Whether you are a new hobbyist or have kept a fish tank for years, the importance of choosing the best aquarium air pump cannot be over-emphasized. The right air pump will help meet the basic need for biological filtration and air quality for the tank inhabitants, as well as adding to the overall beauty and enjoyment of the tank.
What to Look For When Choosing an Aquarium Air Pump
Types of Pumps:
Vibrator/diaphragm.This is most common and popular aquarium air pump. The simple design is easy to manufacture, which makes it more inexpensive to buy. These pumps may be available with either single or multiple air tube ports. Some may also have an airflow controller and a check valve, which prevents water from backing up into the pump during a power outage.
Piston/rotary.A piston/rotary pump is a more complicated and expensive style pump that is ideal for larger aquarium systems or outdoor koi ponds. They require more power and are generally not used for indoor tanks with less than 40-gallon capacity.
Electric.Electric pumps are needed for any long-term use. A quality electric pump should supply consistent, dependable service once installed correctly. It’s important to consider potential locations before setting up your tank. Having an adequate power outlet close by will make your installation process easier and safer.
Battery.If you live in an area where there are frequent power outages, a battery-operated pump may be important for sustaining the health of your tank. You may consider purchasing a battery-powered air pump for short-term use during outages or main pump failure. However, these pumps are not recommended for long-term operation.
The size of your tank dictates the volume-per-hour to look for in your air pump. Your best aquarium air pump should supply plenty of water circulation without overheating or being too noisy. Air pumps come in several sizes.
Small.For most hobbyists, small air pumps are the most common and popular. Small pumps are compact, lightweight, and economical. They are also often the quietest choice while requiring the least amount of power for continuous operation.
Medium.Although medium pumps may be slightly more powerful, they may not necessarily produce a significantly increased amount of bubbles, so some hobbyists avoid them. Check your tank requirements carefully before investing more and needlessly increasing your electric bill.
Large.Large pumps are often more expensive, piston/rotary style with multiple functions for more complicated or increased capacity systems. If you are investing in this type of system, make sure you read all the instructions for correct installation procedures.
Why Does Your Aquarium Need an Air Pump?
Just as any standing water can grow stagnate, so may your aquarium without adequate water movement. Bubbles are pretty to look at, but some species of fish also require water currents for healthy development, and may even use the bubbles for a kind of underwater massage. Some benefits of using an air pump include:
- Assists oxygenation/aeration
- Helps remove carbon dioxide and other unhealthy gases
- Helps maintain proper pH levels
- Limits the build up of impurities
- Aids in temperature control, especially during hot weather
- Keeps surface film from developing and depriving tank inhabitants of fresh oxygen
- Produces currents to aid in fish respiration
- Encourages the development of beneficial bacteria for a healthy tank ecosystem
Where and How to Install Your Air Pump
Proper installation can make all the difference in the longevity and noise level of your aquarium air pump. Always read the instructions that accompany your pump follow them carefully.
- Do not place the air pump either inside or under the tank.
- If possible, place higher than water level for less strain on the motor.
- A small shelf behind and slightly above the water is ideal.
- If the pump is hung from the wall, avoid touching wall or tank to prevent vibration.
- Place a cloth or soft sponge under the tank to add noise dampening.
- Connect air tubing to pump.
- Install check valve if needed.
- Attach Y or T valve for multiple tubes if needed.
- Connect air stone or insert in desired tank fixture.
- Plug in the pump and turn on. Adjust as needed.Remember the less restrictions on the air flow, the longer the pump will last.
- Keep an eye on the air flow for several hours to ensure desired effect and proper placement.
Best Aquarium Air Pump Reviews
Now you are ready to choose the air pump that will best meet your tank’s needs. Here are some of the top-rated pumps to consider.
Mylivell Quietest Aquarium Air Pump
This economical and unique little pump is designed to be ultra-quiet by using a thin piezoelectric ceramic plate instead of the traditional electromagnet air pump. The unique design means a smaller chance of mechanical failure. It also means very low power consumption and stable performance with a flow rate of 240 ml/min.
The Mylivell pump is ideal for small or medium-sized tanks. It can add enough oxygen for a fish tank up to 13 gallons, providing a nice spread of bubbles with the included air stone. The pump comes with a suction cup for attaching to the tank, making it space-saving.
This pump is a great choice for beginners with a beta bowl of a gallon or more capacity or a 10 gallon or less sized tank. It’s easy to install for added aesthetic value and healthy tank maintenance. The pump comes with an air tube, air stone, and instruction manual.
- Easy to install
- Space and power saving
- Best for tanks 13 gallons or less
- Fairly short power cable, just 3 feet
Tetra Whisper Easy to Use Air Pump for Aquariums
The patented dome shape and free-standing design of this Tetra air pump represents a step forward in sound reduction fish tank enthusiasts will appreciate. Lifting the pump on rubber feet helps to prevent vibrations and increases air circulation around the pump to keep it cool. Inside are more dampening chambers to lessen turbulence and keep the pump producing a smooth, silent stream of air.
The Whisper 10 is a great economical buy for tanks for 20-40 gallon tanks. It has only a single port, but with a splitter can easily handle multiple air outlets for more even tank aeration. The pump does come with an air valve for adjusting the flow of a single outlet tube. The pump installation is basic and fast, and the unit comes with detailed instructions.
Overall, it would be difficult to find a more powerful, efficient air pump for the price. Tetra has 50 years experience behind its products, and it shows in this little pump. Customers have commented that the pump was still going strong after several years of use.
- Easy to use
- Some complains about durability
Danner Aqua Supreme AP-8 Air Pump
The Danner Aqua-Supreme 59942 Aqua Supreme AP-8 is a powerful air pump for larger or multiple tank use. It has four outlet ports that use standard aquarium air tubing. The pump is energy efficient and can support either fresh or salt-water aquariums.
This is a bulkier pump so plan for needing a little extra space. A bit of research will uncover suggestions for dampening the sounds. The pump is highly efficient for multiple air features and encouraging circulation and filtration for maintaining a healthy tank ecosystem.
The pump has been used for up to 1,500-gallon single tanks without any major issues. Aquarium enthusiasts may find the Danner pump’s four outlets convenient for multiple tank use. The pump is great for living room or playroom use where a stereo or TV covers the sound of the pump. But with a little creativity, it could also be used in a bedroom.
- Powerful and energy efficient
- Four individual outlets
- Adjustable air flow
- Supports either fresh or salt water tanks
- Noisy compared to smaller pumps
- Heavier and bulkier size
Hydrofarm Active Aqua Air Pump
This air pump has been specially designed for use in either aquaponic or hydroponic setups. The pump has four individual outlets and adjustable airflow for providing vital oxygenation of hydroponic reservoirs or fish tanks. The unit’s multi-level muffler helps make it fairly quiet, with a maximum 45-decibel level.
This pump generates up to 15 liters of consistent airflow per minute with an energy-efficient, specially designed synthetic rubber diaphragm. It can work well for tanks over 55 gallons or outdoor koi ponds to ensure plenty of healthy water movement and aeration. The pump has a surprising output capacity for its size.
The pump is quietest when placed on carpet or other buffering surfaces. Some customers comment that the rubber feet only make the pump louder. This pump is reliable and durable for larger projects requiring extra oxygenation and filtration.
- Quieter than similar-sized air pumps
- Low power consumption
- Multiple outlets
- Wider housing may not fit well in smaller spaces
Fluval Q1 Air Pump
The Q1 is a powerful, extremely quiet air pump that can provide great aeration for up to 80-gallon tanks. The pump features an advanced swing-arm and diaphragm design for consistent airflow with minimum noise generation. The unit’s double-wall integrated pump well and baffle chamber also aid in the sound dampening effect.
The Q1 is constructed of quality materials for durability and reliable performance over time. The pump is great for air stones, corner filters, under-gravel filters, or tank ornaments. The pump can be used for either fresh or saltwater applications.
These pumps are designed for economical power consumption while providing consistent output. The Fluval air pump is currently one of the quietest on the market. It is a customer favorite for up to 55-gallon tanks, though some have been pleased with its performance in 80-gallon tanks as well.
- Long-lasting, reliable performance
- Many sound dampening features
- Six-foot power cable longer than most
- Low power consumption
- Not recommended for tanks larger than 80 gallons
- Has a bolt that sometimes comes loose inside, but is easily fixable
For a beginner’s first tank or the hobbyist with a smaller tank, the Mylivell may be the best aquarium air pump for its easy installation, compact size, and low noise level. It is virtually impossible to find a noise-free air pump. However, there are ways of keeping noise levels to a minimum, such as a cushioned pad and regulating the airflow. Follow instructions carefully in order to extend the life of whichever air pump you choose.
For larger tanks, The Fluval is about the quietest available for tanks up 55 gallons. For any larger size tank or Koi pond, The Hydrofarm pump may be a good place to start. It is relatively quiet and dependable for a variety of hydroponic projects.
Make sure you have carefully planned your space for the proper support of both the tank and all the necessary accouterments. Choosing the right air pump and placing it well will help minimize stress for tank occupants while adding aesthetic value to the project. Once everything is in place, you will have a mesmerizing, relaxing source of quiet enjoyment for years to come.