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Air pumps

They not only offer pleasing effects but also essential oxygenation and current to the aquarium. Not all aquarists use them though. It is possible to have an aquarium without one, but it poses challenges sooner or later.

What do they do?

An air pump can be used for filtration using foam, box or under-gravel filters, airation of the water by bubblestones, wands, or bubble tubes, and they can also power ornaments and create movement in the aquarium.


This is very often the first use of air pumps. Most aquarists buy air pumps for this reason initially. Filtration is an essential part of any aquarium and not all can be filtered by other methods. The principle advantage of air filtration is that it is gentle and safe for delicate and small fish. Many electrically powered filters are too powerful for small fish and fry to cope with, creating strong currents in the tank and tiring them out. They also create strong intake currents and can pull small fish into the intakes.

Air filtration is much less dangerous for these fish. Because it uses air to move the water, the current is much less, there are no moving parts to hurt fish and the fittings are interchangeable and cheap. By using air filtration you don’t need to add any other form of airation to your aquarium, as the air bubbles rising from the stone will increase the surface area of the water and naturally airate. They also help to extract the other contaminants that are suspended in the water such as CO2, chlorine and nitrogen that is absorbed in the water.


This is very important for some fish since as the water is warm is is less able to hold oxygen. Loaches in particular require well airated water to survive, since they come from streams where the water is very well oxygenated.


It’s always a conversation piece when youhave a waterwheel turning or a diver rising and falling in the aquarium. These can only be operated by air! A bubble curtain is fun for the fish and pleasing to the eye.

You cannot have too much oxygenation in a fish tank, so there is no concerns about havinbg too much, unlike power filters where the currents they create can be problematic.

Types of pump:

There are several different types of air pump, depending on the depth of water, the amount of attachments, and so on. Air pumps are not expensive and readily available at many outlets. They range from a small single outlet pump which is just enough for one ornament in a small tank, or a small sponge filter in your betta bowl, to large and powerful multi-outlet pumps capable of maintaining several tanks at once with air curtains, UGF’s and ornaments. The size of the pump you need depends on the use you intend it for. As a guide, you will need a twin outlet pump to run the filtration and esthethics in a 15 Gallon tank. These pumps cost from £10 - £15 each.

There are several makes available, some run quieter than others, so you may need to research as to the right one for you. Air pumps can be quite noisy and as they run 24 hours a day, it is important to find a quiet one if you are planning to have the pump near the tank. You can install them in cupboards, drawers, or even other rooms, so the larger ones are not always the wrong choice, even if they do tend to make a noise.

I have 4 large pumps running 18 tanks in my living room, but the pumps are installed outside in a little cupboard and the pipes are run into the room from there. I have linked all the outlets together to form one large airline using 8mm air pipe, and each tank is Tee’d off from there. The 4 pumps I have supply ample air to run all my filtration, bubble curtains, ornaments and more without any problems. If I add a new tank, I just add another Tee to the 8mm piping!

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