Aquariums Need Air Pumps – Here’s Why

When you’re new to the aquarium hobby, an aquarium air pump might seem like a great way to keep your fish healthy and happy. But is it essential? Do you need an air pump for a fish tank?

You don’t necessarily need an air pump. But, there are some advantages to having one in your fish tank. They are one of the few low-cost supplies for your aquarium. Not to mention, they can serve as a cool-looking piece of decoration.

What Does An Air Pump Do For A Fish Tank?

The air pump in a fish tank helps to keep the water oxygenated. The pump is typically located at the top of the tank and is responsible for creating bubbles. These bubbles burst, releasing oxygen into the tank. The use of an air pump on your tank is a good idea. It makes sure that the tank has enough oxygen, but it also reduces the likelihood of exposing your fish to less than ideal water conditions. Here are some beneficial reasons for having an air pump in your aquarium.

Water Surface Agitation & Optimal Oxygen Levels

According to an article by Duke University,

An air pump simply bubbles air through your tank. Air pumps serve two purposes. First, they ensure that your tank maintains an adequate concentration of oxygen.

So, why is water surface agitation necessary? How can an air pump help? The surface of the water is where gas exchange happens. For example, it’s where oxygen enters the water and where carbon dioxide leaves.

Without proper water flow or surface agitation, oxygen won’t make its way into the water, and carbon dioxide won’t be able to exit.

This is usually not a problem if your tank has a power filter above water level. But, if you don’t have such a setup, an air pump is a perfect replacement.

Aquarium Air Pump Benefits
Power Filter With Air Pump

Most aquarists avoid power filters because they are too loud. Some air pumps can be pretty loud too. Many people use this quiet air pump without issue.

How Do You Know That There Isn’t Enough Oxygen In Your Aquarium?

Are your fish gasping for air at the top of the tank? If your fish are constantly gasping at the tank’s surface, there might not be enough oxygen. One way to fix this problem is to add an air pump and see how it goes.

Aquarium Air Pumps Increase Oxygen Levels

By now, you know that air pumps are essential for increasing surface agitation and thus oxygen in the fish tank. But why is oxygen important in an aquarium?

Fish, plants, and even bacteria need oxygen to be healthy. Oxygen promotes a thriving underwater ecosystem. According to the FDACS,

Oxygen is as critical to fish life as it is to human life. Dissolved oxygen (DO) refers to the oxygen gas that is dissolved in water. Fish absorb the DO directly from the water into their bloodstream through their gills.

Some species, such as bettas and gouramis, can breathe air, but the water’s oxygen levels should always be maintained for all fish.

Did you know? Aquarium plants need oxygen too. They take carbon dioxide in and exhale oxygen during the day. At night plants take oxygen in and exhale carbon dioxide into the water.

If you keep a planted aquarium and add Co2 to your aquarium for plant health, don’t keep the air pump on all day and night. Instead, run the air pump at night to oxygenate the water. Plants do not need Co2 during the night, but they need oxygen.

 Bacteria use oxygen to help break down dead plant material. So, more oxygen in your aquarium is better for the ecosystem.

You Need An Air Pump In Your Fish Tank If You Use A Sponge Filter

An aquarium air pump is necessary if you use a sponge filter. Sponge filters need an air pump due to the lack of a motor. These filters are dependent on the airflow from the air pump to push water through their filtering mechanism.

Sponge filters work well in smaller tanks. But, you can use them in larger tanks with power filters and canister filters. They also come in handy if you ever need to set up a new tank or quarantine tank.

Moving the sponge filter from the old tank to the new tank cuts down the time needed for cycling your fish tank.

You can place fish in the new tank within hours of moving the sponge filter from the old tank to the new tank. Why? The sponge filter from your old tank will already be packed with beneficial bacteria.

Where Do You Put An Aquarium Air Pump?

The air pump does not go inside the aquarium. Instead, there should be a silicon piece that you slip into the water. You place the part that does the pumping outside, under the tank, or to the side.

Recommended Aquarium Air Pumps

The Bottom Line

Aquarium air pumps are not usually a priority for many fish tanks. However, if you think that your tank may be lacking oxygen, they can be the piece of equipment that saves your fish and aquarium. They are inexpensive, decorative, and beneficial to all living things in the tank. Using one won’t hurt, so why not use it for added benefits?

Want even more oxygen? Add an air stone to your aquarium alongside your air pump for more oxygen production. Thanks for reading, do aquariums need air pumps on Fish Tank Basics!