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Microbial diversity in different compartments of an aquaponics system


Aquaponics is a solution for sustainable production of fish and plants in a single semi-closed system, where nutrient-rich water from the aquaculture provides nutrients for plant growth. We examined the microbial communities within an experimental aquaponics system. Whereas the fish feces contained a separate community dominated by bacteria of the genus Cetobacterium, the samples from plant roots, biofilter, and periphyton were more similar to each other, while the communities were more diverse. Detailed examination of the data gave the first indications to functional groups of organisms in the different compartments of the aquaponic system. As other nitrifiers other than members of the genus Nitrospira were only present at low numbers, it was anticipated that Nitrospirae may perform the nitrification process in the biofilm.

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The authors thank Nadine Antenen, Alex Mathis, Beat Häcki, and Gabriele Gottschalk (ZHAW Wädenswil, CH) for their support with system maintenance and plant management during aquaponic system operation. The research was carried out with the help of initial funding of the Technology Transfer Office of the ZHAW School of Life Sciences and Facility Management. Sebastian Jaenicke and Alexander Goesmann acknowledge the support by the BMBF grant FKZ 031A533 within the de.NBI network. Funding for Theo H. M. Smits was partially provided by the SNSF in the frame of the national research program “Sustainable use of Soil as a Resource” (NRP 68, Project 406840-143144).

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Correspondence to Theo H. M. Smits.

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Author Andreas Graber declares that, at the time of the experiments, he was part-time Director R&D at the ZHAW spin-off company UrbanFarmers, but that the research published in this manuscript was performed as part of his research portfolio at ZHAW. The other authors declare to have no conflict of interest.

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Communicated by Erko Stackebrandt.

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Schmautz, Z., Graber, A., Jaenicke, S. et al. Microbial diversity in different compartments of an aquaponics system. Arch Microbiol 199, 613–620 (2017).

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  • Community analysis
  • Metagenome
  • Tilapia
  • Lettuce
  • Nitrospira