Air pumps are one form of aquarium pump. They most common use in the past was to provide the power for under-gravel filtration, but the popularity of that filtration method has fallen due to the generally better performance of other filters. Today, aquarium pumps of this sort are used for several other purposes as well as the effective filtration of very small tanks.
Air pumps are positioned outside the aquarium, usually in the form of a black box resting behind your tank. The closer it is to the tank, the better it will perform; tubing should be as short as possible to maximize performance. But it should never be placed inside the water!
- Decoration. This kind of aquarium pump is widely used for decorative purposes (but not because the pump itself is attractive). You may have heard of air stones and bubble walls. Powered by air pumps, these devices can be placed inside of your aquarium to create lovely flows of bubbles. Kids adore these bubbles, often with extra zeal when the air stone is positioned to open a treasure chest or control fun ornaments like divers.
Oxygenation. You will often hear that aquarium pumps are necessary to keep the water oxygenated. In truth, an aquarium should not become oxygen-deficient unless it is improperly maintained, temperature has not been regulated, or the aquarium is severely overpopulated or inadequate for the size of fish you keep. Additionally, you will sometimes hear that the fish directly breathe those bubbles because they dissolve into the surrounding water, and so if the bubbles are gone, the fish will suffocate. This is also untrue. Aquarium pumps that pump air into your tank can help to oxygenate the water, but not in that way. Instead, they help to break up thin layers of gunk that can inhibit oxygenation of the water along the water's surface. By breaking up these layers, water-air contact increases along the surface, thereby aiding oxygenation of the water and creating a healthier environment for your fish.
Protein Skimmer. Air pumps are also used to power air-driven protein skimmers. These devices actually remove proteins from the water before they are turned into nitrates. The result is higher oxygen content and lower levels of nitrates. That means healthier fish! If you have a crowded saltwater aquarium, go buy one of these protein skimmers right away. And if you buy an air-driven skimmer, remember to thank that aquarium pump for all its hard work!
Filtration. This kind of aquarium pump is less often used for filtration purposes than its relative, the water pump. However, if you have a very small fish tank with little fishies, an internal air-driven filter (powered by an air pump) should keep your water quality good and your fish happy.
You can buy these aquarium pumps at your local pet store, or also online from a variety of websites. Whether you buy online or in a pet store, be sure to consider the following things.
- The power and size of air pump you require will depend largely upon the dimensions and volume of the tank, as well as the number and size of any air stones, bubble walls and ornaments you wish to power.
- A less powerful air pump will be needed for air stones and bubble walls than for protein skimmers and under-gravel filters. In order to power the latter two, you should buy a significantly powerful aquarium pump.
- Be forewarned: air pumps can be noisy. Ask if it is possible to listen to the air pump at work before purchasing.
Buy your aquarium pump where you can find all the product information necessary to select the correct pump for your aquarium.