Gallionella ferruginea

Definition - What does Gallionella ferruginea mean?

Gallionella ferruginea is an iron-oxidizing chemolithotrophic bacterium that has been found in a variety of different aquatic habitats. These bacteria play an important role in oxidizing and fixing iron. It is a genus of stalked, ribbon-like bacteria which utilize iron in their metabolism, and cause staining, plugging and odor problems in water systems.

They cause serious problems in well systems. Because it is difficult to eradicate gallionella ferruginea once they have entered well systems, prevention is the best safeguard.

Gallionella ferruginea is also known as iron bacteria.

Corrosionpedia explains Gallionella ferruginea

Gallionella ferruginea oxidize and fix iron, but in order to get energy out of this process, they must live in a relatively specific environment that contains:

  • Reduced iron
  • Right amount of oxygen and carbon
  • Phosphorus and nitrogen

It oxidizes dissolved iron, therefore removing it from the water and producing an insoluble precipitate of ferric hydroxide. In active, deep sea hydrothermal venting sites, most of the iron mineralization from the emitted hydrothermal fluids are massive sulphides. Other iron hydroxide precipitates, such as jasper, can also be found in submarine hydrothermal fields that have relic filamental structures that indicate bacterial origin.

The bacterium is a kidney-shaped mycoplasmodial cell body and is generally covered in bacteriogenic iron oxide precipitate, which gives it a reddish-brown color.

Gallionella ferruginea has been found in many different types of habitats such as:

  • Freshwater ferruginous mineral springs
  • Shallow brackish waters
  • Marine hydrothermal shallow water environments
  • Active, deep sea hydrothermal venting sites
  • Soil environments associated with iron

They also form biofilms by interacting in a network of bacteria.

Serious problems can occur when these bacteria build up in well systems. They do not cause health problems, but they can have the following unpleasant effects:

  • Cause odors
  • Corrode plumbing equipment
  • Reduce well yields (clog screens and pipes)
  • Increase chances of sulfur bacteria infestation
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