If you’re a newbie aquarist, you’re probably starting to feel overwhelmed with all the equipment you have to buy. The good news is that on this website we provide you with all the info you need so you can get the best equipment for your budget.
But the bad news is that you need to invest money to have the best aquarium air pump.
What Is an Air Pump?
Just like with water pumps, you’ll also want to get the quietest aquarium air pump you can afford. You’d think that with air you should have some peace and quiet. But the key word here is actually “pump”, not “air”.
An air pump’s function is to pump air. That is, you use it to move air from one point to another. Usually, this thing works with a rubber diaphragm, which vibrates because of an electromagnet. This vibration is so rapid that it can get noisy.
In the dead of night when everything’s still and quiet, its noise can be enough to bother you. Believe me, with the wrong sort of air pump you won’t get any beauty sleep at all. Or it can bother your spouse’s sleep. In my case, when it bother’s my wife’s sleep it bothers me too. That’s because she’ll wake me up to tell me that she can’t sleep. See where I’m going here?
Uses and Benefits
Before we go further, I want to emphasize the fact that an air pump is not absolutely necessary to an aquarium setup. There’s no truth to the rumor that you require the air pump for enough oxygenation for the tank to enable your fish to breath properly. But the air pump does help in water circulation, so it helps with the release of carbon dioxide from the water and the intake of oxygen from the air for the fish. While the filter should be able to do this by itself, the air pump can help.
Also, you may have necessary accessories that are run by an air pump. For example, a filter is mandatory for any fish tank setup, and some filters need an air pump to operate. Ergo, no air pump means no working filter, which means dirty water and dead fish.
Other accessories that may need air pumps to work more effectively include some types of protein skimmers in saltwater tanks. The air pump can also spin wheels inside the aquarium, or lift objects and turn valves. It also works well with air stones, which creates lots of smaller bubbles than just a few large bubbles. These tinier bubbles made by air stones for aquarium move water through the filter more effectively, which makes the filter more efficient in cleaning the water.
Your setup may also include semi-aquatic animals like mudskippers and crabs. These will need crawl out into an aerated environment, and the air pump makes sure that you and these animals get the needed air.
Placing Your Air Pumps
Unlike water pumps, you can’t really submerge these air pumps underwater. But there are ways for you to minimize the ruckus. One way is for you to clean your air stones, which can get clogged with dust, waste, bacteria, or algae. The dirt outs extra pressure on the air pump. That causes the air pump to work harder, which then creates more noise.
Here are some other air pump tips to keep in mind:
- Keep the air pump higher than the surface of the aquarium water. This changes the back pressure on the pump, which lessens the noise. Also, if your air pump is lower than the water surface, any inadvertent stoppage can cause the water to siphon through the air line. That can damage the air pump, and can leak water to the floor or to any nearby furniture.
- If you can, you may want to think about putting it in cabinet.
- At the very least, think about where you’ll put the air pump on. It has to be a solid surface, because a hollow container will just resonate with the pump and amplify the volume of the noise. And it can’t be a surface that causes a lot of noise because it reflects the sound waves. These surfaces include glass, metal, or pressed board. And you really don’t want to put it right on top of your speaker!
- You should also place something soft right under the air pump to dampen the noise by absorbing the sounds. A soft sponge will do just fine, but even an old athletic sock will suffice.
- Also, don’t put it on the fish tank or on any shelf hanging off the fish tank. The vibrations from the air pump will travel through the material and through the water to the fish. Not only will this make the noise louder when your fish tank also vibrates, but you’ll also stress out your fish. (Your screams of anguish when they die because of this stress will probably be very loud.)
- Finally, just make sure to check out your air pump to see that it is working fine. Place it in the middle of the surface, so that it doesn’t vibrate and fall of the edge.
Types of Air Pumps
Air Pumps can be categorized in several different ways. In general, however, there are really no “set in stone” rules for choosing the right air pump for you. But since that doesn’t help you at all, here are some guidelines you can use:
- If you’re using the air pump to power your under gravel filter, then you’ll need to know what size of tank the air pump is rated for.
- Sometimes the air pump can be categorized by size. You’ll need a larger air pump if you’re running a lot of accessories and objects with it. You also need a bigger one if you’re using larger air stones, because these things will create a stronger resistance. So if you’re just using the air pump for a few things and you’re using small air stones or not at all, then a smaller air pump will do.
- Most air pumps are standard purpose, but some are designed for deep water application. They’re made to push the air much farther below the water surface. So if you have a “tall” aquarium that’s about at least 18 to 20 inches in height, you’ll need this deep water air pump.
- You can even group air pumps according to their power source. Most air pumps are standard, which means you plug them
ina power outlet. But a few are also battery powered. In most cases, these pumps offer dual options. You can plug them in, but they also have a battery power option that comes in handy when there’s a power outage.
As you may have gathered by now, you don’t often get to buy an air pump that’s ready to go as is. You’ll need some accessories to make it work, and some accessories can offer additional features for your aquarium which the air pump can power.
Penn-Plax Flexible Air Line Tubing for Aquariums. An air line tubing is what you use to connect the air pump to the device you’re powering. This Penn-Flax is a good example, as it’s flexible and it doesn’t kink.
Uxcell 10 Piece Plastic Aquarium Fish Tank 2 Way Air Pump Control Valves. This lets you customize the air flow through your various air line tubes.
Jardin Aquarium Fish Tank Ponds Ceramic Air Stone Diffusers. This produces very fine bubbles which can help in filtration.
Penn-Plax Bubble-Wall Air Diffuser for Aquariums. This functions like an air stone, and it offers a dramatic and even distribution of bubbles. It’s essentially an aquarium bubbler contraption.
Air Pumps Reviews
Now that you have a clear idea of what types of air pumps are available, let’s take a look at some of the top rated aquarium air pumps you can get online these days.
Let’s start with a really quiet one. This Tetra Whisper lives up to its billing, and that’s partly because it’s so small.
It only measures 3.9 x 2.8 x 5.5 inches and weighs a paltry 12 ounces. It’s rated for 10 gallon tanks.
- It really is quiet. It’s shaped like a dome, and that means it traps much of the sound within its shape so not much of it escapes. You don’t really hear much of a hum or buzz at all.
- It already comes with a plastic air valve.
- It’s very economical.
- It comes with a lifetime limited warranty.
- It doesn’t include tubing, so you’ll have to buy some for this to work. But you’ll just need the standard 3/16" I.D. tubing.
2. Fluval Q1
This one may be comparatively noisier than the earlier Whisper on this list, but then again it’s rated for tanks measuring from 50 to 160 gallons. It measures 3.2 x 7.8 x 6.4 inches and it runs at 3.4 psi.
Fluval really worked to combine power and low noise with this contraption.
The low noise is due to several factors. It features double wall construction and the pump well is integrated in the design. It also has a baffle chamber specifically designed to suppress the noise.
- Despite its power, it’s really is still quiet. It’s quieter than most of its comparable competition.
- The flow rate is adjustable.
- You can use it for several purposes.
- There’s some concern about its build quality and durability, with some complaints about wear and tear for some parts.
Its 3.5W pump is rated for 150-gallon tanks, as well as for tanks that are up to 8 feet deep.
- Again, it has a dome shape with rubber feet like all Tetra Whisper air pumps. The shape helps minimize the noise, as the sound waves are kept from reflecting off other surfaces like your shelves and tables.
- It offers use for very deep tanks that standard air pumps can’t provide.
- It has enough power for multiple air stones and protein skimmers.
- There have been some massive discounts for this lately, so the price is incredibly low.
- You’ll need to buy the accessories like the tubing yourself.
This air pump measures 6 x 4.1 x 9.4 inches and weighs 3.1 pounds. Its 6W motor can offer 15 liters of air per minute, and that’s about 240 gph.
It’s also rated for up to a maximum level of 45 decibels.
- Even with its power, at the most it's as noisy as bird calls. Part of the reason for this relative silence is that it features a multi-level muffler.
- It comes with 4 outlets.
- The air flow is steady due to the special rubber, but the air flow can also be adjusted.
- It doesn’t consume much power.
- There’s really nothing much wrong with this, although in some rare instances you can read about some malfunctioning parts after just a short while.
Of all the air pumps we’ve listed here, I would recommend the Hydrofarm AAPA15L.
It has a decent low noise level and it’s very powerful. Its 4 outlets also enable you to power more devices than with just one outlet.
Then you can use the air line tubing and valve we’ve listed and you can also choose between the air stone or the air diffuser (or both) and you’re good to go.
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