Abstract We have developed a two-stage growth one-step process for cultivation of Haematococcus using a self-designed system that mimics an open pond in the natural environment. The characteristics of this process are green vegetative cell growth and cysts transformation and pigment accumulation that proceed spontaneously and successively in one open photobioreactor. Four strains of Haematococcus ( H. pluvialis 26; H. pluvialis 30; H. pluvialis 34; H. pluvialis WZ) were cultured in this imitation system for a duration of 12 days. The changes in cell density and medium pH were closely monitored, and the astaxanthin content and yield of the four Haematococcus strains were measured at the end of 12 days of cultivation. Two of the strains, H. pluvialis 26 and H. pluvialis WZ, were selected as strains suitable for mass culture, resulting in the astaxanthin yield of 51.06 and 40.25 mg L − 1 which are equivalent to 2.79 and 2.50% of their dry biomass respectively. Based on the laboratory work, 6 batch cultures of H. pluvialis WZ were conducted successfully to produce astaxanthin in two 100 m 2 open race-way pond by two-stage growth one-step process. The astaxanthin content ranged from 1.61 to 2.48 g 100 g − 1 dry wt., with average astaxanthin content of 2.10 g 100 g − 1 dry wt. Compared with the one-stage production of astaxanthin based on continuous culture, the superiority of our process is that it can accumulate much more astaxanthin in red cysts. Compared with two-stage production of astaxanthin, the advantage of our process is that it does not need to divide the production process into two parts using two bioreactors. The presented work demonstrates the feasibility for producing astaxanthin from Haematococcus using a two-stage growth one-step process in open pond, culture systems that have been successfully used for Spirulina and Chlorella mass culture. The future of Haematococcus astaxanthin production has been also discussed.