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Performance Characteristics or Rotating Biological Contactors within Two Commercial Recirculating Aquaculture Systems

S.D. Van Gorder*1, J. Jug-Dujakovic2

1 Fresh-Culture Systems, Inc.
630 Independent Road
Breinigsville, Pennsylvania 18031 USA

2 Atlantis Aquaculture Group
840 Broad Street
Emmaus, Pennsylvania, 18049 USA

* Corresponding author, e-mail:

Keywords: Filtration, recirculating aquaculture system, rotating biological contactors, fixed-film bioreactor, nitrification

International Journal of Recirculating Aquaculture 6 (2005) 29-42. All Rights Reserved
© Copyright 2005 by Virginia Tech and Virginia Sea Grant, Blacksburg, VA USA


Biological filtration is a critical determinant in the process train design of a recirculating aquaculture system. In addition to the mechanical and biological efficiency of the biofilter itself, this process must be co-developed with the various interrelated technologies involved in water quality control. This study describes the performance of rotating biological contactors as an integral part of two commercial closed recirculating fish production systems. Data is presented from replicated systems employing paddlewheel-driven rotating biological contactors.

The RBC is a robust fixed-film bioreactor demonstrating excellent operational attributes in recirculating aquaculture systems. The efficiency of the RBC as biofilter is defined according to its mechanical and biological performance characteristics. In addition to highly efficient nitrification of ammonia under heavy feeding conditions (1.21 g/m2/day), the RBC has significant influence on control of secondary water quality and hydraulic considerations affecting the overall design and performance of the system. RBCs off-gas carbon dioxide, providing a level of pH control, a significant benefit in closed recirculating systems. Additional data is presented for carbon dioxide sparging efficiency, and the capacity for versatile hydraulic loading and low-head operation.

This paper also provides a practical comparison of RBC design and performance considerations with other biofilter options, including the effects of design on the mechanical reliability, energy requirements, and spatial efficiency of this biofiltration system.