Nutrient fate in aquacultural systems for waste treatment

J. H. Dontje, Chuck Clanton

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11 Scopus citations


Twelve small, recirculating aquacultural systems were operated for livestock waste treatment to determine nutrient fate. Each system consisted of a 730-L fish tank coupled in a recirculating loop with three sand beds (serving as biofilters) in parallel. Fish (Tilapia species) were grown in the tanks while cattails, reed canary grass, and tomatoes were grown in separate sand beds. Swine waste was added to the fish tanks every other day at average rates of 50, 72, 95, and 118 kg-COD/ha/day of fish tank surface (three replications of each loading rate). Water from the fish tanks was filtered through the sand beds three times per day with 20% of the tank volume passing through the sand each day. The systems were operated in a greenhouse for eight months (21 July to 8 March). Aboveground plant matter was harvested at eight-week intervals. The fish were removed after four months and the tanks were restocked with fingerlings. Initial and final nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) contents of the system components, as well as that of the harvested plants and fish, were determined. Nutrient balance calculations revealed that 30 to 68% of added N was lost from the systems, probably via denitrification. Nutrient removal by plants was 6 to 18% for N, 8 to 21% for P, and 25 to 71% for K, with tomatoes (foliage and fruit) accounting for the majority of the removal. Plant growth was limited by growing conditions (particularly day length), not by nutrient availability. Fish growth was limited by temperature; thus nutrient extraction by the fish was minimal. Under the conditions of this experiment, the system required supplemental aeration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1073-1085
Number of pages13
JournalTransactions of the American Society of Agricultural Engineers
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1999


  • Aquaculture
  • Artificial wetlands
  • Hydroponics
  • Nutrient balance
  • Swine manure
  • Tilapia
  • Waste treatment


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