How to Install a Livewell or Baitwell

How to Install a Livewell or Baitwell

This is a tank that is found on a lot of fishing boats. It is what is used to keep fish that have been caught and bait alive. If you do not have one on your boat, you can install one. Read on to learn how to do this.

How Does a Livewell or Baitwell Work

It works by pumping water from where you are fishing into the tank and it also keeps the water aerated. For every inch of fish you have, you are going to need a gallon of water in order to keep your fish and bait alive for a period of time. You also need to make sure that you are removing metabolic waste and keeping the proper temperature. The temperature should be below 75 degrees Fahrenheit. You can also use ice as a coolant. You also need to make sure that you have adequate oxygen levels, which should be five parts per million.

How to Install a Livewell or Baitwell

The most preferred system is a two-pump system. It is a simple livewell that is preferred by boat builders and fishermen. With a two-pump system, it will provide a back-up in case one of the pumps fails. 

  • First System: When you are installing the first pump it should be 1100, 500, or 800 GPH to exchange water occasionally in the well. When you use a three-fourth inch pump inlet you will need to use a one and one-half drain. 
  • Second System: The second pump system will allow your bait and fish to remain healthy if the standard, or first system pump, quits working when the pump is air-locked or the boat is in contaminated water. 

There is also the one pump installation and it will take the water outside and aerate it straight into the well. When you use a two-pump system, you can keep any fish or bait alive when it is on the trailer and being towed to a fishing spot or home.

Common Installation Problems

  • If the pump is operating but there are no bubbles it could be that the battery is not charged fully or the brown lead is not connected to the proper side of the battery, which is the positive side.
  • If the suction cups do not stick to the bottom of the livewell tank, it could be that you need to use a very slick ceramic tile for the suction cups. The tank will stay in place due to the weight of the tile. The tiles should be about 20cm x 20cm.
  • If it does not operate in freshwater it could be due to the fact that it is difficult to see the bubbles in fresh water. The reason that you can see them in salt water is that the bubbles illuminate the salt. All you need to do is hold your hand in front where the bubbles should come out and see if they start to collect on the back of your hand.
  • If the pump is running but it is not pumping water it could be that it is air-locked and you need to clean the filter.

Tips for Keeping Your Livewell or Baitwell in Good Condition

  • Use the air control valve to control the water current in your container
  • If you add more air with your valve the water current will be slower
  • You can also use the air control valve to adjust the water flow. You can adjust it until the fish are in a stationary position or are schooling in the tank.
  • You can keep your fish in prime condition if you adjust the water current for the species of fish you have in the livewell or Baitwell.
  • The fish will tire quickly if you have the water flowing too fast.
  • Always make sure that you keep your filters clean. If not, it can make the livewell or baitwell work extra hard and can wear out the motor faster and kill the fish and bait you are keeping in your livewell or baitwell.

The Best Livewell or Baitwell Setup

There are two main types of a livewell or baitwell; tubes and tanks. The tanks are the ones that are more common but if you want to keep large marlin baits like false albacore, skipjacks, and Spanish mackerel then you need to have tuna tubes to keep them alive. No matter which you use, the most important factor that affects the health of your bait is the water flow. If you do not have sufficient water flow, then your baits will die from having no oxygen. You baits can also die from exhaustion as they fight an artificial current if the water flow is too strong. There is no definite answer as to what the right flow is. 

The reason is that each type of baitfish has a different amount of water flow that they need to keep the flow right. For example, the high-speed fish like a tinker mackerel need water that is moving fast. Using variable water flow is the solution to keeping the different species of baits alive. You can do this by using adjustable control valves. They can be installed in the plumbing that will feed the water to your tubes and tanks.

Where the water enters into the livewell or baitwell is just as important as how much enters into it. The reason is that a single inflow can fail to mix the water efficiently so low-oxygen, or dead spots can form. In order to prevent this from becoming a problem, you should have multiple water inlets that are space from the bottom of the livewell or baitwell to the top. You also need to make sure that you have enough power to work the livewell or baitwell in order to keep the fish you catch and the bait alive.


There are livewell or baitwell kits that you can get to make your own tank. If you have any questions, talk to someone in a bait and tackle shop for help.

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