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Bacterial communities in water samples and eel slime were investigated by fluorescence in situ hybridization of whole bacterial cells in an eel intensive culture system over 1 year. A newly developed probe, matching 27 Vibrio spp., and a specific probe for Vibrio vulnificus were used. Phylogenetic probes complementary to selected regions of the 16S and 23S ribosomal RNA revealed that Proteobacteria of the alpha and beta subclass were predominant in water and eel slime. Members of the gamma subclass (e.g. vibrios and aeromonads) were more abundant in eel slime, although no V. vulnificus was detected.