The Importance of Water Quality in Siberian Sturgeon Farming: Nitrite Toxicity

  • Enric Gisbert


The maintenance of good water quality is of primary importance in aquaculture systems. Although nitrites usually occur in low concentrations, their presence in aquaculture systems at elevated levels is a potential problem due to its well-documented toxicity. Nitrites are not a problem in flow-through systems, but nitrite may become a serious problem in recirculating systems where water is reused. Nitrites are formed by nitrification, the process in which nitrifying bacteria oxidises ammonia into nitrite and then into nitrate. Nitrites in the ambient water can be actively taken up across the gill epithelium and get accumulated in the internal medium resulting in many physiological disturbances (oxidation of haemoglobin, ionic unbalance, liver damage, cardiovascular problems) that may result in the animal’s death. The median-lethal concentration of nitrite in juvenile (172 g) Siberian sturgeon after 72 h of exposure was 130 mg/L in water with high chloride content (130.5 mg/L). Levels of Cl in water are especially important in freshwater species to prevent/reduce nitrite toxicity, since nitrite is a competitive inhibitor of Cl uptake and vice versa. In any case, in aquaculture systems nitrites levels are recommended to be below than 1.0 mg NO2/L. Siberian sturgeon exposed to toxic levels of nitrite showed several signs of behavioural distress characterised by an increase of ventilatory activity, erratic and torpid swimming, loss of equilibrium and overturning swimming. In this chapter, the effects of nitrite intoxication, as well as the recovery of animals exposed to an acute episode of nitrite intoxication are presented and discussed.


Nitrite Toxicity Osmoregulation Water quality 


  1. Chen S, Ling J, Blancheton J-P (2006) Nitrification kinetics of biofilm as affected by water quality factors. Aquac Eng 34:179–197CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Doblander C, Lackner R (1997) Oxidation of nitrite to nitrate in isolated erythrocytes: a possible mechanism for adaptation to environmental nitrite. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 54:157–161Google Scholar
  3. Fontenot QC, Isely JJ, Tomasso J (1998) Acute toxicity of ammonia and nitrite to shortnose sturgeon fingerlings. Prog Fish Cult 60:315–318CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Fontenot QC, Isely JJ, Tomasso JR (1999) Characterization and inhibition of nitrite uptake in shortnose sturgeon fingerlings. J Aquat Anim Health 11(1):76–80Google Scholar
  5. Gisbert E, Rodríguez A, Cardona L (2004) Recovery of Siberian sturgeon yearlings after an acute exposure to environmental nitrite: changes in the plasmatic ionic balance, Na+–K+ ATPase activity, and gill histology. Aquaculture 239:141–154CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Hamlin HJ (2006) Nitrate toxicity in Siberian sturgeon (Acipenser baerii). Aquaculture 253:688–693CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Huertas M, Gisbert E, Rodríguez A et al (2002) Acute exposure of Siberian sturgeon (Acipenser baerii, Brandt) yearlings to nitrite: median-lethal concentration (LC50) determination, haematological changes and nitrite accumulation in selected tissues. Aquat Toxicol 57:257–266CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Jensen FB (2003) Nitrite disrupts multiple physiological functions in aquatic animals. Comp Biochem Physiol Part A 135:9–24CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Knudsen PK, Jensen FB (1997) Recovery from nitrite-induced methaemoglobinaemia and potassium balance disturbances in carp. Fish Physiol Biochem 16:1–10CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Kroupova H, Machova J, Svobodova Z (2005) Nitrite influence on fish: a review. Vet Med–Czech 50:461–471CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Lawson TN (1995) Fundamentals of aquaculture engineering. Chapman & Hall, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Margiocco C, Arillo A, Mensi P et al (1983) Nitrite bioaccumulation in Salmo gairdneri Rich. And hematological consequences. Aquat Toxicol 3:261–270Google Scholar
  13. Martins CIM, Galhardo L, Noble C et al (2012) Behavioural indicators of welfare in farmed fish. Fish Physiol Biochem 38:17–41CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Matsche MA, Markin E, Donaldson E et al (2012) Effect of chloride on nitrite-induced methaemoglobinemia in Atlantic sturgeon, Acipenser oxyrinchus oxyrinchus (Mitchill). J Fish Dis 35:873–885CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Pillay TVR, Kutty MN (2005) Aquaculture: principles and practices, 2nd edn. Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford, UKGoogle Scholar
  16. Tomasso JR (1994) Toxicity of nitrogenous wastes to aquaculture animals. Rev Fish Sci 2:291–314CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Tomasso JR Jr, Grossel R (2005) Physiological basis for large differences in resistance to nitrite among freshwater and freshwater-acclimated euryhaline fishes. Environ Sci Technol 39:98–102CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Wheaton FW (1993) Aquaculture engineering. Krieger Publishing Company, Malabar, FloridaGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.IRTA-Sant Carles de la Ràpita, Unitat de Cultius ExperimentalsTarragonaSpain

Personalised recommendations