How Long Can Fish Stay Alive in a Livewell?

Whether you are fishing for food, or a tournament, having a Livewell is going to save you from having a smelly boat, and possibly having your fish get parasites or infections. Livewell’s are a place to hold any fish you caught in circulated water and sometimes aerated tank so that they stay alive and well while you are out fishing for the day. One question we have been asked a lot is how long fish can actually survive in a Livewell before they have problems.

How long can fish stay alive in a Livewell? Fish will stay alive for roughly 8 hours in your Livewell. There are factors that can increase or decrease the time they will live, like if it is both a pump and aerated Livewell, and how many fish you actually have in the well. If you put too many fish in the well, they will not last as long as if you only had a few fish. To maximize the lifespan of your fish, keep your Livewell as clean as possible, and make sure you do maintenance to the pumps to keep them in great working shape.

What Is A Live Well?

A Livewell is a space on your boat that looks like a big ice chest, but will have tubes going in and out of it, and could have air bubbles coming up, depending on what model you have in your boat. The water lines will pump freshwater in, and old water out of the tanks to keep new and freshwater circulating.

If you have an aerated Livewell, you might also have an air pump that will pump fresh air into the water. Both of these things are designed to keep fish alive in your boat all day. Keeping the fish alive help with bacteria and other diseases from affecting all the fish in your tanks to keep them fresh and ready to be eaten, or taken to your tournament weigh-in area.

Livewell’s can also be used to hold baitfish if you are going out deep sea fishing. If you are in an area where you can get live bait every morning, you can keep them in your Livewell until you are ready to fish with them. This keeps them alive and moving, and also will keep the smell of old rotting fish out of your boat.

Do I Need A Live Well On My Boat?

You would only need a Livewell if you are going to keep the fish you catch, or are using live bait to fish with. While you could get away with using an older ice chest, depending on how long you stay out on the lake, you might have to add/remove water from it throughout the day.


Livewell’s are perfect if you are going out fishing for a day, and are going to keep your fish for either eating or weighing in at a tournament. If you are a catch and release angler, there would probably not be any reason for you to keep fish in a Livewell, or even have one. Most new bass boats come with at least one Livewell, and possibly even two or three.

Do I have To Clean A Live Well?

It is a good idea that you drain and clean your Livewell on a regular basis so you can get any nasty water, or bacteria out of your Livewell. Keeping it clean will ensure that your tanks will not smell, or collect bacteria that might kill your fish, or make them sick. The most important thing to remember is to keep as much debris out of your Livewell as possible. Any type of foreign particles that get into the Livewell, could put deadly bacteria into the water which could affect fish extremely fast.

Live Well Maintenance

The best way to maintain your Livewell is to empty it every time you take your boat out, and you put fish in it. There should be a hose or drain plug that you can remove to drain the water out of it. After the water is drained, wipe down and pick out any debris that might have fallen in.

Doing this will remove bacteria, and also keep anything from getting inside your pump and will save the life of it. After the debris is removed, you can use a small amount of bleach in water and you can scrub your Livewell out. Once the scrubbing is done, you can flush it out with a garden hose before connecting the plug or hose back up to it. Make sure you rinse your Livewell very thoroughly so you do not contaminate the water with bleach that could harm the fish.

Always make sure to take care of your pump and do not let your Livewell run dry while the pump or aerator running. Cleaning the debris will save the life of your pump and equipment and will help your pump to operate smoothly.

Can I Make The Fish Live Longer?

There are a few things you can do that will save your fish from dying while in your Livewell. The first is to not let your fish touch the carpet of your boat. Lying your fish on the boat carpeting will remove the slimy protective layer on their scales. If the slime gets removed, it can cause infections in the fish or give them parasites that might kill them and other fish.

Another way to extend the life of your fish is to use a rubber net, or no landing net at all while fishing. Nylon netting can scrape your fish and cause damage to them which can lead to parasites that will kill them. Doing these two things will extend the life of you fish to a whole day before you see any issues.

How Do I Empty My Live Well?

Typically, all you have to do is remove the drain plug in the bottom corner of your Livewell, and all the water will drain out of it. Another way is that you can remove the line that goes from your pump to the bottom of the Livewell, and you can let the water drain out and then attach the hose again, but make sure to check for leaks.

fishing boat

If you do not feel comfortable with doing that, you can always scoop the water out in a cup or something larger until your Livewell is mostly drained, and then take an old towel and soak up the rest before you wipe it out. Make sure that if you have no way to drain it, and use any sort of chemical to clean your Livewell, that you can flush it thoroughly with fresh water so you get no contamination.

Final Thoughts

Whether you are fishing for a tournament, or just to feed yourself and family, Livewell’s in your boat is going to be your friend. Keeping fish alive is going to make sure that no infections or parasites get into your fish and saves you from getting sick. Cleaning and maintenance of your Livewell is actually very simple, and very easy to do. Make sure you draining and flush your Livewell every time you use your boat, and your Livewell will have no problems.

Related Topics

Does Hydrogen Peroxide Keep Fish Alive?

Does hydrogen peroxide keep fish alive? Hydrogen peroxide is not a good idea to use in your Livewell because it can damage the filaments in their gills, and could suffocate fish. Even though people do use a 3% solution in their tanks, fish, and game, and tournament organizations ask that all anglers do not use it when fishing. It is best to use regular water, and not try to add anything to keep the fish alive longer.

How Many Minnows Can Live In A 10 Gallon Tank?

How many minnows can live in a 10-gallon tank? Only about six minnows should be held in a 10-gallon tank at a time, or there could be issues of killing the fish. If you plan to keep them in the tank for some time, it is best to buy a bigger tank. If the fish start to multiply, you might have to move them to a bigger tank.