How to Use Airline Accessories in Your Aquarium
Aquarium air pumps are very easy to use. Just connect the pump with the device using airline tubing. Then, why are there so many airline accessories and which ones do you actually need? Keep reading as we briefly explain five of the most common airline parts that can transform the way you use your air pump.
1. Verify Valve
Check valves are essential if you have to get just one item from the above list. It contains a flapper or stopper that allows air to flow in one direction (into the tank) and stops water from flowing in the other direction (out of the tank). This cheap but important accessory prevents water from siphoning out of your aquarium if the air pump turns off or stops running during a power outage. The water from the tube can leak out and cause damage to your pump. This can result in an electrical fire if there are power strips or appliances that have been sitting in the water.
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 end of the check valve with the flapper (which looks like a colored or horizontal bar) should be facing the air pump. You can’t turn the air pump on if the check valve is installed backwards.
Connect the check valve between the air pump and air-driven device such that the horizontal or colored bar is facing the air 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. Also, make sure the airline tubing is cut straight and cleanly, free of any 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
The air valve looks similar to a “check valve”, but it controls the flow of air from your aquarium to the pump. An adjustable knob is available on some air pumps to allow you to increase or decrease air pressure. If your pump does not have this feature and the bubbles seem too strong, then this tool will be perfect 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). To decrease flow, tighten the knob and then loosen it to increase flow. A small amount of air can still escape through the valve even if the knob is fully tightened. This prevents back pressure buildup and can potentially cause damage to your air pump.
An air valve regulates the airflow from your pump to your 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 name tee airline divider comes from the T-shaped shape of its T shape, which splits one stream into two. 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. You could also use this feature to divert air from your main aquarium into a second tank, or quarantine tub. Each pack comes with five T airline connectors, so you could theoretically chain multiple splitters together to create additional air streams.
The T splitter divides the air flow coming from the green air pump, and then the air valve controls how much air reaches the sponge filter.
When splitting the air stream, we recommend that you use air valves. This will allow you to control how much air goes each line. As usual, ensure that you use airline tubing with clean-cut ends and periodically inspect the connections to make sure they haven’t weakened over time.
4. Gang Valve
A more efficient accessory for splitting one air stream into multiple paths is a gang valve. 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.
Gang valves are a great way of splitting air between multiple aquariums and air-driven devices.
Keep in mind that each time you split the air, each outlet has a weaker output and less air going through it. The more outlets you have, the more adjustments need to be made on each air stream. 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 small and weighted, which produces 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. You can use an air stone by itself or in conjunction with a sponge filter to improve the efficiency of the filtration. 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. Our sponge filter installation guide will show you how to install an airstone inside a sponge filter.
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.