. Commercial spirulina is grown in outdoor ponds that are exposed the all the elements and even bird feces, but only spirulina will grow because it is adapted to the environment. So I would not worry, just a good clea. And get a microscope to do your own quality control checks.

Pazifica from powder is pretty much impossible. try look for it live in algae laboratories that sell cultures. Or take a a trip to Hawaii and go on an adventure on the hunt for a microscopic algae.
Thanks! You replied all questions, I appreciate.
Let's go to Hawaï!! :)
El Mano1 year ago
Potassium Nitrate is supposed to be mildly toxic when eaten, especially over time, as the nitrates and resulting nitrites irritate your stomach. The algae is safe, but would the trace amounts of KNO3 that you ingest with the harvested algae be safe? Can you rinse the harvested algae to remove any minerals left over?

Also, the microcystin toxins from other blue-green algae cause cancer with extended exposure. I'd hate to eat spirulina for a few years and find out my liver has tumors because the algae starter I bought was contaminated with other strains of algae. How stringent is your starter supplier's quality control?
Algaescientist (author)  El Mano1 year ago
The spirulina can be rinsed in regular drinking water after harvesting.

Well to this day, there has not been a single incident of foreign strains in the culture. For this reason a small microscope will serve you well because you can have assurance when you look at your own culture.
I've been curious about this ever since i saw it in makezine. I thought i remember them saying you have to restart the tank every month. Is that true?
No, once the culture is started you only harvest i/3 of the culture to let it regrow and harvest again. Indefinitely.
aherrera121 year ago
This is really cool. I like both growing easy food and eating a billion things at once. Looking forward to the recipes and storage tips.
Algaescientist (author)  aherrera121 year ago
Thanks. Working on it.
tpaige11 year ago
Hello! Thank you, this was very interesting I can't wait to give it a try. I do have a question about storage though. Once harvested its unlikely that il consume 1/3 of the algae so fast. 1 teaspoon for 1 person a day is slow going. Or is it recommend to only harvest a small amount directly before use?? I'm sorry if this is an ignorant question, I did try to search more information first before asking, but I think most places assume a greater level of base line knowledge on the subject.
Algaescientist (author)  tpaige11 year ago
It is best to harvest what you will be consuming at the time. Storage is an option, but the point of a home spirulina farm is freshness. You dont have to harvest more than is needed.
camcam0891 year ago
I am using a aquarium that has been used for other things before. I want to grow spirulina and was wondering how i could clean the tank in a way that would not kill the algae, kill all bacteria and make it so the stuff already in the tank will not contaminate the culture. thanks
Algaescientist (author)  camcam0891 year ago
Soap washed is sufficient. The high alkaline medium will inhibit most other organisms from growing.
steve0001 year ago
hahaha gross. Technically its uber beneficial but I think most people wouldn't eat it. Great and well detailed article 10 thumbs up :P
Algaescientist (author)  steve0001 year ago
I'll add some recipes to see if i can change your mind! =)
Please add recipes, I am wanting to start a home farm and this looks like a great food stuff to invest in. When I have the start up cash I will probably end up eating this stuff by the truck load :P
:O ok im up for that.

I see algae as fuel not food but id could never grow it enough to fuel my life so I guess i could eat it instead. Not like im gonna eat sunflowers or jatropha.
poofrabbit1 year ago
Hey congratulations on being a finalist in the weekend projects contest!
sugarworm1 year ago
Great 'ible, what are the yields like?
MustangGuy1 year ago
Beautifully executed Instructable. I've tried doing research on farming spirulina before and I must say that you broke down the steps amazingly well.

Thank you,

Laterali1 year ago
I live in an apartment and get very little sunlight through my west facing windows. If I placed a UV lamp over the tank, would it suffice?
hjprice1 year ago
Just curious. What does it taste like?
What does it taste like? And what would you recommend eating it with?
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