were once a commonplace piece of aquarium equipment. These days they’re much less common. However, there are some applications where air pumps are the perfect choice, and some air pumps are absolutely better than others. Here is a brief guide on when to use air pumps, how to pick the right air pump and some common air pump accessories.
When to Use an Air Pump?For Energy Efficiency
Air pumps increase the dissolved oxygen in an aquarium and create water movement. The main reason fewer air pumps are used these days is that water pumps do both of these jobs more effectively and are cheaper than ever before. However, air pumps use far less energy than water pumps. This is why many fish stores use air pumps and air-driven filters rather than water pumps. The operating expense is very important in a business environment and the energy savings can add up with the large number of tanks in a store. If you are concerned with your electric bill, using air pumps rather than water pumps can help.
For Specialized Filters
and under-gravel filters
, as well as certain algae turf scrubbers and protein skimmers, require air pumps to run. These filters have for decades been proven to be effective for filtration, and they’re often some of the most affordable ways to filter a tank. All of the BiOrb Aquariums
use air pumps and sponge filters.
Many people enjoy watching bubbles in the aquarium. Certain decorations use bubbles to activate decorations or to create interesting bubble and lighting effects.
For Aquariums with CO2
In planted aquariums using CO2, excess CO2 will build up at night because plants only use CO2 during the day when they photosynthesize. Excess CO2 can suffocate fish. Using an air pump to pump fresh oxygen into the water will help to reduce the risk of your fish suffocating. Many aquarists who run an air pump to counteract the buildup of CO2, use a timer to just run the pump at night.
For Moving Fish
If your local fish store is far from you, or you are moving your entire aquarium, using a battery-operated air pump is a great way to keep your fish alive when they’re being moved. The Penn-Plax Silent Air B11 Auto/On Battery Powered Air Pump
is great for this purpose.
For a Battery Backup
Power outages can be devastating for an aquarium. The most affordable way to protect against power outages is with a battery air pump. AquaTop Breza Battery Operated Air Pumps
are a good choice. They use D Batteries and turn on when the power goes out.
How to Pick an Air Pump?Noise
The most important factor for most people when choosing an air pump is the noise. Air pumps are often the loudest piece of equipment on the aquarium. Loud air pumps can be extremely annoying and distract from the beauty of the aquarium. Some of the quietest options we have found are the Tetra Whisper Air Pumps
Air pumps typically have aquarium size recommendation from the manufacturer. Because manufacturers like their pumps to seem powerful, they rate the pump for the largest aquarium possible. It is best to go one or two sizes larger than the manufacturer recommendation, or use two pumps (especially if you like a lot of bubbles
Head pressure describes the force of resistance a pump encounters when pumping. The longer the air line attached to the pump, the deeper down in the water the end of the air hose, and the more clogged the air stone on the end of the line, the greater the head pressure. Most air pumps can handle enough head pressure to work on standard aquariums with the pump placed in the stand.
If you want to pump air into an aquarium over 3 feet deep, or you want to have the pump in a different room from your tank, the best pumps are the Coralife Luft Aquarium Air Pumps
. These pumps are very powerful but also very loud. Even though the Luft Pumps are very loud, they’re also very strong (can handle high head pressure). You could have a Luft Air Pump in the garage and run an air line to a tank in the living room, eliminating most of the sound at the location of the tank.
Over time the rubber diaphragm in an air pump will wear out. If you plan on having the pump for many years, the ability to replace the diaphragm is important. We have diaphragms for Tetra, Danner, Penn-Plax and Coralife air pumps.
Air Pump Accessories Check Valves
Anyone using an air pump should use a check valve
. A check valve stops water from flowing back down your airline. This is very important. If water gets into your air pump it will damage the pump and flood water onto the floor. It can also be a fire hazard.
To use an air pump you will need airline tubing
Airstones cause the air coming out of your airline to form many small bubbles rather than a few large bubbles. Use limewood air stones for protein skimmers, small air stones for common use, and bubble wands or disks for interesting esthetics.
Ball valves, such as the Two Little Fishies Airline Hose Micro Ball Valve
, allow you to dial down the flow of your air pump. This is particularly important if you have a line split to multiple airstones or decorations. The air will naturally flow mostly to the closest decoration and the decoration that is farther away will receive very little air flow. Air always follows the path of least resistance. A ball valve will help you to tune the flow so that both airstones receive equal an amount of air.
Tees and Manifolds
Tees and manifolds split an airline into multiple lines. Tees split the line into two lines while manifolds can split the line into three or more lines. Many manifolds also have built-in flow control valves for adjusting the airflow to each line out of the manifold. See Lees Plastic Plastic Tee, 2 Pack
, and Hagen Elite 4-Way Air Control Valve