How to Ditch Your Aquarium Air Pump

Steve Poland here. And we all know that our fish need oxygen
to breathe. Or at least I hope we all know that. And the beneficial bacteria in our aquariums
need oxygen in order to break down waste. So it’s super important to have adequate oxygen
levels in your tank. And the go to method for a lot of people to
achieve this is running an air pump. But I have one big problem with this. In general I tend to go for more a natural
look in my display aquariums. And these bubbles don’t look natural. I mean, it’s pretty rare in nature is a bunch
of bubbles constantly floating to the surface in a fixed location. And don’t get me wrong. It’s definitely a matter of preference. But I don’t want bubbles in my aquarium for
the same reason I don’t want blue gravel, or a pirate ship, or spongebob decorations. I just don’t happen to like the way it looks. I’m not against the theory or effectiveness
of air pumps. I run air into all of my breeder and growout
tanks in my basement. That whole fishroom runs on sponge filters
connected to a central air pump. But no one sees those tanks but me. And the entire world on YouTube. But they don’t get a lot of visitors in person.
They’re not display tanks. Fortunately it’s easy to ditch those air pumps
on any tank that you want to look more natural. Here are a couple of tips. The simplest thing you can do is aim one of
your filter returns at the surface of the water. This will cause constant surface agitation. And that surface agitation is what oxygenates
the water. When you run an air pump and connect it to
an airstone or sponge filter, it’s not the bubbles traveling through the
water that are causing the oxygenation. I think this is a common misconception. It’s the surface agitation caused by those
bubbles that’s doing the work. So aiming that filter at the surface and disrupting
it is doing the same thing. If your filter output is configured in a way
that prevents you from doing this, an alternative is to get a small powerhead
and aim it toward the surface instead. Another thing you can do to help your oxygen
levels is to decrease the temperature of your water. Now obviously it needs to stay within the
correct range for the type of fish you’re keeping, but the amount of oxygen that can be dissolved
in the water is dependent on the temperature. So a lower temperature means more oxygen. My final tip for increasing your oxygen is
something you should be doing anyway, which is keeping up with your maintenance
and feeding an appropriate amount. because the more waste that’s left to rot
in your tank, the more bacteria (and oxygen) is required to break it down. So be sure to stick to your water change and
filter cleaning schedule. Now something to keep in mind is that every
tank is different. So if you’re running an air pump and decide
to employ one of these methods and remove it, please be sure to monitor your tank closely
afterwards to be sure that your fish have enough oxygen. If you see them gasping at the surface of
the water, that’s bad. Go straight back to the air pump and reevaluate. But if all goes well then enjoy your more
natural looking tank and, possibly, lower noise level and electricity bill. Let me know what you think down in the comments. And if this is your first time here then I
would love you have you subscribe. Because each week I bring you a new video
sharing my experiences in the aquarium hobby. I give updates on my tanks, review products,
show you DIY projects, and share tips and tricks to help take your
tank to the next level. Hit subscribe to follow along. Have a good one!

Comments 100

  • What exactly is a powerhead? And where would I find one that I could use in a fish tank?

  • Great video… many others you have.
    Thank you for (not), promoting (Aquarium Coop).
    In my opinion, the guy is a total (ass-clown).

  • I ditched my air pumps 20 years ago when I figured this out – thanks for pointing this out to everyone!

  • Ok, it seems that the air pump is not necessary for a 'natural' aquarium.
    And a filter? Is it necessary?

  • explained very well , airpump doesn't really do its job. just put you're filter output on the surface.

  • Damn Bro. You look Baked.

  • I like bubble's, I think it adds a certain ambience to the aquarium

  • aim your camera a bit more down or cut off the excess blank space above you in editing. It makes you look much shorter than you probably are, other than that great video with good info.

  • Great video mate you just made me turn off air pump I've been playing around on off on now of!! If can please look at my videos maybe give me some pointers!!! 😊

  • I hate air pumps I leave a 2 inch gap between the water and the flow as long as the water is hitting the air before interning the tank water you don't need one..


  • What air pump would you recommend for about 14 tanks?  Thinking of getting rid of all my little ones

  • Right… but how do I increase oxygen without adding an extra power head because that would be to much current and without an air pump coz the thing is louder than my fridge??

  • Why do you say that oxygen won't diffuse into the water from the bubbles? Isn't this what CO2 diffusers rely on to get CO2 into the water column?

  • Yeah but the sponge filters are the best and most cost effective filters…….

  • My aquarium gear recommendations:

  • Great advice. I have a Fluval 206 and decided to leave the outlet part half in/half out…lots of agitation on water surface. I'm a novice so hope I'm doing ok

  • Helpful video. I am going to get a circulation pump now. And I also like he natural landscape feel and look.

  • Talk about your air pump filter

  • Me parece muy útil tu aporte. Gracias !!!

  • I use plants for my tank

  • I oxygenate the water by aiming my filter's output nozzle towards the surface. I like the sound of running water, water gets moving, at night when the lights are off and the night colors are on it has a shimmer effect. Love the fish hobby. Keep rocking your vids.

  • Use a protein skimmer. Insane amount of air and zero bubbles but only works in salt water. Use an air stone in your sump with a bubble trap/sponge.

  • ..or you can put the air pump in the sump no one will ever see it

  • I like the look of bubbles 😉

  • Its nice to see someone who realizes air pumps arent oxygen, i was starting to feel like the minority in this hobby.

  • Great ideas! Thanks Steve.

  • Gee Steve, the more I watch and read, I get confused. Ugh. I acquired 50-gal tank with Fluval 306 filter in anticipation of betta sorority with many medium light plants. Do I really need air stones? I may want one for fun as a backdrop or ornament only on a switch/timer. What do you think?

  • I have a planted tank .30 minutes before I turn the lights I turn on the air pump. I like the look. The air pump stays on until I turn the lights on. I heard in a planted tank the planets release carbon dioxide in the night. A air pump replaces the reduced air.

  • Indeed, those air pumps or whatever are not needed with fish. It's cute for some people, I understand that, I'll admit that I still use them in some of my aquariums, but a good surface movement is plenty enough in combination with a good amount of plants that produce a good bunch of natural oxygen. Now on the other hand, if you have a lot of shrimps in your tank then it might be a wise idea to add some extra oxygen, because shrimps do not like too much water turbulence but do need good oxygenated water. Something that isn't always possible with just surface movement. That's the only reason when you actually might need one: just to add that little extra for your (hundreds of?) shrimps.


  • Reckon i'll have to throw out my NYC taxi cab bubbler then..

  • What no spongebob!!!

  • Thanks one of my fish died but one is alive but thanks to your tip I still have it

  • No! Don't make me take out my Pink castle no argh….,. You're right about surface air! Although some corner sponge filter designs only need a small air pump. They're cheap..and the new ones are pretty quiet..and power heads do have their place..but a lot of fish rooms are running their entire systems on air. So I suppose it's a matter of personal pursuit.
    Good video

  • Good, at present setting up 50 gallon aquarium after 25 year break from the hobby. I'm with you!

  • Are those merely river rocks in that tank ?

  • The good thing about air stones though is the bubbles get pollutants attached to them and when they burst at the surface they gas off removing the pollutants from your tank. I believe they are particularly good at removing heavy metals hence why aeration is used in sewage works to help clean the water. But if you fish are doing great then the air stone is not a necessity, but it will definitely benefit any fish you are planing to keep

  • Actually alot of people dont no fish need air

  • I love my bubbles!😅 If I could make more….I'd be bubble worthy.

  • that is one of my biggest aquarium pet peeves when people say that bubbles make oxygenation. maybe a small amount is released while it is traveling, but most is made when the bubbles ripple the surface.

  • Great info, however I personally like the bubble look, if placed in the right spot, under a slate , or stone. Plus, the bubbles tend to raise debris to the top for water skimming. I do have a wavemaker agitating the surface, but I have to keep in mind that my overflows need to catch all floating debris, so bubbles help me in my giant setups.

  • Wonder what's more cost-efficient canister filter or an air pump… I run 2 C series canister filters on my 75 gallon tank so I'm looking to use an air pump instead of the canister filters

  • SpongeBob is realistic ! Have you seen him outside of the water ?

  • You look high as a kite

  • you are wrong water oxygenation depends mainly on the size of the surface the thing is you dramatically increase the size of your surface by adding bubbles. Every bubble comes with his own surface filled with air so it's like having an extra surface area. Water oxygenation will be better at the bottom of the tank is you use bubbles too. Ideally the smaller the bubble and the time it's spend submerged will be better for oxygenation. So big bubbles oxygenate water less than the same amount of air but with small microbubbles.

  • If you are in saltwater hobbyists you it’s common knowledge. That’s why you don’t see bubblers in a reeftank. We spent a lot of money for wavemakers. ❤️👏👍

  • I hate air pumps they are noisy and annoying. I never use air pumps. They are completely unnecessary.

  • It’s crazy seeing Malcolm in the Middle doing aquarium videos nowadays 🙂

  • Throw it in the garbage…

  • Actually the bubbles running up thought the water does oxygenate the water and not just the surface agitation. This is proven with C02 systems. Bubbles from the c02 add more c02 into the water.

  • Wouldnt a pretty strong fan blowing on the surface of the water be another more natural way of oxygenating the water, if it blew hard enough to cause surface aggitation? It is the way that ponds filter themselves in the fall and spring by turning over due to faster winds. Thanks for the ideas and the video!

  • Wait you mean rainbow unicorn vomit gravel isnt natural and doesnt increase the value of a tank? (10g tanks in my area on craigslist with rainbow gravel are listed at like $100!)

  • Can a hang on back filter be the substitute for the air pump?

  • Gonna keep my 18" bubble screen…

  • 43 sec in this video fam got me laughing with the blue gravel and SpongeBob decorations i had to stop and like this toooo too funny

  • My fish used to get off in those bubbles and I guess to them it was like a shower would be to us.

  • Nice video.

  • Such good advice! Thank u

  • Nerrrrrd

  • I find it annoying if I forget to keep checking water level and the water shoots out of the tank.

  • Great video and good philosophy about bubbles, pirate ships… But I am confused about something. I always knew about surface agitation, but I also thought that bubbles do dissolve as they travel through. This is how CO2 diffusers work, is it not? And there are also videos on YT about adding oxygen by breaking down hydrogen peroxide into O2 and H2O and running the O2 through an air stone. So, I was always thinking that air bubbles (or bubbles of any gas) do dissolve, but as I also understand it, this is just not an efficient way to dissolve any gasses into water. Or am I wrong about all that? Thanks…

  • Jesus Christ! ……you get your fish fryd too

  • air pump + sponge filter is the best filter for aquarium IMO, but all depend on the lifestock you have inside the tank

  • Thanks for the advice. New subscriber right here👍🏽

  • Wrong

  • Spongebob decoration… check, blue gravel… check, pirate ship (or a downed plane decoration and a no swimming shark sign in my case)… check… get outta here with this nonsense, lol 😀

  • lol when you said when your fish is gasping at the surface i just saw my fish do that and still is poor thing i have a fish bowl and a gold fish and i just got it yesterday what can i do??

  • I never knew this i always thought the bigger air stone n air pump u have the more bubbles it can blow to give oxygen in aquarium smfh

  • Air pumps are useful because nitrates and nitrites cling to bubbles which rise to the surface and out of the tank water

  • Get a "flooming pump". Uses more power but better than maintaining airpumps

  • I have a 45 gal tank and I got a 30gal air pump for free can I use it? whats the point of matching gal for air pump?

  • awesome video!!

  • a couple of my fish like swimming in the bubbles

  • The best !!!!

  • Your an idiot

  • Spray bars, trickle filters, HOBs

  • I use the output spray bar from my eheim 2217’ lift it up on an angle to hose down a bit great surface agitation and just 2 inches under that I have my wavemaker 👌

  • You look high on dope

  • I just got an air pump to be safe and Im pretty sure I would sleep more quietly in the center of the highway during rush hour traffic

  • Agreed! Spongebob decoration hmmm… Lol

  • I want to ditch my air stones. Is there a powerhead you recommend for a 75 gallon? I am already running a FX6


  • I could take or leave the air bubbles. I used to run an air pump. I don't anymore. Its just another motor making noise and another plug taking up my outlet.

  • My son and I are getting into the hobby. While we like some of the bubblers for his tank, we're curious whether live plants would increase the oxygen levels as well?

  • Using a air pump is only putting air thru the water.There is a different between putting air in it and putting oxygen in it.air and oxygen are really 2 different things.

  • Have you ever been fishing? There is air that comes out of the ground lol which creates bubbles

  • What if your fish swim to the bottom of the tank and start swimming around really fast with their nose to the ground? I thought this might have to do with the oxygenation in the water because it looked like the fish was trying to suck up the air bubbles that gathered on the floor.

  • maybe make a video with 2 tanks same size with same plants in it one with an air stone and one doing what you said to show if there is a difference

  • I have a 220 gallon tank with goldfish 3 large anubias plants 3 aquaclear 110s and a fx6 with the outlet pointing up at surface they seem to do ok idk how much surface agatation is enough?

  • bubbles are natural in rapids or fast water.

  • Took air pumps out yesterday, fish going nuts, very lazy n weak**, do not take air out!! negative!

  • I ditched my air pump ages ago, since I've seen this video, every now and then I grab a spoon from my kitchen and make a tornado in my fish bowl just to keep the water moving great for aeration.

  • I'm ditching the air pump then. But I'm keeping my sponge Bob pineapple.

  • R.i.p spongebob

  • How much of the surface should be agitated. Could you give me that answer in a percentage? Thanks

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