Gut bacteria determine the growth rate of shrimp

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By Milthon Lujan

Shrimp Litopenaeus vannamei
Shrimp Litopenaeus vannamei

Have you ever wondered why some shrimp grow faster than others cultured in the same pond?

It turns out the answer could lie within their intestines, teeming with a microscopic world of bacteria that play a crucial role in growth.


A recent and groundbreaking study has finally deciphered the code of this shrimp secret, demonstrating the intimate connection between gut bacteria and shrimp size.

Researchers from Sun Yat-sen University, the China-ASEAN Belt and Road Joint Laboratory on Mariculture Technology/Southern Marine Sciences and Engineering Guangdong Laboratory (Zhuhai), Guangdong Hisenor Group Co., Ltd, and Guangdong Laboratory for Lingnan Modern Agriculture delved into the shrimp’s digestive tract, comparing the bacterial communities of slow-growth shrimp (Litopenaeus vannamei) and fast-growth shrimp. What they found was fascinating: diversity wasn’t the key to success, but composition was.

Shrimp Microbiome

Recent studies have reported that the gut microbiome plays a crucial role in shrimp development and health (Hembron et al., 2024); also, early interactions are essential for the development of animals’ immune responses (Angthong et al., 2023).

Another additional factor to consider is the pond water microbiome, which directly influences the shrimp’s microbiome. In this regard, Amin et al., (2023) studied microbiomes in commercial ponds of Pacific white shrimp Litopenaeus vannamei that showed different survival rates and reported different bacterial communities.

Slow Growth vs. Fast Growth


While slow-growth shrimp had less variety in their intestinal microbe communities, these communities were strangely irregular, with uneven distributions of different bacteria. Fast-growth shrimp, on the other hand, had a more balanced and consistent bacterial set.

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“Our results showed that the intestinal bacterial communities of slow-growth shrimp exhibited lower diversity but were more heterogeneous than those of fast-growth shrimp,” the scientists reported.

Bacteria Responsible for Fast Growth

Among the bacteria, some stood out. Bacteria like Tamlana agarivorans and Uncultured_bacterium_g_Candidatus Bacilloplasma were abundant in the intestines of fast-growth shrimp, while others, like Vibrio campbellii, were scarce.

These findings weren’t just random observations; the researchers showed a clear correlation between the presence of these bacterial species and shrimp size. The more Tamlana, the bigger the shrimp!


But knowing who’s who wasn’t enough. The researchers wanted to demonstrate that these bacteria weren’t just bystanders but active participants in shrimp growth.

Reverse Forced Feeding Experiment

The scientists carried out a “reverse forced feeding” experiment, directly feeding Tamlana agarivorans to slow-growth shrimp. And guess what?

The Tamlana-boosted shrimp grew significantly faster, catching up to their fast-growth counterparts!

Application in the Shrimp Industry

This is a turning point for the shrimp farming industry. Understanding the role of gut bacteria opens up exciting possibilities for improving shrimp growth and performance.


Probiotics based on beneficial bacteria like Tamlana could become a powerful tool for shrimp aquaculture, reducing dependence on antibiotics and promoting healthy and sustainable shrimp production.

However, it’s essential to note that successful shrimp farming depends not only on proper intestinal microbiota but also on avoiding external factors that could affect microbiota composition, such as changes in ammonia levels in the cultivation water.


The study demonstrated that gut bacteria directly influence shrimp growth, and specific species like Tamlana agarivorans promote faster growth.

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“The results suggest that the intestinal bacterial community may be an important factor in determining shrimp growth, indicating that specific bacteria can be evaluated in further studies on shrimp growth retardation,” the researchers concluded.


They also conclude that bacterial diversity is not as important as composition, as balanced and consistent communities favor growth. This study adds to others highlighting the importance of bacterial composition in shrimp productivity.

The study was funded by the Key-Area Research and Development Program of Guangdong Province, the National Natural Science Foundation of China, the Innovation Group Project of Southern Marine Science and Engineering Guangdong Laboratory (Zhuhai), and CARS-48.

Jianguo He
State Key Laboratory of Biocontrol/School of Marine Sciences, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, People’s Republic of China
Email: lsshjg@mail.sysu.edu.cn

Zhijian Huang
Maoming Branch, Guangdong Laboratory for Lingnan Modern Agriculture, Maoming, People’s Republic of China
Email: lsshzhj@mail.sysu.edu.cn

Hou, D., Yin, B., Wang, S. et al. Intestine bacterial community affects the growth of the Pacific white shrimp (Litopenaeus vannamei). Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 108, 1–10 (2024). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00253-023-12897-3

Other References

Amin, M., Pramujisunu, Y., Cahyani, N.K.D. et al. The structure, composition, and predicted microbiome functional genes in Pacific white shrimp (Litopenaeus vannamei) grow-out ponds with different survival rates through high-throughput sequencing. Aquat Sci 85, 84 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00027-023-00979-3

Angthong, P., Chaiyapechara, S., & Rungrassamee, W. (2023). Shrimp microbiome and immune development in the early life stages. Developmental & Comparative Immunology, 104765.


Hembrom, P.S., Barik, S., Deepthi, M. et al. Influence of gut microbiome on health and development of penaeid shrimps. Aquat Sci 86, 4 (2024). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00027-023-01018-x

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