Guide to Live Bait Oxygen Systems or Aeration Systems

WEBPAGE UPDATED                               Saturday  June 5, 2021 
The Fisherman’s Guide to Fishing Aeration and Compressed Oxygen-Injection Systems…
Understanding the real difference between mechanical aeration and the Oxygen Edge™, the 1st commercial livewell Oxygen Injection-system designed and built for sport fishermen and commercial fishermen use in marine fishing environments… salt water.
*Know and understand 1st and foremost that dissolved oxygen, DO requirements for high stress live fish/bait transport is 100% DO Saturation or DO Super-saturation  continuously for the duration of the transport.
100% DO Saturation or DO Super-saturation is the DO requirement for live fish transports world-wide. It makes no difference whether the total biomass of live bait or fish  in the livewell or bait tank is 1 lb. of live bait or tournament game fish or 150-200-300 lbs. live fish.
*Know and understand that the DO requirements for high stress live fish transport (100% DO Saturation) is extremely different from the low/no stress steady state EPA environmental dissolved oxygen standards and requirements for lakes, rivers and streams in America (5 PPM DO Concentration).

Every summer live bait and tournament game fish suffocate and die in overcrowded boat livewells, $300 bait round bait tanks equipped with mechanical aerators, water pumps and inefficient fishing oxygen systems that deliver 100% pure oxygen. Electrolysis Oxygenators that generate 100% oxygen often fail to insure even minimal safe livewell oxygenation for many reasons (100% O2 continuously). The primary reason is the oxygen equipment cannot produce nor deliver the volume of pure oxygen required to safely sustain the oxygen demand/requirements necessary for the total biomass of fish or live bait being transported,  overstocking. Other reasons are technical, some are serious engineering limitations and frank equipment failure. Some fishing oxygen system technology simply will not deliver enough pure oxygen continuously to prevent summertime suffocation in the summer. This is the exact same oxygenation problems found with mechanical aeration and livewell water pumps every summer. Both limited by the fractional concentration of oxygen in ambient air (21% oxygen) combined with overcrowded livewells in the summer. Overcrowding begins when 100% DO Saturation in your livewell water cannot be maintained nor sustained… < 100% DO Saturation is the point when live bait and tournament game fish begin to suffocate in summer livewells. Fishermen can recognize livewell suffocation in the summer when they see it without a DO Meter.


The #1 summer livewell killer us low dissolved oxygen saturation. Hypoxia and suffocation is the real killer in livewells and bait tanks, not warm water temperature.  All fishermen know that game fish and live bait fish live in warm summer water naturally every day and they don’t suffocate and die. Put these same fish with in the same summer water in a livewell or bait tank and they get sick, red-nose and die quickly in June, July, August and September every year. The fisherman is responsible for livewell water quality, insuring continuous safe DO Saturations regardless of the total stocking density of fish or live bait being transported for an hour, a day or several days.

FACT: More air (more aeration) with bigger high volume air pumps and larger high volume  water pumps provides more air. They do not provide more dissolved oxygen. Air is not oxygen contrary to popular fishing articles, misguided  advertisement and bait tank infomercials.

Fisherman are responsible for preventing livewell suffocation. You are responsible for insuring minimal safe livewell oxygenation continuously during live transports every summer in overstocked livewells and bait tanks. It’s your responsibility to insure and administer a safe dose of oxygen continuously for the total biomass of fish/live bait in your livewell. That dose of oxygen must be high enough to insure continuous 100% DO Saturation or greater continuously hour after hour of captivity and transport… more fish and more live bait (greater stocking density) requires more oxygen. 

Pumping more air or pumping more water flow through the livewell DOES NOT, WILL NOT, CANNOT INSURE MORE OR EVEN SAFE OXYGENENATION by any stretch of ones imagination. It doesn’t work like that.

Aeration usually works fine in the fall, winter and spring if you DO NOT overcrowd/overstock your livewell. One fish or 1 bait exceeding the maximum “safe” stocking density in the summer and the suffocation, death and dying begins. Overstocking results in deadly low DO Saturations and suffocation every summer. Overstocking livewells and bait tanks is always intentionally or accidently caused by the fisherman.


AIR IS LIKE THIS – A BASKET WITH 79 ORANGES  (79% NITROGEN) AND 21 APPLES (21% OXYGEN). AMBIENT AIR IS NOT A BASKET FULL OF APPLES (OXYGEN) –  AIR IS NOT OXYGEN and plenty air and plenty water flow will never insure safe dissolved oxygen saturation in the summer in any overcrowded livewell and bait tank.

THIS IS SO SAD but, THIS IS THE REAL DEAL. Overcrowding always begins with only 1 too many baits or 1 additional fish in the livewell or bait tank and becomes deadlier with each additional bait of fish.

Livewell problems exhibit when fishermen overstock livewells resulting in low oxygenation,  hypoxia, suffocation and death. Bait and tournament game fish suffocating in livewells and bait tanks cause great angst and stress for fishermen worldwide every summer, but that is normal and predictable when environmental water temperature warms every summer. The livewell stress and angst is far worse for live bait fish and tournament fish being transported in those aerated summer livewells and bait tanks. Fish and live bait mortality and sloppy red-nosed bait is not only poor quality bait, it’s expensive, it’s aggravating and disappointing. Fishermen’s failure insure minimal safe livewell water quality always results in failure to keep bait and fish alive and healthy. That failure is always expensive and frustrating. Dying and dead bait and dead tournament fish are expensive. In summer “Catch and Release” fishing tournaments, keeping live bait “Supercharged,” alive, and healthy all day or for several days and getting your tournament fish to weigh-in is always stressful, a problem for all fishermen that overcrowds his aerated livewell.

More aeration, smaller air bubbles or bigger water pumps will not correct low dissolved oxygen problems in overcrowded livewells or bait tanks. Air is mostly nitrogen (an inert filler gas), not oxygen. Ambient air is always limited to less than 21% oxygen whether you at sea level or the peak of Mt. Everest.

Transporting live bait and tournament fish in overcrowded livewells and bait tanks successfully every summer is easy to do if you really understand the difference between mechanical aeration systems and oxygen system (ambient air and elemental O2); if you can maintain minimal safe livewell water quality in your livewell; specifically – if you can maintain minimal safe livewell dissolved oxygen saturation for all your live bait and tournament fish and flush out the metabolic waste a couple times daily — that’s all it takes to be a successful live fish/live bait transporter just like the pro transporter at the fish hatcheries and national Aquariums.

BUT, If you cannot maintain minimal safe water quality in your overcrowded livewell in the summer, your live bait will get sloppy, red nose, get sick and die. You will experience high stress and may lose the tournament prize because only1 fish died in your livewell and cost you the “dead fish punishment.”

For the live bait fishermen, the cost is high; expensive live bait that turns into sloppy red-nose dying and dead bait before noon = crab bait. All live baiters have experienced that in the summer.

There are many old fisherman’s myths confusing  livewell aeration and oxygenation and these myths are believed to date. And many salesmen, bait tank sales and boat salesmen promote these old myths to sell their fishing products.

Myth # 1: “Too Much pure Oxygen can and will Kill Your Fish!”

FACT: This silly myth is common. It is a popular myth that does not apply to normobaric live fish transport conditions in livewells and bait tanks during a fishing trip or fishing tournament. Providing plenty dissolved oxygen in transport water is always far better than not providing enough dissolved oxygen for live bait and tournament C&R game fish live transports any summer day. Providing the correct dose of oxygen for the total biomass of bait and tournament fish is vital.

The correct dose of oxygen during live transport is continuous 100% DO saturation or greater regardless of the total stocking density for the duration of the live transport. Do not be deceived by slick salesman talk, bro-science and false advertisements.

FACT: It is true that too much aeration (excessive mechanical aeration with ambient air) can and does cause gas embolism and gas bubble disease (pop-eye) which can definitely “kill your fish.”

Myth # 2: High blood oxygen levels in live bait does not produce higher levels of adrenaline in blood. Abject fear causes maximum adrenaline production in fish and man. Ask any soldier that has had 1st hand experience with life threatening combat.

FACT: Extreme excitement/fear (capture, hooking, and captivity) causes maximum adrenaline production and the highest levels of adrenaline production in bait fish.

Myth # 3: The most common fisherman myth is: ambient air is elemental oxygen (O2) and oxygen is ambient air. Plenty of ambient air always ensures plenty of oxygen. Plenty of air bubbles always guarantees plenty of oxygen (dissolved O2).

Take a minute and read how this myth began decades ago, check this out:

FACT: Ambient air is a mixture of elemental gases and elemental oxygen gas (O2) is only 1 gas in that mixture. Ambient air, a mixture of several different gases. Air consist mostly of pure Nitrogen gas (80% by volume) and a little dab of pure oxygen gas (20% by volume).This ratio of N2/O2 is the same at sea level and at the crest of Mt. Everest 28K feet above sea level. The barometric pressure directly affects the individual gas tensions (partial pressure).

Myth # 4: More air bubbles in bait tanks or livewells ensures plenty of oxygen for all the bait and fish. This myth is  popular with fishing article  writers, aerator and bait tanks manufacturer advertisements and infomercials.

FACT: Henrys Gas Law debunks this myth –

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.”

FACT: At sea level, the gas partial pressure (gas tension) of 21%oxygen in air is only 159 mm/hg. The partial pressure  of 99.5%compressed oxygen (livewell oxygen supplementation) at sea level is 760 mm/hg. Oxygen tension affects freshwater, saltwater fish and people equally. The high oxygen tension is what supercharges live bait. High oxygen tension makes fresh live bait abnormally strong and abnormally active and often the difference between life or death in summer livewells. The difference of oxygen tension between air and compressed oxygen at sea level is 601 mm/hg.

Myth # 5: 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 # 6: 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 # 7:   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.  Visit: George Poveromo’s World of Saltwater Fishing “SUPERCHARGE YOUR LIVE BAITS” by George Poveromo

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.

TEST YOUR BUBBLES: Place you hand/arm into your livewell water for 1 minute. Look closely and see if any tiny bubbles are sticking to the hairs on your hand and arm. If you see bubbles sticking to your hairs and skin, these  same bubbles are sticking to your fish and your live bait. Whether the gas bubbles are pure oxygen or air – sticking bubbles cause physiological  problems and injury.

Oxygen Edge™ diffusers do not have this problems because the oxygen bubbles are tiny enough to supersaturate the livewell water quickly yet large enough to escape the water column and will not stick to your fish  and live bait causing oxidation injuries.

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.

                             FACTS FOR HUMANS, FISH and LIVE BAIT FISH

Humans and fish are aerobic “oxygen loving” organisms.  Both experience suffocation, cellular death and irreversible central nervous system damage in minutes without a safe continuous supply of oxygen of sufficient high concentration and volume.  Both require a constant supply of oxygen in concentrations high enough to ensure minimal safe cellular metabolism. State and Federal fish hatcheries have well established oxygenation guidelines specifically for live fish transports.  Both must have supplemental oxygen greater than 21% to reverse and correct acute cellular oxygen debt as quickly as possible.

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.

Both man and fish die quickly breathing air every day, dying from lack of oxygen. That’s why the first thing EMT’s do upon arriving at an emergency call is administer pure oxygen with an oxygen mask to reverse the cellular oxygen debt immediately.  If fresh air would correct a low oxygen problem, there would be no need for EMTs to have or administer oxygen.  A cheap portable electric fan would work fine. Providing a constant supply of oxygen, in minimal safe concentrations and volume, is a matter of life or death for man, fish, dog and cat.

FACT: Air is not 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. Live baiters always choose  the most active baits in the livewell first, before they get lethargic, red-nose and die.


They need this much oxygen during transport

Dissolved oxygen is not consumed or depleted in livewells and bait tanks that contain no live bait or fish. It off-gasses slowly equalizing to the atmosphere. Testing DO in livewell water devoid of fish or live bait is meaningless.

Oxygen is consumed and depleted constantly in livewells that contain live bait and fish. More live bait or fish in livewells and bait tanks require more dissolved oxygen, less bait or fish require less oxygen.

How much oxygen do bait fish need? Twenty-five pounds of live bait require twenty-five times more oxygen than one pound of live bait. The minimal safe amount of oxygen required is 100% DO Saturation or greater (DO Super-saturation) if there is 1 lb. of bait, 25 lbs., or 100 lbs. of live bait.

Fishermen can keep fish alive and healthy for days or weeks if they ensure minimal safe oxygenation and occasionally remove the metabolic toxins (exchange or ventilate the livewell water).

The size, shape and color of your livewell and bait tanks is far less important than maintaining minimal safe water quality. Livewell and bait tanks’ water quality is the key to successful live bait and tournament fish transport.

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? This much:


Why does air (mechanical aeration) kill your live bait and tournament fish in your livewell every summer?

Overstocking your livewell depletes dissolved oxygen, live bait and tournament fish suffocate in summer livewells because of low oxygen levels. The reason for your livewell kill is simple – HYPOXIA. The fisherman causes this kill because he fails to provide minimal safe DO’s during transport. The fisherman can fix this problem by either reducing the stocking density, put less fish and bait in the livewell, or provide more oxygen continuously.

More air will not ensure minimal safe oxygenation in your summer livewell. Air is your problem: Visit Henry’s Gas Law and see why air is killing your bait and fish in the summer.



 FACT: Snorkels increase mechanical dead space, rebreathing mechanical dead space gas increasing CO2 concentrations 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 die.  All certified SCUBA divers know that breathing through a long snorkel is deadly.  It’s harder to breathe through a snorkel with a small internal diameter than one with a larger internal diameter.

Why? The airway resistance is much greater in small bore snorkels than larger bore snorkels plus the longer the snorkel the more airway resistance the more work required to breath. You can suffocate (asphyxiate) and die breathing through a long snorkel because of excessive mechanical dead space ventilation. You are rebreathing your exhaled gas high in CO2 with low to no O2. Rebreathing higher concentrations of CO2 cause CO2 narcosis, respiratory acidosis and death.

An aerator provides air, not oxygen. When a mechanical aeration device cannot provide minimal safe amounts of oxygen for all the fish and live bait in the livewell, it will not matter how large the livewell is, the bait and fish will get sick and die.

Mechanical aeration is a poor choice of livewell equipment if fixing low livewell oxygen levels in overcrowded summer livewells if your goal is to ensure minimal dissolved oxygen saturations in your summer livewell water. Even some mechanical aerators claim to produce millions of micro-fine air bubbles, bait continues to suffocate in summer livewells because there is not enough oxygen.

Mechanical aeration (air bubbles and spray bars increase gas diffusion at the surface of the water) reducing dissolved CO2 concentrations, reducing acid concentrations in livewell water and off-gas some ammonia.


While ensuring minimal safe oxygenation is the primary water quality issue for live transport, especially in the summer, 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 ensuring minimal safe livewell water quality. 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.


Bait fish are not bottom dwellers, they live above the bottom at different locations throughout the water column.

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/any physical trauma increases stress resulting in livewell mortality and morbidity (negatively affects live bait quality).

What is the reason for high volume livewell pumps and plenty of fast moving water constantly flushing your livewell anyway?

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. That makes the water foamy with fish slime. The greater the stress the more mucus (slime) they excrete, the nastier the livewell water becomes. Fish mucus is pure protein excretions… that’s the slime and nasty brown bubbles we see in poor quality livewell water!

FACT: Reducing the stressors will reduce slime, mucus production and foam in your 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… poor livewell water quality causes serious stress resulting in foam (excessive protein) in your livewell water.

Do you really believe that constantly changing your total livewell water volume 6-10-50 times per hour with high volume water pumps are necessary to control the toxic metabolic waste in your livewell? Toxic waste consist of dissolved CO2, carbonic acid (acid water pH), ammonia, nitrites, feces, urine, scales, vomit, the big chunks?

Do your really believe a constant flow of water in your livewell moving clock-wise is necessary in the northern hemisphere?


Shrimp are bottom dwellers, they becoming aggressive and hostile when overcrowded, forced to stack and touching each other in livewells. Shrimp need plenty of livewell bottom space to spread out to prevent stacking or even touching each other. When shrimp are stacked too close and overcrowded, they kill their neighbors, eat their neighbors, pinch off legs, bodies and eyes which dramatically increases mortality and morbidity. Shrimp survive poorly with legs and eyes traumatically amputated and broken by their captive neighbors and they can’t spread out enough on the floor of the livewell or escape the more aggressive ones.

Webbing hung inside the livewell does offers more space to spread out and avoid hostile neighbors in shrimp tanks.

Shrimp also require minimal safe water quality to keep alive and remain healthy in livewells and bait tanks.  The #1 issue in livewell water for shrimp is maintaining minimal safe DO saturations.



Air bubbles are air bubbles, micro-fine air bubbles can provide a lot of aeration, especial the dreaded nitrogen super-saturation (gas bubble disease, gas embolism, the bends or pop-eye). A lot of aeration means a lot of dissolved nitrogen and very little dissolved oxygen. A lot of aeration with millions of micro-fine air bubbles does not ensure minimal safe dissolved oxygen saturation in your overstocked summer livewell:

See Henry’s Gas Law’s_law  

Air is not Oxygen


Environmental water @ 70 F exposed to air or aeration limits livewell stocking density because of the limited concentration of oxygen (21%) in fresh air at normobaric conditions.

FACT: Henry’s Gas Law – The warmer the water the less oxygen it will hold under these conditions. The greater the salinity, the less dissolved oxygen water will hold. The greater the livewell stocking density, the more oxygen is required.


Supercharging is not possible with air and mechanical aeration.

Air at normobaric conditions: 21% oxygen gas tension is only is 159 mm/hg.

This is “Supercharging” – Pure 100% oxygen at normobaric conditions gas tension is 760 mm/hg. Supercharging requires continuous exposure to an additional 601 mm/hg oxygen tension.

FACT: High DO Supersaturation in live well water causes high arterial blood supersaturation in live bait… that is how fishermen create the livewell conditions for supercharging live bait. That is why supercharged live bait are unnaturally made in livewells and bait tanks in the summer. That is why supercharged live bait is so special for the serious offshore and inshore live bait fisherman, especially in the summer. PURE OXYGEN COMBINED WITH HIGH CONCENTRATIONS OF PURE ADRENALINE  CREATE AN ABNORMALLY STRONG, DURABLE BAIT FISH UNSEEN IN THE WILD.

When using Supercharged live bait – never chill your livewell water with ice. If you are fishing in 90 F water keep you livewell water temperature 90 degrees F.

All live bait fishermen know what happens to chilled (75 F) live bait in aerated livewells and bait tanks when it is hooked up and tossed into summer 90 F environmental water from where it came from minutes or a few hours ago. Your live bait becomes lethargic immediately and dies quickly on the hook in that hot water. You are fishing with dead bait then.

FACT: In the summer – The acute effects of temperature shock are much greater when your live bait or tournament fish go from cooler iced live well water back to hot environmental water with low  dissolved oxygen. The temperature shock you cause from the acute change of temperature from your cool livewell to warm, summer environmental water is a killer.

Live bait fishermen know this kind of temperature shock well and experience this every summer when ice is used to induce hypothermia by chilling summer livewell water.