A novel approach to denitrification processes in a zero-discharge recirculating system for small-scale urban aquaculture

Alon Singer, Shmuel Parnes, Amit Gross, Amir Sagi, Asher Brenner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


This paper presents an innovative process to solve the nitrate build-up problem in recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS). The novel aspects of the process lie in a denitrification bioreactor system that uses solid cotton wool as the primary carbon source and a unique degassing chamber. In the latter, the water is physically stripped of dissolved gaseous O2 (by means of a Venturi vacuum tube), and the subsequent denitrification becomes more efficient due to elimination of the problems of oxygen inhibition of denitrification and aerobic consumption of cotton wool. The cotton wool medium also serves as a physical barrier that traps organic particles, which, in turn, act as an additional carbon source for denitrification. Operation in the proposed system gives an extremely low C/N ratio of 0.82 g of cotton wool/g of nitrate N, which contributes to a significant reduction of biofilter volume. The additional advantage of using solid cotton wool as the carbon source is that it does not release organic residuals into the liquid to be recycled. Operation of the system over a long period consistently produced effluents with low nitrate levels (below 10 mg N/l), and there was only a very small need to replace system water. The overall treatment scheme, also incorporating an aerobic nitrification biofilter and a granular filtration device, produced water of excellent quality, i.e., with near-zero levels of nitrite and ammonia, a sufficiently high pH for aquaculture, and low turbidity. The proposed system thus provides a solution for sustainable small-scale, urban aquaculture operation with a very high recovery of water (over 99%) and minimal waste disposal.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)72-77
Number of pages6
JournalAquacultural Engineering
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2008


  • Aquaculture
  • Backyard
  • Bioreactor
  • Cotton wool
  • Degassing
  • Denitrification
  • Nitrate
  • Recirculation
  • Sustainability
  • Urban
  • Zero-discharge

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science


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