Dark anaerobic fermentation in the green algae Chlamydomonas MGA 161, Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, Chlorella pyrenoidosa, and Chlorococcum minutum was studied. Our isolate, Chlamydomonas MGA 161, was unusual in having high H(2) but almost no formate. The fermentation pattern in Chlamydomonas MGA 161 was altered by changes in the NaCl or NH(4)Cl concentration. Glycerol formation increased at low (0.1%) and high (7%) NaCl concentrations; starch degradation, and formation of ethanol, H(2), and CO(2) increased with the addition of NH(4)Cl to above 5 millimolar in N-deficient cells. C. reinhardtii and C. pyrenoidosa exhibited a very similar anaerobic metabolism, forming formate, acetate and ethanol in a ratio of about 2:2:1. C. minutum was also unusual in forming acetate, glycerol, and CO(2) as its main products, with H(2), formate, and ethanol being formed in negligible amounts. In the presence of CO, ethanol formation increased twofold in Chlamydomonas MGA 161 and C. reinhardtii, but the fermentation pattern in C. minutum did not change. An experiment with hypophosphite addition showed that dark H(2) evolution of the Escherichia coli type could be ruled out in Chlamydomonas MGA 161 and C. reinhardtii. Among the green algae investigated, three fermentation types were identified by the distribution pattern of the end products, which reflected the consumption mode of reducing equivalents in the cells.