A case study of biofilter activation and microbial nitrification in a marine recirculation aquaculture system for rearing Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar L.)
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Marine recirculation aquaculture system (RAS) is a prominent technology within fish farming. However, the nitrifying bacteria in the biofilter have low growth rates, which can make the biofilter activation a long and delicate process with periods of low nitrification rates and variations in water quality. More knowledge on the microbial development in biofilters is therefore needed in order to understand the rearing conditions that favour optimal activation of the biofilters. In this case study, we investigated the activation of two biofilters in a marine RAS for Atlantic salmon post‐smolt associated with either high or low stocking densities of fish by monitoring the microbial communities and chemical composition. The results showed that the microbial communities in both biofilters were similar during the first rearing cycle, despite variations in the water quality. Nitrifying bacteria were established in both biofilters; however, the biofilter associated with low stocking density had the highest relative abundance of ammonia‐oxidizing Nitrosococcus (1.0%) and nitrite‐oxidizing Nitrospira (2.1%) at the end of the first rearing cycle, while the relative abundance of ammonia‐oxidizing Nitrosomonas (2.3%–2.9%) was similar in both biofilters. Our study showed that low fish stocking density during the first rearing cycle provided low and steady concentrations of ammonium, nitrite and organic load, which can stimulate rapid development of a nitrifying population in new marine RAS biofilters.