How to Build a Livewell/Bait Tank
Posted February 22 2010 - 01:26 PM
1) Select a tank.
The first couple of tanks that I built were made out of 20 Gallon Rubbermaid trash cans. Mine were blue-gray in color, but I have heard that white would be better, so that some light is allowed into the tank. You don't want your tank to be dark and have the bait swimming into the sides and injuring itself. WEIGHT is a big factor for some people. Keep in mind that water weighs about 8 lbs/gallon. So a 20 gallon tank is going to weigh about 160 lbs plus the weight of the tank itself. A 50 gallon tank is going to weigh about 400 lbs - probably not a good choice for a 15' skiff. That said though, I would go as big as you can. I can keep about 25-30 mackerel or about 12-15 pogies alive in the 20 gallon tank. The method that I have used today can be adapted for any size tank, basically by just changing the size of the pump. You can use virtually anything as a livewell, but here are some of the more popular choices that you have for tanks:
Rubbermaid Brute Trash Cans:
-Relatively inexpensive and easily attainable.
-Easy material to work with
- Lid is not a very tight fit and tends to allow water to splash out on to deck. Lid also needs to be secured with a bungee cord while moving.
- Difficult to secure to deck. Rubbermaid makes a locking base, but I couldn't find it anywhere
- Little bit taller than the ideal height. A shorter and wider tank is ideal, because fish swim laterally and around the tank, not up and down it.
55 Gallon Plastic Drum:
- Often free if you know of a place that commonly uses these drums. Bait dealers, manufacturing plants and wholesalers are typically the best places. They are usually discarded after use and are very easily attainable.
-If you can find a lid, then you have a big tank that won't splash all that much. Try to find a commercially or custom made tank this big for under hundreds of dollars is nearly impossible.
- Not very sturdy. Plastic is thinner and creates a lot of slosh if you don't have a secure cover.
- You may have to give them a good cleaning, especially if you get them from a bait/food dealer. Not fun working with something that smells like rotting herring.
- 55 gallons of water is not practical to keep on a smaller boat. I wouldn't even think about going this big unless weight is not a factor for you...400 lbs is like 2 extra people. You can plumb them to hold as little water as you want, but you might have to cut it down to make it accessible.
- Even harder than the Rubbermaid to secure to the deck. You don't want to hit a wave and have a 400 lb barrel come flying at you.
Commercially Made Bait Tank:
- Very sturdy
- Often have a splash guard which almost eliminates water splashing on the deck
- Secure cover, which is a major selling point for me. I lost a couple of the Rubbermaid covers and it is a real PITA when your bait starts jumping out of the boat.
- Usually have accessories available that allow you to easily secure it to the deck. Trust me, you want your livewell to be securely attached to the deck.
- Other accessories available, like lights for keeping bait at night.
- Relatively expensive. The 24 gallon tank and supplies that I am using today cost me about $180, which includes shipping. You could probably save by finding your own pvc components, but you wouldn't save all that much. The tank alone cost me $80.
- Not easily attainable. I had to order online and shipping was expensive ($50). Unless you get lucky and find a store that carries the model that you want, then you are basically forced to order online.
- Required a well thought out plan and good craftsmanship. I'd recommend starting with one of the cheaper tanks so that you can experiment and find out what features are important to you. You don't want to start making holes in a $80 tank, just to find out that you want your tank configured a different way.
Posted February 22 2010 - 02:08 PM
There are a number of different ways that you can configure your tank. I am using a bait tank plumbing kit from Kodiak, so the parts that come in that are the parts that I will go over. I also added a couple of other parts, which I will also discuss. Here are some major points about each.
Water Level Drain:
Most people like this drain at the top of the tank. This drain is constantly open and moderates the water level in the tank. I attach a 4' piece of 1.5" bilge tubing to this and run it over the stern of the boat. Make sure that this drain is above the height of the boat, because water won't flow upwards. This drain can be added to the bottom of the tank, but to be quite honest, I just feel that this adds extra work and usually isn't necessary.
End of the Day Drain:
This is the drain at the bottom of the tank that is left closed until you want to drain the tank. This drain should be put as close to the bottom as you can get.
You have a couple of options as to where you will introduce water into the tank. I prefer to introduce the water at the bottom of the tank. However some of the bait tank companies say to introduce the water at the top of the tank. The argument that I make for having it at the bottom is that the bait tend to stay in the bottom half of the tank. I would rather have the fresh oxygenated water entering at the bottom, where all of the fish are, rather than the top. Then the older water will escape through the drain at the top. The bait tank companies say that the fresh oxygenated water will circulate throughout the whole tank if you introduce it at the top, but my experiences have shown otherwise. I introduced the water last year through the bottom of the tank and I noticed absolutely no problems.
Another thing that the bait companies say is important, which I didn't really notice is that the water should be introduced with a 90 degree ebow to make the water flow in a clockwise direction. Supposedly schooling fish in the northern hemisphere will swim in a counter clockwise direction. I just had a straight inlet last year and noticed no problems.
The only flaw that my system had was that when I turned the pump off, either to save energy or to make the drive home, gravity would cause the water from the tank to flow backwards right out of the pump, thus emptying the tank. The pump line basically acted as a siphon and sucked the water right out of the tank. This sucked when I had a 30 minute drive home and I wanted to keep my lobsters cool and wet for the ride home. This is why I added my next optional accessory:
Seacock Ball Valve:
I added this plastic ball valve to the tubing that runs from the pump to the tank. This will help solve a few different problems. First off, you can close this valve to keep water in the tank. This will help save battery power if you only have a few baits/lobsters in the tank. You will only need to turn the pump on for a few minutes at a time to keep your baits lively. I like this, because I have drained my battery a few times while sitting in the same spot for hours.
This valve will also help with another annoying flaw. If for some reason you don't want the tank to fill up, you can close the valve. Whenever I get up on a plane, the tank will fill up, even when the pump is off. This can be annoying if you are running with an extra person or two on the boat and you don't want the added weight.
NOTE- in the picture, the valve has one open end. This will be connected to the 3/4" bilge tube that will run right to the pump.
I use a kodiak bait pump to fill my tank. I have the pump at the transom right at the bottom of the boat. Remember not to attach the pump anywhere where it could run dry for an extended period of time. I think my pump is about 800 Gallons Per Hour. That is more than efficient for any tank between 20-30 gallons. You would want to get a smaller pump if you have a small tank and bigger if you have a bigger tank. A pump around 350 GPH-500 GPH should be sufficient for a 10-20 gallon tank. The 1100 GPH pump would be good for the 55 Gallon drum.
It is important not to get a pump that is too big for your tank. A pump that is too powerful will tire out your bait.
I am using the brackets that Kodiak makes to secure the bait tank to the deck of my boat. I am also using the quick disconnects that they offer. I didn't secure my 20 Gallon tank for the last couple of years. It wasn't really too dangerous, but it did shift back and forth. It could easily offset the balance of your boat if you are not careful. I definitely recommend securing it to the deck.
I have attached pictures of my whole tank and the individual components in the order that they were described
Water Level Drain
End of the Day Drain
Seacock Ball Valve
Posted February 22 2010 - 02:30 PM
Just a couple of quick points about constructing your tank:
- MEASURE TWICE, CUT ONCE. You have heard it a million times, but trust me, you don't want to cut a hole that won't work for you when you are dealing with an $80 tank.
- Try to measure the fittings with a pair of calipers before cutting. You don't want to cut a hole, just to find out that you estimated that the fitting was bigger than you thought. It is a lot easier to make a hole bigger than it is to make one smaller.
- A hole saw is a great tool to cut the holes for the fittings. A router could also be used, but I wouldn't recommend it, unless you are very comfortable with one. For the water inlet, I needed a 1.5" hole. I only had a 1" hole saw, so I used that and then used a sanding drum in the electric drill to enlarge the hole.
- Use a permanent, non silicone adhesive. I used West Marine 5200 sealant.
- Be generous with your sealant, but don't over do it. To thick of a coating will not cure properly. I like to use 2-3 lighter coats of the sealant, even though 1 would probably be sufficient. Allow 3-4 days between coats for the sealant to properly CURE. Just because the sealant in dry, doesn't mean that it has cured
- Make sure to rough sand any plastic that will need to adhere to the sealant. Plastic is tricky and a good rough sand with 100 grit sand paper will work wonders for you.
Securing the Fittings:
- An adjustable wrench is a great tool to have around for this project. You can tighten the fittings a lot easier and more completely with the wrench. Trying to do it by hand is not nearly as effective.
- Don't over tighten the plastic fittings. It is a lot easier to break plastic than you may think.
That is it. This is actually a very easy project. All is all, it took me about a half hour from start to finish. All that is left to do is attach the pump to the boat. You will want to wire the pump through a switch as well. Have fun and Good Luck!
Posted February 22 2010 - 03:04 PM
The resident podiatrist threw out an oval stainless steel 20 gallon foot tank. This thing has a drain and pump on the bottom of the unit. The reason appears to be that one of the caster wheels fell off. This thing also has a thermometer and everything is commercial/medical grade - and it all works.
I felt like I found gold. Now I'm trying to figure out how to use it, as I already have a 32 gallon tank built into my boat.
I'm thinking of mayber using it for eels or killies at my slip.
I'll take God and guns, you can keep Obama.
Posted February 22 2010 - 07:50 PM
Just wondering if you could use a bilge pump, couldn't see why not
I also notice you have a 90 degree at the water inlet, do you have one inside too (a 90 degree)? Being outside of the tank, the water would go straight in like a straight fitting
When I bought my Aqua the PO made a livewell out of the cooler seat, but couldn't figure out what kind of a set up he had, there's was no pump, no pluming just two fitting sticking out in the back of the cooler seat, on top, small one and a bigger one. The thing that got me scratching my head was that the small fitting was lower then the the bigger one, logically the small (inlet)should be the smallest, but why lower ?
Here you can somewhat see what I mean
Posted February 22 2010 - 08:07 PM
As far as your tank goes, the builder of the tank could have used the cooler seat for a livewell that circulated the same water. All that would require would be a small pump in the tank and a tube to pump the water from the bottom to the top. The water splashing at the top would aerate the water.
Posted February 25 2010 - 05:43 PM
Posted February 25 2010 - 07:40 PM
Originally Posted by sandypoint
smaller fitting on lower was inlet ,flowed from pump into tank helped circulate ,larger ,higher fitting was overflow ,letting water out by gravity onto deck or piped out sccuppers . Just the way mine works too!
Cool!! was wondering what those fitting were for and why they were set up like that. Satisfied with your set-up?
Got a Rule 360 collecting dust, I'm going to use it
Posted February 26 2010 - 12:18 AM
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Posted March 08 2010 - 09:33 PM
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Posted March 11 2010 - 03:45 PM