Bacterial activity dynamics in the water phase during start-up of recirculating aquaculture systems

Paula Andrea Rojas-Tirado, Per Bovbjerg Pedersen, Lars-Flemming Pedersen

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


tMicrobial water quality in recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS) is important for successful RAS opera-tion but difficult to assess and control. There is a need to identify factors affecting changes in the bacterialdynamics – in terms of abundance and activity – to get the information needed to manage microbial sta-bility in RAS. This study aimed to quantify bacterial activity in the water phase in six identical, pilot scalefreshwater RAS stocked with rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) during a three months period fromstart-up. Bacterial activity and dynamics were investigated by the use of a patented method, BactiQuant®.The method relies on the hydrolysis of a fluorescent enzyme-substrate and is a rapid technique for quan-tifying bacterial enzyme activity in a water sample. The results showed a forty-fold increase in bacterialactivity within the first 24 days from start-up. Average BactiQuant®values (BQV) were below 1000 at Day0 and stabilized around 40,000 BQV after four weeks from start. The study revealed considerable vari-ation in initial BQV levels between identically operated and designed RAS; over time these differencesdiminished. Total ammonia nitrogen, nitrite and nitrate levels were very similar in all six RAS and wereneither related to nor affected by BQV. Chemical oxygen demand (COD) and biological oxygen demand(BOD5) were highly reproducible parameters between RAS with a stable equilibrium dynamic over time.This study showed that bacterial activity was not a straightforward predictable parameter in the waterphase as e.g. nitrate-N would be in identical RAS, and showed unexpected sudden changes/fluctuationswithin specific RAS. However, a bacterial activity stabilization phase was observed as systems maturedand reached equilibrium, suggesting a successive transition from fragile to robust microbial community compositions
Original languageEnglish
JournalAquacultural Engineering
Volume78 A
Pages (from-to)24-31
Publication statusPublished - 2017


Dive into the research topics of 'Bacterial activity dynamics in the water phase during start-up of recirculating aquaculture systems'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this