To main content

Sodium silicate as alternative to liming-reduced aluminium toxicity for Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar L.) in unstable mixing zones

Academic article
Year of publication
Science of the Total Environment
External websites
Involved from NIVA
Åse Åtland
Hans-Christian Teien, Frode Kroglund, Åse Åtland, Bjørn Olav Rosseland, Brit Salbu


When acid aluminium (Al) rich water is limed, unstable mixing zones are formed until equilibrium is reached. in such mixing zones transient high molecular mass positively charged M-species (HMM Al-i) being extremely gill reactive are produced, causing toxic effects in fish. The transient HAW Al-i-species are formed due to hydrolysis and polymerization of low molecular positively charged Al-species (LMM Ali), e.g. initiated by liming and the subsequent increase in pH. To counteract the toxicity of transient Al polymers in such mixing zones, sodium silicate, forming non-toxic hydroxyaluminosilicate (HAS) complexes, can be used as alternative to liming. In the present work the effect of sodium silicate on polymerization of LMM Ali in unstable mixing zones and subsequent gill reactivity and mortality of fish was compared to results obtained from liming. Diluted sodium silicate (< 1.5 g l(-1)) and lime slurry (Ca(OH)(2)), respectively, were continually added to acidified Al-rich water in six different channel-tank systems, to obtain mixing zones with pH 5.9, 6.0 and 6.4, respectively. Utilising in situ size and charge fractionation techniques and following the exposure of Atlantic presmolt (Salmo salar L.) kept in cages at defined stations along the channel-tank systems, changes of Al-species in the mixing zones, the gill reactivity of Al-species and thus Al toxicity could be followed downstream the confluences (time of reaction after mixing: 1-100 min). By increasing the pH of the acid water to 6.0 or 6.4 by sodium silicate, the detoxification of Al was faster than using lime. Using sodium silicate, the transformation of LMM Al-i, the formation of HMM Ali, the Al deposition in fish gills and fish mortality were lower than using lime. The formation of neutral LMM Al-species (M.) was, however, higher and the formation of colloidal Al-species (Al-c) lower in the presence of silicate compared to lime. Furthermore, the Al deposition in fish gills and fish mortality decreased by increasing concentration of sodium silicate dosed. Thus, sodium silicate is a good alternative to liming, and under certain circumstances when aging of water may represent a problem (e.g. aquaculture) sodium silicate should be the preferred agent. (C) 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.