How to Use an Aquarium Air Pump (and Make It Quieter)
Air pumps are commonly used with aquarium filters, decorations, and many other air-driven devices, but what exactly do they do and how do you know if your fish tank needs one? In this article, we explain when to use an air pump, how to pick the right one, and how to install it in your aquarium.
What is an Air Pump for Fish Tanks?
An air pump, a mechanical device that pumps air into the aquarium from outside, is an electrical device. Air travels from an air pump to a fish tank decoration or device using airline tube. The air bubbles when it enters the water and floats to the surface.
The rising bubbles help create movement in the water, as well as surface agitation. Proper gas exchange is achieved by good surface agitation. This allows excess carbon dioxide, which is a waste product from your fish, to be released into the atmosphere and for new oxygen to dissolve into the water. If your fish are gasping at the surface, read this article about adding an air pump with a simple air stone to increase oxygen levels in the water.
Do I need an aquarium pump? No. Some types of filters – such as hang-on-back and canister filters – use an electric motor to move water and do not work with an air filter. Air-driven filtration devices, such as sponge or undergravel filters, use air to move water. Therefore, an air pump is required. If you are still unsure, check the instructions to determine if your decoration or equipment requires an air pump.
Sponge filters are made with air pumps that create bubbles in the sponge to pull water through it and remove any particles.
What’s an aquarium pump for? A variety of fish tank decorations and devices can be used with air pumps, including a:
– Air stone or aquarium bubbler – creates smaller, finer bubbles from the air pump for decreased noise, improved filtration (when used with a filter), or decorative appearance – Sponge filter, undergravel filter, or corner box filter – uses the rising bubbles to draw in water through the filter and strain out floating particles – Moving bed filter – uses air to churn the biological filter media and grow beneficial bacteria – Fish tank decoration – uses bubbles to, for example, open and close a treasure box ornament or mimic a little scuba diver – Breeder box – increases flow inside the box to prevent stagnant water and improve oxygenation – Egg tumbler – uses air to direct water flow onto fish or shrimp eggs, gently tumbling them to decrease fungal growth and increase hatch rates
How to Install an Aquarium Air Pump
An air pump pumps air into an aquarium by sucking it in from the outside. You will need accessories for your air pump to ensure that the air flows in the correct direction and pressure. To get started, most people recommend purchasing a roll of airline tubing with a check valve. The other items are optional, depending on your specific application.
– Airline tubing – directs the air flow from the air pump into the aquarium equipment or ornament – Check valve – prevents water from leaking out of the fish tank if the air pump turns off or loses power – Air valve – controls the amount of air flow coming from your air pump into the aquarium – T splitter – splits one airline into two channels, allowing a single air pump to run two devices – Gang valve – splits and controls the air flow from a single air pump across four different aquarium devices – Airline holder – uses a suction cup to hold your airline tubing in place, either inside or outside the fish tank – Airline connector – connects two pieces of airline tubing together to reach longer distances
This black airline tubing is essential for directing air flow from the air pump into the sponge filter.
After you have purchased your air pump, accessory, or aquarium decoration, please follow these simple instructions to install it.
1. Then place the air pump outside the aquarium. Cut the airline tubing to the right length to allow for the connection to the aquarium device. (Add some extra slack in the airline tubing just in case you need to move the air pump or aquarium apparatus in the future.) 2. Connect one end of the airline tubing to the aquarium device and place the device inside the fish tank. Then connect the second end of the airline tube to the pump. 3. This step can be skipped if the air pump is higher than the aquarium’s top. You will need a check valve if the air pump is lower than at the top of your aquarium. This will prevent water from getting through the airline tube. Attach the check valve between the aquarium device and the sponge filter. The check valve should be attached so that the flapper at the end of check valve (which is usually a horizontal or colored bar) faces the air pump. You can’t turn the air pump on if the check valve is installed backwards. Instead, flip it around.
1. To prevent water from getting into the wall outlet, create a drip loop using the power cable to the air pump. Then plug the pump in. In a matter of seconds, bubbles should start to appear from the aquarium device.
Specific instructions for installing your air pump and aquarium device can usually be found in the user manuals, so please consult them for more details.
Can an aquarium pump be adjusted? You may need to adjust the flow of air. You can adjust the flow of some air pumps with an adjustable dial. You can attach an air valve to adjust the flow of your air pump if it is not adjustable.
Should I keep my air pump on all night? Generally speaking, you should leave the air pump on all the time to help your fish get good water circulation and plenty of oxygen to breathe. You can find possible remedies for noises from an air pumps at night in the section below.
How to Make an Aquarium Pump Quieter
An air pump that you purchased from a pet shop is likely a diaphragm pump. This pump uses a diaphragm to rapidly vibrate back and forth to pull in air from its surroundings, and push it into your fish tank. The vibration can become very loud over time. These are some ways to make it less annoying:
To cushion vibrations, place a towel, foam block, or any other soft material underneath the air pump. The air pump and its cushion should be placed on a stable surface that will not vibrate or amplify the noise. – If the air pump isn’t too heavy, hang it up by the power cable so that the pump isn’t touching or vibrating against anything. Your aquarium or other decor may have become clogged due to algae growth or debris. – Consider replacing your air pump with a quieter, smaller one – like the USB nano air pump. If the bubbles are too loud, you can add an airstone to the aquarium. The bubbles created by an air stone are smaller, and they don’t make as much noise when they hit the surface. For example, see our article on how to install an air stone in a sponge filter.
Adding an air stone into a sponge filter or other air-driven filter significantly lessens the bubbling noise and improves the filter’s efficiency.
What is the Best Aquarium Pump?
We’ve tested many air pumps over the years. Our final choice was three that are reliable, quiet, and inexpensive. Each pump is best suited for different types of applications, so choose the right one that fits your needs:
Recommended Air Pump for Small Tanks, Fish Transportation, and Power Outages
USB nano air pump
The USB nano-sized air pump is suitable for small tanks and larger aquariums that require an additional air stone. It can also be used to create mini ponds outdoors (provided they are not exposed to extreme weather). The output air is slightly less than standard pumps, so it works almost silently and consumes very little electricity. It also provides slower flow for baby fish, shrimp and betta fish.
The USB power cord gives you a lot of flexibility when it comes to powering the air pump. The USB power cord can be connected to a regular wall outlet (adapter provided with the product), a car equipped with a USB outlet/cigarette lighter adapter, and a USB battery for short-term power outages or survival.
Air Pumps Recommended for Large and Deep Tanks