6 Best Aquarium Air Pumps: The Ultimate Guide to Picking the Right One

Air pumps can be a great tool for your aquarium. There are many benefits for both fish and for your aquarium.

They can improve fish health and increase oxygen. They can even help filter out waste from the aquarium. These are just a few benefits and advantages. We’ll go over more down below.

Air pumps have a few different jobs, which makes them so useful. They’re very versatile pieces of aquarium equipment.

But do you need an aquarium pump, and what exactly does one do?

Well, that depends on your aquarium’s needs and your personal needs, an aspect we’ll cover in this article.

Not everyone requires an air pump but they can always be a major plus to think about. We’re pro-air pumps for most fish owners.

We’re also going to go over when you need one, the different types of air pumps, and other qualities to consider.

We have the ultimate guide to picking the right aquarium air pump. And we’re going to share the six best aquarium air pumps to check out online.

In this article we will review the following aquarium air pumps:

What is an Air Pump?

An aquarium air pump pushes air from outside to inside your aquarium. This mechanical device connects to fish tank bubblers, filters, and even decorations.

Air pumps sit on the outside of an aquarium and push the outside air through airline tubing.

Air pumps create movement in the water and they can create rising bubbles.

Filters are beneficial for most aquariums. For some filters to be efficient, they need an air pump.

There are many types of filters you can use in your aquarium. Most filters remove waste, dirt, and other water impurities.

It’s most important benefit happens to be when it creates oxygen in the water for your fish.

The water absorbs oxygen from the surface of an aquarium, but depending on the circumstances, this oxygen might not be enough.

You can connect fish tank bubblers to air pumps to further increase the oxygen levels, but not everyone needs or utilizes bubblers.

When your device is working in the fish tank, there’s a transfer of the gases from the bubbles. When the bubbles hit the surface and the bubbles pop, they create oxygen.

Air pumps can also increase the surface area, as an air pump agitates the surface of the water in an aquarium.

This increases and improves surface area so more oxygen can enter the aquarium.

Air pumps can also kickstart the circulation of the water. It moves water from the surface of the water to the bottom of the aquarium.

The water lets carbon dioxide move from the bottom to the top. When the carbon dioxide releases at the surface, the water takes in oxygen.

Signs You Need an Aquarium Air Pump

Signs You Need An Aquarium Air PumpNot everyone needs an air pump, especially if you don’t plan on using a bubbler or filter.

You need to decide if a fish tank bubbler or a filter is a must-have in your aquarium.

There are a couple of other things you should think about before you throw money at an expensive aquarium pump.

  • Do you travel a lot for vacation? Or do you travel a lot for work? You might want to invest in an air pump. If anything happens while you’re gone, an air pump is going to make sure the aquarium still gets oxygen.
  • Water temperature can be a reason for needing an air pump for your aquarium. When the water in an aquarium gets too warm, there will be less oxygen. It can also create a film over the surface of the water, which makes even less oxygen for your aquarium.
  • If any area of your aquarium is closed in by decorations, there’s a high chance of the water becoming stagnant due to lack of air flow. Your water might get stagnant for other reasons. In any case, you’ll need an air pump to circulate the water through the aquarium. This keeps it from becoming stagnant.
  • Do you travel a lot for vacation? Or do you travel a lot for work? You might want to invest in an air pump. If anything happens while you’re gone, an air pump is going to make sure the aquarium still gets oxygen.
  • Water temperature can be a reason for needing an air pump for your aquarium. When the water in an aquarium gets too warm, there will be less oxygen. It can also create a film over the surface of the water, which makes even less oxygen for your aquarium.
  • If any area of your aquarium is closed in by decorations, there’s a high chance of the water becoming stagnant due to lack of air flow. Your water might get stagnant for other reasons. In any case, you’ll need an air pump to circulate the water through the aquarium. This keeps it from becoming stagnant.

Types of Air Pumps

There are different types of aquarium air pumps out there.

Before you buy one, you have to know what you need an air pump for. It depends on whether you need one for a bubbler or filtration.

So, what types of air pumps are there?

Battery Air Pumps

Battery air pumps run on batteries. You don’t have to plug them into electricity to run which is a plus.

Changing batteries out is the only real downside of a battery air pump.

These air pumps are portable. You can switch them to different aquariums as needed, or use them for any other situations that you need to switch air pumps.

Air pumps are also available as backup battery air pumps. It can fit in both the battery category and the plug-in air pump category.

They run on electricity, but they take batteries in case the power goes out.

Plug Air Pumps

Plug air pumps run on electrical power. When you plug it in, the air pump starts. It keeps running until you unplug the pump.

They’re the easiest air pumps and the most common. They take little maintenance. You can plug them in and go.

Sound of an Air Pump

For some, the sound of an air pump doesn’t matter. That constant buzzing is comforting.

But for others, that sound can be irritating. They would do anything to shut their air pump up, but they need it, so they put up with the annoyance.

For those who hate the sound of air pumps, there are quiet air pump options you can buy that are advertised as silent.

They’re not fully silent but they make very little noise while running.

The smaller the air pump happens to be, the quieter it’ll be.

The noise (or any noise) of an air pump is measured in decibels. The quietest air pumps won’t make noise over 25 decibels, which is pretty hard to hear.

Size of an Air Pump

Sound Of An Air PumpThe next feature to consider when buying an air pump is the size. There are a few sizes to choose from.

Each size of air pump correlates with the size of your aquarium.

The bigger your aquarium is, the bigger your air pump needs to be. The smaller your aquarium is, the smaller your air pump needs to be.

It’s based on back-pressure, which is the pressure in your aquarium.

The worse the back-pressure is, the larger the air pump you’re going to need. Otherwise, the air pump won’t be able to push enough air into the aquarium.

The size of an air pump is measured by the airflow rate. Each size has a different flow rate depending on the amount of water per gallon of the aquarium.

Energy Consumption of an Air Pump

There are air pumps that take up a lot of energy. Energy consumption is measured in watts. The higher the number, the more energy you’re using.

Large energy consumption can run your electric bill very high. Your wallet takes a hard hit.

Additionally, there are air pumps that take very little power, so you won’t even notice a change in your bill.

As a rule of thumb, the larger the air pump, the more work it has to do. The more work it has to do, the more energy it consumes.

Can you afford a high electricity bill? Do you need a more powerful air pump? These are questions that you need to ask yourself.

What You Need to Buy with Your Air Pump

There are pieces of equipment that you need if you buy an air pump. Most air pumps don’t come with everything.

To be on the safe side, always check to see what’s included with your air pump.

So, what do you need to buy with your air pump?

Airline Tubing

That tube that connects your air pump to a bubbler or filter is airline tubing. It’s how the air pump pushes oxygen from the outside into the aquarium.

The sizes run by the diameter of the tube. Different air pumps need different diameters. Most airline pumps need a 3/16 in diameter airline tubing.

Penn Plax Standard Airline Tubing

Penn Plax’s standard airline tubing is 25 feet in length. There’s plenty of tube to measure out and cut for your air pump and aquarium.

The tubing is the standard 3/16 in diameter.

It’s made from a clear plastic that’s super flexible so you can work with it. It’s safe for both freshwater and saltwater aquariums. It’s also non-toxic.

It’s durable, and is not going to give away with some wear and tear from daily use. It’s not going to crack either. The airline tubing is also resistant to kinking.

When you put this tubing inside your aquarium, the plastic almost disappears to the naked eye.

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Check Valves

Check valves sit inline in the airline tubing. These nifty valves stop water or oxygen from flowing backward.

Pawfly Aquarium No-Return Check Valves, 10 Pieces


Pawfly’s check valves are perfect for stopping any water from going back through the tubing. This often happens when the electricity goes out.

The air hole diameter 4 millimeters or 0.15 inches.

They’re made of durable plastic. These check valves come in both clear and red.

You can’t use the valves with CO2 systems. They’re only for standard air pumps for standard aquariums.

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Gang Valves

You only need gang valves if you plan on having several objects attached to the air pump. If you’re using several airline tubing, you’ll need several gang valves.

You can also change the flow direction of both air and water.

Penn Plax Lok Tite 3-Way Aquarium Gang Valve


The Penn Plax Lok Tite gang valve lets you control the airflow in the airline tubing that leads to your air pump. And it lets you control that airflow in up to 3 devices.

It’s made of a tough and durable plastic that’s not going to break from little force. It won’t corrode in the water either.

But you don’t want to use it 24/7 or it’ll wear out quickly.

The company has made it super easy to adjust the airflow. That way, only the amount of air you need is flowing through the tubing.

There’s an anti-siphon feature. If the electricity goes out in your home, you don’t have to worry about the air flowing in the opposite direction. And it protects your air pump.

You can mount the gang valve to your aquarium. It hooks on the back and connects to the airline tubing.

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Connectors

Connectors let you split your airline tubing into multiple paths.

These are only needed for those who plan on hooking their air pump up to several objects and devices.

Pawfly Aquarium T Air Valve Connector and Aquarium Straight Air Valve Connectors


These Pawfly T connectors let you connect two or more airline tubings. It’s a 40 piece set. There are 20 piece T connectors and 20 piece straight connectors.

They’re non-toxic. It fits with the standard 3/16 diameter airline tubing.

The T connectors split the airline tubing so you can run two devices. It also lets you combine two inputs to create a stronger output. You can use this with two air pumps.

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6 Best Aquarium Air Pumps

1. Tetra Whisper Air Pump


The Tetra Whisper aquarium air pump is one of our absolute favorite air pumps. It makes sure your aquarium gets the perfect airflow.

This air pump is for aquariums 60 gallons or smaller. There are six other sizes of air pumps to choose from.

You can use it in deep aquariums up to eight feet deep.

They feature a patented dome shape, suspended motor, and sound-dampening chambers. These features flatten sound wave frequencies. They also stop the sound wave frequencies from bouncing off of surfaces.

All of these features create an almost silent air pump.

It has thick walls to block the majority of the motor’s sound leaving the inside of the air pump.

But the air pump’s motor is still very powerful.

The air pump also cuts down on vibration that will also cut down on noise. The wide footprint and rubber feet contribute to preventing hard vibration.

The diaphragm gives the pump and tubing plenty of airflow for deepwater applications.

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2. Hydrofarm Active Aqua Aquarium Air Pump


The Hydrofarm Active Aqua aquarium air pump uses a multi-level muffler. This makes for a nice and quiet air pump.

It’s perfect for hydroponics as well as standard aquariums.

It uses a special artificial rubber diaphragm for a consistent airflow output. It also lets you adjust the air pressure as you want it with a pressure dial.

It has very little energy consumption while running. It only uses six watts of energy when it’s used.

The air pump is pretty quiet. It makes 45 decibels, meaning it doesn’t make too much noise. It’s not the best we’ve seen for quiet pumps, but it’s not the loudest either.

The quietness is because it uses a multi-level muffler.

The airflow rate is 15 liters per minute. There are four other sizes to choose from.

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3. Mylivell HPump Aquarium Air Pump


The Mylivell HPump aquarium air pump doesn’t run like the standard air pump. It works by a thin piezoelectric ceramic plate.

It’s perfect for small and medium-sized aquariums. It’s made from aquariums up to 40 gallons and three feet in depth. It’s designed for shallower areas of water.

These air pumps are perfect for high-grade aquariums. It’s lightweight and portable if you need to move it for some reason, and is about the size of a biscuit.

There’s no motor or shaft. Because of this and the ceramic plate, the air pump runs super quiet.

It’s super easy to install. You don’t need to be a genius to get it started. It has a suction cup attachment that keeps it in place on the aquarium.

The noise decibels record at 35 decibels or quieter.

This air pump includes airline tubing and an air stone.

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4. Hygger Mini Aquarium Air Pump


Like Mylivell’s Hpump air pump, Hygger’s air pump doesn’t have a motor like most air pumps. Instead, it runs from a thin piezoelectric ceramic plate.

It’s a mini air pump, measuring in at two inches in diameter. So, it’s compact, portable, and lightweight. It’s easy to move the air pump as needed.

For such a small air pump, it works with aquariums that range from one to 15 gallons. It’s also perfect for hydroponic systems.

Since it doesn’t have a motor, it’s quieter than the standard aquarium air pump.

Because it’s so small in size, it only consumes one and a half watts of power. It saves you a lot of money on your electric bill.

The airflow rate is a whole 420 milliliters a minute.

It includes a three and a half foot silicone airline tubing and an air stone. Plus, it comes with a suction cup so you can attach it to the side of the aquarium.

For noise, it’s 35 decibels or less while running.

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5. Pawfly MA-60 Aquarium Air Pump


Pawfly’s MA-60 aquarium air pump works well with aquariums that are 10 gallons or less. It works well for both freshwater and saltwater aquariums too.

It’s both compact and lightweight. This makes it also portable so you can unhook it and move it to another aquarium.

The size allows you to hide it so it doesn’t stand out while hooked up to your aquarium.

It has rubber feet to cut down on vibration as well as sound.

It consumes very little energy, consuming only two watts. You won’t have to worry about how high your energy bill will be.

The airflow rate is almost two liters per minute.

The noise is 40 decibels and less while running. It’s a pretty quiet air pump while it’s on.

Pawfly threw everything you need together with this air pump. Included are a standard five-foot-long airline tubing, a check valve, and even an air stone.

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6. Uniclife UL40 Aquarium Air Pump


This Uniclife air pump works well with both freshwater aquariums and saltwater aquariums.

The air pump also works well for aquariums from the size of 20 gallons to 100 gallons. It’s great for medium and large-sized aquariums.

You can adjust the airflow rate with two different outlets. It has a rotating dial to adjust the airflow rate.

The higher the setting, the more it creates bubbles (and oxygen). But this will increase the noise from the air pump.

It has small energy consumption. It only uses four watts of power.

It’s super quiet and has one of the lowest sound ratings. While running, the air pump makes 25 decibels of noise or less. It sounds similar to a light fixture humming.

It comes with a six and a half 3/16 standard airline tubing, two return valves, two connectors, and even two air stones. You’ll have everything you need to use this air pump.

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Final Thoughts

Air pumps are a wonderful piece of equipment. There’s so much you can do with one, no matter the size of your tank or the type of fish you own.

We hope our ultimate aquarium air pump guide helps you find the right air pump for you.

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