Can Fish Live Without an Air Pump—Does Your Fish Tank Need One
By Jecinta Mwihaki @aquariawise
Water aeration in fish tanks is not only a beautiful feature but also essential. However, the need for an air pump is subordinate to filters, lights, and heater.
So, does your fish tank really need bubblers (airstones) or can you go without the extra aeration?
Let’s find out!
Does Your Fish Tank Need an Air Pump?
The impression airstone bubblers (see recommended product) create in aquariums, as mentioned, is breathtaking, but an air pump is not a must in your fish tank. If you have enough surface agitation, which in itself is adding a good amount of air exchange, an air pump will mostly serve as an accessory.
In-the-place of an air pump, you can use live plants or a filter to improve your aquarium air concentration. All you need to do is make sure there is enough air circulating in the fish tank.
That being said, an air pump (see recommended product) is the best equipment or aquarium aeration method to efficiently and effectively move air around your fish tank.
Moreover, people use air stones to add charm in their tanks, something that aquarium filter and live plants can’t do.
Can Fish Survive Without an Air Pump—How Long
Because fish get their oxygen by filtering it out of the water with their gills, it’s imperative to have an air pump to replenish the amounts taken from the water. Otherwise, the oxygen will gradually get depleted putting your fish in real danger.
But it’s good to note that air pumps don’t directly add oxygen in the water, they instead improve water circulation which then increases the water-air contact.
Luckily, as mentioned above, there are a couple of ways you can aerate your fish tank, which means fish can survive without an air pump because they are not dependent on it entirely.
Also, some fish are quite hardy, and others have “special abilities” hence will survive in low oxygen tanks and bowls without extra aeration. These fish include labyrinth species like bettas and gouramis that breathe both in water and on the surface.
By and large, an air pump is essential if you have lots of fish in your aquarium or a fish tank with zero plants.
What Does an Air Pump Do in a Fish Tank
Simply put, an aquarium air pump is a device used to add air in a fish tank and help circulate oxygen around.
It also serves to create water movement which replicates rapid rivers, best for when you have fish that love flowing water, whereas the resulting bubbles create a chic aquarium ambiance.
Typically, aquarium air pumps move air using an electromagnet to vibrate a rubber diaphragm. Unfortunately, this movement also causes the classic, sometimes unsettling, purring sound associated with most air pumps.
The mechanical process in the air pump will pump air from outside the tank to inside through outlets inside the aquarium. The outlets maybe ornamental and open up to let bubble out, or might be simple hidden air stone devices.
When air bubbles from the outlets pass through water, they create movements which then aerates your fish tank, though the air bubble, also play a part in aerating an aquarium.
The more surface movement you have, the more contact your water has with the air outside the tank, which means more oxygen gets into the tank.
Should you decide to add an air pump in your aquarium, you will need these items besides a setup guide.
Air pumps (see recommended product),(and) can be loud and very annoying when running due to their operating mechanism. Therefore, you’ll want to consider a quality product from a reputable company.
Either way, use a sponge under the air pump to dampen the sound. However, with time the sponge will harden, and the noise will be audible again. So I recommend you replace the piece every sixth month.
Another thing to note is that the size of your pump will most likely be dictated by the number of things you need it to operate.
If you use the pump to operate an under-gravel-filter in a standard size tank, then the tank-size-rating on an air pump is dependable. However, any other use away from running a submersible filter, and the rating is no longer relevant.
In which case, a rule of thumb is to estimate the resistance of the things you are pushing air through. The higher the resistance, the larger the air pump you’ll need.
If your fish tank is more than 20 inches you may need to get a special deep water air pump.
Choose an air pump that’s slightly larger than what you think you’ll need to help you in case you underestimate your tank. It’ll also leave room for expansion at a later date.
Air stones(see recomended product), also called bubblers are porous items placed at the bottom of the fish tank and serve as the outlet for the air pump.
Bubblers are connected to the pump via air tube.
The porous material of an air stone generally separates the air flowing in the small part which then create a thousand bubbles.
It is common for air stones to be ornamental hence come in different shapes. Therefore, the bubblers you choose will depend on the feel you want in your fish tank.
That being said, larger air stones will have more resistance than smaller bubblers hence will require a bigger air pump. Howbeit, any air stone will provide more resistance than no air stone.
It is important you don’t skip putting a check valve (see all accessories) in the air hose. This will protect the pump from damage in the event of a power failure.
Basically, a check valve only let air move in one direction towards the air stone and prevent any water siphoning into the air pump from the fish tank.
Should you fail to add a check valve in your system, when the pump is off, water from the fish tank will flow backward into the tube which can reach and damage the pump or flood your living room.
Air tubes (see product) are simple plastic hoses that connect the air pump outside the tank to air stones sitting at the bottom of your aquarium. They are fairly simple and flexible tubes that come in different colors and lengths depending on the size you need.
The only other valve in a fish tank air pump system other than the check valve is a regulator valve(see product). It’s used to regulate the flow between the air pump and the air stones.
Use the regulator valve to adjust the flow whenever you notice your bubbler creating a storm inside the aquarium.
The valve should be placed inside the air tube between the pump and air stone outlets.
Fish Tank Airpump vs Filter
Is a filter the same as an air pump?
An aquarium filter is different from an air pump although their roles sometimes overlap.
A filter cleans water in the fish tank by drawing and passing it through various filter modes then putting the water back into the tank.
An air pump just pumps air. It is used with an airstone and plastic tubing which are connected to the air pump. The airstone then sit at the bottom of the tank which blows air causing bubbles when connected to the air pump.
However, some filter such as ,sponge filter, corner filters and under-gravel-filters types are sometimes driven by air and require an air pump to operate. So, although separate equipment, in such instances, filter and air-pumps have to be used together.
Moreover, powerful filters can be used to increase water circulation which intern aerates the water. This is especially effective when coupled live plants which take in CO2 and release CO2 into the water.
Aquarium Air Pump Setup
Usually, when you go to the store to buy an aquarium air pump, the attendant will help you pick everything you need.
You may need to have a list of the items to buy and maybe the dimensions of you’re tank so that it’s easier to make enquires and get help.
Make sure you get an air pump, air tubes, air stone bubblers, check valve, a regulator valve and a plug-in-timer.
Once you bring the air pump home, determine a safe spot to hang the pump, also figure out what you’ll use to hang it. I recommend hanging the pump in a vertical position using strong treads or wires running through the hole provided the air pump manufacturer.
To keep water from flowing back through the airline tube especially if you don’t have a check valve installed, hang your air pump above the level of the fish tank.
You also don’t want the air pump vibrating your aquarium so make sure its free hanging. Alternatively, place a sponge or other soft material under the pump. This will not only reduce the shaking but also dampen the filter sound.
Once your air pump is secured, connect the airline tubing to the pump on one end and air stones or under-gravel-filter on the other. Of course, you will need to place the bubblers inside your fish tank.
Make sure everything is set then plug in your air pump and switch it on to check how the setup is working. Check the pressure and size of the bubble coming out of the air stone.
If the bubbles are creating too much surface agitation to the extent your water is spilling over, try regulating the air flow from the pump.
Use the regulator (controller) valve when already installed, if not, install it then use it to reduce the flow.
Enjoy the hobby.