Cells of filamentous cyanobacteria of the orders Nostocales and Stigonematales can differentiate into dormant forms called akinetes. Akinetes play a key role in the survival, abundance and distribution of the species, contributing an inoculum for their perennial blooms. In the cyanobacterium Aphanizomenon ovalisporum, potassium deficiency triggers the formation of akinetes. Here we present experimental evidence for the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) during akinete development in response to potassium deficiency. The function of ROS as a primer signal for akinete differentiation was negated. Nevertheless, akinetes acquired protective mechanisms against oxidative damage during their differentiation and maintained them as they matured, giving akinetes advantages enabling survival in harsh conditions.