The 10 Best Aquarium Air Pumps

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This wiki has been updated 30 times since it was first published in September of 2015. Whether you enjoy marine or freshwater piscine life in your home or garden, keep your fishy friends healthy and well-oxygenated no matter their environment with one of these handy aquarium air pumps. Made for supporting anything from small tanks to koi ponds, they are constructed from durable, impact-resistant materials with energy-efficient motors and multiple outlets that ensure proper airflow. When users buy our independently chosen editorial choices, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.

1. Alita AL-80

2. Tetra Whisper AP300

3. Fluval A852

Editor's Notes

December 01, 2020:

A quality air pump can keep the inhabitants of your fish tank happy and healthy by providing aeration and making waves. In this update, the Fluval A852 comes on board, which is from a 30-year-old manufacturer of aquarium products like air pumps and canister filters. This powerful and reliable choice is good for large tanks, and features an advanced swing arm and diaphragm design for a flow that’s consistent. Compared to many, it runs quietly, thanks to a double-wall casing, a noise-suppressing baffle chamber, and an integrated pump well. It’s got an adjustable flow control, and all in all, it's a good value for the price. It replaces the Mylivell 1.8W, which we removed due to it being highly similar to the Hygger Mini, a compact and lightweight model that’s geared toward small tanks.

We’re still partial to the Alita AL-80, which boasts a high flow rate of 80 liters per minute. This powerful and thoughtfully designed selection runs quietly, consumes little energy, and doesn’t require lubrication over time. It’s versatile enough for use in koi ponds, fish tanks, hatcheries, and waste water treatment applications. It’s also available in three other models that move between 15 and 60 liters per minute. For another reliable and quiet choice from a reputable manufacturer in aquarium accessories, look to the Tetra Whisper AP300, which can pump air down to eight feet deep and works well in tanks with significant back pressure. It adds dramatic bubble effects to your fish’s environment, and you’ll enjoy sitting back to watch the mesmerizing show. You can purchase it with confidence, since it’s backed by a lifetime warranty. For safety’s sake, always abide by the written instructions that come with an aquarium air pump, for a proper setup.

July 12, 2019:

An aquarium air pump keeps the water of your tank oxygenated, which is vital for the fish and plant inhabitants. Many setups feature this device in addition to an aquarium canister filter, and both help foster a healthy tank environment. When choosing one that’s right for your tank, consider factors like how much noise it makes (which will be important if you keep your aquarium in your bedroom or office), as well as the size of your tank. Our selection includes a range of designs and sizes, so there’s something for every setup and budget.

Joining the list is the Hygger Mini, which is designed for small tanks with a capacity of up to 15 gallons. Rather than a motor, its driven by an ultra-quiet, thin ceramic plate. It features a low-profile, compact design, measuring only 2.4 inches in diameter. Other components include an air tube, air stone, and power adapter. It comes with two hanging options: A suction cup as well as a clear plastic piece that can hold the pump and clip onto the side of the tank. The 3.6-foot-long tubing is soft and not likely to kink. You can choose a model that’s either black or white.

On the other end of the spectrum, capacity-wise, is the Alita AL-80, which is capable of handling tanks and ponds that hold 6,000 gallons of water. With all of its power, its still quiet and energy efficient, and no lubrication is required. It’s great for koi ponds, hatcheries, and large aquariums. It’s built like a tank and has been known to keep running for years for many an owner. Another solid choice, from a well-known company, is the Tetra Whisper AP300. It works great with deep water applications and creates a dramatic, mesmerizing bubble effect.

Leaving the list is the Deep Blue Professional Hurricane, due to availability concerns. No matter which model you select, for safety’s sake, never put your hand into the aquarium without turning off the pump first.

Special Honors

Whitewater LT-28 Linear Air Pump Designed for a variety of indoor applications that include aquariums, bait tanks, and hatcheries, this 200-watt device moves large amounts of water at a high pressure. It stands eight inches tall, weighs 19 pounds, and comes with a multi-outlet manifold. It’s from a Wisconsin-based manufacturer that has been producing water well accessories for more than 50 years.

4. Vivosun ACO-009

5. Hygger Mini

6. Danner Supreme Oxy-Flo

7. Marine Metal A-2

8. EcoPlus Eco Air 8

9. Uniclife UL080

10. Hydrofarm Active Aqua

What An Air Pump Really Does In A Fish Tank

An air pump is a device attached to the outside of an aquarium that moves air through your tank water in some manner.

An air pump is a device attached to the outside of an aquarium that moves air through your tank water in some manner. Most often, they can be seen with an air stone attached to the end of their tube, which diffuses the air as it is released in the water. Standard aquarium air pumps use an electromagnet to quickly vibrate a rubber diaphragm, which creates the air flow.

Many people believe that an air pump is directly increasing the amount of oxygen in the water, but this is actually untrue. Air pumps do increase the amount of oxygen in tank water, but in an indirect manner. The bubbles, released from an air stone, do not integrate with the tank's water. Instead, they increase the surface area of the water as they agitate the surface. When the bubbles break at the surface, excess carbon dioxide is released and more oxygen has a chance to take its place when it comes into contact with the water molecules. The greater the surface area of water, the more oxygen it will absorb.

Circulation is another benefit of using an air pump in an aquarium. As the air is released into the bottom of the tank, it pushes deeper water to the surface, which in turn allows the highly oxygenated surface water to move towards the bottom.

While an air pump can be beneficial to keeping a healthy aquatic environment, they are not actually essential. It is completely possible to maintain healthy fish without ever using an air pump, but it can be more difficult. One of the biggest benefits of an aquarium air pump can be realized when a filter pump breaks. In a fish tank without an air pump, the filter pump is the sole machine responsible for circulating and helping to aerate the water. If the filter pump breaks for any reason, the water will quickly stagnate and may have trouble absorbing enough oxygen for fish to breathe.

Basic Aquarium Maintenance

The amount of maintenance one must perform on their fish tank is directly proportional to three things: the number of fish, how much food is given, and how often one does partial water changes. Overcrowding a fish tank results in water that quickly becomes unsuitable for maintaining healthy fish. Overfeeding can cause the water to be become contaminated, as the fish will not be able to consume all of it. Instead, the food will turn into organic waste and settle into the gravel. This creates overly nutrient-rich water which is the number one cause of algae blooms. Performing partial water changes on a regular basis helps keep the water cleaner and allows one to lower contaminate levels.

City tap water contains high levels of chlorine, which can be harmful to fish.

Depending on the amount of fish, the amount of food given, and the size of the tank, basic aquarium maintenance can either be done once a week or once every two weeks. Larger tanks with fewer fish can go longer between maintenance cleanings than smaller, highly-crowded tanks. Basic aquarium maintenance should include cleaning the inside of the glass with a scrubber, cleaning the outside of the glass, a partial water change, and vacuuming.

When performing a partial water change, usually removing and replacing between 10% and 20% of the water is sufficient. City tap water contains high levels of chlorine, which can be harmful to fish. It is best to either use distilled water or fill a large bucket with tap water and let it sit for at least 24 hours to allow the chlorine to dissipate. If your tap water undergoes chloramination instead of chlorination, then a water conditioner must be used as chloramine doesn't evaporate as quickly as chlorine.

Vacuuming can easily take place at the same time as the partial water change. Use a hydro-vacuum to agitate the gravel as the water is sucked out. This will release any particulate that has settled into it. Continuously lift the hydro-vacuum and stick it back into different areas of gravel. This will ensure your tank receives a thorough cleaning.

Two Common Fishkeeping Myths Busted

There are a number of common fishkeeping myths that persist, despite having no factual evidence. The most common of all must be that fish only grow to the size of their tank. In actuality, for fish to remain healthy and live a normal life, they must be provided sufficient space to grow. Some fish may experience stunted growth when not provided with adequate living conditions, but this is not healthy for the fish. It can be thought of in much the same way as foot-binding in the Chinese culture. While it resulted in smaller feet, it was neither a natural occurrence nor healthy for the women.

Adding salt water to a fresh water fish tank is another common myth that still persists. This most likely stems from saltwater's properties as a natural antiseptic and antibiotic, but adding it to a freshwater fish tank will most assuredly do more harm than good. The best way to keep fish healthy is by recreating their natural environment as closely as possible. For freshwater fish, this means creating a freshwater environment with a low amount of unnatural contaminants and a pH level close to the fish's native waters.

Karen Bennett
Last updated by Karen Bennett

Karen Bennett lives in Chicago with her family, and when she’s not writing, she can usually be found practicing yoga or cheering on her kids at soccer games. She holds a master’s degree in journalism and a bachelor’s in English, and her writing has been published in various local newspapers, as well as “The Cheat Sheet,” “Illinois Legal Times,” and “USA Today.” She has also written search engine news page headlines and worked as a product manager for a digital marketing company. Her expertise is in literature, nonfiction, textbooks, home products, kids' games and toys, hardware, teaching accessories, and art materials.

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