This work applied PCR amplification method and Fluorescence in situ hybridisation (FISH) with primers and probes specific for the anammox organisms and aerobic ammonia-oxidising β-Proteobacteria in order to detect these groups in different samples from a wastewater treatment system comprised by UASB reactor and three polishing (maturation) ponds in series. Seven primer pairs were used in order to detect Anammox bacteria. Positive results were obtained with three of them, suggesting that Anammox could be present in polishing pond sediments. However, Anammox bacteria were not detected by FISH, indicating that they were not present in sediment samples, or they could be present but below FISH detection limit. Aerobic ammonia- and nitrite-oxidising bacteria were verified in water column samples through Most Probable Number (MPN) analysis, but they were not detected in sediment samples by FISH. Ammonia removal efficiencies occurred systematically along the ponds (24, 32, and 34% for polishing pond 1, 2, and 3, respectively) but the major reaction responsible for this removal is still unclear. Some nitrification might have occurred in water samples because some nitrifying bacteria were present. Also Anammox reaction might have occurred because Anammox genes were detected in the sediments, but probably this reaction was too low to be noticed. It is important also to consider that some of the ammonia removal observed might be related to NH3 stripping, associated with the pH increase resulting from the intensive photosynthetic activity in the ponds (mechanism under investigation). Therefore, it can be concluded that more than one mechanism (or reaction) might be involved in the ammonia removal in the polishing ponds investigated in this study.

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