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Diving Nitrox in Kauai

a close up of a Nitrox bottleDiving Nitrox in Kauai

Whether you’ve just celebrated completing your PADI Open Water course or you’re a seasoned diver with countless dives under your belt, the concept of nitrogen absorption should always be at the forefront of thoughts when diving. Nitrogen absorption during diving directly influences the risk of decompression sickness (DCS) and sets fundamental limits on dive times and depths.


While dive computers play a crucial role in monitoring these limits, understanding the basics remains crucial. We highly recommend a refresher course for those who might feel rusty on this essential topic. If you’re completely new to the world of diving, joining us for the Open Water Course is your first step towards underwater exploration.


For those with a solid understanding of nitrogen absorption and may be looking to extend their bottom time, we’re here to introduce nitrox diving. In this blog, we’ll look into the differences between air and nitrox, the benefits of diving with nitrox, and important considerations to demonstrate how nitrox diving can potentially enhance your diving experience, particularly in the enchanting waters of Kauai.

What is Nitrox?

So first thing first – what is nitrox? Typically, when you learn to scuba dive, your cylinder is filled with what you’d find in the atmosphere around us – approximately 21% oxygen, 78% nitrogen, and 1% other gases. 


Nitrox, or enriched air nitrox (EANx), offers a mixture with higher oxygen content, ranging from 28% to 40% while reducing the nitrogen levels to between 60% and 72%. This adjustment in composition reduces the quantity of nitrogen absorbed by your body at depth. The benefit? It can lower the risk of decompression sickness and potentially extend your dive time, making your underwater adventures safer and more enjoyable.

Benefits of Diving Nitroxa stack of flyers on a table

The main group of people who will benefit from nitrox diving are those who often still have plenty of air in the tank at the end of the dive but have reached their no-decompression limit (NDL). Diving with nitrox offers a range of advantages that enhance both safety and length of time under the water. By adjusting the mix of oxygen and nitrogen in your tank, nitrox enables prolonged bottom times and reduced decompression risks. 


Here’s the details on how diving with nitrox can elevate your underwater adventure:

Lower Risk of DCS

With a higher oxygen content, nitrox significantly reduces the amount of nitrogen your body absorbs during a dive. This is crucial because it’s the nitrogen that, under pressure, can lead to decompression sickness if not properly managed. Diving with nitrox directly decreases the likelihood of DCS by minimizing the quantity of nitrogen absorbed. This added layer of safety is especially valuable for divers who engage in multiple dives over consecutive days.

Longer Dive Time

One of the most appealing benefits of nitrox is the ability to extend your time underwater. Since nitrox reduces nitrogen absorption, it allows divers to stay down longer within no-decompression limits. This means more time exploring reefs, wrecks, and marine life without the need for extended surface intervals.

Shorter Surface Intervals

Nitrox not only allows for longer dives but also significantly shortens the required surface interval times between dives. Since your body absorbs less nitrogen, it needs less time to off-gas the excess nitrogen safely. This means you can get back into the water sooner, making the most of your diving days.

Key Things to Know about Nitrox Diving

Now that we have explored the benefits of diving with nitrox, there are some essential things to know before taking the plunge with enriched air. 


Important Note: While this blog aims to educate and inform, diving with nitrox requires specific training. Anyone interested in using nitrox must complete the Enriched Air Nitrox course to dive safely and effectively. 


Here are vital considerations every nitrox-certified diver should keep in mind:

Nitrox Does Not Affect Air Consumption

It’s a common misconception that nitrox affects how quickly you use your air. In reality, your consumption rate is influenced by depth, exertion, and breathing efficiency, not the oxygen-nitrogen ratio in your tank. Nitrox’s main role is to reduce nitrogen absorption, not alter consumption rates.

Nitrox Comes in Different Blends

Nitrox blends typically range from 28% to 40%. This range provides flexibility in planning dives according to specific depth and duration requirements. The most common nitrox blends for recreational diving are nitrox 32 and nitrox 36. 


Nitrox 32 is often favored for its versatility, suitable for a variety of dive profiles while offering a significant increase in allowable bottom time compared to air without compromising safety.

Nitrox 36 provides even longer bottom times at shallower depths, which is ideal for repetitive, shallower dives where maximizing underwater time is desired.

Strict Depth Limits

Understanding nitrox’s depth constraints is essential for preventing oxygen toxicity. Oxygen toxicity occurs when divers are exposed to high partial pressures of oxygen at depth, which can lead to convulsions and other serious health risks underwater, including death. Because nitrox contains higher percentages of oxygen, the risk of oxygen toxicity begins at lower depths than when diving with regular air. The higher the percentage of oxygen, the shallower the max operating depth (MOD). 


For example:


  • Nitrox 32 has an MOD of approximately 34 meters (111 feet).
  • Nitrox 36 has an MOD of around 29 meters (95 feet).


These depth limits ensure divers can enjoy the extended bottom times and reduced nitrogen absorption benefits of nitrox without the increased risk of oxygen toxicity. It’s imperative for divers to plan their dives according to the nitrox blend they’re using, always keeping within the safe depth limits to avoid potential complications.

Always Test Your Tank

When diving with nitrox, one essential safety practice is to always test your tank’s mix before entering the water. Testing the oxygen content of your nitrox blend is not just a recommendation – it’s a requirement to prevent accidents related to oxygen toxicity or exceeding no-decompression limits. Each nitrox tank should be analyzed with an oxygen analyzer to confirm the percentage of oxygen before you enter the water. Don’t simply trust the label. This step ensures that the mix matches your dive plan and decompression models. 

Standardized Yellow Tanks

The distinct yellow markings on nitrox tanks make them easily identifiable. This ensures both divers and dive operators can quickly recognize that the tank contains enriched air, facilitating proper handling and preventing potential mix-ups with air tanks. 

Set Your Dive Computer Correctly

Most dive computers will automatically assume you’re diving with regular air unless you tell it otherwise. Before diving, adjust your dive computer to match the oxygen percentage of your tank. This adjustment is critical because dive computers calculate decompression limits and no-stop time based on the gas mix you’re breathing. 

Nitrox Dives in Kauai

Diving with nitrox in Kauai is a strategic choice for safety and extended dive time. The enriched oxygen content in nitrox allows divers to enjoy longer bottom times, making every moment count in the rare and captivating dive spots around the island. This benefit is particularly valuable in a destination like Kauai, where maximizing your underwater experience is paramount.


Moreover, considering Hawaii’s limited decompression sickness treatment facilities, with only one hyperbaric chamber available, the lower nitrogen levels in nitrox provide an added safety net, reducing the risk of DCS. This makes nitrox an ideal option for divers seeking to explore Kauai’s stunning marine life and underwater landscapes with an additional layer of security and peace of mind.

Getting Your Nitrox Certification in Kauai

If you’re yet to be certified as a nitrox diver, no worries! You can achieve your certification during your Kauai vacation without sacrificing any precious dive time. The theoretical portion of the course can be completed online at your convenience before your trip. This way, upon arrival at Fathom Five, you’ll be ready to jump straight into practical training. 


You’ll learn how to analyze your tank, adjust your dive computer for nitrox, and maintain your enriched air log under the guidance of our expert PADI instructors. After completing these steps, you’re all set to dive with nitrox with all the added benefits.


Schedule your first nitrox dive with Fathom Five today!