A problem confronting semi-closed circuit aquaculture is the need for continuous elimination of suspended matter (SM) and nitrogenous substances. Conventional processes used to retain SM (settling tanks, hydrocyclones, rotating-drum mechanical filters, gravity filtration) are not entirely satisfactory. However, membrane filtration has recently been shown to allow removal of suspended particles and bacteria. The present study evaluates the performance of different ultrafiltration and microfiltration membranes for water processing in a semi-closed aquaculture system. A brief economic analysis of treatment costs is proposed based on the results.
The marine aquafarm studied produces about 5 tons of turbot per year with a plant volume of about 100 m3. The water processing line is fitted with a rotating-drum mechanical filter that stops the largest particles and ejects 1 m3 h-1 of loaded water into the surrounding environment. Another 2 m3 h-1 are cleared out by overflowing the pumping pit. These volumes are renewed at a rate of 3% per hour by pumping saltwater from an underground source. Crossflow filtration was performed on rejections from both the mechanical filter and pumping pit overflow. SM contents and granulometric distributions determined by laser diffractometry were found to vary with sample source and withdrawal time, and size of fish in the pens. A comparison of granulometric distributions in volume percent and numerical percent underscores the presence of a great number (> 98 %) of submicron particles.
To limit the risk of mechanical-pore fouling due to blockage by particles, organic membranes in the form of internal-skin capillaries (pore diameters of about 10 to 20 nm) were initially employed. These membranes, used in drinking water production, are relatively inexpensive. The experimental device was fitted with an interchangeable volumetric pump (with gears or monoscrew). Adjustable parameters were transmembrane pressure and circulation velocity within the module. Analysis of the influence of these hydrodynamic parameters revealed that pressures higher than 1 bar were unnecessary, as beyond this point permeate flux no longer increased. Optimal flux did not exceed 100 L h-1 m-2 with the gear pump. Replacing the latter with a monoscrew pump improved permeate flux up to 70 %.
Tests were also performed with flat microfiltration organic membranes of polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF) with pore diameters ranging from 0.1 to 8 µm. The flux obtained with these membranes was roughly 250 L h-1 m-2 and presented little variation with varying pore diameter. Comparative tests carried out on tubular membranes showed lower fluxes than those obtained with organic membranes which, considering their much higher cost, makes them less attractive in this context.
The use of membranes in aquafarming is without precedent. An economic analysis of the practice was carried out based on financial assessments of processing of surface waters into drinking water, for which outputs to be treated and SM contents were of the same order of magnitude. With operating costs from 0.35 to 0.95 FF per cubic meter of filtered water, expected investment for a fishfarm producing 100 tons of fish a year is currently 3 to 4 times too great to consider economically profitable the use of membranes for water treatment in closed-circuit aquafarming.
Aquafarming, aquaculture, semi-closed circuit, membrane processes, suspended solid, ultrafiltration, microfiltration.
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