The cosmopolitan presence of dinoflagellates in aquatic habitats is now believed to be a direct consequence of the different trophic modes they have developed through evolution. While heterotrophs ingest food and photoautotrophs photosynthesize, mixotrophic species are able to use both strategies to harvest energy and nutrients. These different trophic modes are of particular importance when nitrogen nutrition is considered. Nitrogen is required for the synthesis of amino acids, nucleic acids, chlorophylls, and toxins, and thus changes in the concentrations of various nitrogenous compounds can strongly affect both primary and secondary metabolism. For example, high nitrogen concentration is correlated with rampant cell division resulting in the formation of the algal blooms commonly called red tides. Conversely, nitrogen starvation results in cell cycle arrest and induces a series of physiological, behavioral and transcriptomic modifications to ensure survival. This review will combine physiological, biochemical, and transcriptomic data to assess the mechanism and impact of nitrogen metabolism in dinoflagellates and to compare the dinoflagellate responses with those of diatoms.