Carbon cycling in a zero-discharge mariculture system

Kenneth Schneider*, Yonatan Sher, Jonathan Erez, Jaap van Rijn

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Interest in mariculture systems will rise in the near future due to the decreased ability of the ocean to supply the increasing demand for seafood. We present a trace study using stable carbon and nitrogen isotopes and chemical profiles of a zero-discharge mariculture system stocked with the gilthead seabream (Sparus aurata). Water quality maintenance in the system is based on two biofiltration steps. Firstly, an aerobic treatment step comprising a trickling filter in which ammonia is oxidized to nitrate. Secondly, an anaerobic step comprised of a digestion basin and a fluidized bed reactor where excess organic matter and nitrate are removed. Dissolved inorganic carbon and alkalinity values were higher in the anaerobic loop than in the aerobic loop, in agreement with the main biological processes taking place in the two treatment steps. The δ13C of the dissolved inorganic carbon (δ13CDIC) was depleted in 13C in the anaerobic loop as compared to the aerobic loop by 2.5-3‰. This is in agreement with the higher dissolved inorganic carbon concentrations in the anaerobic loop and the low water retention time and the chemolithotrophic activity of the aerobic loop. The δ13C and δ15N of organic matter in the mariculture system indicated that fish fed solely on feed pellets. Compared to feed pellets and particulate organic matter, the sludge in the digestion basin was enriched in 15N while δ13C was not significantly different. This latter finding points to an intensive microbial degradation of the organic matter taking place in the anaerobic treatment step of the system.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)2375-2382
Number of pages8
JournalWater Research
Issue number7
StatePublished - Mar 2011


  • Alkalinity
  • Carbon stable isotopes
  • DIC
  • Zero-discharge mariculture


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