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? This article will explain how to choose the right air pump for your aquarium, when it is best to use one and how to install 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. The air flows from the pump to the decoration of the fish tank or device using airline tubing. Once it enters the water, the air creates bubbles, which float to the surface and pop.
As well as creating movement in the water, rising bubbles can also help to create surface agitation. Good surface agitation is key to gas exchange in an aquarium. It allows for excess carbon dioxide (a waste product of your fish) to be released into air while new oxygen from the air is dissolved 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.
Does an aquarium require an air pump? Canister and hang-on-back filters, for example, use an electric motor to move the water. They are not compatible 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 are still unsure, check the instructions to determine if your decoration or equipment requires 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.
How is an aquarium air pump used? Aquarium air pumps can be used in conjunction to many fish tank decorations, such as a:
Air stone, also known as aquarium bubbler, is a device that creates finer bubbles using an air pump. This can be used for reduced noise, better filtration (when combined with a filter), and decorative appearance.
How to Install an Aquarium Pump
An air pump pumps air into an aquarium by sucking it in from the outside. 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. The other items are optional, depending on your specific application.
The airflow from the airpump into the aquarium equipment and ornament is directed through the line tubing.
This black tube is used to direct airflow from the air pump to the sponge filter.
Once you have purchased the air pump, aquarium device or decoration, and necessary accessories, follow these basic instructions to install the air pump:
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. (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. Attach one end of the airline tube to the aquarium device. Then, place the device in 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. If the air pump is positioned lower than the top of the aquarium, you need a check valve to prevent water leakage through the airline tubing. Cut the airline tubing somewhere between the sponge filter and the aquarium device, and attach the check valve in between so that the end of the check valve with the flapper (typically looks like a colored or horizontal bar) is facing the air pump. Installing the check valve backwards will cause no airflow when you turn on your air pump. Simply flip the check-valve 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.
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 air pump be adjusted? If the amount of bubbling in your aquarium is too much or too little, you may want to adjust the air flow. Some air pumps come with an adjustable dial to increase or decrease the flow. An air valve can be attached to your pump to regulate the airflow.
Should my water pump be on at all times? It is best to leave your air pump on for as long as possible to ensure that your fish are getting enough oxygen and good water circulation. You can find possible remedies for noises from an air pumps at night in the section below.
How to Make an Aquarium Pump Quieter
If you bought an air pump from the pet store, most likely it’s a diaphragm air pump, which uses a diaphragm that rapidly vibrates back and forth to suck in air from its surroundings and then push that air into your fish tank. This vibration unfortunately can become quite noisy over time. Try these solutions to make it quieter:
To absorb vibrations, you can place a small towel or block of foam under the pump. – Make sure the air pump (and its cushion) is resting on a solid surface that won’t vibrate and amplify the noise. If your air pump is not too heavy, you can hang it by the power cord so it doesn’t touch or vibrate against any object. Your aquarium or other decor may have become clogged due to algae growth or debris. Consider replacing your current air pump with a smaller, quieter model such as the USB nano pump. – If the bubbling noise is too loud, try adding an air stone to the aquarium device, if possible. The bubbles produced by the air stone are smaller and make less noise as they pop on 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 Air Pump?
We have tested dozens upon dozens of different air pumps over the years and settled on three units with superior reliability, low noise levels, and affordable prices. Each pump is best for different applications. Choose the right one to suit your needs.
Recommendations for Air Pumps for Small Tanks, Fish Transportation, 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 allows you to be flexible when powering up the air pump. It can be plugged into any regular outlet (adapter is included), a car that has a USB outlet, cigarette lighter adapter or a USB battery pack to provide power for short drives and power outages.
Recommended Air Pump for Large or Deep Tanks
feeds into each fish tank. It uses pistons, similar to a car engine, to pump 47 liters per minute. This makes it quieter and more reliable than traditional diaphragm technology. 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.