Microorganisms play integral roles in the cycling of carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) in recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS) for fish and shellfish production. We quantified the pathways of shrimp fecal bacterial activities and their role in C- and N-flux partitioning relevant to culturing Pacific white shrimp, Penaeus (Litopenaeus) vannamei, in RAS. Freshly produced feces from P. vannamei contained 0.6-7 x 1010 bacteria g-1 dry wt belonging to Bacteroidetes (7%), Alphaproteobacteria (4%), and, within the Gammaproteobacteria, almost exclusively to the genus Vibrio (61%). Because of partial disintegration of the feces (up to 27% within 12 h), the experimental seawater became inoculated with fecal bacteria. Bacteria grew rapidly in the feces and in the seawater, and exhibited high levels of aminopeptidase, chitinase, chitobiase, alkaline phosphatase, alpha- and beta-glucosidase, and lipase activities. Moreover, fecal bacteria enriched the protein content of the feces within 12 h, potentially enriching the feces for the coprophagous shrimp. The bacterial turnover time was much faster in feces (1-10 h) than in mature RAS water (350 h). Thus, shrimp fecal bacteria not only inoculate RAS water but also contribute to bacterial abundance and productivity, and regulate system processes important for shrimp health.
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