Diatoms are microalgae that are particularly relevant for engineered living materials because they utilize silicon to create mineralized structures that are far more intricate and exhibit better mechanical properties than any synthetic counterpart. In this study, we seek to (1) harness the natural diversity of diatoms and (2) establish genetic control over silica morphogenesis to understand their unparalleled level of sophistication over nanostructure. Herein, we compare the frustule composition of native strains under a variety of growth conditions, and discuss in detail implementation for strain optimization. In addition, we establish baseline optical properties and identify strains for potential applications in coatings, photonic materials and sensors. Taken together, our approach expands the understanding of accessible frustule morphologies through growth and genetic engineering.