This study investigated the effects of seed sludges, alkalinity and HRT on the thermophilic fermentative hydrogen production from cassava stillage. Five different kinds of sludges were used as inocula without any pretreatment. Though batch experiments showed that mesophilic anaerobic sludge was the best inoculum, the hydrogen yields with different seed sludges were quite similar in continuous experiments in the range of 82.9–92.3 ml H2/gVS without significant differences which could be attributed to the establishment of Uncultured Thermoanaerobacteriaceae bacterium-dominant microbial communities in all reactors. It is indicated that results obtained from batch experiments are not consistent with those from continuous experiments and all the tested seed sludges are good sources for continuous thermophilic hydrogen production from cassava stillage. The influent alkalinity of 6 g NaHCO3/L and HRT 24 h were optimal for hydrogen production with hydrogen yield of 76 ml H2/gVS and hydrogen production rate of 3215 ml H2/L/d. Butyrate was the predominant metabolite in all experiments. With the increase in alkalinity of more than 6 g/L, the concentration of VFA/ethanol increased while hydrogen yield decreased due to the higher concentration of acetate and propionate. The decrease in HRT resulted in the higher hydrogen production rate but lower hydrogen yield. Variation of hydrogen yields were quite correlated with butyrate/acetate (B/A) ratio with different influent alkalinities, however, butyrate was important parameter to justify the hydrogen yields with various HRTs.