Do Lobsters Need Salt Water? The Ultimate Guide

Lobsters are a delicacy enjoyed by many seafood lovers, but have you ever wondered about their natural habitat? Do they need salt water to survive?

In this article, we’ll explore the world of lobsters and answer the question: do lobsters need salt water? We’ll delve into the science behind their physiology and explain why they can’t survive in freshwater.

So, grab a cup of coffee and let’s dive into the fascinating world of these crustaceans.

Do Lobsters Need Salt Water?

Lobsters are marine animals that are found in practically every ocean. They are adapted to live in saltwater and cannot survive in freshwater environments. This is because their bodies are designed to take up oxygen from saltwater, and placing them in freshwater will quickly kill them.

Lobsters have a state of isotonic stability with the surrounding saltwater. This means that the same amount of water moves between the body tissues and saltwater, and they cannot prevent the accumulation of fluids in their cells in low salinity environments. In other words, lobsters need saltwater to maintain their internal balance and survive.

The optimum salinity range for lobsters is about 29-35 parts per thousands of salt. However, replicating the correct salinity may be somewhat effective for keeping lobster alive short-term, but it is less effective for long-term storage since actual seawater contains a wide variety of trace minerals. Even minerals that exist in tiny ratios of parts per million can still play an important role in long-term lobster survival.

For this reason, many fishermen choose to utilize a storage system that pumps actual seawater into the lobster tanks. Natural seawater has a pH of about 7.5 to 8.4, and thus the lobsters should also be stored in an environment that has a pH of no lower than 5 and no greater than 9.

However, the lobster themselves will also have an impact on the pH of the water because lobsters excrete ammonia, which will make the water more acidic as it builds up. Ammonia is also toxic to lobsters and must be removed. Thus, many fishermen also utilize an open rather than closed water system so that the ammonia will be naturally removed.

The Anatomy Of A Lobster

Lobsters are classified as invertebrate crustaceans, which means they do not have an inner skeleton or bones. Instead, they have a hard outer shell or exoskeleton that protects their soft internal organs. The shell cannot grow with the lobster, so they must periodically molt or shed it in order to grow.

Lobsters have a primitive nervous system that is most similar to that of an insect. They do not have a brain, and their nervous system consists of approximately 100,000 neurons, which is significantly less than the over 100 billion neurons found in humans.

The lobster’s circulatory system consists of a heart located just behind the stomach, which pumps blood through a few large blood vessels. Their blood is usually greyish/clear in color and is responsible for carrying oxygen from the water through the gills, which are located in the thorax section of the lobster.

Lobsters have ten legs, with five pairs of jointed appendages. The claws are the most recognizable part of the lobster, with the larger claw known as the crusher claw and the smaller claw known as the pincer or cutter claw. The legs are also used for catching and eating food, with many “taste” sensors located on them.

Other important parts of a lobster include the antennae and antennules, which are used for touch and smell respectively. The carapace is the outer shell of the cephalothorax and houses many important organs such as the legs, tomalley (a digestive gland), and in female lobsters, the roe or eggs. The abdomen is commonly referred to as the “tail” and is also an important part of the lobster’s anatomy.

Lobsters And Their Natural Habitat

Lobsters are benthic creatures that live on the bottom of the ocean. They prefer temperatures from 15-18°C (59-64°F) and salinities of 20-25 ppt. Lobsters can be found in practically every ocean, but they are most commonly found on the east coast of North America, from Newfoundland to North Carolina.

Newly hatched lobsters are free-swimming larvae and tend to concentrate in surface waters, creating retention areas for their food sources. Young lobsters stay close to the coasts at depths of less than ten meters, hiding in the company of seaweed or in rocky habitats where they can find food and protection against predators, waves, and currents. Adolescent and adult lobsters typically find shelter on rock or gravel covered with algae, salt-marsh peat, eelgrass, seaweed substrates, and firm mud. Here they can build and maintain a burrow that will shelter them from predation.

Water temperature is a significant contributor to adolescent and adult lobster growth, survival, and reproduction. Adult lobsters exposed to temperatures above 20°C exhibit symptoms of respiratory stress and compromised immune response. However, additional factors related to water temperature that greatly impact lobsters are dissolved oxygen and salinity levels. Adolescent and adult lobsters are sensitive to low dissolved oxygen levels when they prepare to molt.

The largest adult lobsters have the capability to live in deeper waters, typically around 50 meters, but prefer to migrate toward the coast in the summer where the water is warmer. However, in the winter, they migrate to open water with hopes of escaping the turbulence of the coastal waters and can remain in their burrows for weeks at a time because the water temperatures can be below 5°C.

The Importance Of Salinity For Lobsters

Salinity is critical for the survival of lobsters. Lobsters are adapted to live in saltwater, and their bodies are designed to take up oxygen from saltwater. If lobsters are placed in freshwater, they cannot maintain their internal balance and will quickly die. This is because lobsters have a state of isotonic stability with the surrounding saltwater, which means that the same amount of water moves between the body tissues and saltwater. In low salinity environments, lobsters cannot prevent the accumulation of fluids in their cells, which can be lethal.

The optimum salinity range for lobsters is about 29-35 parts per thousands of salt. This range closely mimics the conditions and composition of natural seawater, which is essential for the long-term survival of lobsters. Actual seawater contains a wide variety of trace minerals that play an important role in lobster survival. Even minerals that exist in tiny ratios of parts per million can still have a significant impact on lobster health.

Maintaining the correct salinity is crucial for keeping lobsters alive, but it is not enough. Lobsters also excrete ammonia, which can make the water more acidic and toxic to lobsters if it builds up. Therefore, it is essential to remove ammonia from the water regularly. Many fishermen utilize an open water system to naturally remove ammonia from the water.

Can Lobsters Survive In Freshwater?

Despite their ability to adapt to various environments, lobsters cannot survive in freshwater. This is because they have evolved to live in saltwater, and their bodies are not equipped to handle the differences in salinity between saltwater and freshwater. Lobsters have a state of isotonic stability with the surrounding saltwater, which means that the same amount of water moves between their body tissues and the saltwater. In freshwater, this balance is disrupted, and fluid accumulates in their cells, leading to their death.

It’s important to note that while some people may believe they have seen lobsters in freshwater environments, they are likely mistaking them for crayfish or crabs. Lobsters and crayfish are related, but they have distinct differences in their physical characteristics and habitats. While crayfish can live in freshwater environments such as rivers, lakes, ponds, and streams, lobsters require the saltwater environment of seas and oceans to survive.

The Effects Of Freshwater On Lobsters

Freshwater is lethal to lobsters. This is because lobsters cannot extract oxygen from water when they are removed from saltwater and placed in freshwater, so they quickly die. Lobsters absorb oxygen via osmosis, which can only occur in the sea’s salty water.

Furthermore, lobsters have difficulty forming gills in freshwater because the surface tension of the water is too high. This means that lobsters cannot breathe properly in freshwater, and their bodies cannot maintain their internal balance. As a result, they will quickly become stressed and die.

It is important to note that lobsters are not adapted to live in freshwater environments, and attempting to keep them in freshwater will cause them harm. Even if a lobster is caught in freshwater, it should be returned to saltwater as soon as possible to ensure its survival.

Conclusion: Why Lobsters Need Salt Water