The cyanobacteria Phormidium valderianum, P. tenue and Microcoleus chthonoplastes and the green algae Rhizoclonium fontinale, Ulva intestinalis, Chara zeylanica and Pithophora oedogoniana were exposed to hydrogen tetrachloroaurate solution and were screened for their suitability for producing nano-gold. All three cyanobacteria genera and two of the green algae (Rhizoclonium fontinale and Ulva intestinalis) produced gold nanoparticles intracellularly, confirmed by purple colouration of the thallus within 72 h of treatment at 20°C. Extracted nanoparticle solutions were examined by UV-vis spectroscopy, transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and X-ray diffractometry (XRD). XRD confirmed the reduction of Au (III) to Au (0). UV-vis spectroscopy and TEM studies indicated the production of nanoparticles having different shapes and sizes. Phormidium valderianum synthesized mostly spherical nanoparticles, along with hexagonal and triangular nanoparticles, at basic and neutral pHs (pH 9 and pH 7, respectively). Medicinally important gold nanorods were synthesized (together with gold nanospheres) only by P. valderianum at acidic pH (pH 5); this was initially determined by two surface plasmon bands in UV-vis spectroscopy and later confirmed by TEM. Spherical to somewhat irregular particles were produced by P. tenue and Ulva intestinalis (TEM studies). The UV-vis spectroscopy of the supernatant of other algal extracts indicated the formation of mostly spherical particles. Production of gold nanoparticles by algae is more ecofriendly than purely chemical synthesis. However, the choice of algae is important: Chara zeylanica and Pithophora oedogoniana were found to be unable to produce nanoparticles. © 2012 Copyright Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.