Biological Reactor in Wastewater Treatment

Whitepaper for BioTank biological reactor in wastewater treatment.

BioTank, Aqua Tech’s biological reactor, is the best value in wastewater treatment for residential and commercial development as well as for small to midsized communities. The following product details demonstrate BioTank’s durability, versatility, and efficiency.

Moving bed biological reactor with transparent background
A BioTank hot off the manufacturer’s floor

Aqua Tech’s BioTank bioreactors range in capacity from 160 GPD to 80,000 GPD. They can be installed modularly to build systems with a capacity over 1 million GPD.

Our stainless-steel package systems operate with minimal maintenance for decades. They provide a timely and cost-effective alternative to site-built treatment facilities.


The BioTank is a factory-made, multi-chamber aeration tank made of stainless steel AISI-304. It is equipped with fixed and floating media and an aeration system comprised of an air compressor, snorkel, regulator valves, hoses, and oxygen diffusers.

The various chambers facilitate the growth of stage-specific microbes ensuring progressively higher levels of treatment through each chamber.

AISI-304 stainless steel construction allows for above ground and inground installation.

State of the art media provides maximum biofilm surface area which results in smaller bioreactors that treat up to municipal standards.

The aeration system ensures optimal oxygen conditions for advanced biological wastewater treatment.

Biological Reactor Applications in Wastewater Treatment

As a biological reactor, BioTank isn’t suitable for treating water from sources with high concentrations of chemical contaminants such as storm water, drinking water treatment centers, boiler houses or factories.

The BioTank treated effluent quality allows its safe discharge into the environment or reuse for irrigation or other technical needs.

The BioTank can be designed to meet any effluent standards including advanced treatment required for sensitive areas.

A pristine waterfall at an RV and cabin resort with over 200 units serviced by a biological wastewater reactor
A pristine waterfall at an RV and cabin resort with over 200 units serviced by one little BioTank.

General Provisions

Installation of an Aqua Tech system with BioTank biological reactor will require:

  • Site prep including a poured concrete pad for the BioTank, drainage areas and access roads
  • Dedicated electrical power supply (usually 3-phase)
  • Specialized onsite treatment systems for all local sources of wastewaters which do not correspond to the BioTank application terms

Wastewater should be primarily treated prior to be pumped to the BioTank. The primary treatment should include mechanical treatment (coarse solids and grit removal), FOG (fats, oils and greases) removal, wastewater settling and flowrate equalization.*

Process Specifications

FOG (fats, oils, and grease) Removal

FOG level should be constantly monitored, preferably by means of sensors.*

Amount of FOG enter the BioTank should not exceed 50 mg/l.

If FOG concentration is permanently higher than 50 mg/l in any of local discharges, then it is necessary to apply specially selected biopreparation for FOG decomposition, for example, BioEaseTM4210.

If FOG concentration exceeds 100 mg/l, then it is necessary to build a local grease trap and use the biopreparation for FOG degradation.

Overhead diagram of a wastewater treatment system with methanol doser
Overhead diagram of a wastewater treatment system for mixed-use featuring two BioTanks operating in tandem.

Coarse Solids Removal

The feed pumps should be protected from coarse solids present in wastewater. Depending on a primary treatment technology Aqua Tech Systems offers a solution for the removal of coarse solids.

Grit Removal

Wastewater usually contains certain amount of grit and other mineral substances, which should be removed before wastewater feeding to the BioTank.

Primary Settling

Suspended solids (SS) concentration limit for biological treatment based on the biofilm process is 105 mg/l. As raw wastewater usually has higher SS content (> 105 mg/l), primary settling should be introduced.

Primary Sludge Accumulation and Digestion

Primary sludge volume and odor are significantly reduced through the addition of a biopreparation such as Bacti-Bio 9500.

The sludge level should be constantly monitored by means of an automatic sludge level sensor or manual Sludge Judge device. Sludge removal and disposal should be handled by a certified contractor as needed (usually every 3-5 years).

Flowrate Equalization and Feeding

Aqua Tech installs flowrate equalization systems to minimize BioTank size and maximize performance.

Wastewater equalization enhances biological treatment by minimizing shock loads, diluting inhibiting substances, and stabilizing pH.

The assumed wastewater feeding duration to the BioTank is at least 18 hours/day.

The assumed feeding volume is:

v = Qday / 18, m3/hour, where Qday is wastewater amount per day

Aqua Tech Systems provides necessary settling-digestion and wastewater flowrate equalization tanks of the required volumes which are plastic or ferro-concrete.

Installation of precast concrete tank for wastewater settling and equalization
A combination settling and equalization tank being installed in Alabama

Phosphorus Removal

If required, phosphorus is removed during primary settling through the addition of coagulant.

Biofilm cannot remove more than 1-1.5 mg/l of phosphorus. The formed biocenosis of the biofilm, being in a state of dynamic equilibrium, does not produce biomass and, accordingly, does not consume phosphorus.

Wastewater processing with coagulant ensures efficient organics reduction and reduces the phosphorus below 1.0 mg/l.

Where required, Aqua Tech provides a coagulant dosing apparatus at the primary treatment step.

Biological Treatment

Process Characteristics

BioTank’s biological wastewater treatment process is based on the biofilm technology. Biofilm is a dense community of attached-growth microorganisms living on specially designed plastic media. The surface of the biofilm treats wastewater by absorbing and oxidizing pollutants. Multiple biozones within the layers of the biofilm create a self-cleaning, self-sustaining ecosystem. The biofilm develops the microorganism diversity necessary for maximum treatment in each application. Due to efficient ecosystem development in the BioTank there is no excess biomass growth.


Incoming organics are sequentially oxidized by isolated biocenoses of microorganisms living on media retained within the borders of each aeration chamber. The media is submerged in water.

Oxygen supply and mixing are provided by aeration.

Due to change of oxidation rate at each process stage – from high on the first stage to low on the last stage – the loads on biocenoses and water saprobity vary from high to low accordingly.

In response to changing environmental conditions and amount of dissolved oxygen, the treatment process occurs as follows:

  • Stage One – sorption and oxidation of dissolved organic matter, adsorption of suspended solids and colloids and hydrolysis (fermentation) of suspended solids and colloids
  • Stage Two – sorption and oxidation of dissolved organics,
  • Stage Three – biofiltration (biosorption)
process flow wastewater package plant diagram for commercial sewage treatment system
Process flow diagram for a commercial application with heavily contaminated influent.

Oxygen Conditions

Oxygen supply is provided by aeration. The oxygen mode is a function of organic load, biofilm density and thickness, and wastewater temperature.

The required amount of dissolved oxygen for each process stage should be optimized and adjusted according to the Aqua Tech Systems recommendations at start-up and follow-up analysis.


The Biotank’s biofilm process configuration creates conditions for simultaneous nitrification and denitrification.

The corresponding environment allows formation of layered biocenosis. The layers are determined by the amount oxygen diffusion into the biofilm.

The biofilm surface is the aerobic layer which creates conditions for heterotrophic microorganisms to partially oxidize and reduce ammonium along with oxidation of organic matter.

The internal mass of the biofilm is the anaerobic layer that creates conditions for development, growth and accumulation of specific autotrophic microorganisms (ANAMMOX) which oxidize and reduce the main part of incoming ammonium.

Biofiltration (Biosorption)

Biofiltration or biosorption occurs in the BioTank on a static media.

In low load conditions bacteria release a significant amount of exopolymers capable to capture and retain solids during contact. In turn, solid substances captured by the biofilm (bacteria, organic matter) serve as a food for predators and detritophages that results in reduction of suspended solids amount.

It should be noted here that bacteria and predators create symbiotic relationship after a number of successions, under which predators regulate their quantitative and qualitative composition in a strict accordance with incoming food amount.

Also the significant input in clarification comes from attached stalked ciliates (Peritrichia). The peritrichs provide themselves with food by filtering large amounts of water. One individual is able to consume up to 30,000 bacteria per hour. This way peritrichia provide a high degree of biological disinfection, destroying pathogenic microorganisms.

Low organic load and high amount of dissolved oxygen in the biofilter provide partial ammonium removal.

Ammonium bio-oxidation is carried out in two stages, by two types of chemoautotrophic bacteria:

2NH4+ + 3O2Nitrosomonas = 2NO2- + 2H2O+4H+

2NO2- + O2Nitrobacter = 2NO3

man at advanced wastewater treatment system testing effluent levels


Formation of the biofilm occurs spontaneously based on the set and maintained level of dissolved oxygen in each chamber. The biofilm reaches dynamic equilibrium as it develops through the initial operating period. Once this happens treatment process performance meets the project requirements.

Under conditions of actual loadings correspondent to the design specifications biocenoses fully mature:

  • For “B” bio-oxidation process – within four weeks
  • For “N” bio-oxidation and nitrification process – within one year.

The actual treatment efficiency should be at least 95.99% of the calculated one.

If necessary, the achievement of treatment quality for the process “N” can be accelerated by the use of methanol. Methanol provides an additional food source for heterotrophs which thereby multiplying their population. Due to lack of oxygen, heterotrophic microorganisms use oxygen from nitrates, thus reducing oxidized nitrogen. In this case it is possible to reach at least 90% of all required parameters within 60 days from start-up.

*Sold and supported by Aqua Tech Systems.

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