Particle surface area and bacterial activity in recirculating aquaculture systems

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Suspended particles in recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS) provide surface area that can be colonized by bacteria. More particles accumulate as the intensity of recirculation increases thus potentially increasing the bacterial carrying capacity of the systems. Applying a recent, rapid, culture-independent fluorometric detection method (Bactiquant®) for measuring bacterial activity, the current study explored the relationship between total particle surface area (TSA, derived from the size distribution of particles >5 μm) and bacterial activity in freshwater RAS operated at increasing intensity of recirculation (feed loading from 0.043 to 3.13 kg feed m−3 make-up water). Four independent sets of water samples from different systems were analyzed and compared including samples from: (i) two individual constructed wetlands treating the effluent system water from two commercial, freshwater rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) farms of different recirculation intensity; (ii) an 8.5 m3 pilot scale RAS; and (iii) twelve identical, 1.7 m3 pilot scale RAS assigned one of four micro-screen treatments (no micro-screen, 100, 60, or 20 μm mesh size micro-screens) in triplicate. There was a strong, positive, linear correlation (p < 0.05) between TSA and bacterial activity in all systems with low to moderate recirculation intensity (i.e. feed loading ≤1 kg feed m−3 make-up water). However, the relationship apparently ceased to exist in the systems with highest recirculation intensity (feed loading 3.13 kg feed m−3 make-up water; corresponding to 0.32 m3 make-up water kg−1 feed). This was likely due to the accumulation of dissolved nutrients sustaining free-living bacterial populations, and/or accumulation of suspended colloids and fine particles less than 5 μm in diameter, which were not characterized in the study but may provide significant surface area. Hence, the study substantiates that particles in RAS provide surface area supporting bacterial activity, and that particles play a key role in controlling the bacterial carrying capacity at least in less intensive RAS. Applying fast, culture-independent techniques for determining bacterial activity might provide a means for future monitoring and assessment of microbial water quality in aquaculture farming systems
Original languageEnglish
JournalAquacultural Engineering
Volume78 A
Pages (from-to)18-23
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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