Dinoflagellate Light Cycles

BioPop’s dinoflagellates are phytoplankton- plant-like, single-cell life forms (think algae).

bioluminescent dinoflagellates

The dinoflagellates in our products are special because they have an internal clock that controls when they can emit light (bioluminescence) and when they are able to gain energy from the sun (photosynthesis). This internal clock is referred to as a circadian rhythm and just like humans, the dinoflagellates survive on a 24-hour cycle. Their circadian rhythm is determined by the day and night cycles of prior days (and weeks). Altering when and how long the dinoflagellates receive light can affect their cycle going forward.

Ideally dinoflagellates should get 10-14 hours of moderate light and 10-14 hours of relative darkness. Dinoflagellates should not receive bright light or direct sunlight as this can overheat them and cause harm. Keeping their light/dark cycle consistent is key to the success of your dinoflagellates, and using the natural timing of sunrise and sunset is a good way to establish a consistent light/dark cycle (if you don’t have a light on a timer).

When you provide light consistently, the dinoflagellates will be able to emit light whenever they are in their nighttime phase and they will be in a recharging stage when they are in their daytime phase. You can flip the day/night cycle of your dinoflagellates by setting up a grow light or an aquarium/ terrarium light and a timer. By leaving the light on overnight and keeping it dark during the day, the dinoflagellates will become accustom to photosynthesizing during the nighttime hours and emitting light during the daytime hours (remember- it needs to be dark!).

Dinoflagellates gain energy from the sun/ light during the day and then recycle and convert this energy into light at night. This is why dinoflagellates take 30 mins- 1 hour after routine darkness before they start generating bioluminescence. As they continue later into the night, you will see that their light becomes brighter.

Dinoflagellates can survive without light for up to 3 days without suffering much stress. This is how we are able to ship the dinoflagellates over the course of a few days without much harm. After that third day, each day or cycle without access to light will cause more and more stress. After 5-7 days without light, most dinoflagellates populations will perish. That’s why it’s so important that you open your package immediately upon arrival- so the dinoflagellates can start gathering energy to produce their glow.

Some lighting facts and tips for dinoflagellates:

Do not put Dinoflagellates in direct sunlight*

Low light is better than bright light, especially in warmer conditions.

Lights that heat up and warm the Dino Pet can be harmful.

*If you have a place in your house or office that receives indirect sunlight for most of the day but has a short period of direct sunlight, it should not harm your Dino Pet.



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