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? We will show you how to set up an aquarium pump and explain the best times to use it.
What is a Fish Tank Air Pump?
An air pump is a mechanical device which sits outside the fish tank. It uses electricity to pump water into the aquarium. Air travels from an air pump to a fish tank decoration or device using airline tube. Once it enters the water, the air creates bubbles, which float to the surface and pop.
The rising bubbles help create movement in the water, as well as surface agitation. Good surface agitation is the key to proper gas exchange in the aquarium, so that excess carbon dioxide (a waste product produced by your fish) is released into the air and new oxygen from the air dissolves into the water for your fish to breathe. This article will explain how to add an air pump and a simple airstone to your aquarium to increase the oxygen level.
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. However, air-driven filtration devices – such as sponge and undergravel filters – use air to move the water and therefore require an air pump. If you’re not sure, refer to the instructions to find out if your decoration or equipment needs an air pump.
Sponge filters make use of air pumps to create bubbles that draw water through the sponge, and then strain out any particles.
What is an aquarium air pump used for? Air pumps are used in conjunction with many fish tank decorations and devices, such as 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 Pump
An air pump is responsible for sucking in air from outside of the fish tank and pumping it into a submerged aquarium apparatus. Therefore, you need a few air pump accessories to guide the air flow in the right direction and at the right pressure. We recommend that beginners get a roll or airline tubing and a check valve to get going. Depending on the application, you may need other items.
Airflow from the pump into aquarium equipment or ornaments is directed by the tube called the “Airline Tubing”. – Check valve – prevents water from getting out of the tank. Air valve – controls airflow from your pump into the aquarium. Gang valve – splits an airline into two channels and controls air flow through four aquarium devices. Airline holder: holds your airline tubing in place inside or outside of the fish tank using a suction cup. Airline connector — connects two pieces of the two sections of the allowing for longer distances
This black tube is used to direct airflow from the air pump to the sponge filter.
After you have purchased your air pump, accessory, or aquarium decoration, please follow these simple instructions to install it.
1. After placing the air pumps in their final locations outside of the aquarium, cut the airline tube to the correct length so that the tubing can be connected to the aquarium device. You can leave some extra space in the airline tubing for future moves of the aquarium apparatus or air pump. 2. Connect one end of the airline tubing to the aquarium device and place the device inside the fish tank. Then connect the other end of the airline tubing to the air pump. 3. If the air pump is positioned higher than the top of the aquarium, you can skip this step. To prevent water from leaking through the airline tubing, the air pump must be higher than the aquarium’s top. Attach the check valve between the aquarium device and the sponge filter. The check valve should be attached so that the flapper at the check valve (typically 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. You should begin to see bubbles from your aquarium device within a few seconds.
The user manuals usually contain detailed instructions on how to install your aquarium or air pump. Please refer to them for further details.
Can an aquarium pump be adjusted? You may need to adjust the flow of air. Some air pumps come with an adjustable dial to increase or decrease the flow. If your air pump isn’t adjustable, you can also attach an air valve to control the air flow.
Should my air pump be turned off at night? To ensure that your fish have good water circulation and oxygen, it is a good idea to keep the pump on throughout the day. You can find possible remedies for noises from an air pumps at night in the section below.
How to Make an Aquarium Pump Quieter
The most common type of air pump you’ll find in a pet store is a diaphragm. It uses a diaphragm which vibrates rapidly to draw air from the surrounding area and push that air into your tank. This vibration unfortunately can become quite noisy over time. These are some ways to make it less annoying:
– Place a small towel, block of foam, or other soft material under the air pump to cushion the vibrations. Place the cushion and the air pump on a flat surface that doesn’t vibrate. – 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. Clean any aquarium accessories or decorations attached to your pump. It may be clogged with debris or algae growth. – Consider replacing your air pump with a quieter, smaller one – like the USB nano air pump. – If the bubbling noise is too loud, try adding an air stone to the aquarium device, if possible. The air stone produces smaller bubbles that don’t make as much noise when they pop off the surface. You can read our article to learn how to place an air stone inside a sponge filter.
Adding an airstone to a sponge filter, or any other air-driven filter, significantly reduces the noise and improves the filter’s efficiency.
What’s the Best Aquarium Air pump?
After testing dozens and dozens of air pumps over the years, we have settled on three units that have superior reliability, low noise level, and reasonable cost. 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 pump is ideal for smaller aquariums, larger tanks that require extra air stones, and outdoor mini ponds, provided they are protected from the elements. It is quieter than a standard air pump and uses less electricity. The flow rate for baby fish, shrimp, and betta fish is slower because the air output of the unit is lower than compared to a standard air pump.
The USB power cord gives you a lot of flexibility when it comes to powering the air pump. You can plug it into a regular wall outlet (adapter included with the product), a car with a USB outlet or cigarette lighter adapter, or a USB battery pack for surviving power outages and short drives.
Recommendations for Air Pumps for Large and Deep Tanks
Aquatop air pump are able to provide more pressure for deep tanks. The AP-50 has one outlet for air and is rated for 20- to 50-gallon aquariums, whereas the AP-100 has two outlets for air and is rated for 50- to 100-gallon aquariums. Both models have an adjustable air flow dial to provide the right amount of bubbles for your aquarium. They plug into the wall outlet, so they aren’t as portable as the USB mini air pump. The Aquatop pumps also have a higher air output which makes them louder than the USB pump.
Recommended Air Pump for Multiple Tanks
Medo LA-45 linear piston air pump
If you have dozens of fish tanks in your care, you may not want to buy an individual air pump for every aquarium. The Medo LA-45 linear piston air pump is what we personally use in our retail fish store and personal fish rooms to run a central air loop system that feeds into each of our fish tanks. Rather than operating on traditional diaphragm technology, it uses pistons (like in a car engine) to pump 47 liters of air per minute, resulting in a quieter, more reliable machine. This pump handles roughly 47 fish tanks (depending on the size of each tank) and can be easily used in conjunction with another linear piston air pump to boost the output of your air loop system as needed.
The reason why many fish keepers prefer to use air pumps is because the technology is proven and dependable, the flow is very gentle, and the total cost is relatively cheap, especially when running many aquariums. Subscribe to our newsletter if you enjoyed this article. Each week, you will receive an email with a summary and video of the latest blog posts, products, and videos.