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 a Fish Tank Air Pump?
An air pump, a mechanical device that pumps air into the aquarium from outside, is an electrical device. The air travels from the air pump to the fish tank decoration or device using airline tubing. Once it enters the water, the air creates bubbles, which float to the surface and pop.
As well as creating movement in the water, rising bubbles can also help to create 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. If your fish are gasping at the surface, read this article about adding an air pump with a simple air stone to increase oxygen levels in the water.
Do I need an aquarium pump? No. Canister and hang-on-back filters, for example, use an electric motor to move the water. They are not compatible 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 are made with air pumps that create bubbles in the sponge to pull water through it and remove any particles.
How is an aquarium air pump used? Aquarium air pumps can be used in conjunction to many fish tank decorations, 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. You will need accessories for your air pump to ensure that the air flows in the correct direction and 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.
Airflow from the pump to the aquarium equipment or ornament is directed by the tube called the “Airline Tubing”. – Check valve – prevents water from getting out of the tank. Air valve – controls air flow to the aquarium. T splitter – splits one airline into two channels. Gang valve — controls air flow from an air pump to four aquarium devices. Airline holder: Uses a suction cup for holding your airline tubing in place inside or outside of the tank.
This black airline tubing is essential for directing air flow from the air pump into the sponge filter.
These are the basic instructions for installing an air pump once you have purchased the aquarium device, decoration or 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. For future moving of the aquarium apparatus, you can add some extra slack to the airline tubing. 2. Connect one end of the airline tubing to the aquarium device and place the device inside the fish tank. Connect the other end 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. Cut the airline tubing between the aquarium device (or sponge filter) and attach the check-valve in between. Make sure the flapper end of the check vale with the flapper 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. You should begin to see bubbles from your aquarium device within a few seconds.
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.
How can an aquarium air pump adjusted? Adjusting the airflow may be necessary if there is excessive bubbling. Many air pumps have an adjustable dial that can be used to adjust the flow. If your air pump isn’t adjustable, you can also attach an air valve to control the air flow.
Should my air pump be turned off at night? To ensure that your fish have good water circulation and oxygen, it is a good idea to keep the pump on throughout the day. You can find possible remedies for noises from an air pumps at night in the section below.
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. The vibration can become very loud over time. These solutions can make it more quiet:
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. If your air pump is not too heavy, you can hang it by the power cord so it doesn’t touch or vibrate against any object. Your aquarium or other decor may have become clogged due to algae growth or debris. Consider replacing your existing air pump with a smaller and quieter one, such as 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. See our article about how to install an Air Stone in 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 for different types of applications, so choose the right one that fits your needs:
Recommended Air Pumps for Small Tanks and Fish Transportation.
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 gives you a lot of flexibility when it comes to powering 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 for Large or Deep Tanks