How to Use Airline Accessories in Your Aquarium
Aquarium air pumps are quite easy to use – just connect the pump to the air-driven device (like a sponge filter) using some airline tubing and plug it in. So why is there so many accessories for airlines? And which ones are you really going to use? We’ll be briefly explaining five commonly used parts of an airline to transform how you use your air pumps.
1. Verify Valve
Check valves are essential if you have to get just one item from the above list. This valve contains a flapper, or stopper. It allows air to flow in one direction (into your tank) and prevents water from flowing in another direction (outside the tank). This accessory is inexpensive but essential. It prevents water from leaking out of your aquarium in the event that your air pump stops working or shuts down during power outages. The water from the tube can leak out and cause damage to your pump. In extreme cases, this can lead to an electrical fire if you have appliances or power strips sitting in the water.
Every aquarium device that uses airline tube is required to have a check valve. This includes aquarium ornaments, sponge filters, brine shrimp hatchery and carbon dioxide (CO2) injection systems. (The only case where a check valve is not needed is if the air pump or CO2 tank is located higher than the rim of the aquarium.) For installation, simply cut the airline tubing between the device and air pump and connect the check valve in between. The flapper, which looks like a horizontal or colored bar at the end of the check-valve with the flapper should face the air pump. If you install the check valve backwards, no air will flow when you turn on the air pump, so just flip the check valve around.
Connect the check valve to the air pump. Make sure the horizontal or colored bar faces the air pump.
The best practice is to place the check valve outside the aquarium (not in the water), close to the top of the fish tank. This will stop the water from leaking near the pump, which could lead to leakage. Also, make sure the airline tubing is cut straight and cleanly, free of any tears. Final, make sure to inspect the airline tubing for any signs of dryness or hardening. This could lead to the connection leaking during an outage.
2. Air Valve
Although it sounds like a check valve an air valve is actually used to regulate the airflow from the aquarium’s air pump. You may find an adjustable knob on some air pumps that allows you to adjust the pressure. However, if you don’t have one or the bubbles are too strong then this tool is for you.
Cut the airline tubing that runs between the air pump & the device to install an air valve. Then connect the recently cut ends of the airline tubing to each end of the air valve (direction doesn’t matter). To decrease flow, tighten the knob and then loosen it to increase flow. Even when the knob is tightened down all the way, a small amount of air usually still escapes through the air valve. This prevents back pressure buildup and can potentially cause damage to your air pump.
An air valve regulates the airflow from your pump to your aquarium device.
As with the check valve, we recommend that you add the air valve near the rim of your fish tank for easy access. Also, make sure you make clean cuts in the airline tubing and check the connections periodically to make sure the air valve is still snuggly connected.
3. T Splitter
The T shape of the tee splitter splits air into two streams. This functionality is useful if you only have one air pump but wish to run a second air stone or aquarium decoration in the fish tank. You could also use this feature to divert air from your main aquarium into a second tank, or quarantine tub. Each pack comes with five T airline connectors, so you could theoretically chain multiple splitters together to create additional air streams.
The air flow from the green air pump is divided by the T splitter, and the air valve regulates how much air gets to the sponge filter.
When splitting the air stream, we recommend that you use air valves. This will allow you to control how much air goes each line. You should use clean-cut ends on airline tubing and inspect them regularly to ensure they aren’t damaged.
4. Gang Valve
A gang valve, which is more efficient at splitting an air stream into multiple paths, is a better accessory. This model has four outlets and two inlets. Two inlets let you add one or more air pumps to your system and then split it four ways. Alternativly, you can connect two daisy chain two-gang valves together and have eight ways to split your water.
A gang valve is a great way to split air between multiple aquariums or air-driven devices.
Keep in mind that each time you split the air, each outlet has a weaker output and less air going through it. The more outlets you have, the more adjustments need to be made on each air stream. You don’t need any additional air valves, as each outlet has its very own adjustable switch to control how much air goes to it.
5. Air Stone
An air stone is small and weighted, which produces small bubbles in the water. This simple accessory helps to gradually diffuse air into the tank, improve oxygenation of water, and minimize the amount of bubbling noise you’ll hear. You can use an air stone by itself or in conjunction with a sponge filter to improve the efficiency of the filtration. The constant stream of small bubbles created by the air stone, rather than large intermittent bubbles, creates constant lift in the sponge filter. This is similar to an escalator that runs continuously (as opposed to an elevator that stops and starts all the time).
This diagram illustrates where an airstone goes in a sponge filtre to maximize its performance. Our sponge filter installation guide will show you how to install an airstone inside a sponge filter.
Running an air-driven device like an aquarium filter, air stone, or bubbler is one of the easiest ways to increase surface agitation and oxygenation in your fish tank. For more details on how to set up a fish tank air pump (and make it quieter), read our full installation guide here.