U.S. Department of Agriculture: Agricultural Research Service, Lincoln, Nebraska


Date of this Version



Applied and Environmental Microbiology 79(16): (2013) p. 4974–4984.


As global aquaculture fish production continues to expand, an improved understanding of how environmental factors interact in fish health and production is needed. Significant advances have been made toward economical alternatives to costly fishmealbased diets, such as grain-based formulations, and toward defining the effect of rearing density on fish health and production. Little research, however, has examined the effects of fishmeal- and grain-based diets in combination with alterations in rearing density. Moreover, it is unknown whether interactions between rearing density and diet impact the composition of the fish intestinal microbiota, which might in turn impact fish health and production. We fed aquacultured adult rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) fishmeal- or grain-based diets, reared them under high- or low-density conditions for 10 months in a single aquaculture facility, and evaluated individual fish growth, production, fin indices, and intestinal microbiota composition using 16S rRNA gene sequencing. We found that the intestinal microbiotas were dominated by a shared core microbiota consisting of 52 bacterial lineages observed across all individuals, diets, and rearing densities. Variations in diet and rearing density resulted in only minor changes in intestinal microbiota composition despite significant effects of these variables on fish growth, performance, fillet quality, and welfare. Significant interactions between diet and rearing density were observed only in evaluations of fin indices and the relative abundance of the bacterial genus Staphylococcus. These results demonstrate that aquacultured rainbow trout can achieve remarkable consistency in intestinal microbiota composition and suggest the possibility of developing novel aquaculture strategies without overtly altering intestinal microbiota composition.