How Purging Lobsters Can Help Reduce Store Shrink

Article by Cody Schmeer, Director of Operations

Nobody enjoys watching money go down the drain and nobody knows this better than the seafood department staff. A successful live lobster program requires maintenance and attention, which takes time, and time is a valuable commodity, especially in a retail operation! Too often do we find a tank of weak lobsters, and some dead, due to high ammonia levels. Purging lobsters before putting them in your tank is a very important step in the process of maintaining a healthy environment, and profitable lobster program. Unfortunately this critical step is often rushed, or worse yet, skipped. The direct result is lobster fatality and increased shrink.

What does Purging mean and why is it important?

In a nut shell, to purge your lobsters is to introduce them to the tank water in a separate container where they will eliminate waste (urinate and defecate). Often the container is a meat lug or a styrofoam box. Eliminating this process, or decreasing the proper time, will greatly increase the risk of a high fatality rate. Improper purging will create a high ammonia level. Ammonia is toxic to lobsters. Lobsters should be purged for 15 minutes no more, no less. Once purging is complete the toxic water is discarded and the lobsters submerged into the tank. The purpose of purging is 3 fold. It not only reduces the amount of ammonia released into the tank, it acclimates them to the water in which they will be displayed and also serves as a partial water change (another critical step to any aquatic system, from a small goldfish bowl on your desk to a lobster tank, to the aquariums in Sea World. The science and maintenance are all the same.)

How to Purge Lobsters:

Purging your lobsters is an easy process with an LLS system. We’ve built it right in! Check out our website There you’ll find pictures, video links, brochures and a 24/7/365 customer support line. However, if you do not have an LLS system any container large enough to hold lobsters and just enough pre-conditioned water from the tank to cover their backs is sufficient. Leave the lobsters in the bucket of water for fifteen minutes then transport them to the tank. The same water can be used up to three times in the same day before discarding. Once completed, you’ll need to replace the salt water mix with the approximate amount of water you originally used to fill the bucket (partial water change). BE CAREFUL! The bucket method leads to an increased risk of liability claims due to the excess water that is spilled onto the floor and can potentially result in a slip and fall. Alternatively, if you are working with an LLS tank, purging is a snap! To purge your lobsters in an LLS tank first place the lobsters in the purging tank, followed by opening the valve labeled “Purging tank” located on the top of the tank. Fill the tank just enough to cover the lobsters. Once the lobsters have been in the water fifteen minutes place the lobsters in the tank above. Next open the valve marked “to drain”. The water will be eliminated into the floor drain. Easy peasy! Now replace that same amount of water. Remix new salt water using LLS Premium Marine Salt at a ratio of 1lb salt to 4 gallons water. Once fully dissolved, check the salinity with a hydrometer. Proper salinity should be between 1.020 – 1.025 (or floating within the green area of the hydrometer). Open the valve marked “to tank” and the new water will be slowly introduced into the tank. Good luck and remember to call the LLS hotline should you have any questions at all. Please be advised that the hotline is for existing LLS customers. (201) 398-0303

Is your lobster tank suddenly running warm? Does the water tend to get cloudy often? Do you suddenly find that there are dead lobsters in your tank? While there are a number of possibilities as to why you are experiencing these problems, the root cause can be attributed to regular maintenance on your tank or lack thereof. Routine maintenance on a lobster tank is crucial. A lobster tank is a living eco system and to ensure the health of your lobsters, it must thrive. Not only is routine maintenance important to the health of a lobster but is crucial in maintaining a well-functioning mechanical system. Routine maintenance will certainly add tangible dollars directly to the bottom line. This printable chart is a useful tool and a good addition to Standard Operating Procedures (SOP).

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