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The Benefits of Diving With Nitrox

Recently, a few divers have asked me about the benefits of diving with Nitrox. So here is a quick duck dive comparison if you are considering incorporating Nitrox diving into your next dive holiday. If you have already decided it is for you, are not yet certified, and want to know more about the Nitrox certification, Teagan has covered that here.

What is the ‘Normal’ Air in Your Scuba Tank?

Oxygen bubbles | Benefits of diving with Nitrox

‘Normal’ air, commonly called compressed air or atmospheric air, primarily comprises approximately 21% oxygen, 79% nitrogen and trace amounts of other gases. Normal air is the air we breathe daily and is the standard in your scuba diving tank. It remains the standard that most divers use and is what you will find it at your next dive resort or dive liveaboard.

What is Nitrox?

Nitrox, on the other hand, is a breathing gas that contains a higher percentage of oxygen and a correspondingly reduced percentage of nitrogen compared to normal air. Nitrox is a blend of nitrogen and oxygen in varying proportions, the critical difference being that the oxygen content is increased beyond the 21% found in normal air.

The term “nitrox” comes from combining the words “nitrogen” and “oxygen.” The most common type of nitrox used in diving is a mixture of 32% or 36%. However, the term nitrox refers to any mix where the oxygen is of a greater percentage than ‘normal’ air.

Is Normal Air or Nitrox Better?

Both mixtures in your tank have their pros and cons. In general, for a recreational diver observing recreational dive limits of depth and time, Nitrox may be the best choice for your next scuba adventure. Let’s take a look at why.

A Quick Look at the Benefits of Diving With Nitrox

Air Enriched Nitrox Label

Extended Bottom Times

This is perhaps the primary benefit of diving with Nitrox during your next dive holiday. Because the lower nitrogen content in your tank reduces the amount of nitrogen absorbed by the body during a dive, divers can spend more time at a given depth without reaching no-decompression limits. This allows for longer bottom times and shorter surface intervals between dives. When you have arrived at and are diving that bucket list dive destination, who doesn’t want to stay under for longer? This can also greatly help underwater photographers looking for that perfect shot.

Reduced Decompression Risk

Another great benefit of diving with Nitrox, within the recreational depth and time limits, is that the risk of decompression sickness (the bends) is lower due to reduced nitrogen loading. However, it’s important to note that nitrox does not eliminate the risk of decompression sickness entirely, and proper dive planning is still crucial. Although using a modern dive computer takes most of the difficulty out of planning your dive, and so Nitrox has become much more accessible.

Reduced Nitrogen Absorption

You probably still remember your Instructor describing Nitrogen Narcosis to you during your Open Water course, or you may have succumbed to it amusingly during your Advanced diving course.

One benefit of using Nitrox is that the lower nitrogen content reduces the risk of nitrogen narcosis. Nitrogen narcosis is a temporary impairment of cognitive function that can occur at greater depths due to the increased partial pressure of nitrogen in the gas in your tank. With nitrox, the reduced nitrogen content means that the onset of nitrogen narcosis is delayed compared to diving with normal air. Although narcosis can be a bit of a gas 🙂 It can cause you to lose track of dive times and depths, so it is generally best to avoid it.

You Will Have More Energy!

Energetic person | The benefits of diving with Nitrox

Arguably, one of the greatest benefits for many recreational divers, especially on a diving holiday, perhaps diving four times a day, is the reduction of surface interval time. Lower nitrogen absorption takes you less time to off-gas, so you are ready to jump in the water faster for your next dive. Also, as your body is not working so hard to off-gas, most divers using Nitrox over multiple dive days feel much more energetic and spend less time napping in the cabin.

Special Considerations When Using Nitrox

All those amazing benefits of diving with Nitrox, there must be some drawbacks!? Well, there are a few things that have to be considered. The first of these is oxygen toxicity. As you dive with a higher oxygen concentration, you will absorb more, faster, and at shallower depths. However, oxygen toxicity is extremely rare if you follow your dive computer, have planned your dive, and understand your maximum depth limits before diving. It is easily avoided.

Dive Planning

The dive planning can be a little more complex, but with modern dive computers doing a lot of the work for you, this generally involves just a few extra minutes analyzing your tank. Nitrox used to be difficult to come by. Planning your dive trip to be diving on Nitrox, and spending that extra time underwater to snap that frogfish pic, but then discovering there isn’t any was once a facepalm event. These days, even some of the remotest dive resorts will have Nitrox, and many dive liveaboards will have a Nitrox membrane onboard.

To Wrap It Up

We have just taken a duck dive into the benefits of diving with Nitrox. If you want to get the most out of your next dive holiday. If you want to spend more time underwater and have the energy to do so, you should consider getting Nitrox certified. For more information about the Nitrox dive course or general advice and queries, do not hesitate to get in touch. Teagan and I have certified many Nitrox divers over the years, and we would love to help you too.

Best Fishes.


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