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Innovative Breakthrough: Gracilaria and Zeolite Join Forces to Eliminate Ammonia

Fakultas Perikanan dan Kelautan Universitas Airlangga

Innovative Breakthrough: Gracilaria and Zeolite Join Forces to Eliminate Ammonia


Innovative Breakthrough: Gracilaria and Zeolite Join Forces to Eliminate Ammonia

Muhammad Rahmad Royan, S.Pi., student of master degree, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Bergen and alumni of Fisheries and Marine Faculty, Universitas Airlangga, is an author of a study – Ammonia-eliminating potential of Gracilaria sp. and zeolite: a preliminary study of the efficient ammonia eliminator in the aquatic environment – published last year in IOP. Working with fellowship from Fisheries and Marine Faculty, Muhammad Browijoyo Santanumurti, S.Pi., M.Sc, Royan found a new innovation: Gracilaria sp. and zeolite as a combination to eliminate ammonia which is dangerous for many aquatic organisms.

“An uncontrolled Total Ammonia Nitrogen (TAN) concentration can cause a huge problem in the aquatic environment as the toxicity of TAN may suddenly increase following the alteration of the water quality factors, such as pH, temperature, ionic charge, salinity and dissolved oxygen (DO). If it exceeds the tolerance threshold, the toxic form of TAN – ammonia (NH3) – can inhibit the growth of aquatic organisms and can even result in mortality as the compound disrupts oxygen binding in the blood, changes the blood pH and affects enzymatic reactions and membrane stability in aquatic organisms.”, Royan said.

Ammonia is an environmental factor that has been a big concern in the scope of aquaculture as well as in environmental science. This inorganic compound is actually the toxic form of Total Ammonia Nitrogen (TAN) and can pose a threat to aquatic organisms. Despite sometimes being referred to as NH3 (ammonia) or NH4 + (ammonium), ammonia concentration in an aquatic environment is commonly expressed as TAN. TAN derives from the nitrogen cycle that originates from an organic material decomposition or from the excretion products of aquatic organisms. In addition, TAN may come from the carcasses of aquatic organisms or uneaten feed. The fact that aquaculture practices these days have been implementing both high density and high feeding volume may cause an escalation in the TAN concentration in aquatic systems.

“This species is the best ammonia eliminator. Besides its high tolerance to a wide range of environmental conditions and efficiency in terms of cost, Gracilaria sp. is suggested to be better than other seaweed species, such as Sargassum sp. It is also cultivable all year round.”, Royan explained.

This study uses not only the seaweed, Gracilaria sp. but also zeolite. Zeolite is the most common material used for controlling pollutants in a wide range of aspects. “Zeolite is an aluminosilicate mineral that is generally used for filtering molecules and catalyzing. Furthermore, zeolite has been utilized as an absorbent to minimize the concentration of ammonium ions in the water. The relatively short time absorption of ammonium by zeolite can become an essential point when it comes to combining this material with Gracilaria sp. as a means of eliminating TAN concentration in aquaculture settings.”

Despite many studies in the literature being available regarding TAN elimination by using Gracilaria sp. and zeolite, there has been no study so far on discovering how these two materials can be combined to eliminate TAN concentration in aquatic systems.

This study proved that both Gracilaria sp. and zeolite kept absorbing and ammonium ions in the aquatic system. The more zeolite there is, the more that the pores that can absorb ammonium ions and similarly so for Gracilaria sp., this seaweed needs nitrogen to grow. The fact that Gracilaria sp. and zeolite effectively reduce the amount of TAN in aquatic systems may become an interesting point of concern, particularly for those playing a role in aquaculture-related activities.


R. Muhammad Browijoyo S.