Does Aquarium Air Pump Size Matter? (Sizing Chart Explained)

Image of fish swimming in an aquarium with an air pump

An aquarium air pump is a device used to push air in the aquarium. It creates surface agitation for gas exchange and supports other devices. So, in the case of an air pump, does “one-size-fits-all”? Does an aquarium air pump size matter?

An aquarium air pump’s size matters as it ensures enough air is pushed into the aquarium. An air pump pulls air from the atmosphere and passes it into the aquarium water. Therefore, the air pump has to match the size of an aquarium to increase the dissolved oxygen levels and support other devices.

Let’s now understand the various factors that will help you determine the correct size of your aquarium air pump.

What Factors Determine The Aquarium Air Pump Size?

“What’s the correct size for an aquarium air pump?” is one of the most common questions asked by aquarists.

Given below are the various factors that you need to consider while determining the air pump size.

1. Aquarium size.

This is the most critical factor that decides the size of an air pump needed to maintain a healthy aquarium.

A large aquarium needs more surface agitation to create the required exchange of gases. So a robust pump will help create the required gas exchange and maintain the required oxygen levels in the aquarium.

On the contrary, if you have a small aquarium, you don’t need a big air pump to agitate the water’s surface.

Instead, a smaller air pump will be able to break the water tension that’s vital for the gas exchange to take place.

2. Type of the air pump.

The type of the air pump also determines its size.

An external pump will need to create more pressure for moving the air through the steep elevation and create the desired surface agitation.

On the other hand, a submersible pump has to only deal with the height of the aquarium tank.

However, the downside of a submersible air pump is that it occupies space inside the aquarium and doesn’t give an aesthetic look to the aquarium.

3. Other devices and decorations.

The other factor influencing the air pump size is the number of equipment that it needs to support, like the filters, air stones, and decorations installed in the aquarium.

Therefore, it’s essential to factor in all the crucial equipment that will be part of an aquarium before determining the air pump size.

Okay! Let’s now look at some basic guidelines to calculate the correct size of an aquarium air pump for various fish tank sizes.

Recommended Further Reading:

What Size Pump Do You Need For Your Fish Tank?

An aquarium air pump should ideally provide an output of 0.033 liters of air per minute for one gallon of water. So the size of the aquarium air pump will vary depending on the size of the aquarium.

Additionally, aquariums with plants will have increased oxygen levels than those without plants and will require an air pump with lesser output. Also, aquariums with higher water temperatures will hold less oxygen than colder water.

Moreover, saltwater aquariums have 20% less dissolved oxygen on average than freshwater aquariums at most temperatures. So saltwater aquariums will need an air pump with higher output.

The below table lists the output required by an aquarium air pump for various sizes and types of aquariums.

Aquarium Air Pump Sizing Chart
Aquarium Air Pump Sizing Chart

Related Further Reading:

What Happens If The Aquarium Air Pump Is Undersized?

An undersized aquarium air pump will have its own set of challenges. To begin with, if the air pump doesn’t create the required surface agitation, there will be less oxygen in the water. This will affect the aquarium fish negatively.

Additionally, an undersized aquarium air pump won’t be able to support other aquarium equipment like filters, air stones, decorations, etc.

Moreover, proper maintenance of the aquarium air pump and other types of equipment is essential. This will ensure that these devices maintain the desired oxygen levels in the aquarium.

What Happens If The Aquarium Air Pump Is Oversized?

Aquarium pumps are designed to deliver a certain amount of flow rate. They shouldn’t exceed this limit because it can damage the components inside the pump and be detrimental to the aquarium’s overall health.

An oversized air pump will clean the water but can adversely affect the inhabitants and aquatic plants in the aquarium.

The strong flow will increase water turbulence and make swimming difficult for the fish. In addition, it will increase the stress levels of the aquarium fish and can result in their demise.

An oversized pump can also create problems for the aquatic plants inside the aquarium as the strong flow will blow the plants all over the place. This will also affect the look of the aquarium.

So while choosing an aquarium air pump, make sure that its capacity doesn’t go way beyond what’s recommended.

Interesting Further Reading:

How Do You Know If Your Aquarium Air Pump Is Oversized?

An oversized air pump can be too powerful for an aquarium. It will oxygenate the water but do more harm than good to the aquarium’s fish, plants, and other types of equipment.

Given below are some ways to identify if your aquarium air pump is oversized:

  • Increased water movement: An oversized air pump will create a strong current that will result in water turbulence. You can see the fish struggle to swim against the current. Another common sight is that the fish will constantly look for cover to hide and rest.
  • Increased bubbles: If a large volume of bubbles rises to the top of the tank even with an air stone attached, it’s an indication that the air pump is too strong. It may also stress your fish due to increased bubbling noise levels.
  • Water splashing: When the air pump creates excessive pressure, it pushes the water forcefully into the overflow tube. As a result, some of the water will get sprayed outside the aquarium. This is an indication that you need to control the pressure.
  • Rapid algae growth: This is another sign of high oxygen levels resulting from an oversized air pump. High levels of minerals present in the aquarium water will provide nutrients conducive to rapid algae growth.
  • Discoloration of water: Increase in the oxygen levels of the water will oxidize the dissolved iron particles. Therefore, the presence of increased levels of iron and silicate will result in the discoloration of the aquarium water.

As an aquarist, it’s crucial to select the right air pump size for your aquarium. An oversized or undersized air pump will create problems. So make sure you choose the one that ticks all the necessary parameters.

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