The exposure of fish to environmental free-living microbes and its effect on early colonization in the gut have been studied in recent years. However, little is known regarding how the host and environment interact to shape gut communities during early life. Here, we tested whether the early microbial exposure of tilapia larvae affects the gut microbiota at later life stages. The experimental period was divided into three stages: axenic, probiotic and active suspension. Axenic tilapia larvae were reared either under conventional conditions (active suspension systems) or exposed to a single strain probiotic (Bacillus subtilis) added to the water. Microbial characterization by Illumina HiSeq sequencing of 16S rRNA gene amplicons showed the presence of B. subtilis in the gut during the seven days of probiotic application. Although B. subtilis was no longer detected in the guts of fish exposed to the probiotic after day 7, gut microbiota of the exposed tilapia larvae remained significantly different from that of the control treatment. Compared with the control, fish gut microbiota under probiotic treatment was less affected by spatial differences resulting from tank replication, suggesting that the early probiotic contact contributed to the subsequent observation of low inter-individual variation.