Haematoccocus sp.

  • The freshwater algae and the best source for natural astaxanthin.
  • Astaxanthin is one of the most powerful antioxidants among carotenoids with many applications in nutraceuticals and in the food and feed industries because of its strong anti-aging, anti-inflammatory, sun proofing, and immune system boosting effects on organisms.
  • Currently, SBC’s microalgae library has a total of 8 locally isolated Haematococus sp.

Natural Habitat

  • Haematococus sp. can be found across diverse environmental and climate conditions:
    • Brackish water on the rocks and seashore (Chekanov et al., 2014);
    • Fresh water basin in the rock filled with melted snow on Blomstrandhalvøya Island (Norway) (Klochkova et al., 2013);
    • Dried fountain near Rozhen, Blagoevgrad in Bulgaria (Gacheva et al., 2015);
    • Fishpond (freshwater) in Bihor, Romania (Dragos et al., 2010);
    • Rooftop surface of a building of KIOST in Seoul Korea (Kim et al., 2015).
  • They are considerably suited for survival under extreme condition that would be deleterious to many other microalgae, due to its ability to encyst (become enclosed by thick membrane) (Proctor, 1957).
  • SBC’s strains were isolated from the following natural habitats:
    • River
    • Lake
    • Brackish 
  • Number of strains isolated in Sarawak:
Division No. of Strains 
Total 8 


  • Size
    • Ranged from 8 to 50 µm in diameter (Hagen et. al., 2002; Triki et. al., 1997).
    • The Haematococus sp. strains in the SBC's microalgae library ranged from 10 to 20 µm in diameter.
  • Flagella
    • Biflagella (Wayama et al., 2013).
  • Motile
    • Motile, when cells are green (Peebles, 1909a & 1909b).
  • Shape
    • Round
  • Any other published scientific info
    • Under favourable condition, the cells are green and motile (Peebles, 1909a & 1909b).
    • Under stress conditions such as lack of nutrient, high salinity and temperature, the cells change from green to thick-walled non-motile red aplanospore (Kim et al., 2015).
    • The red crust formed due to deposition of ketocarotenoid astaxanthin which is stored in lipid vesicles in cytoplasm (Hagen et. al., 2002).
    • Approximately 1-3% of Haematococcus sp. dry weight composed of astaxanthin (Kim et al., 2015).
    • Astaxanthin is principal pigment found in salmon. This natural astaxanthin has an important biological role as vitamin A precursor and a more efficient antioxidant than β-carotene and vitamin E (Johnson and An, 1991).

Algae Bioeconomy/Industry

  • Astaxanthin (red pigment)
    • Haematococcus puvalis has been known as the richest source of astaxanthin, which is a bright red secondary carotenoid with strong antioxidant activity (Shah et al., 2016).
    • Astaxanthin, with around 3-4mg is enough to give satisfactory visual impression on the red colour of salmonid flesh (Johnson and An., 1991).
    • Astaxanthin has been recognized as safe for human consumption by US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This pigment has shown anti-inflammatory and antioxidant applications in human nutrition (Michel, 2015).
    • The market price for the 10% astaxanthin oil is approximately $1,200 to $41,500 USD per kilogram (Source: https://www.pondtech.com/astaxanthin/).
  • Nutraceuticals
    • Astaxanthin protect against UV and as an oral sun-protectant. (Ranga Rao et al., 2013).
    • Astaxanthin is a potential therapeutic agent against
      • atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (Fassett and Combes, 2011).
      • prevent heart attack (Iwamoto et al., 2000).
      • lower the risk in getting major neurodegenerative disease (Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s, Parkinson’s, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis-ALS) (Nagata and Takahashi, 2006).
  • Aquafeed and animal feed
    • Astaxanthin has been recognized as safe and feed additive for flesh pigmentation of fish such as salmons, trouts, ornamental fish, shrimp and lobster (Torrissen and Naevdal, 1984; Tolasa et al., 2005).
    • Astaxanthin showed pigmentation of egg yolks (Elwinger et al., 1997) in hen, and breast muscle tissue improvement and higher feed conversion efficiency in broiler chicken (Inborr and Lignell, 1997; Inbbor, 1998).
  • Cosmetic
    • The strong anti-oxidative properties of astaxanthin promotes its integration into cosmetic products which confer anti-aging effect by improving skin wrinkles (Tominaga et al., 2012).
    • Astaxanthin was found to improve skin condition in all layers which include corneocyte layer, epidermis, basal layer and dermis (Tominaga et al., 2012).
    • Astaxanthin has been used as an ingredient in cosmetic products such as whitening cream, moisturizing cream etc (https://astaxanthin-sa.co.za/cream/), Asta xanthine gel collagen hyaluronic acid elastin placenta from DHC (https://global.rakuten.com/en/store/dhcshop/item/8000022582/) and Red Sea Cucumber Skin toner Astaxanthin from Japan (https://www.ebay.com/itm/Red-Sea-Cucumber-Skin-toner-Astaxanthin-From-JAPAN-Miracle-Beautiful-Moisturise-/254064009822)
  • Biofuel
    • It has been shown that Haematococcus puvalis accumulates astaxanthin under stress conditions (Lei et al., 2012).
    • A research on the fatty acid composition of Haematococcus sp. showed that it contained considerable amounts of 85% of unsaturated fatty acids, which can be developed for biodiesel production (Kim et al., 2015). The quality of the produced biodiesel depended on the unsuitable viscosities and poor cold-flow properties (Stansell et. al., 2012).
  • Biofertilizer
    • Lopez and and his workers in 2014 considered that the biomass residue after extracting astaxanthin can become fertilizer.


Chekanov, K., Lobakova, E., Selyakh, I., Semenova, L., Sidorov, R. & Solovchenko, A. (2014). Accumulation of astaxanthin by a new Haematococcus pluvialis strain BM1 from the White Sea coastal rocks (Russia). Marine Drugs, 12,4504–4520. doi: 10.3390/md12084504

Dragos, N., Bercea, V., Bica, A., Druga, B., Nicoara, A. & Coman, C. (2010). Astaxanthin production from a new strain of Haematococcus pluvialis grown in batch culture. Annals of the Romania Society for  Cell Biology, 15, 353–361.

Elwinger, K., Lignell, A. & Wilhelmson, M. (1997). Astaxanthin rich algal meal (Haematococcus pluvialis) as carotenoid source in feed for laying hens, in Proceedings of the VII European Symposium on the Quality of Eggs and Egg Products (Poznan). 52–59.

Fassett, R. G. & Combes, J. S. (2011). Astaxanthin: a potential therapeutic agent in cardiovascular disease. Marine Drugs, 9. 447–465.

Gacheva, G., Dimitrova, P. & Pilarski, P. (2015). New strain Haematococcus cf. Pluvialis Rozhen-12 - growth, biochemical characteristics and future perspectives.Genetic Plant Physiology, 5, 29–38.

Hagen, C., Siegmund, S. & Braune, W. (2002). Ultrastructural and chemical changes in the cell wall of Haematococcus pluvialis (Volvocales,Chlorophyta) during aplanospore formation. European Journal of Phycology, 37, 217–226. doi:10.1017/S0967026202003669

Inborr, J. & Lignell, Å. (1997). Effect of feeding astaxanthin-rich algae meal (Haematococcus pluvialis) on performance and carotenoid concentration of different tissues of broiler chickens, in Proceedings of the XIII WPSA Conference on Poultry Meat Quality in Poznan (Poland: Session M1), 39–43.

Inbbor, J. (1998). Haematococcus, the poultry pigmentor. Feed Mix, 6, 31–34.

Iwamoto, T., Hosoda, K., Hirano, R., Kurata, H., Matsumoto, A., Miki, W., Kamiyama, M., Itakura, H., Yamanoto, S. & Kondo, K. (2000). Inhibition of low-density lipoprotein oxidation by astaxanthin. Journal of Atheroscler Thromb. 7, 216–222.Johnson, E. A. & An, G.H. (1991). Astaxanthin from microbial sources. Critical Reviews in Biotechonlogy, 11(4), 297-326.

Kim, J. H., Affan, M.A., Jang, J.Y., Kang, M.H., Jeon, S.M., Oh, C.H., Heo, S.J., Lee, Y.H.,Ju, S.J. & Kang, D.H. (2015). Morphological, molecular, and biochemical characterization of Astaxanthin-producing green microalgal Haematococcus sp. KORDI03 (Haematococcaceae, chlorophyta) isolated. Journal of Microbiology and Biotechnology, 25(2), 238-246.

Klochkova, T. A., Kwak, M. S., Han, J. W., Motomura, T., Nagasato, C. & Kim, G.H. (2013). Cold-tolerant strain of Haematococcus pluvialis (Haematococcaceae,Chlorophyta) from Blomstrandhalvoya (Svalbard). Algae, 28, 185–192. doi:10.4490/algae.2013.28.2.185

Lei, A.P., Chen, H., Shen, G.M., Hu, Z.L., Chen, L. & Wang, J.X. (2012.) Expression of fatty acid synthesis genes and fatty acid accumulation in Haematococcus pluvalis under different stressors.  Biotechnology for Biofuels. 5(18).

López, P.P., González-García, S., Jeffryes, C., Agathos, S. N., McHugh, E., Walsh, D. & Moreira, M.T. (2014). Life cycle assessment of the production of the red antioxidant carotenoid astaxanthin by microalgae: from lab to pilot scale. Journal of Cleaner Production. 64, 332–344, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2013.07.011

Michel, J. P. (2015). Microalgal nutraceuticals. Handbook of Marine Microalgae. 255-267.

Nagata, A., Tajima, T. & Takahashi, J. (2006). Effect of astaxanthin 5mg on anti-fatigue and task performance of human. Carotenoid Sci, 10, 102–106.

Peebles F. (1909a). The formation and behaviour of the microzooids of Haematococcus pluvialis. Science, 21: 380.

Peebles F. (1909b). The life history of Sphaerella lacustris (Haematococcus pluvialis) with reference to the nature and behaviour of the zoospores. Zentralblatt fuer Bakteriologie Jena Abt. 2(24): 511-521.

Proctor, V. W. (1957). Some controlling factors in the distribution of Haematococcus pluvialis. Ecology, 38. 457–462. doi: 10.2307/1929890

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