A sustainable option for nitrogen removal is the anaerobic ammonium-oxidizing (anammox) process in which ammonium is oxidized to nitrogen gas with nitrite as electron acceptor. Application of this process, however, is limited by the availability of anammox biomass. In this study, two Brocadia-like anammox phylotypes were successfully enriched, detected and identified from an activated sludge taken from a domestic wastewater treatment plant (Minas Gerais, Brazil) employing a Sequencing Batch Reactor (SBR). The dominant phylotype was closely related to ‘Candidatus Brocadia sinica’, but one clone seemed to represent a novel species for which we propose the name ‘Candidatus Brocadia brasiliensis’. Based on Fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) analysis, this enrichment led to a relative population size of 52.7% (±15.6) anammox bacteria after 6 months of cultivation. The cultivation process can be divided into three phases: phase 1 (approximately 25 days) was characterized by heterotrophic denitrification metabolism, phase 2 was the propagation phase and phase 3 (from the 87th day onwards), in which significant anammox activity was detected. A long-term performance of the SBR showed a near perfect removal of nitrite based on the influent NO2−-N concentration of 61–95 mg L−1. The average ammonia removal efficiency was 90% with the influent NH4+-N concentration of 55–82 mg L−1. Therefore, anammox cultivation and enrichment from activated sludge was possible under a controlled environment within 3 months.
Keywords: anammox, ‘Candidatus Brocadia’, cultivation and enrichment, FISH, sequencing batch reactor