Viral burst size (BS), i.e. the number of viruses released during cell lysis, is a critical parameter for assessing the ecological and biogeochemical role of viruses in aquatic systems. Burst size is typically estimated by enumerating the viral particles in bacteria using transmission electron microscopy. Here, we review the average BS reported for different aquatic systems, present several hypotheses on the control of the BS and evaluate whether there are relationships between BS and bacterial activity parameters across systems. Based on reports from a variety of different aquatic environments, we calculated a mean BS of 24 and 34 for marine and freshwater environments, respectively. Generally, the BS increased with the trophic status of the environment and with the percentage of infected cells in marine populations. When diel dynamics were investigated or averages from large-scale environments were used, BS was positively related to bacterial production but no trend was detectable across systems. The across systems' finding that BS was significantly related to the frequency of infected cells (FIC) could be due to co-infection or superinfection. At any given site, BS seems to be influenced by a number of factors such as the size of the host cell and the viruses, the metabolic activity of the host and phage and host diversity. Thus, based on the available data collected over the past two decades on a variety of aquatic systems, some relations between BS and bacterial variables were detectable.