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Effects of Chronic Exposure to Nitrate Nitrogen on Rainbow Trout

Effects of Chronic Exposure to Nitrate Nitrogen on Rainbow Trout

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Published by Patrick Higgins
The effects of chronic exposure to nitrate nitrogen on rainbow trout isn't as minimal as once thought. New research suggests it may be much more harmful. The YSI Pro Plus is used to measure nitrate nitrogen during the study. www.ysi.com/proplus
The effects of chronic exposure to nitrate nitrogen on rainbow trout isn't as minimal as once thought. New research suggests it may be much more harmful. The YSI Pro Plus is used to measure nitrate nitrogen during the study. www.ysi.com/proplus

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Categories:Types, Research, Science
Published by: Patrick Higgins on Apr 04, 2012
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04/04/2012

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Modest levels o nitrate nitrogen – in the 75 to 100 mg/Lrange – may be more harmul to aquaculture-raisedrainbow trout than producers realize. A team o scientistsat the Conservation Fund’s Freshwater Institute led byJohn Davidson documented deormities and signifcantbehavioral changes in rainbow trout (
Oncorhynchus mykiss
)raised in recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS) with nitratenitrogen concentrations at levels less than one-tenth therecommended maximum nitrate nitrogen level o 1,000mg/L. Theybelieve thechangeswerespurredby chronicexposureto nitratenitrogen. “I you seea problemin your system, don’t disregardnitrate nitrogen as a possiblecause,” warns Davidson.In act, Davidson and his colleagues almost did exactly that.They had designed a study comparing recirculating systemswith various rates o water exchange. Where hydraulicretention time was longer and the eed loading rate washigh, nitrate nitrogen and other water quality parametersgrew more concentrated and the researchers observed fshswimming aster. Many o the fsh swam on their sides, anunusual behavior possibly linked to abnormalities in theirswim bladders or skeletal deormities. Fish in near-zeroexchange recirculation systems also tended to “gasp” or“yawn” at the surace o the water, and had higher rateso skeletal deormities and mortality than ish in morerequently-rereshed tanks.“The biggest surprise to us as we were trying to determinewhy the fsh were behaving the way they were was thepossibility o a connection to nitrate nitrogen,” saysDavidson. “Because o the literature we had been usedto reading, we didn’t even consider nitrate nitrogen as aparameter o concern until I plotted it out and saw a veryclose correlation.”Davidson and his team published their indings in
 Aquacultural Engineering
last autumn.
 
Health and WelareDavidson notes that the conventional limit or nitratenitrogen in aquaculture tank water or rainbow trout isbased on an LC50 value, a concentration that kills hal thepopulation. But sublethal concentrations may be quietlystealing profts and creating unhealthy conditions.“I ish arestressedbased on awater qualityparameterthat’s present,that couldimpactperormancein other ways,like eedconversion or growth rate,” hesays.In tanks with low water exchangerates, high eed loading rates andhigh nitrate nitrogen concentrations,trout swam as much as twice asast as their counterparts in high-exchange recirculating systems– as ast as 49 cm/sec, well abovethe speed o the tank’s current.Davidson suspects that sustainedast swimming can lead to higheroxygen demand, lactic acid buildupin muscle tissue, exhaustion, andeven deormities that contribute toside-swimming behavior.“As soon as you start seeingbehavioral changes, you’ve got tostart thinking about fsh welare,” headds. The aquaculture industryis working hard to stay ahead o activist groups who are beginning-continued- 
The YSI Pro Plus was used duringthe studies to acquire ast, simplefeld measurements o nitratenitrogen.
 YSI Professional Plus with Nitrate
Application Note A597
 
Is Chronic Exposure to Nitrate Nitrogen a HiddenDanger to Trout in Recirculating Aquaculture Systems?
Examples o nitrate nitrogen values using two separate lab methods vs.the YSI Proessional Plus instrument with nitrate sensor in the feld.
 
to set their sights on ish production ater attacks onpoultry, hog, dairy and bee production, Davidson notes– understanding the appropriate levels o nitrate nitrogenand other parameters will be a vital step in maintaining fshwelare standards that can withstand outside scrutiny.Monitoring Nitrate Nitrogen Nitrate nitrogen levels can build up in RAS systems rapidlyas fsh excrete ammonia nitrogen and biofltration systemsconvert the ammonia nitrogen to nitrate and then tonitrate nitrogen. Davidson and his team monitored nitratenitrogen levels careully using two standard lab testingprotocols, as well as with theYSI Proessional Plushandheld,multiparameter meter. He says instant readings rom thehandheld meter will be important or staying on top o nitrate nitrogen levels in commercial settings.“Because nitrate nitrogen appears to be a much more criticalwater quality parameter than once thought, I think the ProPlus with the nitrate probe could be an important monitoringtool or aquaculture system managers, particularly or thosewho operate RAS at low to near-zero water exchange ratesat which nitrate nitrogen accumulates to relatively highlevels,” he says.“The Pro Plus waseasy to use andcalibration o the nitrate probewas simple andstraightorward.”Grab samplingand conductinga lab nitratenitrogen analysiscan take a hal-hour or morein his lab’s six-tank system,Davidson adds.“Depending onhow many tanksyou have to do,that adds up,” hesays. “With the Pro Plus, you can turn the meter on, do a quickcalibration, and drop the probe in the tank water. That’s apretty big time savings.”In addition to its nitrate nitrogen measuring capabilities,the Pro Plus can be equipped with probes or a wide varietyo other key water quality parameters, including dissolvedoxygen (DO), conductivity, specifc conductance, salinity,resistivity, total dissolved solids (TDS), oxidation reductionpotential (ORP), ammonium, chloride and temperature. WithYSI’s Quatro cable, our probes can be used at once or DO,temperature, conductivity/salinity, and any two ISE’s - pH,ORP, ammonium, nitrate or chloride. Davidson ound that the Pro Plus nitrate nitrogen readingswere quite close to lab test values – no more than a 10percent dierence.
“Based on what we saw, it was withinthe appropriate range to make an educated decision onwhether to reduce nitrate nitrogen levels in an aquaculturetank,” 
he says.-continued-
Examples o skeletal deormities observed in rainbowtrout cultured within near-zero exchange RAS.Davidson et al., 2011.
 Aquacultural Engineering
45,109-117.
 YSI Professional Plus with Nitrate
Application Note A597
Page 2
An individual RAS tank as part o the series o tanks usedduring this nitrate nitrogen study.

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