This study shows that the disease resistance and survival rate of Penaeus monodon in a larval rearing systems can be enhanced by supplementing with antagonistic or non-antagonistic probiotics. The antagonistic mode of action of Pseudomonas MCCB 102 and MCCB 103 against vibrios was demonstrated in larval mesocosm with cultures having sufficient concentration of antagonistic compounds in their culture supernatant. Investigations on the antagonistic properties of Bacillus MCCB 101, Pseudomonas MCCB 102 and MCCB 103 and Arthrobacter MCCB 104 against Vibrio harveyi MCCB 111 under in vitro conditions revealed that Pseudomonas MCCB 102 and MCCB 103 were inhibitory to the pathogen. These inhibitory properties were further confirmed in the larval rearing systems of P. monodon. All these four probionts significantly improved larval survival in long-term treatments as well as when challenged with a pathogenic strain of V. harveyi MCCB 111. We could demonstrate that Pseudomonas MCCB 102 and MCCB 103 accorded disease resistance and a higher survival rate in P. monodon larval rearing systems through active antagonism of vibrios, whereas Bacillus MCCB 101 and Arthrobacter MCCB 104 functioned as probiotics through immunostimulatory and digestive enzyme-supporting modes of action. © 2009 The Authors. Journal Compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.