Aquarium Air Pump Buying Guide
Why Do You Need it?
One of the factors involved in building a healthy environment for the fish in your aquarium is proper aeration of the water in the tank. This comes from water movement, oxygenation and the rate the water flows through the tank. This is all controlled by air pumps that can be installed in your aquarium.
The air pump is designed to circulate the water and add oxygen to it so the water doesn’t become stagnant. Stagnant water is not healthy for your fish and they can and most likely will die if there is not proper water movement. Even though air pumps are considered optional, they are much more important to the overall health and condition of both you aquarium and your fish and should not be overlooked.
Having a good air pump reduces the need for the tank to be manually cleaned which means less work for the fish aquarium owners. This is especially beneficial when you have large aquariums that can be very time consuming and cumbersome to clean. The other benefit they offer is to help the efficiency of the filters. By keeping consistent and proper water aeration, the filters function much better.
The kind of air pump you should purchase will be determined by the size and shape of the tank or tanks you own. The maintenance performed on the tank will also play a part in the kind of pump you will need.
There are two main types of pumps that are used in aquariums: air pumps and water pumps. Both types can perform many different activities that are involved in running a fish tank in addition to keeping the water the way it needs to be for optimum fish health.
Air Pumps – Air pumps keep the oxygen levels in the water healthy and provide aeration of the water as well. They are also used to power air stones, and decorations that require air to work and also add more bubbles to the water. One of the drawbacks to an air pump is that they can be on the noisy side.
There are two ways that air pumps are powered:
- Battery – Great for when there is a power outage so the tank isn’t in jeopardy. Many can be switched from AC to battery when needed.
- Electric – This is the most commonly purchased and used when it comes to air pumps. They plug right into the wall and run on regular AC power. You can choose from single or multiple outlet styles. The benefit to a multiple outlet model is that you can power multiple items such as air stones, decorations and the pump itself with one unit.
Water Pumps – Water pumps create a current in the aquarium. You always want the water in the tank to have some movement. If there isn’t sufficient movement you will notice a film on the top of the water as well as an increase of algae. Since the water is being moved by the water pump, it will not have this film and will remain much healthier for the fish.
There are two different kinds of water pumps that are used in aquariums:
- Submersible – This type of water pump runs completely under water. They work by drawing water from the filter and then push it back into the aquarium. Sometimes they are pushed through heaters or sterilization units before returning to the tank. Some of the advantages to using a submersible water pump are that they are super easy to install. They are also typically much quieter than other types. A few of the disadvantages of a submersible water pump is that unwanted heat could be added to the tank making it much harder to control the temperature.
- In-line – This type of water pump uses an external filter system and is connected to both an inlet and outlet hose that is used to filter the water that is in the aquarium. In-line air pumps are cooled by the water which means there is no worry about them adding heat to the water and disrupting the temperature. You can also expect them to move more gallons of water each hour because they are much more powerful than other pumps. You can choose to set in-line pumps up as pressure setups or free-flow setups.
Once you decide that you DO want to use an air pump for your aquarium there are a few other considerations that you need to think about when it comes to choosing the right one. You want to make sure that the air pump has the power it needs to run everything you want to run off of it. You also want to ensure that the pump your purchase will work for the type of water you will have in the aquarium. More on this later.
Volume per Hour – Pumps are needed for certain aquarium elements to run properly such as filters, air stones, and certain decorations. You need to make sure that the pump you get is able to process the amount of water needed at any given speed. The type of device will determine how much water is needed. By making sure that the pump is able to more than adequately handle the amount of gallons of water needed you will not have any issues running the items you want to run.
Aquarium Head Space – The head space of an aquarium is the height the water needs to be pumped against the force of gravity. This will be different depending on the type of items you are running. If you use a canister filter, for example, you will need a powerful pump to handle that opposing force. A hanging filter will not require much at all.
Freshwater and Saltwater Comparisons – If you choose to have a saltwater tank, you will need to have a pump that has parts that are made from anti-corrosive materials. This is because saltwater aquariums in general are very corrosive. If you use a freshwater pump in a saltwater tank, you will be replacing it again very soon. On the flip side of this, you CAN use a saltwater pump in a freshwater tank with no issues.
Where you place the air pump does matter and is important. Some places that you can put it will be better than others so it is important to know what those preferable places are. One of the most common places to put an air pump is underneath the tank in the cabinet. This is also one of the worst places to put it because you are putting the pump below the water level.
You always want to be sure that the air pump is above the water level in your aquarium. This isn’t necessarily a simple thing to do but it can be done and will ensure the best performance of the air pump. Having the pump below the water level creates back pressure on the pump which will make it run louder. Another place to never put the pump is on top of the tank. The vibrations can cause problems for the fish and there is also a chance that the pump can fall into the water.
You can place a shelf behind and a little above the aquarium and place the air pump there. Just make sure that the shelf has a lip to prevent it from falling off the shelf. You can put double sided Velcro on the shelf and the pump bottom to ensure that it is stationary. Another possibility is to hang the pump from a hook behind and just above the water level. Again, make sure the hook is solid and secure to prevent the pump from falling.
A tip you can use to help quiet the noise of your air pump is to place it on a sponge or cloth. This will muffle the sound a bit. You can also place the pump in a cardboard box along with the cloth underneath the pump for even more noise cancellation.
A really cute idea is to have the kids decorate a box so something special is used rather than just an old plain box. Don’t forget to add a check valve to the line of the air pump. This will prevent water from going backwards into the pump and causing it to short out and potentially shock someone.
Air pumps have additional accessories that are needed to ensure proper operation. These accessories are outlined below.
Check Valve – Any time you have an air pump you need to have a check valve. This is a device that is installed inside the airline tubing. Its purpose is to allow the air to pass in only one direction. The importance of this is to prevent water and air from going backwards and entering into the pump during any power outages or if the pump is unplugged for any reason. This eliminates the chance for electrocution or damage to the pump.
Gang Valve – A gang valve comes in handy when more airlines are needed. You can get the, in sets of 5 but if you need more they can be expanded beyond that as well. The cool thing about gang values is that they can be adjusted separately for each item you are using the pump for like the air stones, each decoration, etc.
Connectors and T-Valves – These allow the air flow to be individually customized through each airline tube. Great for when multiple items are used in an aquarium.
When it comes to having a healthy environment for your fish, an air pump is one of the crucial players. There are many different kinds that you can choose from as well as different sizes. Now that you have the information you need to determine what type you need and what size you want, you can choose the right air pump for your aquarium set ups without worry.
Any one of the three top rated air pumps we’ve reviewed would be a great choice for a basic aquarium set up. All three are reputable brands that are known for aquarium supplies. With air pumps being a necessary part of a good aquarium set up, you know what to look for and can get that tank set up and running in no time.
- Tetra – http://www.tetra-fish.com/Products/aquarium-air-pumps/whisper-150-and-300-air-pumps.aspx
- Fluval – www.fluvalaquatics.com/ca/product/A852-q2-air-pump/
- Jebao – http://www.fish-street.com/jebao_dc3000_water_return_pump