What Are Aquarium Air Pumps Used For? (Are They Good?)

Image of an aquarium with an air pump

Many aquarists have air pumps in their aquariums. So, what are aquarium air pumps used for exactly?

Aquarium air pumps are used for oxygenating the tank water and remove excess carbon dioxide. They create many bubbles that constantly agitate the water and push carbon dioxide toward the water’s surface. When the bubbles pop, the water absorbs oxygen from the atmosphere and expels carbon dioxide.

Great! Air pumps help in creating surface agitation and gas exchange. But are they good for your aquarium?

Is An Air Pump Good For Aquariums?

An aquarium can remain healthy without an air pump. However, the main reason to buy an aquarium air pump is its ability to provide an extra gas exchange for maintaining the required oxygen level in the tank.

An air pump helps break the surface tension to create sufficient gas exchange for oxygenating the tank.

Besides maintaining the required oxygen level, you can also use decorative items and plants around the air pump. This can enhance the overall look of the fish tank.

An aquarium air pump also increases the life span of your fish. It ensures there is no zero-oxygen zone in the aquarium.

It also prevents certain types of algae growth that dislike current.

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How Long Should You Keep The Air Pump Running?

How long you should keep the aquarium air pump running depends on how much time your aquarium needs to get rid of the excess carbon dioxide produced by the fish and plants.

If you have a filter and an aerator installed in your aquarium in addition to an air pump, you can keep the air pump running only during the day. The filter and aerator will create the gas exchange to maintain the oxygen levels.

The surface disturbances created by the filters and aerators allow the water to absorb oxygen from the atmosphere.

If you have an aerator or a filter capable of oxygenating the aquarium water, you may turn off the air pump.

Similarly, if you want to provide a calm water environment for your fish to rest, you can turn off the air pump. However, you will need to ensure that the filter runs 24/7.

Can Fish Live Without An Air Pump?

An air pump is also known as a bubbler because it creates bubbles to help maintain the concentration of oxygen in the water.

To determine whether your aquarium can do without an air pump, you need to look at other things like the filtration system that you have and whether it provides enough oxygen for the inhabitants.

An air pump is required in a freshwater aquarium for adding oxygen to the water. Most freshwater filters don’t add adequate oxygen to the aquarium because they fail to agitate enough water to push the oxygen into the water.

Also, as the water becomes warmer during the summer, its ability to hold oxygen reduces. This reduces the levels of dissolved oxygen in the tank water, which is necessary for all aquatic pets.

On the other hand, in a saltwater aquarium, most filtration systems are strong enough to maintain the required oxygen level in the aquarium.

So, in this case, you might not need to install an additional air pump to supplement the oxygen levels of the aquarium.

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Can You Turn Off The Aquarium Air Pump At Night?

The primary purpose of an aquarium air pump is to aerate the tank water, as lack of oxygen can be fatal for the tank occupants.

Given below are some points that will help you determine if you can turn off the aquarium air pump at night.

  1. The tank has a separate filter: If your aquarium has a separate air pump and filter, switching off the air pump at night can be safe. Most filters can create the required surface agitation to aerate the water and maintain the required oxygen level.
  2. Size of the fish tank: The tank size will also impact the oxygen concentration in the water. In a bigger tank, there’s more water surface area that faces the atmosphere. This larger surface area helps a lot in the gas exchange process as the water can absorb more oxygen from the air and throw out carbon dioxide efficiently.
  3. The number of tank occupants: If your aquarium has fewer occupants, it will need less oxygen than an aquarium with more occupants. It means the aquarium can have enough oxygen for fewer occupants even without an active air pump at night.
  4. Size of inhabitants: The size of the fish will also determine the amount of oxygen required in the aquarium. Small fish will require less oxygen compared to large fish. Depending on the size of the aquarium, you need to decide whether the aquarium needs aeration even at night.
  5. Other aerators: Besides an aquarium air pump, if you have additional aerators like an air stone, you can very well turn off the air pump at night. The air stones are porous and will be able to generate bubbles to maintain the oxygen level.
  6. Aquatic plants: Aquatic plants are used to decorate aquariums. However, they can reduce the oxygen level in the water. Plants oxygenate the water during the day, but at night they absorb oxygen while releasing carbon dioxide. Therefore if you are using aquatic plants in your aquarium, keep the air pump on at night to ensure adequate oxygen levels in the water.

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Should You Turn Off The Air Pump While Feeding The Fish?

Turning off an air pump or leaving it on while feeding your fish is a question of choice.

If you are an aquarist who enjoys watching your fish while they gorge on the food served to them, you can turn off the air pump. Otherwise, there is no reason to turn off the air pump.

While air pumps are fine, if you use a filter that pushes the water downwards, you may consider turning it off while feeding your fish, as it can push the food to the bottom of the tank. However, remember to turn it on once you are done feeding the fish.

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