WEBPAGE UPDATED Wednesday May 1, 2019
LIVEWELL WATER QUALITY MANAGEMENT
Keep a live bait and tournament fish alive and healthy, manage your livewell water quality. Managing water quality is more important than the shape, color or brand of your livewell or bait tank.
During hot summer months, when you know how to manage your livewell water quality and have the right livewell equipment, keeping live bait and tournament gamefish alive and healthy is easy. Two water quality parameters are necessary.
1. ENSURE MINIMAL SAFE OXYGENATION – Livewell / bait tank water must have a continuous supply of oxygen (not air) of sufficient volume and concentration to maintain 100% DO Saturation continuously for all the bait and fish being transported. More fish or live bait requires more oxygen. Do not confuse oxygen with ambient air or aeration.
2. LIVEWELL VENTILATION – Livewell water must be ventilated (exchanged) occasionally to control organic metabolic fish waste/poisons. Flush livewell water a couple times daily to eliminate concentrated toxic metabolic waste produced by the fish… dissolved CO2, carbonic acid in the water, ammonia, acid pH, nitrites, nitrates and the big chunks – feces, vomit, blood, scales and *protein. Protein (fish slime) is responsible livewell foam. Take the dead bait and dead fish out of your livewell as soon as possible to eliminate more toxins.
Failure to provide either minimal safe oxygenation or changing toxic livewell water to remove metabolic toxins causes additional abnormal fish stress resulting in excessive mucus production (auto-stress response) Stress causes excessive scale loss, scale sloughing, red-nose, sloppy, lethargic, dying and dead bait.
Poor livewell water quality transforms expensive live bait to chum, crab bait, dead tournament fish, the “dead fish punishment,” lost money and prizes.
MANAGING YOUR LIVEWELL – BAIT TANK WATER QUALITY
1. With your left hand and The Oxygen Edge™ you control and maintain continuous minimal safe oxygenation; you adjust the dose of oxygen required to insure 100% dissolved oxygen saturation in your livewell water. You safely oxygenate and transport 1 baitfish or 1,000 live baits in overcrowded summer livewells. Or safely transport a 40 lb. tournament limit of marine or freshwater tournament fish all day/all night every summer.
2. With your right hand and water pump you ventilate the livewell water and control all toxic fish waste. Change the livewell/bait tank water a couple times daily.
That’s all there is to being successful transporting live bait and tournament fish every summer.
ASSESS YOUR BAIT AND LIVEWELL WATER QUALITY IN THE FIELD
Look at your livewell water turbidity, water clarity, foam on the surface. When bait fish and shrimp excrete toxic metabolic by-products and waste into the livewell water, the first poor water quality symptom you will see is foam or clouding of the water, then abnormal fish behavior. Toxic bait tank water will cloud before it becomes foamy and smelly. Partial water exchanges are mandatory when you see this symptom.
How should live bait behave in your livewell? Live bait fish, shrimp and tournament fish should behave like gold fish or guppies in your home aquarium when water quality is safe and under control. When bait fish are not schooling or exhibit other erratic symptoms, stacking in livewell corners, piping, red-nose, loss of slime coat, you probably have a serious livewell water quality problem.
Live bait and fish behavior tell you when you have a water quality problem. When they are piping at the surface, do not appear calm, breathing slow, not schooling low in the water column or comfortable in your livewell; expect serious water quality problems and act.
Bait fish school at the bottom of your livewell when water quality is safe. When your livewell water quality is within the safe range bait fish do not develop “red nose” or stack up in corners gulping for air.
Most serious livewell bait tank water quality problems occur in the summer when the water is hot and the oxygen levels are low and livewells are overstocked with live bait or tournament fish.
FISH STRESS INDICATOR-FOAM IN THE LIVEWELL
Foam in livewell water is a symptom of serious fish stress and poor livewell water quality. In the summer, low oxygen saturation, toxic livewell water is a common water quality problem in aerated livewells and bait tanks.
With mechanical aeration, surface foam in bait tanks and livewell water reduces the ability of gases to diffuse into the water resulting in decreased dissolved oxygen concentrations in aerated bait tank water.
Stress causes fish to excrete excessive slime, mucus and protein which is the protective slime layer. Fish mucus or fish slime is protein. Livewell foam is produced when any gas (air or oxygen) is bubbled in the livewell water containing protein, especially when diffuser bubblers, spray bar aeration systems, aggitators and bait pumps are used.
Antifoaming supplements (detergents) hide the foam in poor bait tank water quality. We do not recommend using antifoaming livewell supplements to hide toxic water quality. Foam in the livewell is a symptom of excessive slime production caused by toxic water quality. Fish produce slime (mucus/protein) normally, slime protects fish against infection. Abnormal stress causes excessive slime production, a fish’s normal reaction to stress.
Fishermen hate looking at that nasty black foam on the surface of livewell water and often apply various commercial anti-foaming agents to hide the ugly foam. These detergent antifoaming livewell agents hide the symptom of high stress caused by bad livewell water quality. The antifoaming detergent agents DO NOT CORRECT the bad water quality problems causing the abnormal stress.
Popular commercial anti foaming agents (detergents): Sure Life – Foam-Off Surface Foam Remover,” T-H Marine – “G-Juice,” and others.
Fishermen have choices about foam in the livewell
Hide the symptom (foam) using antifoaming livewell detergents that is caused by excessive fish stress that activates an emergency response producing excessive slime/foam in the livewell water OR fix the livewell water problem that is causing the excessive fish stress that results in abnormal slime (mucus/protein) production and the foam goes away.
The quickest, deadliest # 1 stressor in summer livewells is low DO Saturation or no oxygen – frank livewell suffocation.
Dissolved oxygen is the single most important water quality factor for keeping live bait and tournament caught bass alive and healthy during all day live transports.
This TP&WD publication also applies equally to all live transports of Marine and freshwater baitfish and bait shrimp
Oxygenation of Livewells to Improve Survival of Tournament-Caught Bass
By Randy Myers and Jason Driscoll
Inland Fisheries Division
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
“Dissolved oxygen is the single most important factor for keeping bass alive, and an understanding of factors that affect oxygen levels will better enable anglers to keep their fish alive.”
“Fully functioning livewell systems and proper application of proven livewell management and fish care procedures are absolutely necessary and may keep a heavy fish limit healthy, but oxygen injection offers a surer alternative.”
“Oxygen injection has long been used by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) hatcheries to maintain the health of fish being stocked into reservoirs. Fisheries staff regularly transport or hold fish in ratios equal to or greater than one pound of fish to a gallon of water. However, boat manufactures do not offer oxygen injection system options…”
© Copyright Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. No part of this work may be copied, reproduced, or translated in any form or medium without the prior written consent of Texas Parks Wildlife Department except where specifically noted.