Livewell Oxygenation Fishery Biologist Opinions

WEBPAGE UPDATED               Tuesday  June 22, 2022
Dissolved oxygen is the most vital water quality parameter when transporting live bait fish and tournament game fish in the summer.
How much dissolved oxygen do live baitfish and tournament fish really need in livewells and bait tanks to be healthy during all day/all night live transports in livewels/bait tanks?

Robert Adami Jr. – “As you know from previous Texas Gulf Coast Roundup events that you have seen, the hauling unit that is mounted on my trailer is operated with compressed oxygen. I maintain anywhere from 8-12 ppm of dissolved oxygen.”

Robert is responsible for transporting live tournament C&R redfish, speckled trout and other species to release points at various location along the Texas Gulf Coast including Sea Center Texas.

Robert Adami, Jr., Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Natural Resource Specialist V, 4300 Waldron Rd., Corpus Christi, TX 78418, (361) 939-8745


“We transport all sizes of fish as associated with the TPWD hatchery program. We use 600-gallon fiberglass hauling tanks, and a compressed oxygen system (porous diffusing tubes). We have not used a liquid oxygen system. Optimum dissolved oxygen concentrations in our trailers range from 6 – 9 ppm depending on fish density, fish sizes, and water temperature. During long distance hauls you should also consider pH levels in conjunction with ammonia (metabolic waste products).”

Robert R. Vega, Manager, Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Coastal Marine Development Center

“I would agree with others you have talked with that DO saturations of at least 100% be maintained in live hauling systems for shrimp. These animals are stressed as it is and adding the additional burden of low DO should be avoided. Fortunately, this can be easily accomplished using compressed oxygen. What I have most often found with both live shrimp haulers as well as live bait dealers is that they feel as though vigorous agitation of the water (usually via spray bars) will maintain sufficient oxygen in the system. Depending on the design of the system, the biomass of animals, as well as the volume this approach to aeration ranges from mediocre to poor. The most efficient and cost-effective method to maintain saturation is to use compressed oxygen. Hope this helps.”

Russell Miget, Ph.D., Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

“The best guidelines I know of were developed by Gene Gilliland, a researcher and bass tournament angler with the Oklahoma Dept. of Wildlife and Fisheries.

When transporting lunkers from the Share Lunker program, we almost always are transporting just one fish. Also, the program runs from October 1 through April 30, so hot water temperatures are not a factor. Our equipment will maintain dissolved oxygen levels at close to 100% saturation for the water temperatures that we encounter when hauling lunkers; probably 8 to 9 ppm at around 65 to 70 degrees.”

Ken Kurzawski, Inland Fisheries Division, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

Gene Gilliland is the B.A.S.S. Conservation Director effective January 1, 2014.


“Dissolved oxygen should be at least at saturation levels, which is dependent on temperature and altitude. Some examples follow: 75 degrees F at sea level saturation is 8.7 ppm at 2000 ft. It is 7.8 ppm at 83 degrees F at sea level saturation is 7.8 ppm at 2000 ft is 7.3 ppm. A good rule of thumb is to haul one pound of fish /gallon of water, but if you are going to exceed that be sure to keep the dissolved oxygen above saturation (10-15 ppm) and the water temperature below 72 F.”

Todd Engeling, Program Director, A.E. Wood Fish Hatchery, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Inland Fisheries


“Yes, we do use compressed oxygen during transporting. The problem I have is the super saturation in the summertime, with a closed tank and oxygen going in with only one fish. An agitator is used if necessary to maintain a workable level of one or two parts within saturation. Here at the Center, air and not oxygen, is injected into the holding tanks along with water which maintains a saturation level.”

David Campbell, Past Program Director, TP&W Trophy Largemouth Bass Program (The Lunker Program), Texas Parks and Wildlife Department


“We transport fish for stocking and other purposes in live-haul tanks that we oxygenate with compressed gas [pure oxygen]. We try to maintain DO levels between 7.0 and 12.0 mg/L. We do not use mechanical aerators or agitators and we do not circulate the water in the transport cells.”

“I have transported snook fingerlings between Texas and Florida, a trip that took approximately 24 hours, with no mortality using this method. We routinely haul redfish, snook and sea trout using this method and they all do well.”

Bill Halstead, Research Administrator, Fisheries Stock Enhancement, FWC Stock Enhancement Research Facility, 14495 Harllee Road, Port Manatee, FL 34221-9620, (941) 723-4505


“Avoiding anaerobic metabolism as much as possible and getting rid of oxygen debt as quickly as possible is certainly in the best interest of the fish. However, given the severity and rapid sequence of stressors (angling fatigue and injury, high temperature, live well crowding, transport, etc.) I don’t see any measures that you could take, short of actually eliminating some of the stressors, that will make much difference. Stressors that are not separated by at least three days are additive.”

Greg Vermeer, MS, Associate Research Scientist, Aquatic Animal Health, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, 14495 Harllee Road, Port Manatee, FL 34221-9620, (941) 723-4505


“When transporting fish, we generally bubble oxygen (O2) into the transport water with a diffuser, the dissolved oxygen level is at saturation for existing water temperature and elevation.”

” Transporters used to move or haul live black bass are equipped with compressed oxygen tanks and regulators to bubble oxygen through one or two bottom mounted diffusers.”

“It is sometimes difficult, however, to keep levels above 5 ppm when water temperatures exceed 75 F. by simple aeration. However, if you bubble oxygen into the water, it should be no problem.”

Dennis P. Lee, Senior Fisheries Biologist, Fisheries Programs Branch, California Department of Fish and Game


“We use compressed welding oxygen to supply oxygen in our fish hauling tanks. We shoot for 10 parts per million dissolved oxygen.”

Chris Martin, Senior Fisheries Biologist, Georgia Resources Division, Fisheries Management Section


“Compressed Oxygen always.”

” Often, we are transporting a lot of fish and to reduce the stress we want as much oxygen in the water as we can get. We use compressed welding oxygen to supply oxygen in our fish hauling tanks.”

Mark McElroy, District Vll Inland Fisheries Supervisor, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries


“Aeration is primarily used to lower the dissolved carbon dioxide since the dissolved oxygen concentration is controlled with compressed oxygen… mechanical aeration is primarily used to remove CO2 from the water.”

Nick Nichols, Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries, Marion State Fish Hatchery


“Our hatchery uses compressed oxygen.”

Bob Wattendorf, Fisheries Marketing & Special Projects, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission