Aquaculture International

, Volume 27, Issue 2, pp 449–462 | Cite as

Effects of water flow rates on growth and welfare of Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) reared in a recirculating aquaculture system

  • Kwasi Adu ObirikorangEmail author
  • Nelson Winston Agbo
  • Christian Obirikorang
  • Daniel Adjei-Boateng
  • Sefakor Esinam Ahiave
  • Peter Vilhelm Skov


The effects of water exchange on growth and welfare of Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) were investigated in a recirculating aquaculture system during an 8-week trial. Fish of initial body mass of ~ 27 g (n = 8 per tank) were reared in 60-L tanks with water exchange rates, corresponding to 1.5 (LE), 3 (ME) and 6 (HE) tank volumes/h. Treatments were triplicated and fish were fed at 3% of their biomass each day. The LE treatment resulted in significantly higher (p < 0.05) levels of ammonia nitrogen and phosphate in the culture water relative to the higher water exchange treatments. The specific growth rate (SGR) of fish cultured under the HE treatment (2.74% day−1) was significantly higher than the SGR (2.21% day−1) of the LE fish. Mean final body weights of the LE, ME and HE fish were 97.67 ± 8.13, 110.50 ± 22.45 and 123.92 ± 10.00 g, respectively. Higher prevalence of dermal ulcerations, oral lesions and poor fin conditions were associated with the LE and ME fish. After 4 weeks, 34 and 24% of the LE and ME fish, respectively, had advanced mouth lesions compared to 0% for the HE fish. Haematological indicators of long-term oxygen stress and disease conditions, as evidenced by erythrocyte and platelet indices, were generally higher in fish under the LE and ME treatments. This study has shown that although the Nile tilapia is a hardy species, long-term exposure to poor water conditions can result in reduced growth and compromised welfare.


Water exchange rate Water quality Fish health Stress Haematology Nile tilapia Recirculating aquaculture 



The authors would like to thank the technical and laboratory staff of the Faculty of Renewable Natural Resources and the Department of Molecular Medicine Sciences of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana, for their assistance with the experimentation and laboratory analyses.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All applicable international, national and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed by the authors.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Fisheries and Watershed Mangement, Faculty of Renewable Natural ResourcesKwame Nkrumah University of Science and TechnologyKumasiGhana
  2. 2.Department of Molecular Medicine, School of Medical SciencesKwame Nkrumah University of Science and TechnologyKumasiGhana
  3. 3.DTU Aqua, Section for Aquaculture, The North Sea Research CentreTechnical University of DenmarkHirtshalsDenmark

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