The ichthyotoxic dinoflagellate Pfiesteria piscicida Steidinger et Burkholder has a complex life cycle with several heterotrophic flagellated and amoeboid stages. A prevalent flagellated form, the nontoxic zoospore stage, has a proficient grazing ability, especially on cryptophyte prey. Although P. piscicida zoospores lack the genetic capability to synthesize chloroplasts, they can obtain functional chloroplasts from algal prey (i.e. kleptoplastidy), as demonstrated here with a cryptophyte prey. Zoospores grown with Rhodomonas sp. Karsten CCMP757 (Cryptophyceae) grazed the cryptophyte population to minimal densities. After placing the cultures in near darkness where cryptophyte recovery was restricted and further prey ingestion did not occur, the time-course patterns in growth, prey chloroplast content·zoospore−1, and prey nucleus content·zoospore−1 were followed. Ingested chloroplasts were selectively retained in the dinoflagellate, as indicated by the decline and, ultimately, near absence of cryptophyte nuclei in plastid-containing zoospores. Chloroplasts retained inside P. piscicida cells for at least a week were photosynthetically active, as indicated by starch accumulation and microscope-autoradiographic measurements of bicarbonate uptake. Recognition that P. piscicida can function as a phototroph broadens our perspective of the physiological ecology of the dinoflagellate because it suggests that, at least during part of its life cycle, P. piscicida’s growth and survival might be affected by photoregulation and nutritional control of photosynthesis.