The results of using the nitrogen fixing symbiotic system Azolla-Anabaena to improve the quality of treated urban wastewater, particularly on what concerns phosphorus removal efficiencies (40-65%), obtained in continuous assays performed during the past few years and presented earlier, were very promising. Nevertheless, the presence of combined nitrogen in some wastewaters can compromise the treatment efficiency. The main goal of this work was to compare plants behaviour in wastewater and in mineral media with and without added nitrogen. Azolla filiculoides's specific growth rates in wastewater and in mineral media without added nitrogen or with low nitrate concentration were very similar (0.122 d(-1)-0.126 d(-1)), but decreased in the presence of ammonium (0.100 d(-1)). The orthophosphate removal rate coefficients were similar in all the growth media (0.210 d(-1)-0.232 d(-1)), but ammonium removal rate coefficient in wastewater was higher (0.117 d(-1)) than in mineral medium using that source of nitrogen (0.077 d(-1)). The ammonium present in wastewater, despite its high concentration (34 mg N L-1), didn't seem to inhibit growth and nitrogen fixation, however, in mineral media, ammonium (40 mg N L-1) was found to induce, respectively, 18% and 46% of inhibition. (C) 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.