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Aquarium air pumps & links to online suppliers

Aquarium air pump, resized image

Brief Description

This page is devoted to aquarium air pumps, answers FAQ and contains forum under the article and in a case you came here searching for online suppliers of air pumps, simply click this link. We'd love to hear your experiences with various pumps, so other aquarists will know better what to purchase and what to avoid, therefore use a form at the bottom of this page to share your knowledge or to ask questions!

The purpose

Aquarium air pump is a device that brings air into the aquarium. The air pumps are usually very alike however one can choose from many types of decorations, from which the air will come out to the aquarium. The most common is just an air stone. which works the way the air stone is put into the aquarium and the pump is started. Another forms are aquarium ornaments like treasure chests, shells, which open if the decoration is full of air, divers and many more.

Such aerating devices produce bubbles and the bubbles move the water surface which is how they aerate the water. Choosing the right air pump is not so difficult, you just have to choose it according to the depth of your aquarium and the pressure you need for the ornament (i.e. the deeper the tank, the greater pressure and wattage is needed for a pump to work effectively). On the other hand if you are choosing an ornamental aerator, you are choosing it according to the facts how you like it, or which would look best in your aquarium. Many aquarists prefer to run several aeration devices simultaneously in order to achieve highest possible levels of oxygen in a fish tank.

The installation

Installation of a device is usually described in enclosed instructions which, in most cases, is to take out the air pump from the box, put the pump somewhere above the aquarium and the air stone comes into the aquarium, and by plugging the pump into the electricity will make it work. Bear in mind aeration stones get filthy after some time, because the holes may caulk and you have to replace the stones in such a case.

How does an aerator work

The pump gets the air though a little pipeline and then the pump blows out the air to the water trough the stone, or ornament. The stones have small holes in them and from there comes the air. This stone may be long from just a few centimetres to a very lengthy one, which makes a wall of bubbles and which also requires a powerful aerator as it needs more power to push the air into the whole stone.

Why to aerate water

It is because fish and plants need air. Fish like humans breathe oxygen and convert it into carbon dioxide. In the nature, the substrate at the bottom levels of rivers or creeks, is covered by plants and they produce a lot of oxygen (but only during the day, at night they breathe oxygen too, so there is less oxygen in the water, therefore do not turn off the aerator at night), however usually there are not enough plants in an aquarium to cover the whole process the same way like in the nature. The next reason for aeration is to create a natural movement of water which will also move toxins and fish waste in general, and allows their efficient filtration. If there were no aerator, the fish waste could settle everywhere in the tank: the plants, decorations. Not only it wouldn't look good, it is not good for the health of the plants and fish.

On the other hand, one may encounter several issues when using air pumps. For example in smaller aquariums these devices are able to create a strong movement of the surface and some fish may hate it, like fish, which make bubble nests on the surface. Such fish include bettas, paradise fish and gourami. Another aspect you should take into consideration is the deeper the air stone or decoration is in a water column, the bigger bubbles will reach the surface and the more will the surface move. The whole process even may splash out the water from the tank, furthermore some pumps may be noisy.

Generally, an aquarium air pump could be a very nice decoration and useful equipment of your fish tank and it has the ability to create many different types of bubbles, which can look very nice and its capability to aerate the water makes it a good subject of your interest. They don’t cost much and they aren’t a heavy energy wasters. Usual energy consumption of these devices is just from 5 to 10 watts per hour. In addition bubbles from any aquarium air pump can be illuminated by colourful light source. This way you will create very unusual decoration which will attract people looking at your fish tank for many hours.

Air pump for an aquarium

Another air pump for an aquarium

Images sources:; (a link to has been removed on 6 March 2010 as the website was not loading)

Questions and answers

Due to merging with articles, we moved the following questions here. You're welcome to submit own questions too, however firstly make sure that they're unique and not yet answered on this page, please.

  • What size of air pump do I need for my tank?

    Answer: This will depend on the depth of the tank that the airline is running into. For shallow tanks there will be less pressure required to aerate the water so a small pump will suffice. For deeper tanks a more powerful pump may be required to push the air through.

  • What does an air pump do in an aquarium?

    Answer: An air pump aerates the water and improves water circulation in your tank.

  • What do bubble stones do in aquariums?

    Answer: Much like air pumps, they circulate the water and aerate it, increasing surface area.

  • Why won’t my air pump create bubbles in the tank?

    Answer: Check in the first place that the air pump is actually running. The second thing to check is that the airline is in good condition. If both of these are OK then replace the air stone as it may be clogged or starting to disintegrate.

  • When do you need an aquarium air pump?

    Answer: Air pumps add oxygen into the water not by the air bubble but by the agitation they create at the water surface. Adding an air pump to your tank will keep plenty of oxygen in the water.

  • Where do I put the air pump in an aquarium?

    Answer: Generally one would attach a length of hose to an air stone or air driven filter and place it to the rear of the aquarium. There are some other options including bubble walls, air driven ornaments, and Natural wood diffusers. It really depends on whether you are seeking a "look" or are using it to aerate the water. It is important to note that you should place the air pump away from the aquarium and above the water level so that you do not create an electrical hazard or allow the water to back up the tube and damage your air pump. Check valves are available from your local pet center and add a level of protection but one should not rely solely on these.

  • Which is the quieter air pump, tetra whisper or rena?

    Answer: Both air pumps claim to be the quietest but the rena air pump seems to be the favoured of the two. The rena is a little more expensive but when performance between the two pumps is compared, the whisper is not the favourite.

Online suppliers of air pumps

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