Tuesday, September 26, 2017

27/09/2017: Flexibility is key: Biological filtration in aquaculture

by Gary E. Miller, PhD, President, Advanced Aquacultural Technologies, Inc., USA

In recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS), a necessary component is the biological filter

These devices provide for the conversion of soluble wastes to solids through bacterial growth. Most notably being the nitrogenous wastes associated with ammonia and urea.

These materials are toxic to aquatic animals until oxidised to nitrate by the various species of chemoautotrophic bacteria known collectively as nitrifiers. There are a large variety of biological filters used in aquaculture.

All designs strive to provide a large surface area for the bacteria to colonise. Typically these filters have a stationary (fixed) bed or a moving bed of material.

The kinds of materials used (wood, stone, sand, plastic shapes) all reflect the designers intent to confine the materials (and the water being treated) in a space that will not demand a large footprint in the production facility, will be to a large degree self cleaning, will not cause the loss of large volumes of water in the cleaning process and will not consume large amounts of energy or labour to operate.

Image credit: Advanced Aquacultural Technologies, Inc.

Trickling filter
One of the oldest designs is a trickling filter. The earliest designs consisted simply of a hole in the ground filled with rocks. It was cheap and relatively easy to build, but subject to accumulating biological solids and very difficult to clean.

Over time, other materials such as wood or plastic slats or structured shapes replaced rocks and the structure was built above ground to facilitate plumbing and provide for protection from the environments. The advantage offered by the trickling filter is in the simplicity of design.

The materials were mounted on a structure to allow water to move toward a discharge manifold and an enclosure is provided to keep the water confined. In time, it became apparent that sufficient space (void fraction) was required within the design layout of the filter medium to allow flushing (self cleaning) of the bacterial solids that accumulated from the growth of bacteria as they consumed the nutrients in the inflow of water.

For the wastewater treatment industry, these devices were built outdoors without regard to most weather conditions; other than freezing.

For RAS facilities, this becomes problematic because environmental conditions are important. The purpose for developing a RAS facility is to provide control of the production conditions to allow year around production, sanitation control and protection from parasites and disease.

As production facilities become larger, the size of trickling filters becomes an issue. As the number of fish (and the amount of food provided) increases, a larger footprint can be required by the filter.

However, the degree to which the water is treated does not increase. The only way to improve the performance of a trickling filter is to make it taller; requiring taller (more expensive) buildings and greater pumping expense to lift the water to the top of the filter.

As the filter becomes taller, it allows the bacteria to specialize; each group feeding on the wastes of the bacteria above them.

Read the full article, HERE.

Visit the Advanced Aquacultural Technologies Inc website, HERE.

The Aquaculturists
This blog is maintained by The Aquaculturists staff and is supported by the
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