- Abstract Intensive recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS) produce high volumes of biosolid waste. The high salinity of brackish/marine sludge limits its use in landfill sites and waste outflows and it is a source of pollution. A reduction in sludge mass would therefore minimize the potential environmental hazard and economic burden stemming from its disposal. The aims of the current study were: 1) to characterize brackish aquaculture sludge (BAS) from three RAS in order to test for potentially suitable treatments, and 2) to test the BAS's suitability for anaerobic digestion in an upflow anaerobic sludge blanket reactor (UASB). Brackish sludge from three intensive RAS was collected periodically and analyzed for a variety of physical and chemical parameters. The mean sludge electrical conductivity and pH values ranged from 4.0 to 8.6 mS cm − 1 and 7.0 to 7.7, respectively. A low sludge redox potential averaging − 80 mV and dissolved oxygen concentrations of less than 1 mg l − 1 indicated the existence of anaerobic conditions. Volatile solids comprised 56 to 76% of the dry weight and the sludge volume index ranged from 44 to 69 ml g − 1 . High concentrations of total nitrogen and total carbon were also observed, resulting in a C:N ratio ranging between 8.1 and 10.3. Toxic and/or inhibitory compounds for methanogenesis such as nitrites, nitrates and sulfides were almost absent. Sludge BOD 5 ranged from 10 to 30% dry weight. These data suggest that BAS may be used in anaerobic digestion and methanogenesis without pretreatment. This concept was tested by digesting aquaculture sludge in UASB reactors. Despite the high sulfate and phosphate concentrations in the BAS, these were found not to be inhibitory to methanogenesis. Up to 70% sludge-mass reduction and an average of 40% methane production were demonstrated.