Effects of abrupt salinity increase on nitrification processes in freshwater moving bed biofilters

John Peter Hewa Kinyage*, Per Bovbjerg Pedersen, Lars-Flemming Pedersen

*Corresponding author for this work

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The nitrification process is a widely used biological approach responsible for ammonia and nitrite removal in recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) biofilters. Given this pivotal role, the influence of different water quality parameter on nitrification efficiency is important information for RAS operations. One influencing parameter is salinity, and salinity fluctuations in freshwater RAS biofilters are reported to affect the nitrifying bacteria. This study investigated the effects of abrupt increase in salinity in freshwater RAS on substrate-dependent (1’-order) as well as substrate independent (0’-order) nitrification rates. A 100% inhibition was found for surface specific removal (STR) of total ammonia nitrogen (TAN) and surface specific nitrite removal (SNR) when salinity was abruptly increased to 25‰ and above. A fast turnover (i.e. steep decline in [NH4-N+] and [NO2-N"]) were observed at lower salinities (≤10‰), while limited/no degradation of either ammonia or nitrite was seen at salinities above 25‰. At low substrate loading (1’-order process), removal rate constants (k1a) of 0.22 and 0.23 m d-1 were observed for ammonia and nitrite degradation, respectively, declining to 0.01 m d-1 when adding marine RAS water increasing the salinity to 15‰. Similar observations followed at high nutrient loadings (0’-order process) with STR and SNR of 0.10 and 0.12 g N m-2 d-1, respectively, declining to 0.01 g N m-2 d-1 at 15‰. When salinities of 25‰ and 35‰ were applied, neither TAN nor nitrite degradation was seen. The results thus demonstrate a pronounced effect of salinity changes when freshwater RAS biofilters are subjected to fast/abrupt changes in salinity. RAS facility operators should be aware of such potential effects and take relevant precautions.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAquacultural Engineering
Pages (from-to)91-98
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Nitrification
  • Salinity
  • RAS
  • Biofilter
  • STR
  • SNR
  • k1a


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