Cultivation of sponges is being explored to supply biomaterial for the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries. This study assesses the impact of various cultivation methods on the microbial community within the sponge Rhopaloeides odorabile during: (1) in situ cultivation under natural environmental conditions, (2) ex situ cultivation in small flow-through aquaria and (3) ex situ cultivation in large mesocosm systems. Principal components analysis of denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis profiles indicated a stable microbial community in sponges cultured in situ (grown in the wild) and in sponges cultured ex situ in small flow-through aquaria over 12 weeks. In contrast, a shift in the microbial community was detected in sponges cultivated ex situ in large mesocosm aquaria for 12 months. This shift included (1) a loss of some stable microbial inhabitants, including members of the Poribacteria, Chloroflexi and Acidobacteria and (2) the addition of new microbes not detected in the wild sponges. Many of these acquired bacteria had highest similarity to known sponge-associated microbes, indicating that the sponge may be capable of actively selecting its microbial community. Alternatively, long-term ex situ cultivation may cause a shift in the dominant microbes that facilitates the growth of the more rare species. The microbial community composition varied between sponges cultivated in mesocosm aquaria with different nutrient concentrations and seawater chemistry, suggesting that these variables play a role in structuring the sponge-associated microbes. The high growth and symbiont stability in R. odorabile cultured in situ confirm that this is the preferred method of aquaculture for this species at this time.
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