What you Should Know About Nitrox
Diving with Nitrox is still considered relatively new, even though it was first used in the 1950s and was introduced to recreational diving around 20 years ago. Many divers find it very practical to dive with enriched air, it extends your time and does not lead to the same levels of fatigue after diving that you may experience on air. Nitrox does not allow a diver to dive deeper compared to diving on compressed air. Therefore, it is important for all to have a clear understanding about Nitrox diving to prevent any complications and hazards.
Do I need Special Training?
Yes, you should be a Nitrox Certified diver, there is a PADI speciality course “PADI Enriched Air Diver” that you can take.
What exactly is Nitrox?
Nitrox is also known as “enriched air” and comprises air with a higher concentration of oxygen in it, normally between 32% to 36 % as opposed to the normal 21% level. Nitrox tanks are colour coded and the Oxygen percentage should be clearly on them after filling. With a higher oxygen content in the gas comes a lower nitrogen content, this provides divers with the opportunity to lengthen no-decompression limits. In addition, they will be able to enhance the surface buffer associated with decompression illness and reduce surface intervals.
Why divers use Nitrox?
When you are diving, water pressure causes nitrogen from air to dissolve into the bloodstream. The higher the pressure the more nitrogen gets dissolved into your blood. When the nitrogen concentration reaches a particular level, you will have ascend to shallower depths or to the surface in order to prevent decompression sickness or mandatory decompression stops. If you can replace some of the nitrogen in air with extra oxygen in your gas mixture, you will be able to achieve longer no decompression limits. This is the main reason that divers to use Nitrox.
How deep can we go with Nitrox?
Diving with Nitrox doesn’t allow you to go deeper, in fact you need to pay close attention to the maximum depth limitation table for the percentage of nitrogen in your tank. It extends the actual dive time at a given depth. However, it is very important to have a clear understanding about the risks associated with diving on Nitrox. High concentrations of oxygen can lead to oxygen toxicity, so following safe practices regarding depth is a must. The maximum allowable depths when using 32% Nitrox is 34m/111ft, or for a 36% blend it is 29m/95ft.
What are the dangers associated with Nitrox?
Nitrox has the potential to deliver a variety of benefits to the divers. However, there is a downside. The higher concentrations of oxygen in Nirox can cause oxygen toxicity. The symptoms of oxygen toxicity include convulsions, lack of coordination, dizziness, nausea, muscle twitching, trouble breathing, unusual fatigue and irritability. If Nitrox divers observe any of these symptoms, they should ascend to a shallower depth immediately, and begin the normal ascent with a safety stop and end the dive.
When Should I Use Nitrox
Nitrox is not a magical fix for staying in the water longer. It certainly has benefits when counteracting decompression sickness and allowing you to stay below the waves for longer, but you should be judicious about when you use Nitrox. Nitrox is best used on dives that are between 50-100 feet because in almost all cases, no diver will run out of air while waiting to decompress under 50 feet.
When you dive deeper, Nitrox can add nearly half an hour to your overall dive time and substantially help with decompression sickness.
Alternatives To Nitrox
There are plenty of alternatives to Nitrox, all with different compositions of gasses that allow you to remain comfortably under the water for longer periods of time. It is strongly advised that you never attempt to concoct Nitrox or an alternative to Nitrox at home. One false move while messing with your breathing air and you can easily find yourself in a very bad situation under water. Always leave it to the experts and do your research prior to experimenting with different alternatives- before you dive under the waves.
Trimix answers the Nitrox problem of oxygen toxicity by putting helium into the mix, so you can dive deeper and longer with fewer side effects. Trimix has been gaining popularity in the diving community due to its lack of side effects and it is a suitable alternative to Nitrox.
Heliox is like Trimix but instead of containing nitrogen, it contains only oxygen and helium.
Hydrox is made out of Hydrogen, which is less expensive than Helium, making it more ideal for divers who want to cut corners on costs. The discount does not come without a risk though. Hydrogen is flammable and has been largely untested in the diving community. Since this product is so new, there are bound to be a few bumps that haven’t been smoothed out yet. Try Hydrox with one caveat; it has not been totally tested.
Nitrox Tools And Tricks
There are plenty of apps and resources you check in order to better understand and properly uses Nitrox. We’ve highlighted some of the best ones below, but you can always search the internet for others, or join message boards and Facebook groups to tap into the Nitrox community and better enhance your dives.
This app allows you to effectively assess what is in your tank and top it up if you need to. If you are not an experienced Nitrox diver, always check with a more experienced colleague or friend before getting in the water, but if you have done a bunch of dives with Nitrox, this app will allow you to get your mixes right on point.
Nitrox Buddy gives you just the facts and data that you need to have a successful dive. It tells you the best mix for your projected dive depth and provides valuable information like Maximum Operating Depth, so you do not accidentally stray over your depth restrictions. Using an app like Nitrox Buddy will give you a safer dive.
This app is not specific to Nitrox use, but it is a good one to have on your phone as it gives you a list of the best dive sites around the world. It syncs up with Google Maps to pinpoint some of the best sites to dive and ranks them based on how difficult or easy they are for divers.