Are Air Pumps Good for Fish Tanks?

Fish tanks

A lot of time, new aquarium hobbyists think of the type of tank, plants to add, decorative pieces to beautify their fish world, and water filters to buy for their aquarium. As a new fish owner, you have to know that your fish need oxygen to thrive, and the oxygen has to be sufficient.

Lack of sufficient oxygen level in your aquarium tank can be bad and harmful to your fish. Therefore there is every need to maintain a normal level for the healthy benefit of your fish.

An aquarium pump is an aquarium device that provides a simplified solution for oxygen supply to your tank. Providing oxygen will not be much of a burden to you as a new caretaker. 

You might also be asking questions like what other alternative can you opt for in the absence of an air pump? This article has the answers to all you must be wondering about. 

Are Air Pumps Good for Fish Tanks?

Yes, aquarium pumps are good for fish. The main work of an aquarium pump is to inject air into your aquarium. The air pump works by causing a surface agitation to help displace carbon dioxide and allows oxygen to enter the water. Carbon dioxide leaves the water through the surface and oxygen gets in the same way.

With the surface agitation caused by the air pump through the displacement of the water with air bubbles, the carbon dioxide is expelled and oxygen gets into the water. The presence of an air pump provides the right amount of oxygen to your fish irrespective of other factors like the photosynthesis of plants in your aquarium which produces carbon dioxide as a by-product of the presence of medication in the water.

You can pair an air pump with other devices like a biological filter or an air stone for best results. A biological filter will filter possible contaminants using the bubbles created in the water. The air stone will reduce the noise because an air pump can be quite noisy, it can also improve the rate of filtration in the tank. 

If your tank’s water is still, your fish are most likely going to be deprived of oxygen to breathe. This can stress out your fish and can be harmful to them. 

How Much Oxygen Does Your Fish Need?

Your fish need just the right level of oxygen. Hight oxygen levels will also have an effect on your fish just like low oxygen levels. The normal oxygen level should be between 5-7 ppm for a healthy fish. Any level above is said to be too much. Any level below 2 ppm is said to be low and there is an immediate need to aerate your tank. You can always measure the level of oxygen using an oxygen meter to make sure your fish have the right oxygen supply. 

When the oxygen level gets higher than the normal range (5-7 ppm), you will notice your fish having bubbles around their eyes and on their skin. Every fish have a different level of oxygen in the water.

The range might differ depending on the species of fish in your tank. With an air pump, you can control the desired output of oxygen using the adjustable output

How to Tell Your Fish Needs Oxygen?

When you see your fish coming to the surface of the water gasping, then there is a most likely low level of oxygen in your tank. You will need a test kit to check and confirm before providing a solution to avoid aerating your tank when the oxygen level is normal.

This will make the oxygen too much for your fish and cause them to have bubbles around their eyes and on their body.

Is an Air Pump Necessary for all Types of Aquariums?

Air pumps are good for your fish but it is not a must-have. However, there are some circumstances where they won’t be of benefit to your fish. When you have betta fish, having an air pump is not that much of a good idea because it can agitate them.

There are other species just like bettas who will not appreciate the presence of an air pump. Below are a list of different aquarium and their reason for their need or not needing an air pump.

– Warm Water Aquarium

Unlike an aquarium with a cooler temperature, a warm water aquarium will most likely need an air pump because the oxygen level in water decreases as the temperature increases.

If your aquarium has fish that prefer warm water, it is in their best interest to add an air pump to help increase the supply of oxygen

– Saltwater Aquarium

Excluding a small or shallow tank, all saltwater aquariums need an air pump. Salt can raise and corrode the surface of metal equipment and most saltwater fish do not deal with a lot of bubbles. Pairing the air pump with an air stone will bring down the bubbles generated as a result of the surface agitation.

The air pump should be used with caution to avoid excess oxygen which can generate lumps in the body of your fish. You can use an oxygen test kit to check and make sure the oxygen level is just what your fish requires.

– Medicated Aquarium

Most medications work by creating a film at the surface of the water. This film will prevent the expulsion of carbon dioxide and the entrance of oxygen because there is no surface agitation. Which allows the exchange of oxygen.

Some medications go as far as removing oxygen from the water as a result of their chemical properties. Irrespective of whether they remove oxygen or create a film at the surface, pairing medications with an air pump will ensure the dissolved oxygen level is within the normal range to keep your fish healthy.

– Planted Aquarium

For a planted aquarium, there may or may not be a need for an air pump depending on the volume of plants you have. The plants in your tank can balance the plant and fish life. During the process of photosynthesis, plants use up carbon dioxide and release oxygen but the process becomes reversed at night.

An air pump is needed in such cases to keep up with the oxygen need of your fish. The higher the number of fish and plants in your aquarium, the higher the risk of your fish getting in danger.

– Large Aquariums

Large aquariums most likely need an air pump, unlike smaller aquariums. More fish means more chemicals which poses a higher risk of chemical imbalance in the water.

An air pump will go into your large aquarium by aerating it and providing your fish with the right amount of oxygen for them to thrive. 


Air pumps might not be necessary but some conditions might warrant your use of them. Their main work is to pump air into your tank and release bubbles causing surface agitation. This will aerate your tank and provide oxygen to your fish.

Some air pumps are designed to look like decorative pieces. You can choose to go for those to serve as an additional decoration while providing oxygen for the health of your fish.

Written by Justin Michaels

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