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Rhodovulum sulfidophilum was grown in sardine processing wastewater to assess growth characteristics for the production of bacterial biomass with simultaneous reduction of chemical oxygen demand.Growth characteristics were compared in diluted and undiluted, settled and non-settled wastewater growing in anaerobic light and aerobic dark conditions; and also at different agitation speeds. The highest biomass (8·75 g l−1) and a reduction in chemical oxygen demand of 71% were obtained in unsettled, undiluted wastewater after 120 h culture with 15% inoculum. In settled wastewater, highest biomass (7·64 g l−1) and a COD reduction of 77% was also obtained after 120 h. Total biomass was higher (4·34 g l−1) after 120 h culture in anaerobic light compared to (3·23 g l−1) in aerobic dark growth.Better performance, mean of total biomass (6·97 g l−1 after 96 h), total carotenoids (4·24 mg g−1 dry cell from 24 h) and soluble protein (431 μg ml−1 after 96 h) were obtained from aerobic dark culture at 300 rev min−1. The COD reduction, however, was lower (69%) after 96 h culture. Thus, the benefits in the production of bacterial biomass in non-sterilized sardine processing wastewater with the reduction of chemical oxygen demand could be achieved.