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. Check Valve

A check valve, even if you only have one item on the list, is a must-have. This valve contains a flapper, or stopper. It allows air to flow in one direction (into your tank) and prevents water from flowing in another direction (outside the tank). This accessory is inexpensive but essential. It prevents water from leaking out of your aquarium in the event that your air pump stops working or shuts down during power outages. Water leakage out of the airline tubing usually results in damage to your air pump, as well as flooding all over your floor. If appliances or power strips are in contact with the water, it can cause an electrical fire.

Check valves are necessary for every aquarium device that uses airline tubing, whether it’s a sponge filter, aquarium ornament, brine shrimp hatchery, or carbon dioxide (CO2) injection system. A check valve is only required if the CO2 tank or air pump is higher than the aquarium’s rim. 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. Installing the check valve backwards will cause no air to flow when you turn on your air pump. Simply flip the check-valve around.

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 prevents water from getting to the rim and not near the air pump. The water pressure could cause leakage if it is too close to the tube. You should also ensure that the airline tubing is straightened and free from tears. Final, make sure to inspect the airline tubing for any signs of dryness or hardening. This could lead to the connection leaking during an outage.

2. Air Valve

An air valve sounds similar to a check valve, but instead it is used to control the amount of air flow coming from your air pump into the aquarium. 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.

Install an air valve by cutting the airline tube between the air pump, and the air-driven device. Then connect the recently cut ends of the airline tubing to each end of the air valve (direction doesn’t matter). Screw tight the knob to decrease flow and loosen the knob to increase flow. The air valve usually allows a little air to escape even when the knob has been tightened completely. This keeps back pressure from building up, which could potentially damage your air pump.

An air valve controls the amount of air flow coming from your air pump into 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. Also, make sure you make clean cuts in the airline tubing and check the connections periodically to make sure the air valve is still snuggly connected.

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. Another use case would be diverting air off your main aquarium to a second tank or a 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 T splitter separates the airflow coming from the green pump. Next, the valve controls the amount of air that reaches the sponge filter.

Air valves are highly recommended for splitting the air stream. This allows you to fine-tune how much air is going to each line. Use airline tubing with straight ends. Also, inspect the connections regularly to ensure they don’t become weaker over time.

4. Gang Valve

A gang valve, which is more efficient at splitting an air stream into multiple paths, is a better accessory. The model we offer features four outlets and up to two inlets. You can add as many or as few air pumps you like and split the air up to four times with the two inlets. Alternativly, you can connect two daisy chain two-gang valves together and have eight ways to split your water.

A gang valve can be used to divide air between multiple air-driven devices or aquariums.

Remember that every time you split the air, each outlet produces a lower output and allows less air to pass through it. You will need to adjust each air stream for every outlet you have. Luckily, there’s no need to get any air valves because each outlet has its own adjustable switch to regulate how much air goes to each individual device.

5. Air Stone

An air stone is a small, weighted bubbler that produces very small bubbles in the water. This simple accessory helps to gradually diffuse air into the tank, improve oxygenation of water, and minimize the amount of bubbling noise you’ll hear. 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. For more information on how to install an Air Stone inside a sponge Filter, please refer to our sponge Filter Installation Guide.

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.