This study evaluated the partial nitrification performances of two biofilm filters over a synthetic non-ammonium-rich wastewater at a 20°C room temperature under both limited DO (∼2.0 mg/L) and unlimited DO (∼4.0 mg/L) conditions. The two filters were each of 80 cm long and used different biofilm carriers: activated carbon and ceramic granule. Results showed that partial nitrification was accomplished for both filters under the limited DO condition. However, the effluent NO2-N was higher in the ceramic granule filter than in the activated carbon filter, and was less susceptible to the influent COD/N changes. Further investigation into the water phase COD and NH4-N depth profiles and bacteria population within the two filters showed that by putting upper filter layer (upstream) to confront relatively higher influent COD/N ratios, the filtration process naturally put lower filter layers (downstream) relatively more favorable for nitrifying bacteria (ammonia oxidizing bacteria in this study) to prosper, making the filter depth left for nitrification a crucial factor for the effectiveness of nitrification with a filter. The potentially different porous flow velocities of the two filters might be the reason to cause their different partial nitrification performances, with a lower porous flow velocity (the ceramic granule filter) favoring partial nitrification more. In summation, DO, filter depth, and filtration speed should be played together to successfully operate a biofilm filter for partial nitrification.

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