A DNA barcode is a preferrably short and highly variable region of DNA supposed to facilitate a rapid identification of species. In many protistan lineages, a lack of species-specific morphological characters hampers an identification of species by light or electron microscopy, and difficulties to perform mating experiments in laboratory cultures also do not allow for an identification of biological species. Thus, testing candidate barcode markers as well as establishment of accurately working species identification systems are more challenging than in multicellular organisms. In cryptic species complexes the performance of a potential barcode marker can not be monitored using morphological characters as a feedback, but an inappropriate choice of DNA region may result in artifactual species trees for several reasons. Therefore a priori knowledge of the systematics of a group is required. In addition to identification of known species, methods for an automatic delimitation of species with DNA barcodes have been proposed. The Cryptophyceae provide a mixture of systematically well characterized as well as badly characterized groups and are used in this study to test the suitability of some of the methods for protists. As species identification method the performance of blast in searches against badly to well-sampled reference databases has been tested with COI-5P and 5'-partial LSU rDNA (domains A to D of the nuclear LSU rRNA gene). In addition the performance of two different methods for automatic species delimitation, fixed thresholds of genetic divergence and the general mixed Yule-coalescent model (GMYC), have been examined. The study demonstrates some pitfalls of barcoding methods that have to be taken care of. Also a best-practice approach towards establishing a DNA barcode system in protists is proposed.