What is an Aquarium Pump? Definition, Function, Types, How to Check & Install?

What is an Aquarium Air Pump? In this article, we will learn all aspects of aquarium pumps along with definition, function, types, how to check, buy & install, etc. Water pumps are one of the most important pieces of equipment in an aquarium. Water pumps circulate water in aquariums, so they not only provide clean water for your fish, but also keep the water aerated so that they can breathe. The best aquarium water pump will ensure a healthy environment for your fish.

There are many applications for water pumps in aquariums. The same principles apply to all of them: mechanical and hydraulic principles. Liquids are moved by all pumps, regardless of their differences. There are some that run manually, while others run electric or gas engines. It is not recommended to use a manual pump at home. It comes in several sizes and can be used for different purposes.

What is an Aquarium Pump? Definition, Function

Aquarium Pump Definition

Air is injected into a tank’s water by an aquarium air pump. Water at the surface of a tank is agitated by the surface. This releases oxygen and carbon dioxide into the water. 

what aquarium air pump definition function types how check install basics
What aquarium air pump definition function types how check install basics

The water cannot be oxygenated or carbon dioxide removed without agitation. A pump in an aquarium agitates the water by dislodging air bubbles. A fish’s oxygen supply is maintained by air pumps regardless of outlying factors, such as medication or photosynthetic plants.

Functions of Aquarium Air Pump

Air is pumped into a tank’s water by aquarium pumps through airline tubing. For fish to get the oxygen they need, surface agitation is essential. 

Your fish are less likely to breathe enough oxygen if the water at the tank’s surface is still. Water bubbles are produced by air pumps increase surface agitation which allows more CO2 to leave and more oxygen to enter.

The best way to use air pumps is to pair them with other devices. Biological filters use bubbles created by the pump to filter contaminants from the water. By pairing with a filter, air stones reduce pump noise and improve overall filtration.

Define GPH

A GPH is an acronym for gallons per hour. A water pump or filter can pump a certain volume of water per hour using this measurement. 

In order to determine the size of the tank that is best for a water pump, it is important to know its GPH.

The tank won’t circulate effectively if the GPH is too low. A high GPH could overwhelm fish and even force water out of the tank if the flow is too high.

Water pumps are like motors. An economy car engine with a muscle car engine would tear the thing apart, just as a muscle car engine with an economy car engine would tear it apart.

Types of Aquarium Pump

It’s up to you to decide what type of pump you need in your aquarium. There are many types of pumps and some can perform multiple functions. Aquariums must be carefully chosen for decorative purposes otherwise they will ruin the look of your room.

Internal Pump

It is less expensive and easier to install an internal or submersible pump than an external pump. Because these pumps are sealed inside the aquarium, they are less likely to leak. The maintenance and cleaning of a submersible water pump can be more challenging, however. The close proximity to the fish can also make them noisy.

internal aquarium air pump type
Internal aquarium air pump type

Pumps designed to pump water up high are known as internal pumps. In its specification data, every pump will specify the height to which it will pump along with the amount of flow it will produce at that height. When the flow rate of water is lower, the water has to be pumped higher.

Many internal pumps are designed to pump to a head height of under 10 feet. These pumps are usually stored in a sump under the aquarium. A more powerful external water pump may be required for pumping to greater heights, such as from a basement filter room.

VIVOSUN 800GPH Submersible Pump(3000L/H, 24W), Ultra Quiet Water Pump with 10ft. High Lift, Fountain Pump with 6.5ft. Power Cord, 3 Nozzles for Fish Tank, Pond, Aquarium, Statuary, Hydroponics
  • Specs & Dimensions: 4.1*2.6*3.5 inches; The 6.5 ft. long power cord offers convenient installation and an adjustable knob allows you to control of water flow rate and pressure; Max flow rate: 800 GPH (3000L/H); Max lift height: up to 10 ft.; Wattage: 24W; Voltage: 110-120V
  • Detachable & Cleanable: This powerful yet small-sized water pump is easy to hide and disguise; No tools necessary for disassembly and it’s very easy to clean
  • Many Possible Placement Positions: Place the pump flat on its base, stick it on an angled or vertical surface, and manually rotate it into any position you need
  • Wide Range of Applications: This is a high-performance, energy-efficient pump and is well-designed for use in ponds, fountains, waterfalls, hydroponic systems, and irrigation systems and so on; Working Temperature: 32℉ to 104℉
  • 3 Outlet Adapters:Includes three nozzles with different diameter sizes: 0.51 in., 0.62 in., and 0.74 in., providing different water flow effects for all your different needs

External Pump

Pumps that run externally can be more expensive, however. Because it’s not submersible, it’s easier to maintain. Additionally, aquarium pumps that are external are less likely to leak. Because they are not very close to the fish, they can be noisy.

external aquarium air pump type
External aquarium air pump type

Submersible pumps cannot be used as external pumps. Most external pumps are powered by an electric motor mounted to a pump housing, though some can be connected externally and even controlled.

Even some of the DC controllable pumps are managing to pump up to 20 feet with better external pumping efficiency. Depending on the height above the pump, the type of pump you choose will depend on the flow you require.

It is more cost-effective to use external pumps for remote filter rooms or for high water running. It may be necessary to install an internal pump with a high head height if you do not have room for an external pump.

Wave Boxes

You can create a brilliant wave across your aquarium with a wave box. These Wave Boxes create truly good water motion while remaining discreetly hidden.

wavebox aquarium
Wavebox aquarium

Pumps eject water at predetermined pulses from a box filled with water. To create the perfect wave motion in your aquarium, you can adjust the power and cycle time using the controller.

Wave boxes use magnets to mount themselves to the back corners or sides of the aquarium and have rubber anti-vibration pads to ensure that the sound is quiet. When moving large volumes of water, they are best used in larger aquariums.

Dosing Pump

When you reach the point where you have to add daily liquid supplements to an aquarium because your corals consume them faster than you can supply with water changes alone, dosing pumps save your aquarium.

aquarium air dosing pump
Aquarium air dosing pump

It is possible to order dosing pumps in packages ranging from a single pump head to a six-head unit. Each pump moves a set amount of fluid per minute, and they are generally very precise in their operation. Depending on the rate, it can range from 1 ml/minute to hundreds of ml/minute.

Air Pump

In an aquarium, oxygen is essential for organic life. When the oxygen in the aquarium decreases, you will recognize fatalities.  The purpose of an air pump in a freshwater aquarium is mostly decorative bubbles or to open the Pirates Treasure Chest on a cycle.

aquarium air pump type
Aquarium air pump type

Animals cannot tolerate air bubbles in a reef aquarium. Corals and fish can be killed by tiny micro-bubbles ingested by them.

Air aquarium pumps for saltwater aquariums are mainly used during power outages to maintain oxygen levels and when moving houses to transport fish long distances.

Batteries can power some air pumps, so they’re ideal for car trips, and a few have automatic reset capabilities when the power goes out.

Tetra Whisper Corded Electric Easy to Use Air Pump for Aquariums (Non-UL)
  • POWERFUL: Tetra Whisper Air Pump provides dependable airflow to your aquarium.
  • QUIET: Patented dome shape, suspended motor and sound-dampening chambers for quiet operation.
  • PROVIDES OXYGEN AND WATER MOVEMENT: Keeps underwater pets happy.
  • AVAILABLE SIZES: Select the proper size for your tank – 10, 20 and 40-gallon pumps have single air outlets, 60 and 100-gallon pumps feature dual outlets.
  • NON-UL LISTED: Reliable performance at an economical cost.

How to Check Aquarium Water Pump before You Buy?

Noise Level

A bedroom aquarium requires careful consideration of the pump’s noise level. The operation of some pumps is silent, while the operation of others is loud. Before purchasing a pump, read the reviews if you are sensitive to loud noises.

There are no silent aquarium water pumps, despite what some manufacturers claim. There will always be some noise from a water pump, even the quietest one. It is important to note, however, that the level of noise varies from pump to pump. Depending on the pump, you may hear a low humming noise, or you may hear the sound of a motor running.


It is crucial to consider the price of the pump. There are differences in the price of pumps & some are more expensive than others. Nevertheless, there are many high-quality pumps available at lower prices. Be sure to factor in replacement parts costs when comparing prices, such as impellers, which can wear down over time.

An aquarium water pump typically costs between $20 and $200. It is also crucial to choose a durable pump, even if it costs more upfront. It is often more expensive to purchase a pump built with high-quality parts, such as stainless steel because they will last longer than cheaper ones.

Energy Saving

Choose a pump with an adjustable flow rate to find the most energy-efficient option. When less water movement is needed, you can lower the flow rate, and when more, you can raise it. As a result, you will be able to save energy and money in the long run. It is also important to choose an energy-efficient power cord or cable.

Last but not least, you might want to consider purchasing a solar-powered water pump. The pumps are powered by sunlight, so they do not use electricity from your home. Don’t worry if you’re concerned about your tank’s health due to a lack of sunlight. Pumps powered by solar energy usually have battery backups, so they can continue to run even in the absence of sunlight. 

Size of the Tank

It is important to determine the size of your aquarium in order to determine the size of the pump to use. The pump will not work properly if your aquarium is too small. Conversely, a pump that’s too big for your aquarium could overwork and fail.

In general, larger tanks require pumps that can flow between 200 and 1,000 gallons per hour. According to general rule, you should always have a tank’s maximum and minimum flow rate four times its volume. The flow rate of a pump that can move 250 to 400 gallons per hour will be needed for a 50-gallon tank.

The most important thing is to choose a pump with an appropriate flow rate, rather than choosing the most powerful one you can find. It can cause the fish and plants in the tank to be blown about and even uprooted if the water pressure generated at the outlet hose is too high. The right pump should be used for the size of your aquarium to keep your fish safe.

How to Install an Aquarium Pump?

In a submerged aquarium, an air pump pulls air from outside the tank and pumps it into it. A couple of air pump accessories will help you to direct the flow of air at the right rate and at the correct pressure. The best place to start is with a roll of airline tubing and a check valve. Depending on your application, the other items may be optional.

  • Cut the airline tubing to the appropriate length so that it is long enough to connect the air pump to the aquarium device inside the aquarium once it is placed outside of the aquarium. Leave some extra slack in the airline tubing in case you need to move the air pump.
  • Place the aquarium device inside the fish tank with one end of the airline tubing attached. The other end of the airline tubing should be hooked up to the air pump.
  • It is possible to skip this step if the air pump is located higher than the top of the aquarium. You need a check valve if the air pump is lower than the top of the aquarium to prevent water leaks.
  • Place the check valve in between the sponge filter and the aquarium device so that the end of the check valve with the flapper faces the air pump. Turn on the air pump, but flip the check valve so that no air will flow when it is installed backward.
  • Make a drip loop with the air pump’s power cable to prevent water from entering the wall outlet. You should see bubbles coming from your aquarium device within a couple of seconds.

How to Create a Quieter Aquarium Pump?

You are most likely buying a diaphragm air pump from the pet store, which uses a vibrating diaphragm to draw in and push air into your fish tank. The vibration can, unfortunately, become quite loud over time if left unchecked. 

  • Under the air pump, cushion the vibrations with a towel, foam block, or other soft material.
  • You must ensure your air pump and its cushion is on a solid surface that won’t vibrate and amplify the noise.
  • If the air pump isn’t too heavy, hang it on the power cable so that it doesn’t touch anything.
  • It may also be necessary to clean the aquarium device or decor attached to your air pump because debris or algae may have clogged it.
  • Change your air pump to a quieter and smaller one, you will be happier with that.
  • You may want to add an air stone to your aquarium device if the bubbling noise is too loud. By making smaller bubbles, the air-stone makes a less loud bubble. 

Applications of Aquarium Pump

Sponge Filter

It draws in water through the filter and strains out floating particles thanks to the rising bubbles. Air pumps also allow you to use sponge filters, making them a valuable piece of equipment for aquarium owners. 

Despite their low price, sponge filters are highly effective and promote beneficial bacteria growth. Due to the lack of an internal motor, sponge filters require an air pump to drive the water from the tank through them. 

Breeder Box

To prevent stagnant water and improve oxygenation inside the box, it increases the flow of water.

Moving Bed Filter

A biological filter media is churned by air and beneficial bacteria are grown by the process.

Fish Tank Decoration

Toys that can be used as gifts and decorations are treasure box ornaments, or little scuba divers can be mimicked by bubbles

Egg Tumbler

In order to increase hatch rates, the device gently tumbles fish or shrimp eggs using airflow to decrease fungal growth.

Aquarium Bubbler

Porous stones are used to make air stones, which are also known as aquarium bubblers. Air stones reduce the size of large bubbles from air pumps to friendly sizes for fish. In addition to maintaining positive aeration from the pump, this size reduction reduces the amount of turbulence created by large bubbles.

As a result, air stones reduce the size of bubbles generated by the air pump, which results in lower noise and better circulation in the tank. Oxygen exchange also increases as surface agitation increases. Likewise, smaller bubbles from air stones agitate fish less than larger ones. Air stones and air pumps provide your fish with an oxygen-rich, stress-free environment, allowing them to live healthier, longer.

Top 10 Aquarium Pump You Should Consider Before Buying

Tetra Whisper AP 150

The Whisper AP series replaces the former Tetratec Deep Water Air Pumps. They are ideally suited for applications with long air-stones, deep tanks, and setups with multiple airstones. Two models in the AP series can pump air to a depth of eight feet. 

tetra whisper ap 150
Tetra Whisper AP 150

Tanks up to 150 gallons are designed for the AP 150, while tanks up to 300 gallons are designed for the AP 300.

Sun-Sun Jp-024

Three suction cups attach to the sliding mounting bracket of this water pump.  In light of the weight of this pump, the pumps seem a bit weak. You can adjust the pump for evaporation without having to remove the suction cups once you attach the bracket to the tank wall.

Water can be directed in a variety of directions with the outflow nozzle, which can be rotated 360 degrees. The water pump was fairly easy to set up despite the bad instructions, and the flow it produced was impressive.

Hydrofarm Active Aqua

Hydrofarm produces a range of powerful air pumps with adjustable flow rates. There are also models that have multiple ports, ranging from one to eight. 

Vivosun HY-303

The flow cannot be directed through a sliding bracket or any other way. An easy-to-use pump with suction cups attached to the rear is all that’s needed. With it, you can push water straight out of the glass.

Vivosun HY 303
Vivosun HY 303

There was a slight difference between this pump and the others in terms of GPH. Smaller tanks, like 30 or 40 gallons, can benefit from adding some current with this pump. By using this system, the tank would gain extra flow without taking up much space. The durability of the small suction cups it uses, even though this water pump is easy to install. 

Danner Aqua- Supreme

There are four air pump models available from Danner Aqua-Supreme that meet the needs of most aquariums and ponds. Flow rates can be adjusted on the multiple outlet models. 

Aquaneat A769

Some of Aquaneat’s features differ from those of the other water pumps. There were two attachments included with the outflow. There was a piece of tube attached to a fountainhead above the waterline, according to the directions. 

Aquaneat A769

It may also include a small, fixed nozzle. There is no way to turn or adjust the direction of the water; the nozzle points only one way. Their shape makes them prone to being knocked out of place & they are very undersized for something so heavy.


The EcoPlus product line is well-made and quite durable. The higher price is reflected in the higher cost of manufacturing from higher-end materials. The flow rate can be adjusted for each model. There is also a line that is geared towards hydroponics and commercial aquariums. You can also use this line in ponds. 

Marineland Maxie-jet 600

Even though it has the lowest GPH, it comes with a number of extremely cool features that really make it stand out from the rest. 

The first thing you should know about this is that it comes with a great instruction manual that explains all the different ways you can set it up. If you prefer, this pump can be underwater or used outside the aquarium, if you connect it to a hose and connect it to a pump.

Marineland Maxie Jet 600

The other water pumps were not external. Using this pump externally can be very useful; for example, you could use it to provide a river-like current in the tank or even drain water out of an aquarium for maintenance purposes.

This water pump stands out because of its mounting setup. There is a triangular mounting bracket and strong suction cups on the mounting bracket.  Water pumps can be positioned in any direction with omnidirectional ball joint mounts. The pump stayed in any position on this mount.

Hagen Marina 200

There are four sizes available at Hagen Marina: 50, 75, 100, and 200. Two outlets are available for the 200-gallon model, but only one outlet for the 50-gallon model, 75-gallon model, and 100-gallon model. 

Aqua Miracle WD 800

This pump is definitely worth considering if you’re looking for raw power to move water.

Besides a strainer and sturdy mounting bracket, this pump has no bells or whistles. 

You can only turn the outflow on the impeller cover a small amount or else the whole cover will pop off. When changing the direction of the outflow to accidentally pop off the impeller cover. With this bracket, you don’t have to remove the suction cups to adjust the pump to the water level, just slide it up and down.

Merits of Aquarium Air Pump

Gas Exchange & Surface Agitation

It is at the surface of your aquarium that gas exchange occurs, which is why surface agitation is vital.  By not agitating the water surface, oxygen and carbon dioxide which sit on the surface of the water cannot enter as well.  

A power filter placed slightly above the water level will allow the flow to circulate the water at the surface, ensuring sufficient surface agitation. 

The next best alternative is an air pump if this is not possible. Gas exchange takes place due to the constant flow of bubbles pushing the carbon dioxide to the surface.

In tanks containing too little oxygen, your fish may search for oxygen by gasping at the surface. Within minutes, you can fix this problem with an air pump. 

Oxygen Increment

Increasing surface agitation increases oxygen availability, which is one of its biggest benefits. Therefore, oxygen isn’t just added to aquarium water by surface agitation. 

You can drive huge amounts of oxygen directly into your tank water by using an air pump with an air stone. The oxygen you provide to your aquarium is essential and beneficial for all living things, including your fish, plants, and even beneficial bacteria.

Large Aquarium

Smaller aquariums usually do not need air pumps, whereas larger aquariums do. There is a greater chance of chemical imbalance in water when there are more fish in a tank. A decrease in oxygen levels can result from this imbalance, necessitating an air pump. An air pump will likely solve the problem if your fish show any of the above symptoms.

Planted Aquarium

Based on the balance of plant and fish life in an aquarium, an air pump may or may not be needed. CO2 is taken up by plants during the day and oxygen is released. The oxygen levels in the water decrease at night, as the CO2 levels increase. A fish aquarium may require an air pump in this situation. There may be a need for an air pump in a tank depending on the volume of plants and fish. In order to maintain the health of your fish, you should not overcrowd your aquarium. When there are more plants and fish in a tank, oxygen levels will drop, which increases the risk of the fish dying.

Decorative Looks

You can add decorations like treasure chests, volcanoes and even fake coral to your aquarium when you use an air pump to show off your bubbles, but you will often see them on their own. These decorations are not only fascinating and fun to look at, but your fish will also enjoy them.

Warm Water Aquarium

A warm water aquarium is more likely to require an air pump than a cooler water aquarium. The warmer temperature increases oxygen level in water which gives huge benefits to the fish. As a result, warmer water fish will benefit with the increment of oxygen flow.


Air pumps can also be beneficial for medicated aquariums. The top of a tank can be covered with a film by some medications. By reducing surface agitation, this film assists oxygen exchange. These medications can inhibit the exit of CO2 and the entry of oxygen into the water since oxygen exchange occurs at the surface of the water. 

The chemical properties of other medications enable them to remove oxygen from water. It is important to pair many medications with an air pump to keep your fish healthy, no matter how they remove oxygen from the water.

FAQs on Aquarium Air Pump

Do you require air pump in saltwater aquarium?

A saltwater aquarium requires an air pump, except for small or shallow ones. The amount of air needed per gallon for saltwater tanks is less than for freshwater tanks. Salt can corrode metal equipment if it rises to the surface of the tank. Moreover, too many bubbles can affect saltwater fish and plants negatively. 
Air stones are necessary in this case because they reduce the size of air bubbles. It is important to exercise caution when it comes to how much oxygen your air pump emits. Too much oxygen on the outside of fish can lead to lumps on their bodies.

How much Oxygen need for Fish to Survive?

Water should be infused with oxygen between five ppm and seven ppm if you want fish to remain healthy. The water should be aerated immediately if the level is below two ppm. To ensure that your fish are breathing enough oxygen, you can measure oxygen levels with a dissolved oxygen meter.
The skin of fish and around their eyes will develop bubbles if they are exposed to too much oxygen. Depending on the species of fish, there is a different level of oxygen in the water that poses a danger to them. 
It is generally recommended that you add 1 gallon of air per gallon of water to your tank. You can easily adjust the air output of an air pump to meet your needs.

How can you adjust an Aquarium air pump?

Air flow may need to be adjusted if the amount of bubbling in your aquarium is too big or too small. There are some air pumps that come with an adjustable dial that allows you to increase or decrease the flow. The air flow can also be controlled with an air valve if your air pump isn’t adjustable.  

Is it necessary to keep on the aquarium pump at night?

If you want your fish to breathe clear, you should keep the air pump running at all times. A nighttime air pump may cause noise problems for you.

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