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Recirculating aquaculture systems

Recirculating aquaculture systems


A.K. Abdul Nazar, R. Jayakumar and G. Tamilmani
Mandapam Regional Centre of CMFRI
Mandapam Camp - 623520, Tamil Nadu, India
Email: aknazar77@gmail.com

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Introduction often get in. Biosecurity means RAS can conti-
nusously operate without any chemicals, drugs
Closed-system aquaculture presents a new and
or antibiotics. Water supply is a regular route of
expanding commercial opportunity. Recirculating
pathogen entry, so RAS water is often first disin-
aquaculture systems (RAS) are tank-based systems
fected or the water is obtained from a source that
in which fish can be grown at high density un-
does not contain fish or invertebrates that could
der controlled environmental conditions. They
be pathogen carriers.
are closed-loop facilities that retain and treat the
water within the system. In a RAS, water flows Water quality and waste management
from a fish tank through a treatment process and is
The most important parameters to be moni-
then returned to the tank, hence the term recircu-
tored and controlled in an aquaculture system are
lating aquaculture systems. RAS can be designed
related to water quality, since they directly affect
to be very environmentally sustainable, using
animal health, feed utilization, growth rates and
90-99 percent less water than other aquaculture
carrying capacities. The critical water quality pa-
systems. RAS can reduce the discharge of waste,
rameters that are taken care in RAS are dissolved
the need for antibiotics or chemicals used to com-
oxygen, temperature, pH, alkalinity, suspended
bat disease, and fish and parasite escapes. RAS
solids, ammonia, nitrite and carbon dioxide
have been under development for over 30 years,
(CO2). These parameters are interrelated in a
refining techniques and methods to increase pro-
complex series of physical, biological and chemi-
duction, profit and environmental sustainability.
cal reactions. Monitoring and making adjustments
There is a large cost involved in setting up and
in the system to keep the levels of these param-
running a recirculation system and we need to
eters within acceptable ranges is very important
consider a number of factors in designing the sys-
to maintain the viability of the total system. The
tem that will fit our needs. This type of aquacul-
components that address these parameters can
ture production system is more commonly used in
vary from system to system.
freshwater environments and can also be used in
marine environments. Since failure of any compo- A successful water reuse system should consist
nent can cause catastrophic losses within a short of tanks, filters, pumps and instrumentation.
period of time, the system must be reliable and
constantly monitored. An important component
Fish tanks
of RAS is the control system which must meas- The round or octagonal or square design with
ure and control all the critical system parameters. rounded corners and the arrangement of in- and
Recent developments in control technology and outlets of water treatment units support the cir-
microcomputers may revolutionize the operation cular water flow. Additional circular water flow
and control of RAS. A properly-controlled RAS and aeration can be enhanced by aqua jets. The
will also be energy efficient since production can circular flow promotes the behavior of fish. Cir-
be optimized with respect to the various inputs. In cular tanks are good culture vessels because they
addition, water levels, disruption of electric pow- provide virtually complete mixing and a uniform
er, fire, smoke and intrusion of vandals should culture environment. When properly designed,
also be monitored. circular tanks are essentially self-cleaning. This
minimizes the labor costs associated with tank
Biosecurity cleaning. Typically, water is introduced into a cir-
Hatcheries with RAS facility are often fully cular tank at the side and is directed tangential to
closed and entirely controlled, making them the tank wall. The incoming water imparts its mo-
mostly biosecure - diseases and parasites cannot mentum to the mass of water in the tank, generat-

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CMFRI Manuel Customized training Book
ing a circular flow pattern. The water in the tank stocking densities while feeding only enough to
spins around the center drain, following an inward maintain their basic needs. Underfed fish con-
spiral to the center of the tank. Centrifugal forces sume less oxygen and produce less waste. There-
and the inward, spiraling flow patterns transport fore, the stocking rate of a system (fish/m3) and
solid wastes to the center drain area where they ultimate maximum fish density (kg / m3) achieved
are removed easily. Once the mass of water in within a tank should be defined by the maximum
the tank is set into motion, very little energy is feed rate (kg feed / hr or day) that the system
required to maintain its velocity. The momentum can accommodate without wasting feed and still
of the water circling the center drain helps sus- maintain good water quality. This maximum feed
tain the circular flow. The primary disadvantage rate capacity will be a function of the water treat-
of circular tanks is that they do not use space ef- ment systems design, type of fish being grown,
ficiently. A circular tank of a given diameter will and type of feed.
have about 21% less bottom culture area than a
square tank whose sides are the same length as Solid removal in recirculation systems
the diameter of the circular tank. This means that One of the key problems in RAS is related to
if circular tanks are used there will be 21% loss of the load of suspended solids and in particular to
potential production in a given amount of space. very fine particles. The presence and accumula-
tion of particulate wastes in RAS (faeces, uneaten
Aeration systems feed, and bacteria flocs) will negatively impact
The most efficient aeration devices move wa- the water quality by affecting the performance
ter into contact with the air. The commonly used efficiency of the water treatment units. High sus-
air stones produce larger air bubbles which rise pended solids load has many disadvantages:
quickly to the surface and hence the dissolution
Particulate matter consumes oxygen during
of oxygen is low. So,the usage of air diffusers are
biological degradation which will decrease the
preferred in RAS. These diffusers produce small
availability of oxygen for fish in culture
air bubbles within the tank that rise through the
water column. The smaller the bubbles and the The breakdown of organic wastes will increase
deeper the tank, more oxygen is transferred. the Total Ammonia Nitrogen (TAN) concentra-
tion in the water affecting nitrification. Small
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Control and Re- quantities of unionized ammonia can be toxic
moval for epithelial tissues and disturb the elimina-
CO2 is produced through the respiration of tion of protein metabolites across gills.
fish and microorganisms and will accumulate Solids support the growth of heterotrophic
within recirculating systems if not removed at a bacteria which can outgrow and compete with
rate equal to its production. Elevated CO2con- nitrifiers. The nitrification process is strongly in-
centrations are not greatly toxic to fish when hibited by heterotrophic processes when high
dissolved oxygen is at saturated levels. For most amounts of organic carbon are present.
aquacultured fish, free carbon dioxide concentra-
tions should be maintained at less than 20 mg / Particles can potentially clog biofilters and re-
L in the tank for good fish growth. CO2 is usu- duce their efficiency
ally removed through some form of gas exchange Excessive solid loads can cause plugging with-
process either by exposing the water to air in a in aeration columns, screens, and spray noz-
waterfall type of environment, or mixing air into zles orifices, which could ultimately result in
the water to remove excess CO2. system failure.
Stocking number and density Suspended solids offer an ideal temporary sub-
In evaluating RAS production capabilities, the strate for facultative pathogens while they try
unit most often used is maximum tank or system to find a final host. It is also suspected that sus-
stocking density (kg/m3 or lbs./gallon). However, pended solids may be involved in bacterial gill
in terms of production potential, this unit of meas- disease (BGD) outbreak.
ure is meaningless. Fish can be held at very high Some type of filters used for the solid wastes

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Recirculating aquaculture systems
are drum filters, bead filters, screen filters and high concentrations can reduce immune response
rapid sand filters. and influence osmoregulation in fish. Optimal
bacterial growth is the crucial step, otherwise
Biofiltration toxic compounds like nitrite, nitrogen or hydro-
In closed aquaculture systems the accumula- gen sulfide can be formed. The quantity required
tion of nitrogen compounds, as ammonia and for denitrification can be calculated on basis of
nitrite, has a deleterious impact on water quality the influent nitrate, nitrite and dissolved oxygen
and fish growth. The biological filtration (BOD concentrations. The oxidation-reduction potential
removal and nitrification) is a fundamental water (ORP) is measured to monitor the denitrification.
treatment process in every recycling method for Sequential removal and reduction of oxygen, ni-
the cultivation of aquatic animals. It mainly digest trate and nitrite result in sequential decrease of
dissolved organic material (heterotrophic bacteria) ORP in the media.
and oxidizes ammonium-ions via nitrite to nitrate
(two-step nitrification) by bacteria like Nitroso-
Foam fractionation
monas sp., and Nitrobacter sp. A solid medium is Many of the fine suspended solids and dis-
used as substrate for the attachment of the micro solved organic solids that build up within inten-
flora. Conventional biofilters employ sand or cor- sive recirculation systems cannot be removed
al gravel as filter media. Modern filters make use with traditional mechanisms. Foam fractionation
of various plastic structures as grids, corrugated is used to remove and control the build-up of
sheets, balls, honeycomb-shaped or wide-open these solids. This process, in which air introduced
blocks. The main goal is to provide a big active into the bottom of closed column of water creates
surface area for the micro flora settlement. Dur- foam at the surface of the column, removes dis-
ing the last few years moving bed biofilters have solved organic compounds by physically adsorb-
received growing attention. These allow to have ing on the rising bubbles. Fine particulate solids
more specific surface area at the same volume, are trapped within the foam at the top of the col-
they need low maintenance due to self-cleaning umn, which can be collected and removed. The
(no back wash needed). Moving bed reactors are main factors affected by the operational design of
interesting cross between upflow plastic bead fil- the foam fractionator are bubble size and contact
ters and fluidized bed reactors. These filters use a time between the air bubbles and dissolved or-
plastic media kept in a continous state of move- ganic compounds. Foam fractionation is a suita-
ment. The beads are usually buoyant or slightly ble process in sea water as well as fresh water and
heavier than water. The specific surface/volume the efficiency is increasing with increasing salini-
ratio is about 800-1000m/m. The plastic beads ties. That is related to the increasing surface ten-
are mixed by hydraulic means driven by air. sion allowing smaller air bubbles in sea water and
there with a higher filter area. Foam fractionation
Even if nitrate is usually mentioned as the least
is working very efficiently from salinity of 12ppm
toxic form in comparison to ammonia and nitrite,
and more.

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CMFRI Manuel Customized training Book

Disinfection of culture water bacteria, algae and pathogens. The capacity and
the flow rate of the UV sterilizer/ ozoniser should
Installation of suitable UV sterilizers or ozon-
be calculated based the on quantity of water to be
isers in the water flow would remove unwanted
treated and effectiveness of treatment.

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