Enhancing Aquaculture Sustainability Through Water Reuse and Biological Treatment

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Virginia Tech

Overfishing of natural fisheries is a global issue that is becoming more urgent as the human population increases exponentially. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, over 70% of the world's seafood species are fully exploited or depleted. This high demand for seafood protein is not going away; and, in fact, an astonishing one out of five people in this world depend on this source of protein. Traditional aquaculture practices use pond and flow-through systems which are often responsible for discharging pollutants into the environment. Furthermore, aquacultural feeds often contain high levels of fish protein, so the demand on wild fisheries is not completely eased. Even though traditional aquaculture has these drawbacks, there is a significant movement towards more sustainable practices. For example, implementing recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS) maximizes the reuse of culture water which decreases water demand and minimizes the levels of pollutants being discharged to the environment. And, alternative proteins (e.g., soy bean) are replacing the fish and seafood proteins in aquaculture diets.

Accordingly, the research described in this dissertation focused on maximizing the reuse of freshwater fish effluent to culture marine shrimp. More specifically, by using suspended-growth biological reactors to treat a tilapia effluent waste stream and to generate microbial flocs that could be used to support shrimp culture. This RAS technology will decrease water consumption by increasing the amount of recycled water and will also improve effluent water quality. The biomass generated in the bioreactors could be used to feed shrimp with an alternative source of protein. Treating fish effluent to be reused to culture shrimp while producing this alternative feed, could significantly decrease operational costs and make these operations more sustainable.

Understanding which ions are critical for the survival and normal growth of marine shrimp in freshwater effluents is essential. It is also very important to understand how to convert an effluent's organic matter into food for shrimp. Results from studies revealed that the marine shrimp, Litopenaeus vannamei, can be raised in freshwater effluent when supplemented with specific ions and wet microbial flocs fed directly to shrimp can enhance growth in shrimp fed a restricted ration of commercial feed. The treatability of the tilapia effluent using suspended-growth, biological reactors and nutritional analysis of the generated biomass were also reported. Carbon supplementation enhanced reactor performance and microbial floc generation. These microbial flocs also proved to be a superior feed ingredient when dried and incorporated into a pellet feed.

shrimp, microbial flocs, bioreactors, wastewater, fish effluent, ions, low salinity