Livewell Additives – Livewell Chemicals

WEBSITE UPDATED                Tuesday  August 30, 2022  

Published over a quarter century ago… Many common livewell additives today are made with chemicals that are not on the product labels. These unknown chemicals and drugs are not FDA/EPA approved for treating Catch & Live released tournament gamefish fish that people may eat – it is common that tournament fishermen catch and soak tournament gamefish in livewells 7-8 hours using unknown commercial livewell chemical during a tournament day or night and then released the fish alive back into the wild to be re-caught by anglers unawares after the fish had soaked in the unknown chemical dips in small livewells the previous day or night.

Do C&R tournament Directors, tournament anglers and livewell additive manufacturers have any potential moral and/or legal responsibility when selling, using and recommending unapproved food fish chemicals for use in boat livewells, tournament holding tanks and tournament live release boat fish tanks?

The say these chemical dips are good for the fish and people recatch and eat these fish… are these secrete chemicals and drugs also good for people that eat these contaminated fish? Men, pregnant women, and children do eat these contaminateo fish?

A published TP&WD Inland Fisheries Opinion… 2002

Mortality Associated with Catch-and-Release Angling: An Annotated Review with Special Emphasis on Livewells and Largemouth Bass   by Robert G. Howells

Management Data Series No. 199, 2002

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Inland Fisheries Division, 4200 Smith School Road, Austin, Texas 78744


This report should serve as a source-book field manual for fishery professionals who field answers from the angling public about these issues. Pg. i

Drug Approval   pgs. 25 & 26   [Livewell Additives and Chemicals]

A wide range of chemicals including anesthetics, antibiotics, biological stains (dyes) and salts are regularly assed to livewells to improve survival of held fishs. Although there is little doubt that these agents do improve the survival of caught and held fishes, most are not legally authorized on for use on food fish.

For example, on their part on clove oil, Taylor and Adams (1999) indicated that only one anesthetic (MS-222) was approved for use on food fish, and it had a 21-day withdrawal period before exposed fish could be consumed (carbon dioxide could also be used [as an anesthetic]). Schnick et al. (undated) provided a list of chemicals approved for aquaculture and fish’s resources management by the EPA and FDA. Their lists indicate that most reagents regularly included in commercial water additives used in tournament angling ARE NOT APPROVED.

Only 1 major reference on live release of BB [Black bass] (Schramm and Heidinger 1988) clearly refused to recommend use of livewell based on FDA restrictions. Other sources continue to boldly advise their use, but they need to consider the potential moral and legal ramifications of those recommendations.

FACT: Livewell additives and livewell chemicals, FDA approved for use with live bait and ornamental fish, are very different from FDA approved chemicals acceptable for use on food fish that humans eat.

FACT: People eat tournament fish like redfish, speckled trout, bass, crappie, walleye and other popular tournament game fish that are caught, held all day in chemically treated livewells and released alive back into the wild.

KNOWN CHEMICALS:  Oxygenators™ sold by T-H Marine make chlorine gas when used in livewell water that contains any salt (NaCl). How do you know if your livewell additives contain salt?

Always read the label. Salt is a vital electrolyte, and the product label should state if the product contains electrolytes.

Test Positive:  Taste your livewell additive. A salty taste confirms that the livewell additive does contain chloride or salt.

Then you must decide either to use the Oxygenator™  (oxygen) or the livewell additive that contains electrolytes (salts). BUT DO NOT THE OXYGENATOR™ AND THE LIVEWELL ADDITIVE TOGETHER because this combo produce chlorine gas and chlorine will kill you bait and fish.

Supplemental Oxygen and salt additive is always more important for your tournament catch than any livewell additives concoctions and chemicals in summer livewells.

What are electrolytes?  

Non tournament sport fishermen and their families often re-catch and eat eat these live released tournament fish that have been chemically treated, soaking 7-8 hours in strong chemical livewell baths.

Many tournament circuits donate these chemically treated tournament fish to nursing homes and other food charities as a “good will gesture.” Dead post tournament fish are eaten… tournament directors say the fish is FREE TOO.

THOSE UNKNOWN CHEMICALS: Many livewell chemicals used by tournament anglers, recommended by tournament organizers in live release fishing tournaments are completely unknown and intentionally hidden from public scrutiny…. That’s secret stuff. The product label does not identify the ingredients, or will the manufacture tell anyone what’s in the bottle. They will tell you “Our Bass Saver” livewell supplements, chemical additives are great for your tournament fish.”

WHAT ARE THESE SECRET CHEMICALS?  Some of these secret livewell chemical cocktails sold and used, provided FREE to tournament fishermen and tournament directors contain animal tranquilizers, antibiotics, fungicides, ammonia neutralizers, dyes, methylene blue, malachite green and other chemicals that are not FDA approved for use to treat food fish These treated tournament fish are released into the wild after soaking 8-9 hour in this chemical dip without a quarantine period.

An unwary sport fisherman may catch the released treated fish an hour post release and eat that chemically contaminated fish within hours… families that do eat these contaminated fish beware, especially if you catch a fish with abnormally blue lips, tongue and mouth. Legal issue, moral issue or both?


Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) added to live well water, when decomposing, produces the deadly hydroxyl radical. It’s great for killing bacteria, but it also damages gill cells, increases catch and release acute and delayed mortality and morbidity. For the conservation minded anglers, we suggest avoiding hydrogen peroxide livewell additives during catch and release tournaments.

Fact: Oxygen injection with pure compressed welding oxygen is a safer and more effective method of safe oxygenation than hydrogen peroxide.


Bait tank oxygen tablets will increase dissolved oxygen concentration in water for a short period, but they also produce 10% carbon dioxide (CO2) creates excessive carbonic acid in live transport water.

FACT:  10.0 % CO2 = 100,000 PPM dissolved CO2

Carbon dioxide is more soluble in water than oxygen. Sustained 10% carbon dioxide concentrations produces anesthesia and tissue suffocation (hypoxia). Dissolved carbon dioxide combines with water forming excessive high concentrations of carbonic acid. Carbonic acid increases the acidity of bait tank water. Acidic bait tank water increases the toxic effects of ammonia negatively affecting fish health.

Elevated carbon dioxide concentrations in fish blood also compromise the oxygen transport effectiveness of the red blood cell – increased CO2 livewell water = increased CO2 in red blood cells = less available oxygen in the red blood cell = hypoxia.

Examples – Sure Life “Bait Buddies,” Sure Life “Shrimp Buddies,”  “OTabs” and JBL Oxygen Tablets

 Bohr Effect

Hemoglobin’s (red blood cell) oxygen binding affinity is inversely related both to acidity and the concentration of carbon dioxide.

 Livewell Chemicals

What’s right – What’s not right and the FDA

An Expert opinion by Gene Gilliland, Fishery Biologist [B.A.S.S. Conservation Director]

Live well Chemicals from GeneG ( 6/27/2001 5:33:00 PM

The issue here is not the effectiveness of the products. It is Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approval.

To get a chemical approved for use on fish that might become food, it takes a long time and lots of money. Up to $1 million per chemical. How many different chemicals are in that livewell potion?

Those companies don’t sell enough to warrant the expense. Without the approval on the ingredients, the distributor and reseller must cover themselves somehow, hence the waiver forms.

This is also the reason that agencies don’t officially recommend these products.

Legally, salt and ice are the only approved chemicals that can be used on fish that are caught & released that might be caught again and eaten.

This is why even at state and Federal fish hatcheries there are so few chemicals we use to treat diseases and parasites.

Treated fish will be stocked into public waters and could become food. Can’t have any residue of those “unapproved” chemicals in ’em!

Gene Gilliland, Oklahoma Fishery Research Laboratory, ph: (405) 325-7288, email: – Co Author ESPN/B.A.S.S. “Keeping Bass Alive”


FLW Tour Tournament Director Bill Taylor said anglers should be conscientious about which additives they use.

Some of them have ingredients not yet approved by the Federal Drug and Food Administration, he said, and some have warnings on the package stating that the chemical could be harmful to humans if consumed. Though all FLW Outdoors tournaments and many others follow the catch-and-release format, it is entirely possible that any fish released by an angler could eventually be caught and consumed by another fisherman.

Taylor said he has spoken to many fishery biologists in different parts of the country about the use of chemical additives. They recommend not using any additive that could contaminate fish and harm either the body of water’s fish population or humans who might catch and eat the fish. Although FLW Outdoors has seen some success with a few of the additives it has used, Taylor said he is not convinced that all of them are effective.

As of August 2011, the FLW bass tour does use and recommend livewell chemicals that are not FDA approved for use on food fish (black bass).

“I’m not so sure that any of those additives are of real great benefit,” he said, adding that a common and safe compound found in most households has probably been the most effective additive. “With biologists, they say just regular block salt added into your livewell can be the best additive.”

Non-iodized salt added to a livewell in the right proportion, roughly 1/3 cup for every five gallons of water, can help reduce fish stress and maintain electrolyte balances. Some sources suggest that adding salt can also help reduce the risk of a fish becoming infected.

Many catch and release tournament fish, redfish, speckled trout, bass, crappie, walleye snook, etc. are considered food fish for human consumption. When a saltwater or freshwater tournament species is considered a food fish, only a limited few livewell chemicals are certified by the FDA, EPA and state Departments of Health Seafood Safety Divisions for use in livewell, hauling or holding tank water at the weigh-in.

Before adding any chemical to livewells or holding tank water, be sure the chemical composition percentage is written on the fixed label. The ingredients and % of each individual ingedient must be clearly visible written on the fixed label. For tournament gamefish all ingredients must be FDA approved for use with all live fish used for human consumption that are released alive, especially if the tournament game fish will be chemically treated in a livewell all day and then released back into the wild after the tournament. Be responsible with all unknown chemicals.

Responsible tournament fisherman will read the chemical label. If the ingredients are not identified on the product label, request a material safety data sheet from the chemical manufacturer.

Respect other fishermen and their families that catch and eat tournament species. Confirm livewell chemical additives you intend to use are FDA approved for use on food fish. There are many unknown (secret) chemicals (tranquilizing drugs, antibiotics, antifungal agents, etc.) sold as “safe for y fish”  livewell additives for tournament fish. Tournament may soal in these unknown chemicals up to 8 hours continuously of more daily. Be wary of C&R chemical manufactures that refuse to provide a list the various chemicals in their livewell additives.

FDA, EPA and State Seafood Safety Divisions regulate and approve all chemicals that are safe to use with food fish that will be released alive back into the wild. These agencies certify and approve very few chemicals that are safe to treat food fish. Depending on the specific chemical applied, a quarantine period of several weeks is required before eating the fish. Texas parks & Wildlide Department DOES NOT USE OR RECOMMEND THESE UNKNOWN, UNLABELED CHEMICALS IN LIVEWELL ADDITIVED LIKE REJUVENADE, AND OTHER FISH SAVER PRODUCTS like Sure Life Please Release Me.

The only livewell supplement TP&WD recommends for tournament bass is non-iodized salt to resuce the work of osmoregulation because a live released bass may be caught and eated by a non-tournament bass fisherman and eaten by his family, kids pregnate wife …

Regulations controlling the use of various livewell chemicals for treating live bait fish and ornamental fish are different. Human consumption is not an issue with live bait fish and ornamental fish. Many chemical companies that sell livewell chemicals often have customers sign a document that the chemical will be used only for bait fish and ornametal fish.

Saltwater species – add 10 tablespoons of potassium chloride per 10 gallons of live well water. Potassium chloride (KCl) is “salt substitute”tht may be purchased at grocery stores. Add it to your livewell water after the initial fill and again after water exchanges. Potassium strengthens muscle contractions, especially heart and skeletal muscles. Marine species do not need more sodium chloride, saltwater contains plenty of sodium.

Freshwater species – add 1/3 cup of non-iodized granulated salt (sodium chloride, NaCl) without iodine for per 5 gallons of livewell water, bass, walleye and crappie. Local cattle feed stores sell non-caking granulated cattle feed salt without iodine in bulk, $5 for 50 pounds. Granulated swimmig pool salt may also be used. Never use salt containing iodine. Iodine will kill your fish. Do not add too much salt or catch and release chemicals containing salts. Excessive salt or catch-and-release chemicals containing salt can dehydrate fish, causing weight loss for tournament redfish, speckled trout, snook, bass, walleye and crappie. An overdose of livewell salt additives will decrease the total fish weight because of simple dehydration.All commercial fish saver livewell supplements contain mostly electrolyted, the electrolyte in these livewell supplements is salt (NaCl).


Effectiveness of Livewell Additives on Largemouth Bass Survival

Article Citation:

Kenneth G. Ostrand, Michael J. Siepker and David H. Aahl (2011) Effectiveness of Livewell Additives on Largemouth Bass Survival. Journal of Fish and Wildlife Management: June 2011, Vol 2, No. 1, pp. 22-28.

doi: 10.3996/092010-JFWM-037

Kenneth G Ostrand*, Michael J. Siepker, and David H. Wahl

Sam Parr Biological Station, Illinois Natural History Survey, 6401 Meachan Road, Kinmundy, Illinois, 62854

Present address of K.G. Ostrand: Ecological Physiology Program, Abernathy Trail Fish Technology Center, US Fish and Wildlife Service, 1440 Abernathy Creek Road, Longview, Washington 98632

Present address of M.I. Siepker: Resource Science Division, Missouri Department of Conservation, 551 Joe Jones Bloulevard, West Plains, Missouri 65775

Results show that the use of livewell water additives, such as salt and ice or their combination, does not significantly reduce tournament-related mortality. Largemouth bass may recover from capture, handling, and livewell confinement stress if water quality is goof (Furimsky et al. 2003: Suski et al. 2004), regardless of livewell additives. Although we did not find significant differences in delayed mortality among the livewell Collectively, these results suggest that the addition of livewell additives does not enhance fish survival following competitive angling events. As a result, we encourage anglers to practice proper fish handling practices as well as maintain good water quality within livewells, as opposed to altering water quality with additives.

In contrast to Gilliland and Schramm (2002), our results suggest the use of salt and ice are not warranted. The use of salt during periods of acute stress may result in better osmoregulatory balance (Charmichael et al. 1984; Harrell 1992) and lower the risk of fungal infections in fish (Plumb 1991), but our results do not support this general paradigm for fish subjected to tournament angling. More specifically, our results suggest that additives man not reduce mortality for larger fish that have been angled from high-temperature waters, confined to livewells and subjected to weigh-in procedures prior to release. Fish angled from waters that have significantly different water temperatures than livewells that contain ice may be subject to temperature changes that potentially can cause rapid physiological change, prolonged recovery (Cook et al. 2002: Suski et al. 2006). Although the stress caused by these temperature and salinity changes within livewells may not cause initial mortality, these effects coupled with the weigh-in process may result in higher rated of delayed mortality than simply aerating and flushing livewells as much as possible.

More current research: Good Livewell Water Quality in Bass Boat Livewells is the Key to Summer Tournament Survival – TP&WD says a Bass Boat Livewell Oxygen Injection System is the Tool necessary that ensures the best possible summer tournament survival every summer.

Oxygenation of Livewells to Improve Survival of Tournament-Caught Bass by Fishery Biologist Randy Myers and Jason Driscoll TPWP, Inland Fisheries Division, San Antonio, TX Publication 6/2011