Water chemistry characterization and component performance of a recirculating aquaculture system producing hybrid striped bass

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Virginia Tech


Eight identical and independent pilot scale recirculating aquaculture production systems were populated with fingerling hybrid striped bass (Morone chrysops female x Morone saxatilis male). Three population densities were established with two replicates at 132 fishlm3 and three replicates each at 66 and 33 fishlm3.

Water chemistry and water quality characteristics were monitored throughout the 228 day growth trial for all eight systems. A system component performance analysis was done for both the multi-tube solids clarifier and rotating biological contactor (RBC).

Water chemistry and water quality analysis included dissolved oxygen (DO), alkalinity, ions, carbonaceous biochemical oxygen demand (CBODS), chemical oxygen demand (COD), dissolved organic carbon (DOC), total suspended solids (TSS), volatile suspended solids (VSS), total ammonia nitrogen (TAN) , nitrite and nitrate. The major ions present were chloride, nitrate, sulfate, phosphate, sodium, calcium, magnesium and potassium. Trace levels of TAN, nitrite, iron and copper were also observed. Sodium, calcium and chloride levels were controlled based on a preplaned water exchange and chemical management method. TAN, nitrite and nitrate levels increased over time with increasing feed rates but never reached levels toxic to the fish population. CBODS,COD, DOC, TSS and VSS increased over time increasing as a function of increasing feed rates. No correlation was observed between fish mortality or fish growth rates for the range of organic and solids parameters observed during this study. On average 67% of the TSS present was between 1.5 and 30 microns in size. Diurnal cycles were observed for DO, TAN and alkalinity. The magnitude of these cycles were population dependent.

Multi-tube clarifiers removed an average 56% of all suspended solids in a single pass with 81 % removal efficiency for particles above 70 microns in size. Analysis of the system effluent generated by the clarifier indicates a high degree of similarity between the aquaculture effluent and standard municipal waste on a nutrient basis but with much higher levels of nitrogen and phosphate species.

RBC nitrification performance was fitted to an empirical equation. A nearly constant TAN removal rate was observed over the range of mass loading experienced in this growth trial. This implies that within a reasonable range higher flow rates resulting in higher mass loading will yield higher TAN removal rates for a given RBC.