Water quality is a critical parameter in the realm of aquatic research centres, including integrated multi-trophic aquaculture, aquaponics facilities, public aquarium, and conservation centres. As the research centres navigate the challenges of caring for aquatic animals through research protocols, the integration of reverse osmosis water for fish tanks emerged as a game-changing solution. A key success factor is the smart integration of reverse osmosis within the aquatic life support systems of fish tanks.
This article delves into the science and technology behind how reverse osmosis enhances water quality and drives more accurate scientific results.
The science behind reverse osmosis water for fish tank
Explore the mechanics of reverse osmosis, a purification method that lets pure water through while blocking impurities. In the second part, we’ll discuss why water quality matters so much in an aquatic research centre.
How does reverse osmosis work?
Reverse osmosis usually uses a high-pressure pump to channel water through a semipermeable membrane (note that the reverse osmosis system can sometimes be connected to a pipe already at adequate pressure). This barrier stands as a molecular-level filter, letting solely water molecules to pass through while obstructing larger ions, molecules, minerals, and impurities in general. This meticulous balance between pressure and permeability effectively rids water of contaminants, ranging from dissolved salts to organic compounds and microorganisms.
The membrane’s minuscule pores—smaller than the width of a human hair—allow only water molecules to pass and stop undesirable substances. The high-pressure pump generates the force required to push water molecules through the membrane, overcoming the natural osmotic pressure that seeks to equalize the concentration of solutes on both sides of the membrane. This exertion of pressure ensures that pure water separates from the brine solution. As the water molecules traverse the membrane, the purified water emerges on the other side, while the reject or brine, rich in impurities, is safely channelled away for responsible disposal.
The efficiency of reverse osmosis hinges upon the membrane’s selectivity, which allows only molecules smaller than the membrane’s pores to pass through. This selectivity ensures that contaminants are left behind, whether they are minerals or microorganisms.
Types of reverse osmosis systems
Reverse osmosis systems come in various types to suit different purposes. For smaller needs, point-of-use systems guarantee clean water where needed. On the other hand, larger setups like those found in aquatic research centres use central reverse osmosis systems. These systems are vital for purifying water across an entire facility. They usually include pre-filtration steps to remove larger particles to enhance the membrane’s durability and lifespan.
Understanding the difference between domestic (small) and industrial (large) osmosis systems is vital. We often find aquatic research centres equipped with domestic systems, but their daily flow rate is usually well below their actual needs. An industrial reverse osmosis system can treat several cubic metres of water daily.
Beyond production capacities, the recovery ratio is another critical specification of reverse osmosis systems. As the particles removed to obtain purified water are evacuated in wastewater, the reverse osmosis system must meet the facility’s targets regarding water resources management. Finally, our job consists of recommending the system with the smallest footprint and the lowest energy consumption possible.
Here are a few examples of reverse osmosis systems commonly used in aquatic research centres:
Type : domestic wall-mounted system, integrated pump
Flow rate : 370 L/day (~ 98 gal/day)
Benefits of osmosis water in science
Reverse osmosis is the gold standard of water purification. It lets water molecules pass while stopping contaminants, all thanks to its semipermeable membrane. The integration of reverse osmosis water within a scientific protocol offers multiple benefits.
Aquatic research centres can calibrate and fine-tune the water’s mineral content thanks to pure osmosis water. Researchers can ensure water precisely aligns with the specific requirements of the research studies, whether it is freshwater or saltwater. This is key to leading accurate research.
Beyond water mineral content, the fundamental connection between water quality and the well-being of aquatic species is essential. Through its exceptional purity without any virus or bacteria, reverse osmosis water plays a direct role in aquatic animal health management.
How to integrate reverse osmosis to drive better scientific results
Whether for marine biology studies or aquaculture research programs, the synergy between water quality and research precision is undeniable. Reverse osmosis (RO) water plays a pivotal role in the outcome reliability by stabilizing water quality parameters.
The connection between water quality and research precision
Within research protocols, the role of reverse osmosis (RO) water significantly improves the reliability of any study in an aquatic environment. Thanks to precisely controlled environments, researchers find assurance that any observed variations can be attributed to their deliberate research variables, eliminating the unpredictable influence of water quality. By adding reverse osmosis water, impurities and pollutants are kept away. Besides, the replication of studies is easier, making comparing outcomes trustworthy.
Top 5 strategies for successful integration in aquatic research centres
Here are some of the most common challenges and points to take into consideration when integrating reverse osmosis for fish tanks:
- Find the right model with the right flow rate according to your entire facility’s daily osmosis water needs. Whenever possible, we put additional reverse osmosis systems to anticipate a surge in the activity of the laboratories (e.g. increasing numbers of fish tanks).
- Plan for osmosis water buffer storage in the design of your aquatic research facility in case of a temporary surge in needed volume.
- Integrate as much as possible the piping in the design of your facility to avoid pipes running on the floor or your technicians having to transport tanks of osmosis water on a trolley. We recommend multiple osmosis water outlets at strategic locations for maximum flexibility and efficiency.
- Use water level controllers that automatically check both minimum and maximum water levels thanks to sensors to compensate for water evaporation and avoid overflowing (we recommend adding an overflow storage tank and leak detection sensors for utmost security). Our fish tank monitoring software can send notifications and alarms whenever necessary.
- Watch the energy consumption of the systems you select; lower running costs of your facility must convince you why building an energy-saving system matters.
Example of a successful integration of reverse osmosis
Integrating reverse osmosis systems requires meticulous planning with experienced fish tank and life support specialists. Our team undertook the challenge of integrating reverse osmosis systems within the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) aquatic life support system in Japan. We successfully maintained the water quality through meticulous planning, engineering, and collaboration, supporting the institution’s multiple research programs.
One of their research units needed artificial seawater. We implemented an Aquamedic reverse osmosis system with a 1,200-litre food-grade buffer tank. This type of inline system is directly installed on the tap water outlet. The objective of the system was to compensate for evaporation and control the salinity level of husbandry and experimentation fish tanks. Learn more about this project.
Water quality is at the core of reliable scientific results. To achieve this, reverse osmosis systems are essential to aquatic life support systems. However, their correct implementation in aquatic research centres doesn’t leave room for approximation. Contact us to discuss how we can help integrate reverse osmosis in your facility.
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