Biofouling of inlet pipes affects water quality in running seawater aquaria and compromises sponge cell proliferation

Marine organism are often kept, cultured, and experimented on in running seawater aquaria. However, surprisingly little attention is given to the nutrient composition of the water owing through these systems, which is generally assumed to equal
in situ conditions, but may change due to the presence of biofouling organisms. Signi cantly lower bacterial abundances and higher inorganic nitrogen species (nitrate, nitrite, and ammonium) were measured in aquarium water when biofouling organisms were present within a 7-year old inlet pipe feeding a tropical reef running seawater aquaria system, compared with aquarium water fed by a new, biofouling-free inlet pipe. These water quality changes are indicative of the feeding activity and waste production of the suspension- and lter-feeding communities found in the old pipe, which included sponges, bivalves, barnacles, and ascidians. To illustrate the physiological consequences of these water quality changes on a model organism kept in the aquaria system, we investigated the in uence of the presence and absence of the biofouling community on the functioning of the lter-feeding sponge Halisarca caerulea, by determining its choanocyte ( lter cell) proliferation rates. We found a 34% increase in choanocyte proliferation rates following the replacement of the inlet pipe (i.e., removal of the biofouling community). This indicates that the physiological functioning of the sponge was compromised due to suboptimal food conditions within the aquarium resulting from the presence of the biofouling organisms in the inlet pipe. This study has implications for the husbandry and performance of experiments with marine organisms in running seawater aquaria systems. Inlet pipes should be checked regularly, and replaced if necessary, in order to avoid excessive biofouling and to approach in situ water quality. 

Data type
Scientific article
Research and monitoring