The influence of fluid-dynamic conditions on the yield of Phaeodactylum tricornutum microalgal cultures was analyzed in two stages: first, the influence of air flow rate; second, the influence of using fluid-moving pumps for recirculating the culture. With respect to the air flow rate, the yield of the cultures increased with the aeration rate up to values of 2.0 v/v/min, then stress was observed and the yield of the cultures decreased. With respect to the influence of mechanical power supply for liquid impulsion, three different types of pumps—centrifugal, pulse, and peristaltic—were essayed at different power supplies. The cultures were stressed for the three types of pumps essayed. For each pump, the higher the power supply the lower was the Fv/Fm value and the higher was the stress at which cells were exposed. The highest measured stress was when the culture was moved with the centrifugal pump. Despite measured stress, for all the experiments stable steady states were reached, thus indicating that cells reduced their yield but did not die, as was verified by cell viability measurements. It was observed that the increase of the power supply improved the frequency of light exposition thus enhancing the yield of the cultures. However, the higher the power supply, the lower the microeddy length scale; therefore, stress could appear. Data demonstrated that the microeddy length scale was always much higher than cell size and therefore the turbulence was not responsible for stress. Also, the mass transfer was discarded as responsible for yield reduction. It was concluded that the shear rate was the factor determining the existence of stress phenomena. The evaluation of these shear rates demonstrated that values above 30–80 s−1 damaged the cells strongly. These data were verified in an outdoor pilot-scale tubular photobioreactor that was implemented with the same type of pumps, thus demonstrating the necessity to take into account this factor in the design and scale-up of microalgal photobioreactors. © 2004 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.