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Two common fallacies are:*

1. Large live wells are required to sustain a large quantity of fish.*

2. Large live well pumps are needed to move large quantities of water through the live well to keep live bait and fish alive
1. The gentleness and direction of water flow.

2. The size and amount of the air bubbles.

3. The temperature of the water*


FISH THAT SWIM IN SCHOOLS: Delicate bait such as shad, green-backs and croakers will not survive a day of fishing unless the water flow in the well is soft and gentle. Turbulent water will damage the bait and force them to work against the current. Ideal water flow within the well should be approximately 1 to 2 MPH, and in a circular motion. This will allow fish to school and provide a smooth flow of water over and through their gills. If the water flow is excessive, bait tire quickly and will not be lively. Keep water flow as low as possible, with fish swimming in a stationary position within the tank. Do this with a few pieces of bait to see how they behave.

SHRIMP AND FISH THAT DO NOT SCHOOL: Species that do not school, do not need a circular or oval container. Keep water flow to a minimum for fish such as bass, redfish.

For shrimp, provide material in the well so they can cling and not be swirling about the well and become damaged. Leave a dip net in the well, or tie a stone in a piece of cloth such as burlap, or a piece of fiberglass screening.
Take a look at the air bubbles produced by an aquarium aerator. Watch how quickly the bubbles rise to the surface. They provide little aeration, but are aesthetically pleasing to watch. Bubbles must remain contacting the water, if they are to do the job properly. A good rule of thumb is: The smaller the bubble, the longer it will remain suspended in water to dissolve.
The warmer the water, the less oxygen it will hold. Fish will deplete the oxygen quicker as the water warms, and poor aerators will maintain less fish. Colder water will hold more oxygen. Water frozen in a plastic bottle will lower temperatures and keep the chlorine out of the tank.*
Use an aquarium thermometer to compare temperatures. Keep temperatures within eight degrees Farenheit between water in the well, and water outside the boat.*

CAUTION: Placing fish in different temperatures quickly, will shock and kill them. It is best to place fish in the same water and temperatures where they were caught.

Due to the higher density of salt water, air bubbles are usually smaller in salt water than in fresh water.*
The small bubbles, can theoretically aerate 6.6 times as much water with the same amount of air.*
Oval or round tanks provide the best circulation. However, rectangular or square wells are satisfactory if there is a directional discharge into the well. The directional discharge will induce the more desirable circular motion.
Species that do not school, do not need a circular or oval container. Keep water flow to a minimum for fish such as bass, redfish, crappie, bream and walleye. They do not need a water flow for survival.
For shrimp, provide material in the well so they can cling and not be swirling about the well and become damaged. Leave a dip net in the well or tie a stone in a piece of cloth such as burlap.

Oxygen will maintain higher quantities of fish, but extra care must be taken when using pure oxygen. To understand the fundamentals or air versus oxygen, each should be individually discussed.

An air bubble as it passes through water has the ability to put oxygen into the water and also absorb CO2 as it passes slowly to the surface. The bubble then pops at the surface and the CO2 is dissipated into the atmosphere. The smaller the bubble, the longer it remains in the water to exchange oxygen and CO2.


An oxygen bubble will insert a higher percentage of oxygen into water than a normal air bubble. This allows for higher quantities of fish in a given size of container, or it will make bait fish lively. However, an oxygen bubble does not have the ability to absorb CO2. As the fish eliminates CO2 in its body, there will be a build-up of CO2 in the livewell water. When the percentage of CO2 equals that of the fish, the fish will be unable to expel the CO2 and absorb the enriched oxygenated water. If a closed livewell does not have the ability to aerate and remove the CO2, the fish will suffocate. In a rolling boat, water at the surface of your livewell that is in contact with air, will produce aeration and may be sufficient to remove CO2 without introducing other forms of aeration. This is called de-gassing.



Theory suggests that large percentages of oxygen in water will turn your bait into star performers and attract more fish. Predators are attracted to faster moving bait. Many members of the Southern Kingfish Association have been using pure oxygen systems for years.

To increase the oxygen percentages higher than what would be normally found in the water entering your livewell, the intake pumps to the well should be turned off. Otherwise, oxygen enriched water produced by your oxygen system will be dumped overboard and defeat the purpose of producing livelier bait.*


Aeration systems should be turned off when enriching water with higher than ambient levels of oxygen. When aerators are on, they will try to keep oxygen levels at normal conditions. You won't produce livelier bait, but they will remain healthy, Remember that oxygen cannot absorb and dissipate CO2, so high levels of CO2 in the water will eventually kill your bait. Watch your bait occasionally to see if they start to stress. If stress occurs, immediately start your aeration system or change the water in the livewell.

Fishing oxygen infusion systems are designed for use in a marine environment

Marine grade fishing regulators are exposed to the marine elements and are made of brass with nickel plating. Anodized aluminum regulators with internal brass, designed with non-rusting components and designed to prevent intrusion of spray and humidity can be used and are a good alternative choice for many anglers. They can be either a needle valve or rotating barrel with preset openings. The rotating barrel is the preferred choice. Only a small amount of oxygen is needed to maintain fish so the first settings are very small.

Never lubricate or spray your regulator. This will contaminate the regulator and may render it inoperative.

The diffuser is probably the most important item of your equipment. Inexpensive air stones waste precious oxygen. Bubbles are large and do not maintain contact with the water long enough, and are of little use to good oxygenation. Diffusers are made of ceramic with tightly formed pores. They require 25 to 35 lbs of pressure to force the oxygen through ceramic pores, resulting in micro-fine bubbles. The bubbles are so small that they stay suspended in the water and the water absorbs the oxygen. Ceramic diffusers will give many years of service. If the pores clog at the surface due to impurities in the water, a light sanding on the ceramic surface will generally solve the problem.
Do not secure your cylinder in a closed compartment
Pure oxygen is not an explosive. It is an oxidizer and allows things to burn more quickly. Never smoke or have an open flame in the proximity of pure oxygen.
Spray bar aerators add oxygen to the water by jetting small streams of water into the surface. Some air is absorbed into the spray as it passes from the spray bar to the water surface, and when the spray strikes the water surface, air bubbles are injected into the water. For the most part, these bubbles are rather large.*

Jets of water from spray bars are generally harsh to delicate bait. Their protective coating and scales are easily removed, and their survival is drastically reduced.*

Spray bars are an inefficient aeration system, and should be used only on the hardiest bait.*
Air stone aerators do provide gentle aeration, but they sustain less bait per unit of air than aerators that produce smaller bubbles.*
Most bubble aerators use C or D cell batteries. Operational costs can be expensive.*
If a bubble aerator is the only option available, utilize a low pressure ceramic diffuser. KeepAlive® manufactures a low pressure ceramic diffuser with micro bubbles that dramatically improves the efficiency of a bubble aerator. They are expensive, but if a bubble aerator is your only option in maintaining fish, then purchase a high quality bubble aerator and couple it with the KeepAlive® low pressure ceramic diffuser


This is the much copied, old aeration technology. They can be purchased as a floating aerator or a bottom aerator with suction cups.*

The fast-moving water at the output of the pump creates a vacuum, which suck air into the pump output. This system typically provides better aeration than spray bar aerators, but the efficiency is still low.

Some models damage bait due to the high speed of water from the pump output.*

Thru-hull pumps provide a constant flow of new water into the livewell and eliminate the problems of heat and ammonia build-up. As long as clean water is available, more bait can be placed in a given amount of water than with any of the previously discussed systems. However, when entering water that is less than ideal for delicate bait, care must be taken to secure the intake water. By utilizing a combination of the thru-hull pump with other aeration methods, bait can remain healthy and lively for longer periods of time.*

Don't let your fishing trip end before its time, just because you bait died!

15 Posts
More information about bait keeping
GUIDE TO FISHING AERATION AND OXYGEN SYSTEMS Understanding the Concept Between Aeration and Oxygenation Systems
You can prevent livewell suffocation and insure minimal safe livewell oxygenation every summer only if the dose and volume of pure oxygen is high enough to insure continuous 100% DO Saturation or greater… more fish and more live bait require more oxygen.
Aeration usually works fine in the fall, winter and spring provided you DO NOT overcrowd your livewell. AIR IS LIKE THIS – A BASKET WITH 80 ORANGES (80% NITROGEN) AND 20 APPLES (20% OXYGEN) IS NOT A BASKET FULL OF APPLES (OXYGEN) – AIR IS NOT OXYGEN and plenty air and plenty water flow never insures plenty dissolved oxygen in the summer in overcrowded livewells and bait tanks.
Fisherman’s myths confusing livewell aeration and oxygenation
Myth #1: The most common myth is: air is oxygen and oxygen is air. Plenty of air ensures plenty of oxygen. Plenty of air bubbles guarantees plenty of oxygen.
FACT: Air and oxygen are two very different gases. Air is a mixture of different gases, consisting mostly of Nitrogen gas (80%) and a little dab of oxygen gas (20%).
Myth #2: More air bubbles in bait tanks or livewells ensures plenty of oxygen for all the bait and fish.
FACT: Henrys Gas Law debunks this myth – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry's_law
FACT: “At a constant temperature, the amount of a given gas that dissolves in a given type and volume of liquid [water] is directly proportional to the partial pressure of that gas in equilibrium with that liquid.”
Myth #3: Larger water pumps are good, they pump more water and provide plenty of oxygen; more water pumped through a livewell ensures more oxygen for the bait.
FACT: Water pumps only pump water, they do not pump oxygen. This is similar to myth #2.
Myth #4: High concentrations of dissolved oxygen (15 mg/L – DO Supersaturation ) is toxic and will kill (poison) live bait and tournament fish in livewells during live transports.
FACT: This is not true for live transports, but micro-fine oxygen bubbles suspended in the livewell water column that makes livewell water look milky is toxic, can and does burn gill tissue and corneas everywhere the micro-fine oxygen bubble sticks on the fish.
Myth #5: The shape of the livewell is more important than sustaining minimal safe water quality inside the livewell. Square corners livewells kill bait because the bait trap themselves in 90 degree corners, bang their heads into the corner walls and commit suicide.
FACT: Fish and bait do not commit suicide, but they do suffocate and die in hypoxic livewell water. Fish live fine in square corner livewells if the fisherman will provide minimal safe water quality/ minimal safe DO Saturation in his livewell. Round or oval livewells do reduce blunt trauma during active transport in choppy water. When washed around in a livewell, a glancing blow against the livewell wall causes less injury than hitting a wall at 90 degrees.
You may have heard, read or been told by a misinformed, misguided bait dealer, bait tank/aerator salesmen that “To much oxygen will kill your bait.”
The fact is that livewell water containing abnormally high DO Super-saturation is the magic ingredient that is absolutely necessary to “SUPERCHARGE LIVE BAIT” contrary to misleading advertisement, old fishermen’s beliefs.
George Poveromo’s World of Saltwater Fishing “SUPERCHARGE YOUR LIVE BAITS” by George Poveromo http://www.georgepoveromo.com/content.php?pid=64
Let’s take a closer look now at the FACTS, the chemistry, physics and fish physiology of dissolved oxygen (DO), dissolved air (DA) and the toxic effects of air and oxygen gas bubbles in your livewells and bait tanks.
FACT 1: CHEMISTRY/PHYSICS VIEW: Smaller bubbles provide more surface area than larger bubbles increasing the gas diffusion speed of air or oxygen into water.
FACT 2: FISH PHYSIOLOGY VIEW: Millions of micro-fine oxygen bubbles (100% oxygen) suspended in the livewell water column, so concentrated the livewell water looks milky, sticks to the fish and live bait oxidizing and chemically burning gill filaments, epithelial tissue, corneas, mucus membranes, scales, mucus membrane and skin.
The micro-fine oxygen bubble is the killer, not the high dissolved oxygen concentration (PPM DO Concentration). Pure oxygen gas (oxygen bubbles) is a powerful oxidizer on delicate living tissue (fish mucus membrane).
FACT: FISH PHYSIOLOGY VIEW: Millions of micro-fine air bubbles (80% nitrogen) suspended in the livewell water column, so concentrated the livewell water looks milky causes nitrogen supersaturation, nitrogen poisoning, pop-eye, bends, tissue emphysema and gas embolism. Entraining air into the inlet side of a livewell pump intentionally with an air entrainment venture device or an accidental air leak on the inlet side of the water pump sucking in air cause this problem.
Millions of micro-fine air bubbles suspended in the livewell water column cause dissolved nitrogen supersaturation – DN2 Supersaturation is the killer.
Fishermen often overcrowd aerated livewells and bait tanks in the summer resulting in deadly poor water quality, deadly low dissolved oxygen. Although the aerator is working perfectly, insufficient dissolved oxygen saturation is the primary live bait and tournament fish killer every summer. Sustained chronic hypoxia causes slow suffocation in livewells and bait tanks ensuring high mortality, morbidity and disease for captive fish and bait fish being transported without enough oxygen.
Without supplemental oxygen, overcrowded, aerated, summer livewells and bait tanks are death-wells.
Live bait fishermen know that live baitfish and tournament game fish become lethargic quickly and die without enough dissolved oxygen in livewells and bait tanks, especially in the summer. Sloppy, red-nose live bait is worthless to the serious live bait fisherman that needs high quality live bait.
Ensuring minimal safe dissolved oxygen continuously for all the bait and fish in your livewell is the most important livewell water quality parameter. How much dissolved oxygen is really necessary? Continuous 100% DO saturation whether you stock 1 lb. live bait per gallon water or 3 lbs. live bait per gallon of water in your bait tank or livewell.
FACT: Snorkels increase mechanical dead space, rebreathing mechanical dead space gas increasing CO2 concentrations and carbonic acid in the body.
FACT: You cannot effectively inhale or breathe through a snorkel when you are deeper than 3 feet below the water surface or 1.47 psi compressing your chest.
WHY NOT? Because, you cannot expand your chest or lungs because the water pressure is too great, you will tire quickly, hypoventilation, suffocate and dieTOXIC METABOLIC WASTE
Insuring minimal safe oxygenation is most important, the second most important water issue is controlling metabolic toxins. The primary and only reason for changing livewell water is to ventilate the metabolic waste and reduce the toxicity to a safe concentration. Exchanging the total livewell water volume several times daily is sufficient to control metabolic toxins in livewells. High volume livewell pumps that change total livewell water volume every 5-10-30 minutes is unnecessary to control metabolic toxins.
When you transport live fish, there is plenty of water sloshing in your livewell during transport to move, stir and mix the water preventing any stagnation points at any location inside your livewell. Turbulent water inside your livewell can physically injure live bait, causing abrasions, fractures and red-nose. All physical trauma increases livewell mortality and morbidity (negatively affects live bait quality).
FACT: Turbulent fast moving livewell water causes fish to constantly swim harder in order to maintain equilibrium and prevent being washed into the livewell walls.
FACT: Turbulent fast moving livewell water dramatically increases metabolism, increases cellular oxygen demand, increases oxygen uptake per pound of fish, and increases cellular oxygen debt quickly when livewell dissolved oxygen levels falls below 100% DO Saturation in transport.
FACT: Capture, captivity, transport, netting, handling, overcrowding and poor livewell water quality cause live bait stress. The deadliest stress is oxygen deprivation in overcrowded aerated summer livewells.
FACT: The first response fish exhibit under stress of any kind is excessive mucus production. The greater the stress the more mucus (fish slime) they excrete. Mucus is protein… that’s seen as slime and nasty brown bubbles in the livewell water!
FACT: Reducing the stressors will reduce slime and foam in livewell water. Foam is a warning that livewell water quality is poor and needs fixing. Fishermen like to hide ugly foam with detergents and anti-foaming livewell chemicals while avoiding the cause of the foam and slime… the poor livewell water quality.
FACTS ABOUT AIR BUBBLE CHEMISTRY (oxygen micro-bubbles are toxic) – Tiny micro-bubbles stick to gill tissue. Pure oxygen burns gill tissue everywhere the gas bubble sticks to the bait and fish. Larger bubbles will not stick to gill tissue.
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