Morphology, composition and aggregation mechanisms of soft bioflocs in marine snow and activated sludge: A comparative review

J Environ Manage. 2018 Jan 1;205:231-243. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2017.09.082. Epub 2017 Oct 6.


Conditions that lead to marine snow formation and aggregates that constitute the marine snow have similarities with the soft bioflocs that form during wastewater treatment by activated sludge process. Analysis of the conditions and similarities of the soft bioflocs in these two aquatic environments provide insight for the processes that lead to formation and growth of hydrated aggregates consisting of both living and nonliving particles, their chemical and biolocial composition, settling/suspension behavior, and contributing factors for their structure and morphology. This literature review provides a comparative analysis of the soft aggregates that form in marine and wastewater environments to characterize the conditions for formation and growth of highly hydrated aggregates consisting of microorganisms, suspended solids and large molecules. The marine snow and bioflocs that form in wastewater are visually similar and even contain microorganisms that are of similar type (i.e., Zoogloea, filamentous bacteria). During wastewater treatment, the microorganisms are not stressed and exopolymeric substances (EPS) produced have shorter molecules and higher protein content while EPS produced by the marine organisms are significantly larger in molecular size (by orders of magnitude) and have higher carbohydrate content.

Keywords: Activated sludge; Aggregates; Bioflocs; EPS; Hydrogels; Marine snow; Zoogloea.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria
  • Sewage*
  • Snow
  • Waste Disposal, Fluid*
  • Waste Water*


  • Sewage
  • Waste Water