Is An Air Pump Necessary For A Fish Tank?

Is an Air Pump Necessary For A Fish Tank?

The oxygen level in a fish tank is very important.

Because fish also breathe oxygen, it’s essential to keep your aquarium water at an appropriate level of oxygen.

An air pump is a popular way to oxygenate a fish tank. However, are these devices necessary?

In most cases, fish tanks do not require air pumps.

The air pump agitates the water surface in order to oxygenate the fish tank.

If your tank has a good filter, there should be enough disruption to eliminate the need for the air pump.

Occasionally, air pumps may be useful, but the main reason to include one with your tank is aesthetics.

It’s Not Usually Necessary To Use Air Pumps

Providing all other aspects of your fish tank setup are in order, you usually don’t need to add a pump.

Then again, sometimes it makes sense to use an air pump, and it is also an aesthetic choice.

Many people enjoy the bubble effect in an aquarium.

Let’s first examine their purpose and how they typically aren’t necessary.

An air pump helps oxygenate your tank’s water. It is crucial to maintain a well-oxygenated tank for your fish’s survival since they breathe in oxygen just like us.

In a fish tank, oxygen is mainly obtained from the surface of the water.

As carbon dioxide leaves the water, it exchanges with oxygen in the air above.

The water can absorb even more oxygen when the surface is disturbed.

When they agitate the surface of the water, bubbles oxygenate the water.

You may wonder why they are not needed since they are effective at agitating surfaces.

This sort of filter provides adequate surface agitation, ensuring that the water is adequately oxygenated so long as its size is right for your tank.

However, in most cases, your filter will ensure adequate oxygenation of your tank due to its agitation. Nevertheless, air pumps can be useful in certain situations.

When It Might Be Necessary To Use a Pump

The filter will generally stir the water to agitation, but there may be times when this is not the case, in which case an air pump will provide more times when this may not be the case, in which case an air pump will provide increased agitation.

  • Warm tanks – Warm water cannot retain oxygen as well as cooler water, so you are more likely to have low oxygen problems in tanks with especially warm water (over 30 °C).
  • A shallow tank – As we stated earlier, the surface of the water is where oxygen enters. Deeper tanks have a smaller surface area than a shallower one, so the water takes in less oxygen as a result.
  • Highly stocked tanks – Since fish consume oxygen from the water, a tank with a lot of fish consumes more oxygen and is therefore oxygenated more frequently.
  • A heavily planted aquarium releases carbon dioxide both at night and oxygenating it during the day. A nighttime air pump is a good idea for heavily planted tanks.

In addition to all of the above, you may simply prefer the aesthetics of an air pump if none of the above apply to you.

Air Pumps: Pros & Cons

Air Pumps: Pros & Cons

There are some pros and cons to consider before adding an air pump to your tank.


  • It might be aesthetically pleasing to you. You should run an air pump as long as your filter is adequate if you like the appearance of bubbles in your tank.
  • They provide oxygen to help oxygenate the body – We’ve already mentioned this. It will be beneficial for your tank to have an air pump if you meet any of the criteria in the previous section.
  • Some fish like to play in air pump bubbles – Some fish like to play in air pump bubbles. However, some fish may not like them, and they may become stressed.


  • Despite the fact that most fish love bubbles, some fish find them stressful. Bettas are especially susceptible to this since they prefer still water. Bubbles can be enjoyed by some betta fish, depending on their temperament.
  • Some people prefer bubbles in their water, while others prefer a still tank. It comes down to personal preference.
  • Noisy air pumps – Every air pump makes a certain amount of sound, some of which is louder than others. 
  • It isn’t the energy that air pumps consume that adds to the cost of running them, but it is the cost of running them.

Checking Your Tank’s Oxygen Levels

Ensure your fish tank’s filter is working properly as the first step.

You should choose a filter that is rated for a larger tank than yours, but that is at least as large as your tank.

An ideal filter for a 30L tank would be one rated for 40L.

You can determine whether the water in your tank is low in oxygen in a couple of ways.

A kit for testing oxygen concentration is available on Amazon.

For deep tanks, heavily planted tanks, densely populated tanks, and warm water tanks with low oxygen levels, this is a great idea.

You can also monitor your fish’s behavior.

It indicates that your fish are not getting enough oxygen if they are moving less and rapidly moving their gills.

Gasping at the surface can also indicate that oxygen levels are low, but this can also happen while feeding. Betta fish also build bubble nests with their labyrinth organs. 

It is important to do a water change and increase aeration in your tank if you hear your fish struggling  they aren’t feeding.

Final Thoughts

Air pumps are not needed in fish tanks, so the answer to your question is no.

When oxygenation is likely to be an issue (such as a well-planted or well-stocked tank), an air pump can help maintain agitation.

In addition, you might enjoy the look of a tank air pump.

It’s important to consider the pros and cons of installing an air pump in your tank.

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