Difference Between Algae and Microalgae

Difference Between Algae and Microalgae is that Algae are aquatic organisms that can be macroscopic and have a complex structure, while Microalgae are microscopic and generally unicellular.

Algae have less diversity compared to microalgae.

Both carry out photosynthesis and are essential in Aquatic Ecosystems, but microalgae can also be Heterotrophic.

Difference Between Algae and Microalgae

Read: Difference Between Algae And Fungi

What Is The Difference Between Algae and Microalgae?

What are algae?

Algae are photosynthetic organisms found in aquatic habitats that can vary in size and structure. Although many algae are microscopic, there are also macroscopic algae, such as the kelp that forms underwater forests.

Types of Algae

Microalgae and macroalgae are the two main types of algae.

What are microalgae?

Microalgae, as their name indicates, are algae of microscopic size. Unlike macroscopic algae, microalgae are generally single-celled organisms without a defined structure, although they can also form colonies.

They are predominantly eukaryotic, although there are also some groups of prokaryotic microalgae. These microscopic organisms are essential in the aquatic ecosystem, since they are part of plankton, the base of the food chain in the oceans and other bodies of water.

In addition to photosynthesis, some microalgae can also be heterotrophic, meaning they can obtain organic nutrients from the environment.

Types Of Microalgae

Diatoms and Dinoflagellates are two types of microalgae.

Comparative Chart

Characteristic Algae Microalgae
Size They can be macroscopic (visible with the naked eye) Microscopic (requires a microscope to see)
Structure Complex, may have stems, leaves and roots Generally unicellular, without a defined structure
taxonomic group Diverse, includes eukaryotes and prokaryotes Mainly eukaryotes, some prokaryotes
Biodiversity Less diversity compared to microalgae Greater diversity, large number of species
Photosynthesis They carry out photosynthesis They carry out photosynthesis and can be heterotrophic
Ecological importance Primary producers in ecosystems Essential components of plankton
Industrial applications Used in food, cosmetics, biofuels Used in food, medicines, bioplastics


Algae and Microalgae are two distinct categories of aquatic organisms. Algae can be macroscopic and have a more complex structure, while microalgae are microscopic and generally unicellular.

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