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What microbes do when you change the water in an aquarium

A new paper from Van Bonn et al studies the effect of a water change on the bacterial community of an aquarium. Unfortunately, only the abstract is available openly, but it seems pretty cool:

The bacterial community composition and structure of water from an established teleost fish system was examined before, during and after a major water change to explore the impact of such a water-change disturbance on the stability of the aquarium water microbiome. The diversity and evenness of the bacterial community significantly increased following the 90% water replacement. While the change in bacterial community structure was significant, it was slight, and was also weakly correlated with changes in physicochemical parameters. Interestingly there was a significant shift in the correlative network relationships between operational taxonomic units from before to after the water replacement. We suggest this shift in network structure is due to the turnover of many taxa during the course of water replacement. These observations will inform future studies into manipulation of the microbiome by changing system environmental parameter values to optimize resident animal health

Our data from the aquarium microbiome project here at the Eisen lab didn’t show significant community shifts with water changes, but ours were very small water changes (we had no control over them since we were piggybacking off someone else’s aquarium set-up). The biggest perturbation we had to our system was the addition of sand and rocks, so it’s great that someone observed community changes tied to a huge water change!

"What are you lookin' at?" by Jelene Morris via Flickr, Some rights reserved, CC license
“What are you lookin’ at?” by Jelene Morris via Flickr, Some rights reserved, CC license

Alex Alexiev

Alex Alexiev is a recent UC Davis graduate with a BS in microbiology working in Jonathan Eisen’s lab on aquariums as part of the microbiology of the built environment.

8 thoughts on “What microbes do when you change the water in an aquarium

  1. The biggest difference is that we have a huge tank undergoing a 33% water change so that may be part of why we see less change.

  2. Some interesting observation there! I think the changes in microbial activity in the water becomes more significant when you change/recycle more than 50% of the water of the tank.

  3. I think changing fish tank water frequently make Bacterial community significantly increasing, and maintains a healthy fish environment.

  4. I do water changes every few days! I was told at the LFS I changed the water too much; I laughed right in their faces. Living in an aquarium is the same as being stuck in a used public outhouse; I would want someone to come clean it as often as possible.

  5. Finding the right way to change the water of aquarium has been an issue for me. Thanks for sharing the method in your article. Looking forward to more healthy fishes in my tank.

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