Aquaculture International

, Volume 27, Issue 5, pp 1251–1268 | Cite as

Performance and microbial diversity of bioreactors using polycaprolactone and polyhydroxyalkanoate as carbon source and biofilm carrier in a closed recirculating aquaculture system

  • Cristina R. Lopardo
  • Hidetoshi UrakawaEmail author


Nitrogen removal is essential for a successful management approach in a marine recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) through microbial remediation. In this study, two biodegradable polymers, polycaprolactone (PCL) and polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA), were used as a carbon source and biofilm carrier for marine RAS wastewater treatment. Results showed that the use of an artificial saltwater nitrate (ASN) medium with seeded polymers had a high nitrogen removal efficiency regardless of flow rate, with a nitrate–nitrite removal efficiency of 95.4–98.9%. The TN removal efficiency was greater with PHA (95.1–95.3%) than PCL (86.1–90.1%). TP removal efficiency was greater with the use of PCL (64.1–67.3%) than PHA (48.2–52.5%). The use of marine aquaculture effluent showed an increased TN nutrient removal efficiency with PCL having a removal efficiency of 89%, with an increased TP removal efficiency using PHA (40.4%). Microbial community analysis demonstrated the complexity of microbial consortia within marine RAS. Two major classes identified in our study were Alphaproteobacteria (2–68%) and Flavobacteriia (0.5–58%). We identified Crocinitomix, Oceanicola, Meridianimaribacter, and Ruegeria as potential PCL degraders, while Winogradskyella, Muricauda, Marinobacter, and Alteromonas were identified as potential PHA degraders. The microbial communities responded to varying water chemistry differences and developed unique consortia based on biodegradable polymer types. Biodegradable plastics can be utilized in marine RAS to treat wastewater through microbial processes.


Biodegradable plastic High-throughput sequencing Marine RAS Microbial community analysis Polycaprolactone (PCL) Polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) 



Recirculating aquaculture system

ASN medium

Artificial saltwater nitrate medium







The authors thank Matthew Gamel, Adam Catasus, Nicholas Culligan, Robert Wasno, and Dr. Michael Parsons for their maintenance of Pinfish at Vester Marine and Environmental Sciences Research Field Station, Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU). The authors also thank Joe Veradino of Joefish Aquatics for his aquarium donation. We thank Megan Feeney and Haruka Urakawa for laboratory assistance.

Funding information

This research was partially funded by the FGCU Office of Research and Graduate Studies internal grant program and the Florida Sea Grant college program with support from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Office of Sea Grant, U.S. Department of Commerce, Grant (PD-15-2) and treated under Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee Protocol (# 1415-11) at FGCU. Special thanks to the funding from the Dorothy M. Rygh fellowship fund, the Blair Foundation scholarship, and the Marco Island Shell Club Graduate Research scholarship for their support.

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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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Marine and Ecological SciencesFlorida Gulf Coast UniversityFort MyersUSA

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