This study investigates the effects of different light qualities on the photosynthetic capacity of the brown algae Fucus vesiculosus, from the Norwegian Sea, and Fucus radicans and F. vesiculosus, from the Bothnian Sea. The electron transport rates (ETR) obtained for F. vesiculosus from the Norwegian Sea showed significantly higher levels of light saturation compared with both species of algae from the Bothnian Sea. The maximum of ETR values for the Norwegian Sea strain showed no significant changes due to varying light quality compared with the initial values. For F. vesiculosus, from the Bothnian Sea, treatment with blue light showed an effect after 1 week of 30 and 90 μmol photons m−2 s−1 (P < 0.01), and for F. radicans from the Bothnian Sea, at the irradiance of 90 μmol photons m−2 s−1 and 1 week (P < 0.01). After 1 week in the Bothnian Sea species and after 2 weeks in F. vesiculosus from the Norwegian Sea, the photosynthetic efficiency (α) was significantly higher regardless of light quality and irradiance compared with the initial values. Variation in light quality and irradiance had minor effects on the Fv:Fm values of the three algal strains studied.