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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Leetown, West Virginia » Cool and Cold Water Aquaculture Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #316391

Research Project: Developing and Refining Technologies for Sustainable Fish Growth in Closed Containment Systems

Location: Cool and Cold Water Aquaculture Research

Title: Effects of alkalinity on ammonia removal, carbon dioxide stripping, and system pH in semi-commercial scale water recirculating aquaculture systems operated with moving bed bioreactors

Author
item Summerfelt, Steven - Freshwater Institute
item Zuhlke, Anne - Nofima
item Kolarevic, Jelena - Nofima
item Reiten, Britt Kristin - Nofima
item Selset, Roger - Nofima
item Gutierrez, Xavier - Nofima
item Terjesen, Bendik Fyhn - Nofima

Submitted to: Aquacultural Engineering
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/19/2014
Publication Date: 11/24/2014
Citation: Summerfelt, S., Zuhlke, A., Kolarevic, J., Reiten, B., Selset, R., Gutierrez, X., Terjesen, B. 2014. Effects of alkalinity on ammonia removal, carbon dioxide stripping, and system pH in semi-commercial scale water recirculating aquaculture systems operated with moving bed bioreactors. Aquacultural Engineering. 65:46-54.

Interpretive Summary: Water recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS) are typically operated with some make-up water flushing to control accumulation of nitrate and fine particulate matter. However, in locations that have low alkalinity in the raw water, flushing RAS with make-up water containing low alkalinity washes out valuable base added to the RAS. This increases farm operating costs when high alkalinity concentrations are maintained. In addition, alkalinity must not be so low that it interferes with nitrification or pH stability. This paper describes the effects of alkalinity on biofilter performance and carbon dioxide stripping during cascade aeration, within two replicate semi-commercial scale Atlantic salmon smolt RAS. Increasing alkalinity led to lower concentrations of total ammonia nitrogen (TAN), but nitrite or carbon dioxide removal was unaffected. However, increasing alkalinity led to a higher total inorganic carbon loss from the system, which may increase costs when running RAS at this alkalinity. In conclusion, Atlantic salmon smolt producers using soft water make-up sources, and maintaining a relatively stringent water quality, should aim for 70 mg/L alkalinity.

Technical Abstract: When operating water recirculating systems (RAS) with high make-up water flushing rates in locations that have low alkalinity in the raw water, such as Norway, knowledge about the required RAS alkalinity concentration is important. Flushing RAS with make-up water containing low alkalinity washes out valuable base added to the RAS (as bicarbonate, hydroxide, or carbonate), which increases farm operating costs when high alkalinity concentrations are maintained; however, alkalinity must not be so low that it interferes with nitrification or pH stability. For these reasons, a study was designed to evaluate the effects of alkalinity on biofilter performance, and CO2 stripping during cascade aeration, within two replicate semi-commercial scale Atlantic salmon smolt RAS operated with moving bed biological filters. Alkalinity treatments of nominal 10, 70, and 200 mg/L as CaCO3 were maintained using a pH controller and chemical dosing pumps supplying sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3). Each of the three treatments was replicated three times in each RAS. Both RAS were operated at each treatment level for 2 weeks; water quality sampling was conducted at the end of the second week. A constant feeding of 23 kg/day/RAS was provided every 1 -2 h, and continuous lighting, which minimized diurnal fluctuations in water quality. RAS hydraulic retention time and water temperature were 4.3 days and 12.5 plus or minus 0.5 °C, respectively, typical of smolt production RAS in Norway. It was found that a low nominal alkalinity (10 mg/L as CaCO3) led to a significantly higher steady-state TAN concentration, compared to when 70 or 200 mg/L alkalinity was used. The mean areal nitrification rate was higher at the lowest alkalinity; however, the mean TAN removal efficiency across the MBBR was not significantly affected by alkalinity treatment. The CO2 stripping efficiency showed only a tendency towards higher efficiency at the lowest alkalinity. In contrast, the relative fraction of total inorganic carbon that was removed from the RAS during CO2 stripping was much higher at a low alkalinity (10 mg/L) compared to the higher alkalinities (70 and 200 mg/L as CaCO3). Despite this, when calculating the total loss of inorganic carbon from RAS, it was found that the daily loss was about equal at 10, and 70 mg/L, whereas it was highest at 200 mg/L alkalinity. pH recordings demonstrated that the 10 mg/L alkalinity treatment resulted in the lowest system pH, the largest increase in [H+] across the fish culture tanks, as well as giving little response time in case of alkalinity dosing malfunction. Rapid pH changes under the relatively acidic conditions at 10 mg/L alkalinity may ultimately create fish health issues due to e.g. CO2 or if aluminium or other metals are present. In conclusion, Atlantic salmon smolt producers using soft water make-up sources should aim for 70 mg/L alkalinity considering the relatively low loss of inorganic carbon compared to 200 mg/L alkalinity, and the increased pH stability as well as reduced TAN concentration, compared to lower alkalinity concentrations.