How to use Airline Accessories in Your Aquarium

How to Use Airline Accessories in Your Aquarium

Aquarium air pumps can be very simple to use. Simply connect the pump to an air-driven device, such as a sponge filter, using some airline tubing. Then plug it in. So why is there so many accessories for airlines? And which ones are you really going to use? Continue reading to learn five common parts of an airline that can change the way you use your air pump.

1. Verify Valve

If you only get one item from this list, a check valve is an essential must-have. It contains a flapper or stopper that allows air to flow in one direction (into the tank) and stops water from flowing in the other direction (out of the tank). This cheap but important accessory prevents water from siphoning out of your aquarium if the air pump turns off or stops running during a power outage. The water from the tube can leak out and cause damage to your pump. This can result in an electrical fire if there are power strips or appliances that have been sitting in the water.

For any aquarium device that utilizes airline tubing, such as a sponge filter, ornament, brine shrimp hatchery or carbon dioxide (CO2) injection, check valves are required. (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.) To install, cut the airline tube between the device (or CO2 tank) and attach the check valve. The check valve’s flapper (which is a horizontal or colored strip) should be facing towards the air pump. You can’t turn the air pump on if the check valve is installed backwards.

Connect the check-valve between the air pump & air-driven device so that the horizontal bar or colored bar faces towards the 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 position stops the water at the rim rather than near the air pump where the water pressure in the airline tubing could cause a leak. You should also ensure that the airline tubing is straightened and free from tears. Make sure the airline tubing isn’t dried out or hardened, as this could cause it to leak during power outages.

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 too much back pressure from building up and potentially damaging your air pump.

An Air Valve controls the amount air flow from your air pump to your air-driven 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. Make sure to cut the airline tubing cleanly and make sure that the connections are checked regularly to ensure that the air valve is connected properly.

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. The five connectors come in a pack that includes five T-type airline connectors. This allows you to theoretically connect multiple splitters together to create more 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. As usual, ensure that you use airline tubing with clean-cut ends and periodically inspect the connections to make sure they haven’t weakened over time.

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.

Remember that every time you split the air, each outlet produces a lower output and allows less air to pass through it. Each air stream must be adjusted for each outlet. The more outlets you have the better. 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 accessory diffuses air into the tank to improve oxygenation and reduce bubbling noise. To improve the effectiveness of your filtration, you can either use the air stone alone or with a sponge filter. The air stone creates a steady stream of tiny bubbles (instead of large, intermittent bubbles) that produces constant lift in the sponge filter – much like a continuously running escalator (versus an elevator that starts and stops all the time).

This diagram shows the location of an air stone inside a sponge filter in order 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.