Free Swimming Ciliates


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Bioaugmentation products for Wastewater applications in Papermills, Refineries, Chemical, Tanneries, Municipalities, Textiles, Steel, Agriculture, Animal feedlot,  Gun Powder plant, Food and Beverage- Dairy Products, Orange Juice factory, Wineries, Cookie factory, Vegetable processing plant, Meat packing, Barbecue Restaurant, Aquaculture, Ornamental Ponds for algae control, CAFO, Nursing homes, Military, Campgrounds, Universities, Regulatory agencies


Lab Services:



Filamentous Identification Lab Service. One reason to identify filaments is to determine the filaments characteristics and then determine the type present.  If the type is found out, a root cause can usually be associated with a particular filament.  If the cause is known, then a correction can be made to alleviate problems. Chlorination is only a quick fix.  Without process changes, filaments will grow back after chlorination.

Wastewater Biomass Analyses and Cooling Tower Analyses also available


Training Materials:



Training is an integral part of any job. Not everyone is at the same level of training. Many people want beginning concepts and basics. Some need technical information or troubleshooting. Some want equipment, technology or process information.

We have developed a full set of Basic training, Advanced training, Filamentous Identification the Easy Way as well as custom training CD's Manuals. We also provide hands-on training classes and soon will have an Online "E-University".


Audits and Consulting:


At Environmental Leverage® Inc., we have a team of experienced individuals who come into your plant with a fresh pair of eyes.  The system is checked from influent to effluent.  System optimization, equipment efficiency and operational excellence are key components explored. Key Benefits Equipment efficiency Total Cost of Operation reductions Reliability and safety

An onsite audit is conducted to examine system parameters, process controls, and current monitor and control procedures. A physical walk-through is conducted, process flow diagrams are examined, previous design criteria are examined and current standard operating procedures are evaluated along with data logs.




 Free Swimming Ciliates 


What's New!

We now have a brand new "Higher Life Form videos" in our Training CD list. Check out our new Wastewater Training Materials.  We are also in the process of developing new courses for our ""Online University" in order to meet the needs of our global customers that cannot travel to our public classes.

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Free swimming ciliates in wastewater



We hope you like the new look of our Higher Life form Identification Pages


If you would like more information on bacteria, filaments or higher life forms, you might want to consider purchasing our Wastewater Microbiology Training materials.

We also have our lab that can perform a Wastewater Biomass lab analyses of your own MLSS for more information


Free Swimming ciliates

parameciumWhen trying to determine species in a biological wastewater treatment plant, stick to the basics, and focus on the causes and  controls of the higher life forms present. The main point of any wastewater biomass identification is not to get a PhD, but to fix your wastewater plant!



The Ciliates are more complex organisms than the amoebae and flagellates.  Over 7000 known species exist of some of the most complex single-celled organisms ever. Free swimming ciliates are covered with cilia, hair-like projections, which are uniform and aligned in rows. The ciliates move and capture food by means of the cilia. The anterior portion of the ciliate is the oral region which is also covered with cilia. Free swimming ciliates range in size from 20-400 µm and have two kinds of nuclei.  Sexual reproduction is by conjugation.  Free-swimmers swim faster than flagellates so they can out compete them for food.  Ciliates feed on bacteria not on dissolved organics. While bacteria and flagellates compete for dissolved organics, ciliates compete with other ciliates and rotifers for bacteria. They are usually an indicator of good quality sludge. They are typically found in young to medium age sludge.


Crawling ciliates, similar to free swimming ciliates are covered with cilia, hair-like projections, which are uniform and aligned in rows. The ciliates move and capture food by means of the hardened cilia. The anterior portion of the ciliate is the oral region which is also covered with cilia. Crawling ciliates range in size from 20-400 µm. 


Additional Information:

Free swimming ciliates are protozoa that are in the phylum Ciliophora. Many different types of free swimming ciliates exist, including "crawling" ciliates`. Some types commonly found in wastewater are Paramecium, Euplotes, and Aspidisca.


Hypotrichs (Crawling ciliates)

Crawling ciliates have cilia mainly on the lower surface of their bodies that make them appear to be legs. These are organisms with compound ciliary organelles called cirri used to walk on. They are usually dorso-ventrally flattened.  Common types found in wastewater are the Genus:Aspidisca  and Genus:Euplotes In order for crawling ciliates to  be dominant, there must be large floc structures present that impede the free-swimmers and flagellates movement and provide a surface for the crawlers to "walk" on. This means the F:M is getting lower and the bacteria have started to formulate floc structures. Crawlers also require a high D.O. content in the mixed liquor. Sludge age is closer to middle ages than  young.  Crawling ciliates usually indicate a stable wastewater environment and a healthy sludge.


Environmentfree swimming ciliate

They are found in various types of water, including freshwater and wastewater. Free swimming  and Crawling ciliates are important because they work with the bacteria. They feed on the bacteria and thus help to clarify the effluent. These can be found during most sludge ages but are dominant during the middle sludge ages in your wastewater treatment plant.


If the biomass is really old and rotifers and nematodes are usually present, and all of a sudden large numbers of free swimming ciliates show up, check to see if a sudden spike of BOD has occurred.  Adjustments to RAS and wasting may need to be made in order to handle the sudden increase in BOD. Addition of biological products can also help overcome sudden spikes in BOD to help recover quicker and reduce changes or BOD or TSS permit violations.


How to find them:

Microscopic examination of a wet mount. Some of the larger amoebae can be seen at 40-100x and 200x.


BlepharismaWhat does it mean when I see an increase in Free Swimming Ciliates in my system?

It depends upon what the rest of the biomass looks like.  If the floc is small, weak, dispersed, you may have a young to medium age sludge.  Typically the presence of free swimming ciliates indicates a medium loading of food vs. the amount of biomass available to eat the organics. Free swimming ciliates indicate a relatively healthy system, no toxicity, progressing along in a sludge age. If mixed in with the right amount of stalked ciliates and a rotifer or two, you are probably doing very well in your wastewater treatment system.
Free Swimming ciliates possess one advantage over their amoeboid relatives in that they can swim and chase after their prey. Therefore, enabling them to invade and adapt to a wider range of environments unsuitable for amoebae and flagellates. Usually, this means that the sludge is a bit older than if only amoebae and flagellates are present and there are probably less single celled bacteria swimming around, TSS is clearer and more floc structures are developing.
Free swimming ciliates reproduce by conjugation!
It may mean the sludge is young if the floc is clear, dispersed and weak, or if you have had rotifers in the past and were old, it may mean a recent high loading of BOD that is forcing the sludge age to a younger age.  Usually you can expect a few solids in the effluent and slightly higher BOD levels if free swimming ciliates are present in significant numbers. If you have once through lagoons, you may only get flagellates and free swimming ciliates. Lagoons differ from activated sludge and the types of higher life forms may vary depending upon the holding time of the lagoon.  If it is a very large lagoon, different sections will have different stages of higher life forms.
Daily microscopic analyses is helpful in documenting where you are today in your wastewater plant, where you have changed since the previous day and how to react to changes proactively as opposed to when they have become critical!


What should I do if there is a significant change in my higher life forms and all of a sudden there is an increase in free swimming ciliates?
First check to see why they have increased? Is there a change in loading that might impact other areas? Check your nutrients in this case if applicable to your plant. The biggest mistake people make when a high loading comes through or a spill, especially at industrial wastewater treatment plants is not to increase nutrient levels when high loading occurs.crawling ciliate


You might want to adjust your wasting or RAS levels. Some plants add bioaugmentation products in cases of higher loadings. You might need to slightly increase the dosage of product. If using micronutrients, adjust these levels also if the loading is significant.
You might need to check the Bed levels in your clarifier. Check your TSS off your clarifiers.  You will have nowhere near the level of single celled bacteria that you see with amoebae or flagellates, but there still might be some.   If all you have are crawling ciliates, then you are progressing to an even higher sludge age.  There are probably more well defined floc structures that allow the crawlers a surface to move about on.


More to come soon! 

For more information on Higher Life Form Identification

 Paramecium Bug of the Month

 Flagellate Bug of the Month

More photos to come. . .


If you need more information on our Filamentous Identification the Easy Way Training CD or on Internet training on Filamentous bacteria, causes and controls.

How and why on Wastewater Biomass Analyses

What is in a name?

Wastewater Training Classes

Wastewater Training CD's