In nature H. pluvialis is found in shallow temporary water bodies such as depressions in rocks and bird baths. In culture the alga undergoes its whole vegetative life cycle. Natural astaxanthin is produced in a two-stage culture process and its concentration can reach 1.5% to 4% of the dry weight. H. pluvialis cannot be efficiently cultivated in dark heterotrophic mode, as the algae requires high levels of irradiance. The Haematococcus strains grow slowly and is commonly carried out in open raceway ponds or closed photobioreactors at around 25-28°C. They are prone to contamination by other microorganisms (microalgae, fungal parasites, and zooplankton predators). Therefore, a two-stage process is usually employed for biomass production.
Haematococcus pluvialis cultivation involves the following steps: