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Does a Fish Tank Need an Air Pump

does a fish tank need an air pump

If you don’t have much time or space and still want a pet, a fish is a great option. That said, wouldn’t it be expensive to own a fish? A fish tank has many accessories, such as an air pump. You might ask, can you make do without installing accessories, or does a fish tank need an air pump?

Of all the pets, the fish is by far the cheapest one to maintain and keep. Don’t get intimidated by the aquarium accessories. They are there to make fish upkeep much easier to do. They are not a need but a convenience.


Does an Aquarium Need an Air Pump

Do I need an air pump for my aquarium? The short answer is, you don’t strictly need it, but you may want it. Air pumps are not a must, but they offer a list of benefits that justify the cost. It can help regulate gas exchange levels and better water circulation. On top of that, it can also serve as a decoration if placed nicely.

Here are some of the benefits of getting an air pump:

Surface Agitation

One of the core reasons an air pump is valuable is because it helps increase surface agitation. The more oxygen the water has, the more lively and effortless it is for your fish to live. But wait, what is surface agitation?

At the water’s surface, there is an exchange between oxygen and carbon dioxide. Oxygen gets in, and carbon dioxide gets out. The more water stirring happens, the quicker it is for the gases to exchange.

However, for still water, the rate of exchange is too slow for your fish to survive. Therefore, by adding an air pump which then agitates the water, the fish can now have plenty of oxygen to thrive.

If you’ve noticed, an air pump within an aquarium is producing a lot of bubbles. The bubbles will push the carbon dioxide out and allow for the oxygen to go in. As long as the air pump is on, there is a constant oxygen flow for the fish.

How do you know if the fish needs oxygen? One obvious sign is when the fish start breathing faster, and they start gasping on the surface. Installing an air pump will fix it quickly.

Water Circulation and Fish Health

If you are going to be a fish keeper, you need to watch out for ammonia and nitrites. Fish feces, algae, dirty filters, or any dead biological matter will decay. When they do, they start to form ammonia and nitrites. If left unattended, it will slowly start to kill the fish.

It’s natural to have decay zones. The same can be said for your aquarium, albeit on a very small scale. These decay zones appear because of poor circulation. It will accumulate at the bottom and the corners of the fish tank.

To combat this, installing an air pump will help regulate the amount of ammonia and nitrites. Within an air pump, there are several filters inside. Inside those filters contains bacteria that will break down the ammonia and nitrites. After the bacteria break it down, it will produce nitrates which are beneficial for your fish.

On top of that, air pumps also help circulate the water around. It will help reach the stagnant water at the corners and bottom. It will bring them up to have surface agitation, and at the same time, filter it also.

What If I Don’t Have an Air Pump?

water circulation and fish health

Manually Oxygenating a Fish Tank

To encourage surface agitation, do the following steps. Take a pitcher or a cup and fill it in with aquarium water. After that, lift the pitcher high up and pour the same water back into the aquarium.

As the water is reintroduced, it will pick up oxygen along the way as it goes down. Keep in mind, the higher the water is poured, the more circulation you can have. It will help stir up the stagnant water at the bottom and corners.

When is the best time to oxygenate the tank? Every aquarium is different, and it will be up to you to estimate the intervals. If in doubt, however, pour as many times as you need. If the fish do start to grasp some air, then it is time to do it.


Does an aquarium need an air pump? Technically speaking, no. Your fish may live even without an air pump. But in my opinion, it is incredibly beneficial. An air pump makes the aquarium more habitable. But even if you don’t have one, you can manually acquire the benefits of an air pump.

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