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? In this article, we explain when to use an air pump, how to pick the right one, and how to install it in your aquarium.
What is an Air Pump for Fish Tanks?
An air pump is a mechanical device which sits outside the fish tank. It uses electricity to pump water into the aquarium. The air travels from the air pump to the fish tank decoration or device using airline tubing. The air bubbles when it enters the water and floats to the surface.
Water movement is created by the rising bubbles and 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. 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. Air-driven filtration devices, such as sponge or undergravel filters, use air to move water. Therefore, an air pump is required. If you’re still unsure, read the instructions to see if your equipment or decoration needs an air pump to run.
Sponge filters use air pumps to provide bubbles that pull water through the sponge and strain out particles floating in the water.
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, 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 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. To get started, most people recommend purchasing a roll of airline tubing with a check valve. Other items may be required depending on your 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. Then place the air pump outside the aquarium. Cut the airline tubing to the right length to allow for the connection 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. Attach one end of the airline tube to the aquarium device. Then, place the device in the fish tank. Then connect the other end of the airline tubing to the air pump. 3. You can skip this step if your air pump is located higher than the aquarium 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. You can’t turn the air pump on if the check valve is installed backwards. Instead, flip it around.
1. Create a drip loop with the power cable of the air pump (to prevent water from entering the wall outlet), and then plug in the air pump. In a matter of seconds, bubbles should start to appear from the aquarium device.
You will find detailed instructions for how to install your aquarium device and air pump in the manuals.
Can an aquarium pump be adjusted? You may need to adjust the flow of air. You can adjust the flow of some air pumps with an adjustable dial. You can attach an air valve to adjust the flow of your air pump if it is not adjustable.
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. If you are worried about the noise caused by an air pump at night, see the section below for possible remedies.
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. These solutions can make it more quiet:
– 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 the aquarium device or decor attached to your air pump because it may have gotten clogged from debris or algae growth. 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 created by an air stone are smaller, and they don’t make as much noise when they hit the surface. You can read our article to learn how to place an air stone inside 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?
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 to different applications so make sure you choose the one that suits your needs.
Recommendations for Air Pumps for Small Tanks, Fish Transportation, Power Outages
USB nano air pump
The USB nano air pump is well-suited for nano tanks, larger aquariums that need an extra air stone, and even outdoor mini ponds (if protected from extreme weather). Because the air output is slightly lower than your standard air pump, it operates almost silently, uses very little electricity, and provides slower flow for betta fish, shrimp, and baby fish.
The USB power cord allows you to be flexible when powering up the air pump. The USB power cord can be connected to a regular wall outlet (adapter provided with the product), a car equipped with a USB outlet/cigarette lighter adapter, and a USB battery for short-term power outages or survival.
Air Pumps Recommended for Large and Deep Tanks