Wageningen UR Fish Performance Systems


WU-AFI (Aquaculture and Fisheries) belongs the Department of Animal Sciences of WU. It lectures in the MSc Aquaculture and Fisheries and organizes intensive courses/workshops on recirculation aquaculture system (RAS) technology. WU-AFI has 40 years record of research on the interaction and modulation of fish and rearing environment in intensive farming systems, such as RAS. It developed expertise in: (1) growth, nutrient and energy metabolism using metabolic chambers and (2) the engineering and operation of RAS systems (since the 80’s) and is now worldwide recognized as one of the leading experts in that area.

Aquaculture scientists visiting this facility can benefit from Wageningen Aquaculture Research Facility, a 1800m2 aquatic indoor recirculation systems-based research facility (approximately 65 RAS and 560 holding tanks). The facility contains: (a) the Metabolic Research Unit, which offers a research environment for studies on nutrient and energy balances and metabolism in fish (both over a production cycle and for within-day variations, and (b) the Recirculation Facility consisting of sets of identical lab scale and pilot scale RAS to replicate treatments on system level. Both installations are stand-alone research installations which are each located in a separate room offering a research environment on organism level (WU-MRU) and production system level (WU-RAS). Marine and freshwater pilot scale RAS can be extended with several water treatment units (e.g. a single sludge denitrification reactor or a Geotube®system).

WU carries out research in Fish Nutrition, Fish Production Systems and Fish Health and Immunology. Animal experiments in Fish Nutrition and Fish Production Systems are conducted in fresh water or salt water species. For research on Fish Health and Immunology genetically well-defined carp and zebra fish inbred lines are used which can be combined with the use of a standardised blood parasite (Trypanosome) infection model. The research on Fish Nutrition and Fish Health and Immunology is performed in the metabolic research chambers (WU-MRU).

Expected output/deliverables for users: Publications describing the effect of animal, nutritional and environmental factors on responses of fish (output WU-MRU) and on system responses (output WU-RAS).

Fish responses are: e.g. feed efficiency, feeding behaviour (latency and feeding time), digestibility, immunological, heat production (energy and nitrogen balance), and behaviour are among the measurements performed. In addition, these measurements may be combined with blood parameters and anything you can measure at slaughter. System responses are: e.g. water quality, water treatment performance and environmental performance (system waste discharge).

Wageningen UR Fish Performance Systems

Infrastructure: WU-RAS (The Six Recirculating Aquaculture Systems)

Location: Wageningen, THE NETHERLANDS

Web site address: www.wur.nl/en/Research-Results/Chair-groups/Animal-Sciences/Aquaculture-and-Fisheries.htm

Contact: Roel Maas (roel.maas@wur.nl)


The WU-RAS is used to measure how nutritional, animal, environmental and management factors (including RAS configuration) affect water quality, water treatment unit performance, waste production and waste discharge (system level, WU-RAS). Fish species used in research include: rainbow trout, Atlantic salmon, Nile tilapia, European eel, African catfish, Inbred and outbred lines of common carp, seabass, turbot, sole and Yellowtail Kingfish. The WU-RAS: (1) can be used with a drum filter or settling unit; (2) can be extended with a single sludge denitrification reactor (4 reactors available); (3) can be used to test different biofilters (trickling vs. moving bed, different biofilter media, etc.) (4) enables researchers to perform experiments for both freshwater and marine fish (salinity can be varied from 0 to 35ppt) and; (5) for cool and warm water fish (water temperature can be controlled between 12 and 32°C).

Services currently offered by the infrastructure

Fish Production Systems research is performed in 6 replicated RAS. An auto analyser is available for online measurements of TAN, urea, NO2-N, NO3-N, dissolved protein, CO2 and PO4-P in the rearing water of the RAS. The 6 replicate RAS can be equipped with remote access cameras. Laboratory analysis of immune responses such as real-time PCR analysis of expressed genes, ELISA-based analysis of antibody or cytokine production, flow cytometric analysis of changes in leukocyte cell populations and analysis of proximate composition of fish, feed, faeces and sludge are routinely performed.

Modality of access

A project will typically last 3 months, whereby the users spend part of the 3 months’ time (the maximum stay at the infrastructure is 90 days) for preparation of the final work protocol, discussion with the local WU scientists and supporting staff, and discussion of the results. The effective use of the infrastructure for experimentation during each project will be 8 weeks. Within AQUAEXCEL3.0, the WU-RAS infrastructure will receive two projects of 3 months each during the project duration thus 2*8=16 weeks of infrastructure use. When a proposal is selected, a host-supervisor will be identified and allocated from the senior staff of WU. The visiting user group is expected to discuss details of the proposed research with this senior staff member who acts as an immediate local partner for the proposed research. The study will be further executed as a joint collaborative research project between the Aquaculture and Fisheries group (AFI) of Wageningen University and the project user group. This guarantees that the study is administratively registered as a Wageningen University Task, which facilitates the further administrative implementation.

The host unit (WU) will start all logistic and administrative procedures and supports the execution of the work by providing supporting staff (lab technicians, administrative support, fish care taking staff etc.) and scientific embedding and backing. The visiting scientists are expected to stay at least 8 weeks at WU and execute part of the experiment themselves: four weeks at the start of the experiment and four weeks at the end of the experiment (to be discussed with the host supervisor). In the meantime the practical work will be done by the infrastructure personnel.

The Aquaculture and Fisheries Group of WU will assist in the outline of the work protocol, submit the application for approval of the Ethical committee, and provide scientific backup on methods and results interpretation and act as co-author for eventual publication of the results.

WU technicians will support the proper execution of the experiments, keep track of the (mandatory) Welfare logbook, purchase of fingerlings and feeds required, and act as liaison to the staff of the Aquatic Research facility (CARUS-ARF). Staff of the research facility will provide support in feeding the animals and preparing the infrastructure before/after its use in the project.

The visiting scientist will receive a workplace, including a WUR internet account for the duration of their stay, receive support in finding living accommodation and be registered as visiting scientist. The latter enables the formal support of all WU administration, e.g., finances, book-keeping, secretarial support etcetera.

The support offered is a standard support given to visiting scientists and PhD’s by WU.

Unit of access

The unit of access is defined as one week access to 6 replicated RAS.


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