Nitrox Diving: Benefits and Safety Considerations

Nitrox tanks lined up, ready to get wet. - Photo by Andrew Snaps at Flickr

Nitrox Diving: Benefits and Safety Considerations

Nitrox, a popular breathing gas used in scuba diving, has been gaining popularity among divers for its many benefits. With a higher percentage of oxygen than standard air, it can offer longer bottom times and shorter surface intervals, allowing divers to spend more time exploring the underwater world.

However, proper training and certification are required to ensure safe and responsible diving practices when using Enriched Air (EANx). In this post, we’ll explore the benefits of diving with it, common questions people have, and important safety considerations to keep in mind. So, let’s dive in and discover this world together!

What is Nitrox?

It is a breathing gas mixture that contains a higher concentration of oxygen and a lower concentration of nitrogen than normal air. Regular compressed air is composed of 21% oxygen and 79% nitrogen, so every gas with an increased partial pressure of oxygen is called enriched air or EANx. The two most common mixtures used in recreational diving are EAN32 (32% O2, 68% N2) and EAN36 (36% O2, 64% N2).

Nitrox and regular air tanks - Photo by Gigi Ibrahim at Flickr
Nitrox and regular air tanks – Photo by Gigi Ibrahim at Flickr

Diving with it has many benefits, including longer no-decompression limits, shorter surface intervals, and decreased nitrogen absorption. This is because the higher oxygen content in Nitrox reduces the amount of nitrogen that is absorbed by the body, allowing for longer bottom times without increasing the risk of decompression sickness.

There are other mixes used for specialized diving applications, such as EAN40, EAN50, and EAN100, which have different oxygen and nitrogen concentrations. These mixes are used for technical diving, require specific training and equipment, and are way beyond recreational diving training.

Why Dive with It? 

Nitrox offers several advantages over diving with traditional compressed air. One of the most significant benefits is that it allows for longer dive times. This is because enriched air has a lower concentration of nitrogen compared to compressed air, which means that the body absorbs less nitrogen during a dive. As a result, divers can stay underwater for longer periods without reaching the no-decompression limit, and the limiting factor now is your air consumption.

Scuba diver using enriched air (EANx) Nitrox - Photo by Ryan Lackey at Flickr
Scuba diver using enriched air (EANx) Nitrox – Photo by Ryan Lackey at Flickr

In addition, EANx also allows for shorter surface intervals between dives. This is because less N2 is absorbed during the dive, which means that the body eliminates it more quickly during the surface interval. This makes it an excellent choice for repetitive dives, as it allows divers to reduce their surface interval times and spend more time exploring the underwater world.

Overall, Nitrox is an exceptional gas mix for any diver looking to increase their bottom time and reduce their surface interval times, making it ideal for those who want to make the most out of their diving trips.


Getting certified to dive with Nitrox is a relatively straightforward process and is typically completed in one day of instruction.

You must first be a certified Open Water Diver or have an equivalent certification. The course covers topics such as the benefits and risks of it, how to analyze Nitrox cylinder, and how to plan EANx dives.

After completing the course, you’ll need to pass a written exam and demonstrate your understanding of standards for Nitrox. Upon passing the exam, you’ll receive your nitrox diver certification card.

Diving with EANx

First, enriched air cylinders are usually marked with a green and yellow sticker, with NITROX or ENRICHED AIR printed in big bold letters. It is also the diver’s obligation to check the percentage of oxygen in the tank before your dive. This is typically marked an “EANx” number on the tank, so EAN32 means the tank contains 32% oxygen and 68% nitrogen.

To measure it, use oxygen analyzers, a device that reads the percentage of O2 in the mixture. Just make sure that it reads 20,9% when in fresh air before using it.

Every gas mixture have its own dive table, so make sure to plan your dive profile accordingly, and always err on the safe side. Safety considerations when diving with Nitrox include paying close attention to your depth to avoid oxygen toxicity.

Overall, diving with EANx can be a great way to extend your bottom time and reduce surface intervals, but it’s important to do so safely and with proper understanding of the standards for Nitrox diving.


Here are some of the essential pieces of equipment needed for Nitrox diving:

Dive Computer

If you use a dive computer, make sure it is compatible with Nitrox, as it calculates the increased bottom time and decreased decompression time compared to regular air. Ensure the dive computer is programmed for the specific mix you plan to dive with.

Scuba Gear

For recreational diving, EANx mixes can have no more than 40% oxygen, which means that the diving gear does not necessarily need to be oxygen cleaned. However, it’s essential to note that some manufacturers may void their warranty if a piece of gear not specifically designed for EANx is used with Nitrox mixture.


To use enriched air, you do not require a specialized tank, but the tank and valve must meet the oxygen-compatible standards. They are typically labeled with a yellow and green decal indicating Enriched Air or Nitrox and the percentage of oxygen in the mix present in the tank.

Nitrox tanks lined up, ready to get wet. - Photo by Andrew Snaps at Flickr
Nitrox tanks lined up, ready to get wet. – Photo by Andrew Snaps at Flickr

Analyzing Equipment

It’s essential to verify the percentage of oxygen in the tank before each dive with an oxygen analyzer, as EANx tanks can contain different percentages of oxygen.

When it comes to caring for Nitrox equipment, it’s essential to follow manufacturer guidelines for cleaning and maintaining gear. In case of Oxygen-cleaned gear, they should be kept separate from regular air diving equipment, and tanks should be stored with the correct labels indicating the gas mixture.

Nitrox Myths Debunked

Myth 1: It is only for deep diving.

Many people believe that Nitrox is only necessary for deep diving. However, the truth is that it can benefit divers at any depth, as long the MOD (maximum operating depth) is observed.

Myth 2: Nitrox is dangerous.

Some people believe that Nitrox is more dangerous than regular air. However, it is just as safe as compressed air as long as it is used within the recommended limits. Divers who are properly trained and certified to dive with Nitrox can enjoy the benefits of the gas without increased risk.

Myth 3: It requires special equipment.

Nitrox diving does not require any special equipment beyond what is needed for regular scuba diving. Recreational Nitrox diving uses mixes with an oxygen content of 40% or less, which does not require special oxygen-cleaning of the equipment, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Myth 4: It is only for technical divers.

EANx diving is not just for technical divers. Any recreational diver can benefit from using it. In fact, many diving agencies offer certification courses specifically for recreational divers.

Myth 5: It is expensive.

Nitrox diving is not necessarily more expensive than diving with compressed air. The cost of Nitrox fills varies depending on the dive shop, but it is often only slightly more expensive than compressed air fills. 

Myth 6: Nitrox makes you use less air

There is a common belief that breathing nitrox reduces air consumption because of the increased amount of Oxygen. While this seem logical, the majority of oxygen you breathe is exhaled without being utilized. Your body’s need to exhale carbon dioxide (CO2) is what drives the next breath, and not the amount of O2 in the air you are breathing.


Nitrox diving offers a range of benefits to recreational scuba divers, including longer bottom time, shorter surface intervals, and the ability to make repetitive dives safely. While it is safe to use when proper procedures are followed, it is essential to get certified and plan your dive accordingly.

We encourage all scuba divers to consider Nitrox certification to enhance their diving experience and take advantage of the many benefits it offers. Start exploring the underwater world with enriched air today!

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