Picture of Grow Your Own Bioluminescent Algae
You may have memories of running after fireflies with hands outstretched on a warm summer evening. You may have even watched some discovery channel documentary on the mysteries of the deep sea and marveled at those 'glowing' organisms featured. Chances are however, you probably haven't heard too much about the plethora of other bioluminescent creatures inhabiting this planet.

Bioluminescence (literally meaning living light) occurs within many living organisms, although, most are relegated to the deep sea. This chemical reaction involves the oxidation of Luciferin (just a name for a class of biological light emitting pigments). While related, the name doesn't come from any devilish origins, but rather the latin 'lucifer' meaning "light bringer".

Depending on the organism, the light can be used for camouflage, attraction, or even communication among bacteria to name a few. Some of the more notable organisms that bioluminesce include fireflies, glow worms, bacteria, a plethora of marine life, and even mushrooms. (Here's a favorite video of mine from planet earth on the glow worm http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kBIEmjaoE5w)

Today however, we'll focus on a particular light emitting alga known as Pyrocystis fusiformis. These dinoflagellates typically do not occur in high enough concentrations among marine algae to produce a very noticeable glow. However, when the conditions are right (excess nutrients, enough sun, etc) an algal bloom can occur and populations explode.  Chances are you've heard of this phenomenon before which (albeit not involving this particular organism) is also known as a Red Tide.

Here's a video of one such concentration in a bay in australia. They are simply throwing water into the bay as the algae only luminesce when disturbed. A popular theory is that the light is used to attract predators of the grazers of dinoflagellates.  Case et al. (1995) demonstrated that the feeding rate of squid of mysids in the dark increases significantly when bioluminescent dinoflagellates are present.

There is even a bay in Puerto Rico full of the stuff which people can kayak in. http://www.biobay.com/

With a little luck and a LOT of patience, you can grow your own bioluminscent algae at home.
NavamiJ9 months ago

Hi, can the bioluminescence be measured using a regular photmeter? If so, what is the best method to measure their light output?


J.W.N.R.3 years ago
Won't the algae culture be stressed to death by the movement, if an air pump is installed in their container.

I would like to know this as well.

amsisi131 year ago

Hello, I was wondering if it would be at all possible to grow this outside? Thank you!

ojulian11 year ago
I would like to try glow habitat w planctin in like fish tank above that perferated PVC w luminescent fungi alga small trees glow worms maybe florescent fish or two. A whole greenhouse eco glow habit. I found company working on bioluminescent plants for home green lighting. Maybe a frog that is glow too. Do u think all could live in same inviroment
mrg02d1 year ago
I ordered from empco and got a bottle of "dead" algae. I only get about one or two cells flashing at a time at night. Can these live cells repopulate the bottle? Empco customer service is a complete joke....Rarely answer emails and only give vague responses when they do. Any help?
mschoor mrg02d1 year ago
hello, They should continue to grow if given proper light cycle and temp. If not check out algabiotic research technologies on ebay or algabiotics.com lots of strains with great prices and nice people
That looks so amazing and fun
BunnyRoger1 year ago
Love the blue, looks so so creapy actually.
Very cool!!
MAApleton2 years ago
Super cool idea. Thanks, another one for my favorites list.
How much light does the algae really need? I'd love to grow some but I don't have a place to keep them that I would consider more than "low light" and a lamp isn't really an option.
kcamilleri2 years ago
HI i need to buy the micro algae grow to try this experiment for a school assignment and when i tried to access this site: https://3kserver7.com/~frank/secure/agora.cgi it isn't opening an error is coming up. I would highly appreciate it if you could give me an alternative of from where to buy it. Thanks a lot
i know one word to describe it, CREEPY
this algae is really awesome but unfortunately it refuses to grow! :-(

i ordered some pyrocystis fusiformis from empco and tried to make my own growth medium. i emptied fresh bottles of mineral water, filled them with destilled water and added sea salt until it reached a density of ca. 1025 kg/m3 (at 25°C). finally i added some nutritions. they are not the same as in the article since i had to buy them in germany, but they are f/2 as well.

unfortunately, in my mixed media, the algae dies within a single day! now, the empco starter culture is nearly empty and i really need some good ideas about what is going wrong.

could a lack of co2 let them die that fast? the starter culture is living for a month now in it's bottle without air pump and everything. what about salinity? it's not that sensible, is it? or maybe ph? is destilled water a good choice?

any ideas whats going wrong?!?
thanks a lot!
Now I got a new batch of algae from Empco and it's working fine so far! :-)

I changed a few things in the protocol: First, I used "Micro Algae Grow" this time.

Second, and I think this is important, I started each experiment with a small portion of algae and added only a little bit of growth medium every few hours. This is to avoid osmosis through a a sudden change in salt levels. This might have been the problem last time.
How much algae did you add to what quantity of water and how long did it take after diluting the algae for it to reach the same brightness?
The amount of algae was dependent on how much I had. Could be everything between a few tablespoons and half a bottle. And then I started adding water (with nutritions), but only the tenth part or something (sometimes only a few drops). Then gradually more. When I can be sure that both levels of salt are similar I put in a lot of water (like same amount as the algae itself).

I have the impression that my algae is growing pretty slow. It can takes weeks until it reaches the same density as before.
For one I agree with kholland, and remember its not the replication of the organisms environment that matters in these kind of experiments. What you are trying to achieve is growth of a species, so you want to achieve perfect conditions for growth, i.e. the perfect environment, not their usual one. So hell make a CO2 generator and make sure you use that algae grow! I'll be trying to grow the same species in a month or two so that's what I'll be doing as I've perfected growing freshwater algae with the method above.
Hope I helped,
Long reply time, but the problem is your salt... you want 35ppt... I.e. 35 grams of salt for every liter of water.

I realize 1025 kg/m3 is the density of sea water, but, I think you will get better results measuring that way rather then doing it based on density....

Additionally, I wouldn't use distilled water, ideally, I would just get fresh water from a source (nearby streams, which will already have some salt) and then add salt to 35ppt.
boost-674 years ago
once grown, can this be used in a regular salt water tank?
I don't see why not. They aren't going to hurt the fish since they likely coexist in the wild. I think the difficulty would be the day/night cycle and if there's any kind of constant agitation, they'd wear out or have a short lifespan.
I would also like to know this.
maliksudhir4 years ago
Hi ,
Can any one help me out in some calculation work its really very urgent , please help me out ..... i need to consume 1932.3kg/hr of CO2 with the help of Algae in a pond (water) for example Raceway pond , so i need to know the specific area to construct that pond and its sizing and dimension (length,etc) and the quantity of water needed and amount of algae used so that it easily consumes the mentioned amount of CO2 rate per hour..... please help me out soon you can also drop your suggestion and questions if any my email id is : sudhirmalik2011@gmail.com ....i will be waiting for your reply soon and i'll be highly thankful to you, if someone can help please do tell me its very urgent....

Thank you
Matt Carl4 years ago
Anyone else remember these from the book Deception Point by Dan Brown? Great book :D
One comment about the different species: I ordered all three from Empco. In my experience Pyrocystis lunula is the one with the highest density, which is much more robust than the others and by far the brightest. So I can highly recommend these!
Congrats! And thanks for the suggestion, I'm ordering some now and wasn't sure which species to get
187inc5 years ago
i sail through red tide all the time. if you happen to be sitting on your boat at night in red tide, flush your toilet, the water is drawn from below the boat, water swirls around all blue while it flushes! haha i hear your not supposed to swim in it though, something about breeding plankton and ear infections. i cant remember. but hey, lets throw some in our bong and see what happens.
I'm rolling. I'm so happy right now.
I just want to buy some Pyrocystic Fusiform culture and use it for a simple science project. Is it absolutely necessary to grow them, or can I just use the flasks?
ScaryBunnyMan (author)  breakspeare8324 years ago
You don't have to grow them... the cultures that you get when you buy them last a surprisingly long time
Thanks, I was really worried that I was going to have to get all of the other equipment required. I will probably still just grow some for fun, but not for the project.
pyrosine4 years ago
If the algae only illuminates a certain amount, and then needs a recharge time - what happens when it rains? This is in the case of the giant bio-luminescent algae lakes
lazer1555 years ago
How do you know when the culture needs to be split into another bottle? Does the water need to be cleaned every once in awhile?
Byron5 years ago
Any idea where I can get some bioluminescent algae in New Zealand
davej66945 years ago
sunnyside isn't picking up the phone and empco's phone goes straight to message machine is there any other place to buy this stuff?
TheSniper5 years ago
Hey, would it be possible to add these to a garden and to use a small pump, not very fast or violent, but just enough to get them to glow? I was thinking to let this go on at night to make a sort of display and add some vitality to the garden. Tell me what you think. Is it too much for the algae? Thanks!
Odd enough, i wrote about that in a short story! it sounds ok, maybe distribute it through a light sprinkler?
pyroman225 years ago
but what do I do with the other things growing in my closet.....
Ick...'tis gross! Seriously. XD
newnoc5 years ago
Can you possibly change the colors of the algae? Sounds cool...
conrad24685 years ago
well...at least youll know when you get infected by luminous bacteria.....
guatsamosa5 years ago
Hey, really awesome instructable!!! do you know if the algae reacts to vibrations that they feel through the water? as in could you make them light up with sound vibrations? thanks
ScaryBunnyMan (author)  guatsamosa5 years ago
You certainly could, but it wouldn't last more than a few flashes. They need time to recharge between emissions and the speaker might disturb them too much.
Calorie5 years ago
It's fun to look at, but it causes chaos in the Gulf States. Red Tide blooms are caused by fertilizer runoff. A glut of aerobic bacteria occurs, which then dies off. This leaves a dead zone, in which the red tide blooms can grow. You end up with dead fish all over the beach, a horrible smell and a scratchy throat from the toxins it releases. It also kills bottom dwelling sponges. You can go to Tarpon Springs (FL) and ask a sponge diver. Nasty stuff. Don't get me wrong, I'll go to one of the boat marinas and throw in a rock or two and see how the light cascades away from the impact. But it is a serious problem in Florida. What you grow in your room won't hurt anything. the problem is the fertilizers we use on our lawns, waste discharge and and farm runoff.
I would make a smiley face, but what is happening in the Gulf is horrible. All of the Gulf States rely heavily on the Gulf for revenue. They suffered some of the hardest parts of the recession (Florida had the highest property foreclosure rate.) Florida also heavily relies on Tourism for its budget. The lack of taxes will cripple the recovery here.

*It's funny that you mentioned it though. We had a county meeting about banning fertilizer during the high rain months for run off. The argument from the industry representative was that all of the oil from the Gulf makes the fertilizer issue moot. I thought it was a bit sleazy.

mlocke5 years ago
"Empco EDU is currently closed for summer recess. We will reopen in September 2010."
eL3VEn5 years ago
Have u considered growing them in a clear tube and attaching the sides of speakers to the ends of the tube, I don't imagine it to be very damaging unless your into metal.
joe570057 years ago
Awesome! Now, if only i can find instructions for growing glowing shrooms!
ScaryBunnyMan (author)  joe570057 years ago
Awesome, thanks! now, to figure out if they'll grow (survive) in the florida heat.
Red TIde is endemic to Florida. It is a major problem, and seriously damages the Gulf as well as tax revenue. Beaches have to close, dead fish wash up on shore. You get this scratchy feeling in your throat from the toxin. Not being difficult, but just watch the news and you'll see when a bloom of Red Tide is near any coast.
or the Canada cold
m1keo joe570056 years ago
LOL my dream....
theres another instructable on here fro bioluminescent fungus. it should pop up if you serach "bioluminescent."
zascecs5 years ago
I love this kind of stuff. Perfect for Halloween...
Articas5 years ago
bio degradeable environmentally friendly tracer dart ithink so
starwing1235 years ago
Lol, man starwing that made me laugh.. This looks like an AWESOME project, I just hope I can find the time to try it out!
octo1375 years ago
 can i just use saltwater from the ocean? that is where these come from, right?
Derin6 years ago
miiwii3 Derin5 years ago
Maxinama5 years ago
How lond do the bottles have to sit under the sgrow light for?
Maxinama5 years ago
Thanks for awesome idea! But I have a question... what is a starter culture?
arkfusion5 years ago
put it in a pond, they would be quick to die in a chlorinated pool
Kasaron6 years ago
I wonder if anyone has ever had the idea of putting this in a pool...
 im gunna do that. no doubt.
That would be the best prank ever. Just think what you can do with it, see if they took a shower.
Sneak and put some inside their shower head...
And it only lights up when disturbed. Imagine a friend's reaction when the pool begins to glow when they jump in it.

Arbitror5 years ago
Do they die if they get too stressed? 'Cuz you could attach an offset motor to the tank, constantly vibrating the water!
NetReaper5 years ago
After i took my algae out of the package and moved it to a bottle it stopped glowing much. Does this mean i didn't clean the bottle enough? it used to have gatorade in it
NetReaper5 years ago
I bought a pack of the nutrients but realized it didn't come with the silicate! is this needed to grow bioluminescent aglae? plz answer quickly, i had already ordered the algae
You should be fine. just plop the little guys in, and you shouldn't actually need to feed them as much as said above.

is there any way of buying the strain in europe?
NetReaper6 years ago
I looked on that website fore algae grow but they only have ones with algae already in them, wont those bother the bioluminescent algae?
jajay402696 years ago
that is so cool!
This may be stupid, so just bear with me here Correct me if I'm wrong, but a good source of water with high CO2 content is carbonated water. Wouldn't it be easiest to just add small amounts of that to the tank (as opposed to building a system that injects CO2)? Would it spread out fast enough that the dissolved CO2 would mix in instead of bubbling out?
This is why i love instructables. thanks for such a cool idea.
Me too. Such great contributions on this site. Thanks!!
esplonky6 years ago
HA insant karma! like the moon, the stars and the sun, and we all shine on.
the moon doesnt shine, it reflects light
but, the reflection shines, just listen to the song instant karma by the greatest musician ever!
Actually, as anyone who grows aquatic plants will tell you, aerating water, along with any surface movement actually drives off CO2. However, you can diy CO2 injection with some yeast and sugar water in a 2 liter bottle with some airline tubing and a ceramic or lime wood air stone (a slice of a chopstick shoved into the hose works pretty well too; small bubbles dissolve better than the larger ones created by those cheap compressed/glued sand air stones).
thartaros6 years ago
how long do they live for?
Puerto Rico! Couldnt resist, its my birthplace. And thanks for this! Most of my friends won't expect this for my next project!
T3nnisstud6 years ago
how long does it take for the dinoflagellates to start glowing?
You could also enlist one of these fluorescents!


thescloon6 years ago
I also could not get a response from Sunnyside Sea Farms. I would really like to obtain a culture to begin growing this algae. Does anyone know of another distributor of this strain?
elahia986 years ago
could you please tell me how to grow colonies of botryococcus braunii algae as i need to fing out for a science project after which i intend to make biodiesel from thanks
elahia986 years ago
could you please tell me how to grow colonies of botryococcus algae as i need to fing out for a science project after which i intend to make biodiesel from thanks
idogis16 years ago
Just out of curiosity, would there be any way of regulating something the size of a swimming pool so that a culture of these could survive for a long time.
if could "if you had a lot of time on your hands make a whole lot of batches then put them in a very clean swimming pool. but of course they probably wouldnt last long so it would be a one time deal. just a thought.
ScaryBunnyMan (author)  idogis16 years ago
Its certainly possible as evinced by biobay in puerto rico chock full of this stuff. However, it'd be difficult to get the right amount of nutrients, Co2, etc. More importantly, if the nutrients are out of wack favouring another algal strain, or the batch is contaminated, you'd lose the entire pool. For this reason, smaller, isolated batches would be advisable.
cd416 years ago
I accidently grew some weird fungus(?) in a very old bowl of the ramen juice(the broth) it was weird because it was like they sprung up from nowhere. Seriously one min i look at it it's just old broth, the next it has these little criclesof red stuff(about 1 cm across) a didn't want to go wash the the bowl out, the idea that i might someday grab that bowl again, just gross. Wish i had a picture but i wasn't thinking much when i saw it
hominid cd416 years ago
This sounds like a bacteria called Serratia marcescens.
cd41 hominid6 years ago
Could be... What you couldn't let me think i had my own recipe for a new form of anthrax.
Gliucoza6 years ago
what happens when it rains?
any compression of the algal wall during their dark cycle (when there is no light present) will cause them to glow, so if it rains at night, or there is no light present, you would see quite the spectacular display.
BladeMastR6 years ago

they describe the isolation of an other kind of bacteria from fresh herrings. however, its german.
this is so rad but I don't have the money now i have like three hydroponic systems
maturojm6 years ago
they aren't bacteria or prokaryotes. dinoflagellates are protists, which are eukaryotic. incredibly interesting organisms, especially when they are bioluminescent. really cool experiment. definitely gonna try this sometime
tobaissi6 years ago
where else can i buy the culture because sunnyside sea farms isnt picking up the phone...
omnibot6 years ago
Okay .. I've got an application for this. Imagine a spaceship or spacestation with clear tubes running everywhere with the growlights inside. Some of these are photosynthetic so the system would give a cool sci-fi light everywhere as well as recycling C02.
GabeA236 years ago
I had my own bioluminescent algae for a while (thanks to this instructable). It was VERY cool. My colony died because I went out of town and my automatic light stopped working. I plan on ordering another soon. !!
Biobaby6 years ago
hey how long does the light last after being shaken?????????
Biobaby6 years ago
great idea for my science project
joshward356 years ago
you guys might want to consider that dry ice gives of carbonic acid when mixed with the water. Just a thought.
this is so friggin ...............AWESOME!
cofosho6 years ago
John Lindquist of U of Wisconsin-Madison documents isolation of bio-L bacteria very well here: http://www.splammo.net/bact102/102lumbact.html
Majafero6 years ago
this is awesome!!! it also looks pretty cheap, how much is it???
hey i swam in a bay in puerto rico with those, but they were green
Do you have a pic?
It's really tough to take pictures of it. Extremely low light and the light only flashes on, so it doesn't last long enough to get picked up by most cameras. It's neat seeing the fish get spooked and leave streaks of green light through the bay under the water.
Hi! I have a 12g JBJ Nanocube Deluxe. Well maintained, rather self sufficient, filtered with ceramic beads, bioballs, and 3 filter sponges. I also have a nano protein skimmer. Tank contains 8 small hermit crabs, a few small mushroom corals, live rock, live sand, and a blue ddevil damsel. Do you think the algae will survive the filter process? And will it have a large effect on the aquarium habitat? It would be so cool to have the tank light up at night. Thanks! -Adam
ScaryBunnyMan (author)  HondaGuy11226 years ago
I wish I could tell you but I have little experience with that myself. Although I'm unsure of the tank dynamics, I'd be cautiously pessimistic that they would survive well. For in the end, they're really just algae, and any change in nutrient composition could favor another algal strain over them. You might frequent some of the aquarium forums where they talk about growing algae to feed rotifers for more help. Sorry I couldn't be of more help and Good luck!
sounds good! I do have a few different forms of red/green algae currently in my tank. I imagine that this would overtake the bioluminescent algae, unless the paramters are perfect for a Pyrocystis Fusiformis bloom, which is obviously unlikely. Thanks!! : )
FaqMan6 years ago
Cool it will add some insanity to my fish tank.
thanks scary bunny man!! you helped me get an a on mi science project
ramedia6 years ago
"...the name doesn't come from any devilish origins, but rather the latin 'lucifer' meaning "light bringer." Lucifer was a pagan sun god (light bringer.) represented by a horned man with light rays emanating from his head. During the middle ages, the church demonized pagan gods with the purpose of forcing conversion of pagan followers, thus turning the "light god," into the opposite: "the prince of darkness." In short: Lucifer, light bringer, horned sun god, "devil," all one in the same.
really nice and cool project!
when you shake them, how long would they stay lit?
This website says it lasts for some seconds. That's pretty short; is it possible to increase it to, say, 15-30 seconds?
also, these little creatures would eventually die. would it be possible to create a self sustainable environment for them? like mix two or more kinds of organisms that provide what each other needs, like this I find it hard to gather specific information (like the chart on the previous link, showing what they produce and what they lack) on these organisms. help is greatly appreciated!
ScaryBunnyMan (author)  J50Nunlimited6 years ago

The embedded youtube video is the best representation I've found for how their light looks in person. It's really just a bright flash that decays quickly. While I'm not versed enough in the mechanics of the luciferase reactions to definitively say, I would assume that 'increasing' their flash response is far beyond the scope of the amateur grower.

I'm unsure the feasibility of creating a balanced sustainable environment but you might start with a more detailed list of what they are cultured with:

Hope that helps!
thanks! i've actually thought about getting a mesh of organisms that does the job of nutrient supplements. by the way, do you know why they eventually die out?
sam1176 years ago
it would be awesome to put these in paintballs lol
Mr E Man6 years ago
Has anyone tried these in a salty hydroponic solution, my hydroponics had lots of green non glowing algae before i painted my hydroponics... Would it live longer?
puffyfluff6 years ago
This is really cool. I am definitely going to try this.
goeon6 years ago
n8man7 years ago
I have a question. If they are not disturbed, will they glow at all during the night part of the cycle?
ScaryBunnyMan (author)  n8man7 years ago
Nope, they should only emit light when disturbed. Note that this doesn't necessarily mean directly moved, loud sound from a speaker can do it as well as it'll agitate the water.
Will they glow when disturbed during their day cycle?
ScaryBunnyMan (author)  n8man7 years ago
chuckr447 years ago
What is the OPTIMAL temperature to get these to grow? The page where you buy them says the MINIMUM is 60-70F, but what is the optimum? The reason I ask is I cannot grow free-floating algae in my rain barrels unless the daytime highs reach 80-85F daily. So temperature is a big factor for them.
Arauco7 years ago
Q nota!!!!
jimmyb0nz7 years ago
WOW!! I gotta try it! Very nice instructable! Thorough and detailed. Thanks!!!
I enjoyed reading this, and I thought it was really cool, but I'm curious about the practical applications of this? Any ideas?
ScaryBunnyMan (author)  Spookeriffic7 years ago
There are numerous practical applications of 'glowing' organisms. Some of the more useful however deal with things that fluoresce (think black light) rather than bioluminesce.

In terms of practicality for you at home we're looking around nil. While the wikipedia article suggests some future potential applications such as glowing Christmas trees or crops that glow when needing watering, these are rather fanciful at the moment.

However, in terms of things that fluoresce, these genes have been engineered into other animals in an effort to track where genetically modified cells go. Behold, the glowing piglets:

Whoa - neat! There were also links to glowing *cats* .. now that's *really* weird... o.O
Millo Lopez7 years ago
can you just use actual sea water? actually, I'm in Puerto Rico, could I just get some from mosquito bay and put an air pump to keep them alive?
ScaryBunnyMan (author)  Millo Lopez7 years ago
You could try. The very probably outcome however would be that after a short time, a more dominant organism would take hold of your bottle and overwhelm the others. If you had access to some type of sterile uv pen you could sterilize the water first and then introduce a clean culture -as you know the water composition is already good for culturing the bioluminescent algae.
I have been to the bay in puerto rico. it was cool
Sandisk1duo7 years ago
Does this come in green glowing variety?
Thornburg7 years ago
That would looks great just in a Fish tank. Looks beautiful.
Thats so cool!!!
=SMART=7 years ago
Very very cool, Congratulations on winning the contest ! The Prize you won is awesome!
balisticjoe7 years ago
step 1 get algea step 2 put a lot of them in a pool step 3 make it into a laser show under water and wait for the money to roll in
You forgot a step Step 4: Let the chlorine or pool salt already in pool destroy all bacteria.
Maco7 years ago
Finally another Reefer here Yayyyyyy :) BTW what's your RC name?
ScaryBunnyMan (author)  Maco7 years ago
Haha...somewhat.. I've found the reef central community a great resource in investigating all this, but alas, I myself am not into growing the algae for rotifers or the like. As such, I haven't posted there. I assume you're an avid enthusiast?
devilvan7 years ago
damn dis is cool........im gonna try it.....
szechuan537 years ago
GAH! i can't wait to try this...
Kent7 years ago
Many years ago I saw some bioluminescent sand in North Carolina on the Outer Banks (their barrier islands) and sponges on boards. You could stomp and see a ripple of light, or rub the board to make it light up.There was no moon out, and no streetlights in the area. Both glows were probably caused by some organism, either bacteria or dinoflagellates, that had become trapped there. I didn't have a microscope handy to look.
I think the US Defense Department has used the glow of dinoflagellates to trace submarines.
Dinoflagellates can cause disease. Phisteria is sometimes a problem to fish in the Chesapeake bay, and researchers have become sick being around the tanks where they cultured it. maybe not all species are a problem, so I would avoid contact, but I wouldn't be too worried.
Ace Sawbuck7 years ago
I observed this 36 years ago while swimming in the sound near Morehead City NC. Spectacular! with every stroke the luminescence would leave wide trails. People would scoff at me when I related this experience. Ace
acecombat7 years ago
That video looks awesome! I'm in Australia too and have never heard of this phenomenon occurring here. Does anyone know where/when this occurs and if it is random or comes in seasons or constant??? I’d love to see it as bright as in the video that would be amazing!
It occurs in Hawkesbury River - I went sailing there once on a three day trip and My dad woke me up in the middle of the night to see the luminescence in the water - you could see the trails of light left by the fish as they swam through it, it was amazing. Naturally, being a kid, I couldn't help myself from peeing off the back of the boat. This was in early autumn I think, about 6 years ago. I've been there since but I havent seen it again. Just out of interest, is there a distinction between phosphorescence and this algae we're talking about? On the boat it looked gold-yellow rather than blue like in the clip. Although it was just as bright
Yeah I think it would be amazing too hence the fact I'm trying to track it down somewhere. Phosphorescence is different to bioluminescence. The latter is a chemical reaction in something that causes light, whereas the previous is where the object absorbs light, and then emits it when light is absent (Think of glow-in-the-dark toys)
I've seen it happen quite a few times, once in the Derwent river (Hobart, Tasmania) and many times at Ansons Bay (far NE Tasmania). Usually in summer but that may just be because I don't usually go near the water in the winter months down here. :-)
Is there any way of tracking when or where that you know of? I mean I've been down to the beach plenty of times in the summer and have never seen it so it obviously only occurs in certain areas. I was hoping there was a site that had more info on it but google returned no results :(
Guillermito7 years ago
Looks like we have the same hobby :)


Dinoflagellates cultures from Sunnyside Sea Farms are cheap, reliable, and they ship fast. Even if you just keep them in the same medium they were shipped in, without any attempt long-term at culture and growing (just transfer them from their plastic bag to some glass recipient), you will have a beautiful blue luminescence for two-three weeks, before the culture is overwhelmed by contaminating bacteria.
jjjjjae7 years ago
I have few questions: Since the constant temperature is crucial for the culture, what about using Aquarium Heater? And also I heard that if culture is kept for a week for it to multiply, almost all of the fertilizer will be used. Does this mean I have to keep buying the fertilizer? If possible, can you enlighten me with when to split the batch and how much fertilizer/saltwater should be used for the new "batch". Thanks!
ScaryBunnyMan (author)  jjjjjae7 years ago
An aquarium heater would be a good idea if you lived in a cold environment and wanted to grow them in a very large tank. The risk you run here, is that if a batch crashes, you lose the entire tank versus one bottle. I've found that I can regulate the temperature +/- 4 degrees or so depending simply on how far I place the plastic bottle from the grow lamp. This way, if one bottle crashes due to contamination or one of the plethora of inexplicable reasons, you've only lost that bottle. The nutrients such as micro algae grow and kent's essential come in smaller bottles yes, but they would last you a great many mixes as you only need a few drops of each. I actually don't have a predefined formula for nutrients to salt water.. Just a drop or two should do it. Really be careful not to put too much. Make sure the saltwater is 1.019sg though. You can monitor when to split the batch based on their luminescence during the night. It's hard to quantify exactly when into words as their growth depends on a multitude of conditions. However, you'll notice a sharp drop off in luminescence after the population has peaked. Try not to let it reach this point and split the batch a good couple of days before. All in all, just experiment- don't put your entire culture supply into one or two bottles as they WILL crash the first time or two until you experiment and get the formula right for your specific water quality and nutrients.
ScaryBunnyMan (author)  ScaryBunnyMan7 years ago

While I was browsing online, I stumbled across this site
which is an algae bank so to speak. While they don't have pyrocystis fusiformis, they culture two very related relative organisms known as pyrocystis lunula and pyrocystis noticula. The catch of course is that they charge 125 for a small, 40ml culture.

However, they detail the exact ingredients used in their culture medium.

Micro Algae grow contains much of this, but this is still a good resource. I'll have to compare the difference between the two.
Thanks a lot! You most definately won my vote for the entries P.s. How harmful is it to accidentally eat/drink(...don't know the right word) this bioluminescent algae? (For ex: Say you let these cultures run around in your pool and you swim in it.)
wanderer7 years ago
This may come off as odd but, has anyone had the thought of using the bacteria as a garden light type thing to light up a walk way?
ScaryBunnyMan (author)  wanderer7 years ago
I would doubt the bacteria would survive in such conditions. While you might be able to grow other bioluminescent organisms such as mushrooms (foxfire), they would still be doubtfully bright enough to illuminate a walkway as many are unnoticeable until your eyes have adjusted to the darkness.
jajatoto7 years ago
Hey, did anyone know that red tides are hazardous to human health?? Might want to re-think belly flops into bioluminescent water...
mycroftxxx7 years ago
Favorited, voted for contest, and 5/5. I probably would have done this anyway, but labeling the beaker "We all shine on" pretty much demanded it.
wilkurtz7 years ago
This is totally awesome! I'm gonna whip up a batch and screw with my friends!
This is awesome, a couple years ago my wife sent me on a biolume kayak tour of Mosquito Lagoon, it was great fun. I brought home a jar of water and sealed it and put it on a window sill, as you might expect, it didn't keep glowing, but it has a self sustaining ecology of diatoms and blue-green algae.
I'm jealous!
If you're ever near the Cape in Florida check them out, it was only $30 for 2 1/2-3 hours, and they provide all the equipment.
thanks a whole lot for this link. I always thought that the glow in the dark alage in Mosquito Lagoon was more of an urban legend, something more along the lines of the Oviedo lights, but I guess it really does exist! I'm off to do some research now to try to find some a public boat launch that I could launch from at night time...
Your welcome, here are directions to the hand launch area, there's a public boat ramp around there somewhere but I don't know where. Really worth checking out....
Oh one trivial thing to add, it was my knowledge of what luciferin was that caused me to meet my wife.
guyfrom7up7 years ago
in the last slide you said the bacteria continuosly grow, did you mean grow or glow? Cause Doesn't the algae continously grow?
ScaryBunnyMan (author)  guyfrom7up7 years ago
Whoops.. meant glow- thanks!
21GeeOff217 years ago
this looks really cool. what is the approximate total cost though?
ScaryBunnyMan (author)  21GeeOff217 years ago
relatively inexpensive. A decent amount of starter culture can be had for ~$20 and while the salt, grow light, timer, nutrients etc will probably need an initial investment of another 25-30, they should last you a great many batches if you're successfull. Good Luck!
ok i need a few more bucks but i think ill try it
guyfrom7up7 years ago
Cool, I might go get a clear tube and put it above my desk and put that stuff in it 5/5
Haha, that's amazing! I want to try this out. It looks really cool. Is it expensive to do? Wait nevermind, I see the comment below. Looks pretty cool to try out, what would happen if you eat it? +5/5 stars.
(Eat/ drink.)
Sandisk1duo7 years ago
So, how long does it take for the algae to double in population size?
littlewit7 years ago
Really Really cool i think i am going to try this It would be really cool if you put the stuff in a water gun so when u shot someone they lit up. . . That video was pretty mindblowing also
If you got a bunch of this stuff and put it in a lake or something, would it all spread and take up a large portion of it?
Only if it was a salt water lake with the right amount of salt.
benthekahn7 years ago
What about using dry ice for CO2?
ScaryBunnyMan (author)  benthekahn7 years ago
It's a definite possibility. I haven't heard of it presumably because most of the people growing phytoplankton for fish tanks do it because it's a lot cheaper than buying it from the store. I would think that dry ice would significantly raise the cost to benefit ratio for their situation. Might be applied well here though!
ya, I was thinking a little metal basket to hold the dry ice at the bottom of the tank.
i think itd make it wayyy too cold if anything., well, unless that is you manage to get it wrapped ina lot of layers of cheesecloth and put it in the corner or w/e
PKM7 years ago
That's incredibly cool... the video is amazing, I had no idea bioluminescence could be so bright. I kinda want to see someone bellyflop into it :) How did you do the end pictures? Did you soak the culture into a form and tap it or draw with the bacteria? (I had a friend who grew a culture in a petri dish into the shape of a love note to his girlfriend, biology is awesome)
ScaryBunnyMan (author)  PKM7 years ago
Haha, yes- I'd like to belly flop in it myself

The pictures added from the bacteria aren't mine, they came from this site:


There they also detail the broth recipe with which they used to culture it. Pretty Cool Stuff.

More photos here: http://www.biology.pl/bakterie_sw/bac_pict_en.html
Dorkfish927 years ago
Cool! My dad and i went fishing once and the water glowed a purple color when disturbed. The wake behind our boat looked amazing and reeling in a lure looked really cool.
Labot20017 years ago
This is very cool, especially since I've been studying this over a 2-week summer Biology course. Very cool. 4.5/5 stars (Although, my favorite bioluminescents and fireflies ;-)