Bait Oxygen System Tips, Livewells, Bait Tanks

WEBSITE UPDATED                Tuesday June 22, 2022


 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 and live bait fish alive and healthy is easy. Managing 2 water quality parameters are necessary.

1. ENSURE MINIMAL SAFE OXYGENATION CONTINUOUSLY – Livewell / bait tank water must have a continuous supply of oxygen (not air) of sufficient volume and concentration to maintain 100% DO Saturation – DO Supersaturation continuously for all the bait and fish being transported. More fish or live bait being transported always requires more available oxygen. Do not confuse oxygen with ambient air or aeration.

2. LIVEWELL VENTILATION – Livewell water must be ventilated (water exchanged/flushed) occasionally to control organic metabolic fish toxins/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. *Excessive slime production is a normal physiological response to any type of stress, especially hypoxic stress caused by low unsafe dissolved oxygen saturation in livewell water. Remove dead/dying bait and dead fish from of your livewell as soon as possible to eliminate additional toxins.

Failure to provide either minimal safe oxygenation or changing toxic livewell water to remove metabolic toxins causes additional abnormal fish stress. Excessive sustained mucus production is an auto-stress response. Stress causes excessive protein production, massive scale loss, scale sloughing, red-nose, sloppy, lethargic, dying and dead bait.

Poor unsafe livewell water quality transforms expensive live bait to red-nosed chum, crab bait, will kill tournament fish resulting in the dreaded the “dead fish punishment,” lost money, lost prizes and disappointment.


1. With your left hand and The Oxygen Edge™ you control and maintain continuous minimal safe dissolved oxygen saturation even with abnormally high stocking densities of live bait or live fish; you adjust the correct dose of oxygen required to insure 100% dissolved oxygen saturation/DO Supersaturation in your livewell water. You safely oxygenate and transport 1 baitfish or 1,000 live baits in overcrowded summer livewells. By simply preventing livewell suffocation, you safely transport 200 lbs. of tournament catfish fish all day/all night every summer when you have control of and can regulate safe doses of oxygen in your livewell water correctly.

2. With your right hand, livewell water pump or 5-gallon bucket you ventilate/flush your livewell water. You control all toxic fish waste. Change the livewell/bait tank water a couple times daily. Minimal livewell water exchange controls metabolic fish toxins produced by highly stressed live bait during live summer transports.

Every fisherman can choose to insure minimal safe, continuous oxygenation in summer transport water preventing suffocation or choose with to withhold oxygen and give the fish more air, insuring suffocation and high summer mortality/morbidity.  Remove the dead bait or fish from the livewell, that’s all there is to being successful transporting live bait and tournament fish every summer for the rest of your fishing life.


Look at your livewell water turbidity, water clarity, foam on the surface. When game fish, bait fish and shrimp excrete toxic metabolic by-products and waste into the livewell water, the first poor water quality alert the fisherman sees is cloudy water, foam on the water surface, stinking water (smells like ammonia) abnormal fish behavior. Toxic bait tank water will cloud before it becomes foamy and smelly. Livewell/bait tank water exchanges totally eliminate all metabolic toxins and bad water quality symptom.

FISH METABOLISM FACT: For every gallon of oxygen fish consume, slightly <1 gallon poisonous CO2 gas is produced. Oxygen consumption/CO2 production is close to a 1:1 ratio. Carbon dioxide dissolved easier and faster in livewell water than oxygen dissolves. 

How should live bait behave in your livewell? Live bait fish, shrimp and tournament fish should behave like goldfish 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 that needs your attention now, not an hour from now.

Live bait and fish behavior tells you when you have a water quality problem, or you do not have a water quality problem.  When live bait fish are piping at the surface, do not appear calm, breathing fast, not schooling low in the water column or comfortable in your livewell; expect serious water quality problems and make a total water exchange in your livewell or bait tank immediately.

Bait fish school at the bottom of your livewell when the transport 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.

MYTH: They say bait fish are stupid primitive little animals. They trap themselves in 90-degree livewell corners, stack and rub their noses to a bloody pulp, suffocate and die in summer livewells during transport. 

Serious livewell bait tank water quality problems (>transport mortality/morbidity) occur in the summer when environmental water. Live baiters and tournament fishermen that overstock their livewells are well aware of this summertime bait transport that increases mortality/morbidity.

PREDICTING WHEN HIGH SUMMERTIME TRANSPORT MORTALITY BEGINS, PEAKS AND ENDS IN AERATED LIVEWELLS/BAIT TANKS. When the environmental water temperature reaches 79 F low livewell oxygen problems begin. When the water temperature increases to 85 F the suffocation/hypoxia problem becomes dramatically worse summer transport mortality increases. When the environmental water surface temperature reached 95 F, transport mortality/morbidity is most severe every summer.



Foam in livewell water is a symptom of serious fish stress and extremely poor livewell water quality. Low oxygen saturation, toxic livewell water is a common water quality problem in aerated livewells and bait tanks every summer.

With mechanical aeration, bait tank and livewell water surface foam severely reduce the ability of ambient air (>21% Oxygen) to diffuse into the water resulting in low dissolved oxygen, suffocation, hypoxia in aerated bait tank water.

SYMPTOMS OF EXTREME SUSTAINED LIVE TRANSPORT STRESS, SUFFOCATION: Any stress causes fish to excrete excessive slime, mucus and protein which is the protective slime layer.  Sustained low oxygen (hypoxic stress) during live summer transports transport is the most severe stressor. This stress is much more severe during night transports.

Fish excrete massive amounts protein, mucus or fish slime causes by hypoxic stress when bait fish are suffocating during summer transports.  Livewell foam is produced when any gas (air or oxygen, etc.) is bubbled in the livewell water containing protein, especially when diffuser bubblers, spray bar aeration systems, agitators and bait pumps are used.

Antifoaming supplements (detergents) hide the foam in poor bait tank water quality: Fiahermen that hate to look at the nasty foam in the livewell  and use antifoaming livewell supplements. These fishermen only want to hide the nasty foam, they are not interested in fixing the water quality problems causing the foam.  These fishermen want to hide their toxic water quality symptom/problem…the foam.

Fish produce slime (mucus/protein) with special glands in the skib, below the scales, slime protects fish against infection. 


Popular commercial anti foaming agents (detergents): Sure Life – Foam-Off Surface Foam  Remover,” T-H Marine – “G-Juice,” coffee creamer and others agents.

Fishermen have choices about foam in the livewell

Most fishermen chose to hide the livewell foam symptom using antifoaming livewell detergents. They have no desire to eliminate the stress problems that cause the foam problem.

The quickest, deadliest # 1 stressor in summer livewells transport 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 every summer.


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

June 2011

“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.

Reprinted with expressed written permission from Randy Myers, TP&WD, District Supervisor , Inland Fisheries Management Region 1, District 1D, 12861 Galm Road # 7, San Antonio, TX 78254, (210) 688 9460,