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 that sits outside of the fish tank and uses electricity (either from a wall outlet or battery power) to pump air into the aquarium. 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.
As well as creating movement in the water, rising bubbles can also help to create 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.
Does my aquarium need an air pump? Not necessarily. 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. An air pump is needed for air-driven filters such as sponge and undergravel. 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.
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 Pump
An air pump is responsible to draw in air from the fish tank and then pump it into an aquarium. A few accessories are needed to help guide the airflow in the right direction at the right pressure. For most beginners, we recommend getting a roll of airline tubing and check valve to get started. 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 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. Place the air pump in its final location outside of the aquarium, and then cut the airline tubing to the proper length so that it is long enough to connect the air pump to the aquarium device inside the aquarium. For future moving of the aquarium apparatus, you can add some extra slack to the airline tubing. 2. Place the aquarium device inside the fish tank by connecting one end to the airline tubing. 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. 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. 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.
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 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. Many air pumps have an adjustable dial that can be used to adjust the flow. An air valve can be attached to your pump to regulate the airflow.
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. For possible solutions to noise from an air pump at night, please refer to the following section.
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. Unfortunately, this vibration can get quite loud over time. Try these solutions to make it quieter:
To cushion vibrations, place a towel, foam block, or any other soft material underneath the air pump. – Make sure the air pump (and its cushion) is resting on a solid surface that won’t vibrate and amplify the noise. Hang the air pump by the power cable if it isn’t too heavy so that it doesn’t touch or vibrate 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 makes smaller bubbles, which do not make as much noise when they pop at the surface. You can read our article to learn how to place an air stone inside a sponge filter.
The bubbling noise from a sponge or air-driven filter is significantly reduced and the filter’s efficiency increased by adding an air stone.
What’s 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.
Recommended Air Pumps for Small Tanks and Fish Transportation.
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). 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.
Air Pumps Recommended for Large and Deep Tanks