AnnouncingFAO Manual on Aquaponics available now in resources!
FeaturesPricingSupportSign In

3.3 Developments in RAS

4 months ago

22 min read

The last few years have seen an increase in the number and sizes of recirculating aquaculture farms, especially in Europe. With the increase in acceptance of the technology, improvements over traditional engineering approaches, innovations and new technical challenges keep emerging. The following section describes the key design and engineering trends and new challenges that recirculating aquaculture technology is facing.

3.3.1 Main Flow Oxygenation

The control of dissolved oxygen in modern RAS aims to increase the efficiency of oxygen transfer and decrease the energy requirements of this process. Increasing the oxygen transfer efficiency can be achieved by devising systems which retain oxygen gas in contact with water for longer, while a decrease in energy requirements may be achieved by the use of low-head oxygen transfer systems or using systems which do not use electricity at all, such as liquid oxygen systems connected to oxygen diffusers operating only by pressure. A defining factor of low-head oxygenators is the relatively low dissolved concentration that can be achieved compared to highpressure systems. To overcome this limitation, low-head oxygenation devices are strategically placed to treat the full recirculating flow instead of using a smaller bypass of highly supersaturated water, thus ensuring sufficient mass transport of oxygen. Using oxygenation devices installed in the main recirculating flow generates savings in electricity consumption because the use of energy-intensive high-pressure systems that are necessary to achieve high DO concentrations in small flows is avoided. Low-head oxygenation systems may also reduce the amount of pumping systems needed, as high-pressure oxygenation systems are commonly placed on a bypass in the pipelines going to the fish tanks. In contrast, low-head oxygenation devices tend to be comparatively larger because of their need to handle larger flows and thus, their initial cost may be higher. Examples of devices that can treat the totality of the flow include the low-head oxygenator (LHO) (Wagner et al. 1995), operated by gravity as water is firstly pumped into a biofilter and a packed column (Summerfelt et al. 2004), low-head oxygen cones, variants of the Speece Cone (Ashley et al. 2008; Timmons and Losordo 1994) operated at low pressure, the deep shaft cones (Kruger Kaldnes, Norway), also a variant of the Speece cone designed to reach higher operating pressures by means of increased hydrostatic pressure resulting from placing the devices lower than the fish tanks and pump sumps, the U-tube oxygenator and its design variants such as the Farrell tube or the patented oxygen dissolver system (AquaMAOF, Israel) and the use of diffused oxygenation in deep fish tanks (Fig. 3.5).

image-20200929115539373

Fig. 3.5 Gas transfer alternatives for recirculating water returning into fish tanks. If the gas contacting vessel allows for pressurization, oxygen can be transferred in high concentrations in relatively small, high-pressure streams (a, b). However, oxygen at lower concentrations can be transferred into the main recirculation loop, but for this, the oxygen transfer device must be much larger to handle full flow of the system (c)

3.3.2 Nitrifying Biofiltration Alternatives

Although nitrifying biofilters continue to be the main commercially accepted method of ammonia removal in commercial RAS, new nitrogen removal technologies have been developed over recent years. Some of these technologies consider alternative biological pathways to remove ammonia from the culture water, while others aim to replace or work in parallel with nitrifying biofilters in order to reduce inherent limitations. These include large reactor sizes, susceptibility to crashing, long startup times and poorer performance in both cold water and marine systems.

Anammox-based Processes

An alternative biological ammonia removal pathway considered for RAS is the anammox process (Tal et al. 2006), which occurs under anaerobic conditions. Anaerobic ammonia oxidation is a process which eliminates nitrogen by combining ammonia and nitrite to produce nitrogen gas (van Rijn et al. 2006). The anammox process is of interest to RAS because it allows for complete autotrophic nitrogen removal, in contrast to traditional combinations of nitrifying biofilters with heterotrophic denitrification systems requiring organic carbon addition (van Rijn et al. 2006). Moreover, in the anammox pathway, only half of the ammonia released by the fish is aerobically oxidized to nitrite (requiring oxygen), while the other half is anaerobically converted to nitrogen gas along with the nitrite produced. This may provide savings in oxygen and energy use in RAS (van Rijn et al. 2006).

Anammox reactor prototypes have been demonstrated successfully (Tal et al. 2006, 2009), while anammox activity has been suspected to occur in marine denitrification systems (Klas et al. 2006). The European FP7 project DEAMNRECIRC was also successful in creating anammox reactor prototypes for cold water and seawater aquaculture applications. However, commercial applications of the technology have as yet not been identified by the authors.

Chemical Removal of Ammonia

Ammonia removal systems based on ion exchange and electrochemical oxidation processes are being proposed as alternatives to nitrifying biofilters. Ion exchange processes rely on using adsorptive materials such as zeolites or ion-selective resins to extract dissolved ammonia from the water (Lekang 2013), while electrochemical oxidation processes convert ammonia to nitrogen gas through a number of complex oxidation reactions (Lahav et al. 2015). By comparison, ion exchange processes are suitable for waters with low concentrations of ions (i.e. freshwater), while electrochemical oxidation processes take advantage of the chloride ions present in the water to produce active chlorine species which readily react with ammonia (Lahav et al. 2015) and are thus suitable for waters with higher concentrations of chloride ions (i.e. brackish and marine waters).

Although ion exchange processes are not new, their application into RAS has been limited by their capacity to maintain performance over time: the filtering material eventually becomes 'saturated', losing its adsorptive capacity and, thus, must be regenerated. Gendel and Lahav (2013), proposed a novel approach to an ion exchange-based ammonia process in tandem with an innovative adsorbent regeneration process using electrochemical oxidation. Electrochemical oxidation of ammonia is a process which has received greater attention in recent years, and several concepts have been investigated and have been launched commercially, for example, EloxiRAS in Spain.

Factors limiting the application of these technologies into commercial RAS include, in the case of ion exchange processes, poor economic performance, difficulty to regenerate large amounts of adsorbent materials on demand (Lekang 2013), system complexity requiring the addition of chemical reagents, high electricity consumption and a high degree of suspended solids removal (Lahav et al. 2015), which is often impractical in large-scale RAS. In the case of ammonia electrooxidation processes, the production of toxic reactive species requiring active removal is their most important limitation, although their high solids control requirement, often possible only with pressurized mechanical filters, is also a challenge in RAS operating with large flows and low pressure.

3.3.3 Fine Solids Control

Fine solids are the dominant solids fraction in RAS with particles \30 μm forming more than 90% of the total suspended solids in the culture water. Recent investigations have found that more than 94% of the solids present in the culture water of a RAS are <20 μm in size or 'fine' (Fernandes et al. 2015). The accumulation of fine solids mainly occur as larger solids bypass the mechanical filters (which are not 100% efficient) and are eventually broken down by pumps, friction with surfaces and bacterial activity. Once solids sizes are reduced, traditional mechanical filtration techniques are rendered useless.

In recent years, the production, control, fish welfare effects and system performance effects of fine solids continue to be explored. The effects of fine solids on fish welfare were initially investigated through fisheries research (Chen et al. 1994). However, the direct effects of fine solids in RAS on fish welfare have not been thoroughly investigated until recently. Surprisingly, separate work on rainbow trout by Becke et al. (2016) and Fernandes et al. (2015) showed no negative welfare effects in systems with suspended solids concentrations of up to 30 mg/l in exposure trials lasting 4 and 6 weeks, respectively. Despite these findings, the indirect effects of fine solids accumulation in RAS are known (Pedersen et al. 2017) and are reported to be mostly linked to the proliferation of opportunistic microorganisms (Vadstein et al. 2004;Attramadal et al. 2014; Pedersen et al. 2017) since fine solids provide a high-surface area substrate for bacteria to colonize. Another important negative effect of fine solids accumulation is the increase in turbidity, which makes visual inspection of fish difficult and may hamper photoperiod control strategies which require light penetration in the water column to occur. Fine solids control strategies used in modern RAS include ozonation, protein skimming, floatation, cartridge filtration and membrane filtration (Couturier et al. 2009; Cripps and Bergheim 2000; Summerfelt and Hochheimer 1997; Wold et al. 2014). Protein skimmers, also known as foam fractionators, are also relatively popular fine solids control devices, especially in marine systems (Badiola et al. 2012).

3.3.4 Ozonation

Knowledge of ozone (O<sub3/sub) application in RAS has existed since the 1970s and 1980s (Summerfelt and Hochheimer 1997). However, its application has not been as widespread as other processes such as nitrifying biofilters or mechanical filters (Badiola et al. 2012). Aside from fine solids treatment, ozone, as a powerful oxidizer, can be used in RAS to eliminate microorganisms, nitrite and humic substances (Gonçalves and Gagnon 2011). Recent years have seen an increase in knowledge about the potentials and limitations of ozone applied in both freshwater and marine RAS. Importantly, the ozone doses that can be safely achieved to improve water quality in both freshwater and seawater systems have been confirmed in several publications (Li et al. 2015; Park et al. 2013, 2015; Schroeder et al. 2011; Summerfelt 2003; Timmons and Ebeling 2010), with the conclusion that ozone doses over recommended limits (1) do not improve water quality further and (2) may cause negative welfare effects, especially in seawater systems where excessive ozonation will cause the formation of toxic residual oxidants. In coldwater RAS, ozonation requirements to achieve complete disinfection of the process flow have been determined (Summerfelt et al. 2009).

Ozonation improves microscreen filter performance and minimizes the accumulation of dissolved matter affecting the water colour (Summerfelt et al. 2009).

However, excessive ozonation may severely impact farmed fish by causing adverse effects including histopathologic tissue damage (Richardson et al. 1983; Reiser et al. 2010) and alterations in feeding behaviour (Reiser et al. 2010) as well as oxidative stress (Ritola et al. 2000, 2002; Livingstone 2003). Additionally, ozonation by-products may be harmful. Bromate is one of these and is potentially toxic. Tango and Gagnon (2003) showed that ozonated marine RAS have concentrations of bromate that are likely to impair fish health. Chronic, sublethal ozone-produced oxidants (OPO) toxicity was investigated in juvenile turbot by Reiser et al. (2011), while rainbow trout health and welfare were assessed in ozonated and non-ozonated RAS by Good et al. (2011). Raising rainbow trout to market size in ozonated RAS improved fish performance without significantly impacting their health and welfare while high OPO doses affect welfare of juvenile turbot.

3.3.5 Denitrification

In most recirculating aquaculture systems, nitrate, the end product of nitrification, tends to accumulate. Such accumulation is commonly controlled by dilution (introducing new water in the system). The control of nitrate by dilution may be a limiting factor to a RAS operation due to environmental regulations, poor availability of new water, the cost of treating the incoming and effluent water streams or the costs associated with chilling or heating the new water.

Biological nitrate removal in RAS can be achieved by facultative anaerobic bacteria using a dissimilatory pathway to convert nitrate to nitrogen gas in the presence of carbon and nitrate as electron donors (van Rijn et al. 2006). Denitrification reactors are thus biological reactors which are typically operated in anaerobic conditions and generally dosed with some type of carbon source such as ethanol, methanol, glucose, molasses, etc. Denitrification technology has been under development since the 1990s (van Rijn and Riviera 1990), but its popularity among the recirculating aquaculture industry has only increased over the past years, offering innovative denitrification reactor solutions.

One of the most notable applications of denitrification systems in aquaculture is the 'zero exchange' RAS (Yogev et al. 2016), which employ anaerobic digestion of biosolids produced in the system to produce volatile fatty acids (VFA) which are then used by denitrifiers as a carbon source. Klas at al. (2006) developed a 'singlesludge' denitrification system, where production of VFA from biosolids and denitrification occur in a single, mixed reactor. Suhr et al. (2014) developed the singlesludge concept further, adapting it for end-of-pipe treatment of fish farming effluents and adding an extra step which separates VFA production from the denitrification reactor in a hydrolysis tank. These works have provided valuable information on the possibilities of using aquacultural biosolids instead of expensive inorganic carbon sources for denitrification. Furthermore, Christianson et al. (2015) studied the effectiveness of autotrophic, sulphur-based denitrification reactors as an alternative to conventional heterotrophic denitrification reactors. Autotrophic reactors produce less biomass (solids) and can be supplied with sulphur particles, which are cheaper than conventional inorganic carbon sources.

VFAs are also the precursor component in the production of biopolymers such as Polyhydroalkanoates (PHAs), used to produce biodegradable plastics (Pittmann and Steinmetz 2013). This could hold potential for fish farms employing anaerobic activated sludge processes to be part of the 'biorefinery' concept applied to wastewater treatment plants.

3.3.6 Microbial Control

Microbial communities are important constituents of the aquatic ecosystem. In aquaculture production systems, they play significant roles in nutrient recycling, degradation of organic matter and treatment and control of disease (Zeng et al. 2017). Developing efficient, productive, biologically secure and disease-free RAS requires a thorough understanding of all life support processes from physical and chemical (gas transfer, thermal treatment, ozonation, UV irradiation, pH and salinity adjustments) to biological processes (nitrification, denitrification and aerobic heterotrophic activity). While physical and chemical processes can be controlled, biological filtration systems rely on the interaction of microbial communities with each other and their environment as a consequence of nutrient input (fish waste output) and, as such, are not as easily controlled (Schreier et al. 2010). Recent studies using molecular tools have not only allowed for evaluating microbial diversity in RAS but have also provided some insight into their activities that should lead to a better understanding of microbial community interactions. These approaches are certain to provide novel RAS process arrangements as well as insight into new processes and tools to enhance and monitor these systems (Schreier et al. 2010). Current understanding of RAS biofilter microbial diversity in both freshwater and marine systems is based on studies using 16S rRNA and functional gene-specific probes or 16S rRNA gene libraries rather than culture-based techniques (Table 3.1).

Insights into the temporal and spatial dynamics of microbiota in RAS are also still limited (Schreier et al. 2010), and potential solutions to maintain or restore beneficial microbial communities in RAS are lacking (Rurangwa and Verdegem 2015). Besides a microbial community that purifies the water, microbiota in RAS can also harbour pathogens or produce off-flavour-causing compounds (Guttman and van Rijn 2008). Given the difficulty to treat disease during operation without negatively affecting beneficial microbiota, microbial management in RAS is rather a necessity from the start-up through the whole production process. Microorganisms are introduced into RAS through different pathways: make-up water, air, animal vectors, feed, fish stocking, dirty equipment and via staff or visitors (Sharrer et al. 2005; Blancheton et al. 2013). Specific microbes can also, on the other hand, be applied intentionally to steer microbial colonization to improve system performance or animal health (Rurangwa and Verdegem 2015).

Table 3.1 Primary activities associated with RAS biofiltration units and participating microorganisms. (From Schreier et al. 2010)

table thead tr class="header" thProcess/th thReaction/th th colspan="2"Microorganism/th /tr tr td/td td/td tdFreshwater/td tdMarine/td /tr /thead tbody tr class="even" tdNitrification/td td/td td/td td/td /tr tr class="odd" tdAmmonium oxidation/td td NHsub4/subsup+/sup + 1.5Osub2/sub → ΝOsub2/sub + 2Hsup+/sup + Hsub2/subO /td tdiNitrosomonas oligotropha/i/td tdiNitrosomonas sp./i/td /tr tr class="even" td/td td/td td/td tdiNitrosomonas cryotolerans/i/td /tr tr class="odd" td/td td/td td/td tdiNitrosomonas europaea/i/td /tr tr class="even" td/td td/td td/td tdiNitrosomonas cinnybus/ nitrosa/i/td /tr tr class="odd" td/td td/td td/td tdiNitrosococcus mobilis/i/td /tr tr class="even" tdNitrite oxidation/td td ΝO2sup-/sup + H2O → NO3sup-/sup + 2Hsup+/sup + 2esup -/sup

  /td
  tdiNitrospira spp./i/td
  td/td
/tr
tr class="odd"
  td/td
  td/td
  tdiNitrospira marina/isupa/sup/td
  tdiNitrospira marina/isupa/sup/td
/tr
tr class="even"
  td/td
  td/td
  tdiNitrospira moscoviensis/isupa/sup/td
  tdiNitrospira moscoviensis/isupa/sup/td
/tr
tr class="odd"
  tdDenitrification/td
  td/td
  td/td
  td/td
/tr
tr class="even"
  tdAutotrophic/td
  td
    Ssub2/subsup-/sup + 1.6NOsub3/subsup-/sup + 1.6Hsup
      +/sup

    &rarr;
  /td
  td/td
  tdiThiomicrosporia denitrificans/i/td
/tr
tr class="odd"
  td(sulfide-dependent)/td
  td
    SOsub4/subsup2-/sup + 0.8Nsub2/sub(g) + 0.8Hsub2/subO
  /td
  td/td
  tdiThiothrix disciformis/isupa/sup/td
/tr
tr class="even"
  td/td
  td/td
  td/td
  tdiRhodobacter litoralis/isupa/sup/td
/tr
tr class="odd"
  td/td
  td/td
  td/td
  tdiHydrogenophaga sp./i/td
/tr
tr class="even"
  tdHeterotrophic/td
  td
    5CHsub3/subCOOsup-/sup + 8NOsub3/subsup-/sup + 3Hsup
      +/sup

    &rarr;
  /td
  td/td
  tdiPseudomonas fluorescens/i/td
/tr
tr class="odd"
  td/td
  td
    10HCOsub3/subsup-/sup + 4Nsub2/sub(g) + 4Hsub2/subO
  /td
  tdiPseudomonas sp./i/td
  tdiPseudomonas stutzeri/i/td
/tr
tr class="even"
  td/td
  td/td
  tdiComamonas sp./i/td
  tdiPseudomonas sp./i/td
/tr
tr class="odd"
  td/td
  td/td
  td/td
  tdiParacoccus denitrificans/i/td
/tr
tr class="even"
  tdDissimilatory nitrate/td
  td
    NOsub3/subsup-/sup + 2Hsup+/sup + 4Hsub2/sub &rarr;
    NHsub4/subsup+/sup + 3Hsub2/subO
  /td
  td/td
  tdiVarious Proteobacteria and Firmicutes/i/td
/tr
tr class="odd"
  tdReduction to ammonia (DNRA)/td
  td/td
  td/td
  td/td
/tr
tr class="even"
  tdAnaerobic ammonium/td
  td
    NHsub4/subsup+/sup + NOsub2/subsup-/sup &rarr;
    Nsub2/sub(g) + 2Hsub2/subO
  /td
  td/td
  tdiPlanctomycetes spp./i/td
/tr
tr class="odd"
  tdoxidation (Anammox)/td
  td/td
  td/td
  tdiBrocadia sp./isupa/sup/td
/tr
tr class="even"
  tdSulfate reduction/td
  td
    SO4sup2-/sup + CHsub3/subCOOsup-/sup + 3Hsup+/sup &rarr;
  /td
  td/td
  tdiDesulfovibrio sp.,/i/td
/tr
tr class="odd"
  td/td
  tdHSsup-/sup + 2HCOsub3/subsup-/sup + 3Hsup+/sup/td
  td/td
  tdiDethiosulfovibrio sp.,/i/td
/tr
tr class="even"
  td/td
  td/td
  td/td
  tdiFusibacter/i sp., iBacteroides sp./i/td
/tr
tr class="odd"
  tdSulfide oxidation/td
  td
    HSsup-/sup + 2Osub2/sub &rarr; SOsub4/subsup2-/sup +
    Hsup+/sup
  /td
  td/td
  tdiThiomicrospira sp./i/td
/tr
tr class="even"
  tdMethanogenesis/td
  td
    4Hsub2/sub + Hsup+/sup + HCOsub3/subsup-/sup &rarr;
    CHsub4/sub(g) + 3Hsub2/subO
  /td
  td/td
  tdMethanogenic Archaea [Mirzoyan and Gross, unpublished]/td
/tr

/tbody /table

supa/supMicroorganisms identified solely on the basis of partial 16S rRNA gene or functional gene sequences

One of the approaches for inhibiting pathogen colonization is the use of probiotic bacteria that may compete for nutrients, produce growth inhibitors, or, quench cellto-cell communication (quorum sensing) that allows for settling within biofilms (Defoirdt et al. 2007, 2008; Kesarcodi-Watson et al. 2008). Probiotic bacteria include Bacillus, Pseudomonas (Kesarcodi-Watson et al. 2008) and Roseobacter spp. (Bruhn et al. 2005), and bacteria related to these have also been identified in RAS biofilters (Schreier et al. 2010) (Table 3.1). To obtain the information needed to manage microbial stability in RAS, Rojas-Tirado et al. (2017) have identified the factors affecting changes in the bacterial dynamics in terms of their abundance and activity. Their studies show that bacterial activity was not a straightforward predictable parameter in the water phase as nitrate-N levels in identical RAS showed unexpected sudden changes/fluctuations within one of the systems. Suspended particles in RAS provide surface area that can be colonized by bacteria. More particles accumulate as the intensity of recirculation increases, thus potentially increasing the bacterial carrying capacity of the systems. Pedersen et al. (2017) explored the relationship between total particle surface area (TSA) and bacterial activity in freshwater RAS. They indicated a strong, positive, linear correlation between TSA and bacterial activity in all systems with low to moderate recirculation intensity. However, the relationship apparently ceased to exist in the systems with the highest recirculation intensity. This is likely due to the accumulation of dissolved nutrients sustaining free-living bacterial populations, and/or accumulation of suspended colloids and fine particles less than 5 μm in diameter, which were not characterized in their study but may provide significant surface area.

In RAS, various chemical compounds (mainly nitrates and organic carbon) accumulate in the rearing water. These chemical substrata regulate the ecophysiology of the bacterial communities on the biofilter and have an impact on its nitrification efficiency and reliability. Michaud et al. (2014) investigated the shift of the bacterial community structure and major taxa relative abundance in two different biological filters and concluded that the dynamics and flexibility of the bacterial community to adapt to influent water changes seemed to be linked with the biofilter performance. One of the key aspects for improving the reliability and sustainability of RAS is the appropriate management of the biofilter bacterial populations, which is directly linked to the C (carbon) availability (Avnimelech 1999). It should be noted that RAS have properties that may actually contribute to microbial stabilization, including long water retention time and a large surface area of biofilters for bacterial growth, which could potentially limit the chances of proliferation of opportunistic microbes in the rearing water (Attramadal et al. 2012a).

Attramadal et al. (2012a) compared the development of the microbial community in a RAS with moderate ozonation (to 350 mV) to that of a conventional flowthrough system (FTS) for the same group of Atlantic cod, Gadus morhua. They found less variability in bacterial composition between replicate fish tanks of the RAS than between tanks of the FTS. The RAS had a more even microbial community structure with higher species diversity and periodically a lower fraction of opportunists. The fish in RAS performed better than their control in the FTS, despite being exposed to an apparent inferior physico-chemical water quality. While researching the effects of moderate ozonation or high-intensity UV irradiation on the microbial environment in RAS for marine fish larvae, Attramadal et al. (2012b) emphasized that a RAS for such larvae should probably not include strong disinfection because it leads to a reduction in bacterial numbers, which is likely to result in a destabilization of the microbial community. Furthermore, their results support the hypothesis of RAS as a microbial control strategy during the first feeding of fish larvae.

RAS and microbial maturation as tools for K-selection of microbial communities was the subject of the study by Attramadal et al. (2014) in which they hypothesized that fish larvae that are reared in water dominated by K-strategists (mature microbial communities) will perform better, because they are less likely to encounter opportunistic (R-selected) microbes and develop detrimental host—microbe interactions. The results of their experiment showed a high potential for increasing fish survival by using K-selection of bacteria, which is a cheap and easy method that can be used in all kinds of new or existing aquaculture systems. Small changes in the management (organic load and maturation of water) of water treatment give significantly different microbiota in fish tanks (Attramadal et al. 2016). On the other hand, humic substances (HS) are natural organic compounds, comprising a wide array of pigmented polymers of high organic weight. They are end products in the degradation of complex organic compounds and, when abundant, produce a typical brown to dark-brownish colour of the soil and water (Stevenson 1994). In a zero-discharge aquaculture system, HS-like substances were detected in the culture water as well as in the fish blood (Yamin et al. 2017a). A protective effect of HS was reported in fish exposed to toxic metal (Peuranen et al. 1994; Hammock et al. 2003) and toxic ammonia and nitrite concentrations (Meinelt et al. 2010). Furthermore, evidence was provided for their fungistatic effect against the fish pathogen, Saprolengia parasitica (Meinelt et al. 2007). In common carp (Cyprinus carpio) exposed to (a) humic-rich water and sludge from a recirculating system, (b) a synthetic humic acid and (c) a Leonardite-derived humic-rich extract, infection rates were reduced to 14.9%, 17.0% and 18.8%, respectively, as compared to a 46.8% infection rate in the control treatment (Yamin et al. 2017b). Likewise, the exposure of guppy fish (Poecilia reticulata), infected with the monogenea Gyrodactylus turnbulli and Dactylogyrus sp. to humic-rich culture water and feed, reduced both the infection prevalence (% of infected fish) and the infection intensity (parasites per fish) of the two parasites (Yamin et al. 2017c).

It is believed that the fundamental research in the area of microbial ecology of the nitrification/denitrification reactor systems in RAS may provide innovations which may alter and/or improve the reactor performance in RAS drastically. Up until now, the microbial community in reactors is still difficult to control (Leonard et al. 2000, 2002; Michaud et al. 2006, 2009; Schreier et al. 2010; Rojas-Tirado et al. 2017) and many of the inefficiencies of the system originate from this (Martins et al. 2010b).

3.3.7 Energy Efficiency

Economic viability of fish production in a recirculating aquaculture system depends, in part, on minimizing the energy requirements of operating such facilities. RAS require a higher technical infrastructure than open systems, thus energy costs in RAS have already been rated as major constraints which may prevent this technology from widespread application (Singh and Marsh 1996). Of all the costs associated with the electricity use in RAS, ventilation and water cooling are generally the most important. In indoor RAS, building ventilation is important to control humidity and carbon dioxide levels. Poor humidity control may result in a rapid deterioration of building structures, while atmospheric carbon dioxide accumulation will affect carbon dioxide stripping processes operating in the RAS and cause dizziness in workers. In order to keep an acceptable atmosphere inside the facilities, ventilation or air conditioning plants are widely in operation (Gehlert et al. 2018). These ventilation systems may be fitted with measures to reduce energy use. Furthermore, in order to develop an environmentally sustainable RAS, energy may be assumed as a key driving parameter, and in particular, energy can be considered an important indicator. Energetic performance analysis of the RAS has been performed by Kucuk et al. (2010) to contribute to the energy management in the RAS. In order to improve the energetic performance of the RAS, they recommended that operating conditions of the components, particularly, the pumps should be optimized and improved based on the fish production capacity of the system.

To increase the efficiency, RAS managers need guidelines and tools to optimize production. Energy audits can provide real data that can be used for decisionmaking. Badiola et al. (2014) investigated the total energy consumption (kWh) of a RAS cod system continuously for 14 months and identified the heat pump as a top energy consumer of rearing fish requiring high water thermal treatment. Gehlert et al. (2018) concluded that ventilation units offered a significant potential for energy savings in the RAS. Most of the time, when climate parameters in the facility stay within a desired range, air flow rates can be kept at low levels for saving energy. Additionally, energy saving measures in the RAS may include: software with energy performance data, alternative energy sources to heat the water and the use of frequency converters (Badiola et al. 2014).