A new physico-chemical process for ammonia removal from fresh-water recirculated aquaculture systems (RASs) is introduced. The method is based on separating NH4+ from RAS water through an ion-exchange resin, which is subsequently regenerated by simultaneous chemical desorption and indirect electrochemical ammonia oxidation. Approach advantages include (1) only slight temperature dependence and no dependence on bacterial predators and chemical toxins; (2) no startup period is required and the system can be switched on and off at will; and (3) the fish are grown in much lower bacterial concentration, making the potential for both disease and off-flavor, lower. A small pilot scale RAS was operated for 51d for proving the concept. The system was stocked by 105 tilapia fish (initial weight 35.8g). The fish, which were maintained at high TAN (total ammonia nitrogen) concentrations (10-23mgNL-1) and fish density of up to 20kgm-3, grew at a rate identical to their established growth potential. NH3(aq) concentrations in the fish tank were maintained lower than the assumed toxicity threshold (0.1mgNL-1) by operating the pond water at low pH (6.5-6.7). The low pH resulted in efficient CO2 air stripping, and low resultant CO2(aq) concentrations (<7mgL-1). Due to efficient solids removal, no nitrification was observed in the fish tank and measured nitrite and nitrate concentrations were very low. The system was operated successfully, first at 10% and then at 5% daily makeup water exchange rate. The normalized operational costs, calculated based on data derived from the pilot operation, amounted to 28.7 $ cent per kg fish feed. The volume of the proposed process was calculated to be ∼13 times smaller than that of a typical RAS biofilter. The results show the process to be highly feasible from both the operational and economical standpoints.
- Ammonia removal