We have used phosphate, nitrogen, or carbon limited batch and continuous flow cultures to study how growth and biochemical composition of the dinoflagellate Crypthecodinium cohnii CCMP 316 is affected by nutrient limitation. Specific contents of phosphorous, proteins, and starch were differently affected by nutrient limitation. The specific phosphorous content in C. cohnii varied 10–20 times depending on phosphate availability in the medium. When phosphate was available it was taken up in excess and stored to be re-utilized during phosphate limitation. The specific protein content varied twofold. At most conditions, proteins made up 12–15% of the biomass dry weight but when cells were nitrogen limited, the specific protein content was only half this value. Floridean starch was the major cell constituent of C. cohnii accounting for 40–50% of the biomass dry weight. Only during carbon limitation did the specific starch content decrease. In contrast was the specific lipid content almost unaffected by nutrient availability and lipids accounted for 12–15% of the biomass dry weight irrespectively of which nutrient that was limiting. Lipid production does therefore not depend on nutrient limitation in C. cohnii and lipids are produced even by carbon limited cells. Cultures grown under phosphate limitation resulted in formation of cells with maximal specific contents of all the three major cell constituents; starch, lipid, and protein. Biotechnol. Bioeng. 2012; 109:2005–2016. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.