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Last update: April 7, 2021

5 best and quietest aquarium air pumps (60+ Tested!)

A good air pump should be seen and not heard, right?

After all, you can’t quietly enjoy your aquarium with your air pump emitting a high pitched ERRRRRRRRRRR!

But which air pump is actually the quietest?

What is whisper quiet to some will be loud and obnoxious to others.

Perhaps more importantly, which air pump is right for your aquarium?

After all, it doesn’t matter how quiet your air pump is if it cannot deliver enough air to your tank.

FishLab decided to put the argument to rest for good.

Using the power of science, we tested over 60 different aquarium air pumps with one goal in mind:

To find the best and quietest aquarium air pumps on the market!

But before I reveal the winners, I’m going to teach you everything you need to know about choosing the perfect air pump for your tank.

So, let’s get to it!

What is an aquarium air pump?

Danner small-sized aquarium air pump

An aquarium air pump is an electrical device that forces air into your aquarium and can be used to drive air-powered equipment such as airstones, bubble decorations and sponge filters.

The air pump sits on the outside of your aquarium, delivering air through a long hose called airline tubing. Because of this, air pumps are not water-proof and care must be taken not to get them wet.

An aquarium air pump is suitable for both freshwater and saltwater aquariums.

As for how an aquarium air pump works, it’s actually pretty simple:

Diagram of coil and diaphragm of aquarium air pump - how it works

  1. A magnet switches on and off.
  2. As the magnet switches on and off, it pulls the lever down.
  3. As the lever moves, it pumps a diaphragm (essentially a rubber suction cup), which sucks in air and pushes it out of the air pump.

That’s all there is to it. Pretty simple, huh?

It is worth mentioning that over time, the diaphragm will eventually wear down and tear. There is no avoiding it. Fortunately, most air pump brands sell replacement diaphragms – much better than replacing the entire air pump.

FishLab Note: There are many different types of electric air pumps available. Some are for bicycle tires, while others are for inflatable mattresses. Make sure that the air pump you buy can connect to aquarium airline tubing.

Do you need an aquarium air pump?

What makes aquarium air pumps such a popular aquarium accessory is their ability to power other products.

  • Want to create tiny bubbles inside your aquarium? Attach an airstone to your air pump.
  • Want to filter your water? Attach a sponge filter or an under-gravel filter to your air pump.

Other air-driven aquarium equipment includes decorations that release bubbles and protein skimmers.

Want to add any of these to your aquarium? Then, an air pump is essential!

Each of these pieces of equipment is air-driven. And if you want them in your tank, then you need an aquarium air pump because they won’t work without one.

However, if you don’t need any of the products listed above, then skip the aquarium air pump altogether. You can raise happy and healthy fish without an air pump if you choose!

FishLab Beginner Tip: It is a common misconception that fish need an air pump and airstone for oxygen. Check out this guide for more information on how oxygen gets inside your aquarium.

Types of aquarium air pumps

All told, there are 3 different types of aquarium air pumps…

1. Plug-in air pumps

Plug-in air pump for aquariums

This type is the most common aquarium air pump. Simply plug it into your power strip, turn the power on, and it will continuously pump air into your aquarium.

Plug-in air pumps do not have an on/off button. Once they are connected to your outlet, they run until unplugged.

2. Battery-operated air pumps

Battery-operated aquarium air pump

These small air pumps run on batteries. While the batteries need to be replaced when depleted, battery-operated air pumps are portable and don’t need to be plugged in.

Battery-powered air pumps are purchased in addition to a plug-in air pump as a safety precaution in case the power goes out. Their small size also makes them suitable to use when transporting fish, such as when you move.

All battery-operated air pumps we reviewed were noticeably loud. However, since it won’t be your primary air pump, this is less of an issue.

D-sized batteries powered all the battery-powered air pumps we tested.

3. Battery backup air pumps

Battery backup aquarium air pump

The most expensive type of aquarium air pump may just be responsible for saving your aquarium. It’s essentially the previous two air pumps combined into a single unit.

Plug this air pump in, and it will run continuously until there is a power outage. When that happens, it switches over to battery power.

How we tested over 60 aquarium air pumps

Aquarium air pumps lined up, ready to be tested

As I said earlier, noise is subjective. That is to say, a sound that you find irritating might not bother someone else.

This meant that we couldn’t rely on our ears alone to determine how much noise each air pump created.

So, to precisely understand just how loud each air pump was, we used a specialized piece of testing equipment…

Using a decibel meter to determine how loud an aquarium air pump is

A decibel meter!

This device measures sound. The higher the reading, the nosier the air pump. It’s that simple.

It is worth mentioning that a decibel meter is a sensitive piece of equipment and will pick up any and all noise in a room.

So, to cut down on noise, we tested at night. The room was so quiet that it was outside the range our decibel meter could measure (30 – 130 dB). This way we could be sure that any background noise was not interfering with our results.

A reading was taken 6 inches away from each air pump. To avoid the vibrations from the air pump affecting the result, the meter was held in the air.

Next, we wanted to test the strength of each air pump.

The amount of air a pump is capable of producing is measured in gallons per hour (GPH).

Interestingly, very few brands reveal the actual output that their air pump is rated at.

We found that air pumps generally listed their size in one of the following two ways:

  • Watts
  • Tank size (in gallons)

Unfortunately, none of these give an actual measure of the amount of air the pump can produce at different depths.

So, we created a DIY solution…

Testing aquarium air pump performance in water drum

We drilled holes in a piece of sewer pipe at three different heights…

  • 10 inches
  • 20 inches
  • 30 inches

Then, we ran equal lengths of airline tubing into each hole.

The pipe was then submerged in a water drum, 1 inch below the water line.

Next, we placed a water bottle filled with water over the top of the piping. Once the air pump was connected, bubbles flowed up the pipe and into our bottle, pushing out the water.

We timed how long it took for each air pump to empty a liter of water from the bottle. Since a liter of air displaces a liter of water, this gave us our flow rate in liters per minute (LPM), which we then converted to gallons per hour.

Any air pumps that featured an adjustable air control knob were set to allow for maximum airflow.

Shout out to Nathan Hill from Practical Fishkeeping for coming up with this clever way of measuring the air-producing capacity of air pumps.

What size aquarium air pump do you need?

Small aquarium air pump next to large aquarium air pump

The larger your aquarium, the larger the air pump you need.

Why?

Well, it all comes down to backpressure.

You see, the deeper your aquarium, the more backpressure your air pump needs to overcome – which can severely limit the amount of air your pump can deliver to your tank.

To put it simply, a small air pump that can blow lots of air bubbles in an aquarium that’s 10-inches deep might barely make a ripple in one that’s 30-inches deep.

Choosing an appropriately sized air pump will make all the difference as to whether or not your airstone or sponge filter will work correctly.

Not only that, but using an air pump that is too small for your tank’s depth can cause the diaphragm inside to tear prematurely.

If you look at the box of an aquarium air pump, you’ll see that most brands specify the size of aquarium it’s suited for, in gallons…

Aquarium air pump box suited for 40-gallon aquarium

This air pump claims to be suited for aquariums up to 40 gallons. However, these ratings only give a very rough idea of whether or not a particular air pump is suitable for your aquarium.

While the pump may work in a 40-gallon aquarium, there is no guarantee it will generate enough air to power your equipment, especially if you are connecting more than one piece of equipment.

But don’t worry! Each air pump featured in this review has been tested at multiple depths so that you can determine which pump is the best for your tank. But I’ll get to that in a moment…

The first step in choosing the right aquarium air pump is to determine what equipment you want to attach.

Each piece of equipment you attach to your air pump requires a set amount of air for it to operate correctly.

Airstone/Bubbler

Air-pump-powered aquarium airstone

For gentle aeration and moderate currents, you’ll need the following amount of air per airstone.

Small Tanks (< 15 gallons): 10 – 20 GPH

All other tanks: 20 – 30 GPH

Sponge filter

Air-pump-powered sponge filter

The lower number is the amount of air required for efficient operation of a single sponge filter. However, for better filtration, you should aim for the higher number. This will maximize the water flow, resulting in better filtration.

Single sponge filter: 8 – 14 GPH

Double-arm sponge filter: 15 – 22 GPH

It is worth mentioning that if you just want bubbles for decorations, then you can get away with less airflow.

Once you calculate the amount of air you need, I recommend adding around 30% to this number.

Why?

Well, there will always be air lost at the connection points of valves and even airstones. Adding 30% should account for the air lost.

At the end of the day, it’s better to choose an air pump that delivers more air than you think you need. Doing this is future-proof and allows you to add more or larger air-driven equipment if you choose. When in doubt, size up!

Once you add these numbers together, you’ll have the right-sized pump for your aquarium.

The table below lists the output of each air pump in gallons per hour (GPH) at different heights in your tank. Choose an air pump where the number is higher than the rate at which the end of your airline tubing will sit.

Air pump 10″ 20″ 30″
Top Fin Air-500 4.64 2.42 0.57
Aquaneat AP-10 7.58 3.32 0
JW Fusion 200 9.74 6.64 4.00
Top Fin Air-1000 10.10 6.74 3.74
Marina 50 10.38 7.19 1.27
Marina 75 10.72 8.63 4.56
Tom’s Stellar Mini 13.11 12.08 10.33
JW Fusion 300 18.01 13.96 10.11
Marina 100 19.66 14.78 7.55
Top Fin Air-2000 19.73 11.23 4.75
Tetra AP10 20.67 16.67 13.85
Aquaneat AP-20 21.54 12.85 4.70
Eheim 100 21.92 20.34 17.17
JW Fusion 400 23.43 15.52 7.42
Tetra AP20 24.35 19.14 15.98
Tom’s Stellar 20 26.04 21.38 15.86
Tom’s Stellar 30 29.24 23.83 17.59
Tetra AP40 31.37 28.05 23.33
Aquaneat AP-60 (2x) 32.20 19.59 8.48
Top Fin Air-3000 (2x) 32.54 21.25 13.53
JW Fusion 500 (2x) 33.17 24.96 15.76
Marina 300 36.72 31.14 23.58
Eheim 200 (2x) 39.63 33.02 23.78
Top Fin Air-4000 (2x) 40.01 24.12 13.09
JW Fusion 600 (2x) 46.71 34.02 21.80
Fluval Q.5 47.29 43.06 39.89
Aquaneat AP-100 (2x) 49.15 39.12 30.11
Tom’s Stellar 40 (2x) 53.07 49.39 35.98
Tetra AP60 (2x) 56.43 45.29 33.96
Tom’s Stellar 60 (2x) 61.40 52.84 49.14
Tetra AP150 62.37 55.88 45.68
Top Fin Air-8000 (4x) 64.48 33.76 8.14
Marina 200 (2x) 66.32 56.54 46.95
Deep Blue Hurricane (2x) 67.69 52.78 33.40
Penn Plax Air Pod BB (2x) 70.19 67.61 61.01
JW Fusion 700 (2x) 71.67 56.31 38.83
Fluval Q2 90.67 75.01 63.49
Fluval Q1 (2x) 92.07 77.96 67.45
Tetra AP100 (2x) 101.53 95.11 77.70
Tetra AP300 (2x) 128.53 112.03 97.05
FishLab Note: Air pumps marked with (2x) feature 2 air nozzles. The reading is the combined air output from both nozzles.

What about Aqueon air pumps?

Heh, about that…

We had two Aqueon air pumps (QuietFlow 20 and QuietFlow 40) dead on arrival. They simply didn’t work out of the box.

We tested the remaining pumps and received irregular readings. The QuietFlow 60, for example, produced more airflow than the QuietFlow 100, which is supposed to be the larger pump. Given the inconsistency and failure, we excluded them from the guide. We do not recommend Aqueon air pumps.

We also had to leave Imagitarium off the chart. While testing, Petco updated their Imagitarium line, adding an extra air pump to the range and updating the models so that all had two outlets. We plan to test these new Imagitarium air pumps at a future time.

The best aquarium air pumps

When it came down to it, one brand of pump hit the sweet spot in terms of power and price…

Best all-around aquarium air pump for most tanks

Tetra Whisper aquarium air pump

Okay, so this isn’t the quietest air pump. And, it definitely isn’t the prettiest. But for the price, you won’t find a more consistent aquarium air pump. It performed great at all depths.

And boy, is this one cheap air pump. You can pick up the 60-gallon size for around $10.

When it came to power, it’s unparalleled. Many other air pumps in the same size range produced half as much air as the equivalent Tetra Whisper.

In fact, we found the 10-gallon model a little too strong for a 5-gallon tank. Fortunately, this is an easy fix. Using an airline control valve, we were able to reduce the flow to an appropriate level.

If you are considering the 60 to 100-gallon models, we suggest checking out our next recommendation. It’s superior in every way.

Best all-around aquarium air pump for large tanks

Tetra Whisper AP150 best aquarium air pump for deep tanks

The Tetra AP150 and AP300 are designed specifically for large-sized aquariums. While they might share the same name as their cheaper cousins, they are a completely different air pump.

First, when it came down to raw power, nothing came close. The AP300 is the most powerful air pump designed for aquariums on the market. If you need something stronger than this, you’ll need to explore air pumps used for ponds.

But what surprised us most is the sound the AP150 gives off. Or, perhaps more specifically, the lack of noise. The AP150 was quieter than most air pumps half its size. This also won the Quietest Air Pump For Large Aquariums category.

Best battery-operated aquarium air pump

Best battery-operated aquarium air pump - Marina 11134

When it came down to it, one battery-operated air pump hit the sweet spot between power, price and performance…

While Marina’s plug-in air pumps failed to impress, this little number knocked it out of the park. Powered by a pair of D-sized batteries, its unique motor delivered more power than any other air pump in this size.

We were also impressed that an airstone and an 18″ length of airline tubing is included in the packaging. A complete kit to pump air into your aquarium – the only thing you need to buy is batteries.

We were able to get 24 hours off a pair of D batteries running the airstone at a depth of 10 inches.

Best battery backup air pump

Next up, we have battery backup air pumps. These air pumps run on main power and swap over to batteries if the power is cut, keeping your tank safe in the event of a power outage.

All the battery backup air pumps we tested performed differently. We narrowed down our recommendations to two models. Which is best for you entirely depends on how much you prefer to stockpile batteries.

First up is the cheaper of the two options, the Cobalt Rescue Air Pump by Cobalt Aquatics.

Cobalt Aquatics Air USB battery-powered air pump best for power outages

Like everything else in your home these days, this air pump is powered by a USB plug.

Inside the air pump is a rechargeable battery that continues to run for up to 12 hours when the power turns off.

However, this runtime can be extended thanks to this handy tool…

Included in the box is a separate USB power supply. You know, like those external battery packs that you use to charge your phone when it dies.

When we plugged in the USB power supply, we extended the runtime to 63 hours with the airstone at 10 inches. Just over two and a half days – more than enough to see you through all but the most devastating of storms.

By purchasing multiple battery packs, you can provide your tank with weeks of power. Best of all, you can use your car to charge one battery pack while the other is in use.

When in battery mode, you have the option of running the air pump continuously or on a 10 second on/10 second off cycle – extending the life of the battery.

Do you prefer to stockpile batteries for when a storm strikes? This next battery backup air pump may be a better option…

Deep Blue Hurricane Category 5 battery backup air pump for power outages

The Hurricane Category 5 air pump is considerably more powerful than our previous pick, but it comes at a price.

Under the hood hides a 4.0 Ah lead acid battery pack. This battery will charge while the air pump is plugged in. Once the power is cut, the air pump automatically switches over to the internal battery to continue running.

Lead acid batteries are cheap and easy to stockpile when a storm comes. While it was too large to fit inside the unit, we are happy to report that the air pump will run just fine off a larger 12 Ah battery. But you have to place the battery alongside the air pump, uncovered.

If the lead acid battery runs dry, and you have no more on hand, you can also power this air pump using four D-sized batteries.

This air pump also has an interval mode to extend the life of batteries. Turn the dial to low, and it will run on a repeating cycle of 1 minute on/1 minute off.

Quietest aquarium air pumps

Ideally, you choose an air pump by its flow rate. Use the tips I mention later in this guide to reduce the noise it makes.

However, if you just want the quietest air pump, without any modification, then these are as good as it gets.

Quietest small-aquarium air pump (up to 10 gallons)

This air pump has to be heard to be believed. Measuring 33 dB, this air pump is so quiet you could sleep with it beside your bed, and it wouldn’t wake you up!

Best small aquarium air pump - Mylivell

Shaped like a stingray, measuring 3 inches x 3 inches and less than 1-inch thick, the Mylivell is the smallest aquarium air pump on the market.

The dual-sided suction cup allows you to mount the air pump to your tank, helping to reduce clutter.

Best of all, it comes with an airstone and airline tubing so that you can use this air pump straight out of the box – the only thing missing is a check valve.

My only concern is the amount of air that this unit can produce. At 4 GPH, this will easily power small bubble decorations or an airstone. But if you need to power a sponge filter or require strong surface agitation, you should upgrade to my next pick…

Quietest medium-to-large aquarium air pump (10 – 100 gallons)

Best medium-to-large aquarium air pump Eheim 100

In this size, Eheim was the quietest. By a long shot. When connected to the bubbler included in the box, the sound was almost unnoticeable.

Eheim 100

Size Sound
34 dB
Eheim 200 36 dB
Eheim 400 40 dB

As usual, the larger the air pump, the louder it was. But when compared to the competition, nothing could beat Eheim regarding the noise level.

Included in the box are airline tubing and adjustable airstones. Unlike a regular airstone, this one is made of plastic and foam, allowing you to adjust the size of bubbles it gives off.

Truth be told, I recommend this air pump with reservations. For the same price, you could purchase an air pump that is considerably more powerful. In some cases, you could buy two or more air pumps for the same price.

What you are paying for is the noise reduction. If you prioritize a quiet air pump above all else, then you won’t be disappointed.

Quietest extra-large air pump (100 – 300 gallons)

Tetra Whisper AP150 best aquarium air pump for deep tanks

Those of you with a giant aquarium will struggle to find an air pump that could be classified as quiet.

Size Sound
Tetra AP150 42.3 dB
Tetra AP300 47.4 dB

As you see, these two air pumps sit either side of the threshold that our testers found to be too loud (45 dB.) If you have a giant aquarium, then this is as good as it gets.

The aquarium air pumps that didn’t make the cut

You can’t have winners without losers. The following air pumps failed to measure up to our top picks in one way or another.

Let’s discuss the elephant in the room… Aqueon QuietFlow. This was the worst performing brand of air pump we tested. Two arrived dead… The QuietFlow 20 and QuietFlow 40 failed to work out of the box. We also noticed inconsistencies during testing. For example, the QuietFlow 60 outperformed the QuietFlow 100, which is supposed to be the higher rated of the two air pumps. Finally, there is noise – the air pumps which did work were among the loudest we tested for their size. Based on our experience, we do not recommend Aqueon air pumps.

The Top Fin air pumps were the noisiest air pumps we tested across all sizes. The 5-gallon model wasn’t balanced correctly and would rattle and dance its way across our test area whenever it was plugged in.

The same company that manufacturers Top Fin’s aquarium air pumps also manufactures Danner’s Aqua-Supreme. They were identical in looks and performance. And, flaws. However, the Danner air pumps were considerably more expensive.

Marina’s air pumps were so loud they gave Top Fin a run for their money. But what really let these air pumps down is their lack of power. The majority of the range performed unsatisfactorily in deeper aquariums.

Despite Tom’s Stellar range of air pumps being on the noisy side, their power and small size impressed. If you have a smaller-sized tank, this air pump is definitely worth considering.

If you are not put off by loud, rattily noise, the Fluval Q Series air pumps packed a whole lot of power at a budget price.

Finally, we have the Aquaneat. The large size and limited power, when used in deeper tanks, was their undoing.

The noisy secret about air pumps (and how to reduce it)

Woman with fingers in her ears trying to block sound from loud air pump

After testing over 60 different air pumps, we have come to a conclusion:

All aquarium air pumps make some noise.

Small-sized air pumps are much quieter than larger ones, to the point of being virtually unnoticeable. However, no efficient aquarium air pump that we reviewed could be called silent.

Our sound meter was proof of that.

But here is where things get interesting:

During testing, we noticed a strange phenomenon… The amount of sound in dB that an air pump gave off did not correspond to how loud an individual found the pump.

Time and time again, we noticed our reviewers would incorrectly guess which air pumps were loudest.

To further explore this, we gathered 30 people to do a blind sound test of different aquarium air pumps.

Each person was blindfolded and listened to sets of two different air pumps of similar sizes. They were then asked to identify which they thought was louder.

Ten sets of air pumps were listened to. Each person was unknowingly asked to listen to each twice…

We used the results from our sound reader to mark their answers.

Here is where things get interesting…

No person could identify which air pump was actually louder more than 50% of the time. On the second listen, many people swapped the air pump that they originally said was louder.

The takeaway is that how loud an individual finds an air pump is subjective. What one person finds quiet, another person might find annoyingly loud.

We noticed that air pumps that gave off an obnoxious whirr or rattle, rather than a consistent hum, were often selected as the loudest pumps, even though it was not necessarily louder according to our sound meter.

This suggests that the individuals are more concerned by the tone an air pump gives off rather than loudness.

We then repeated the test trying to work out at what point most people find an aquarium air pump too loud.

The general agreement was that anything over 45 dB was annoyingly loud.

The air pumps listed above are as close to silent as it gets. In everyday use, the little sound that they give off will be hidden by louder noises, such as your aquarium filter or other background noise.

Is the sound of your air pump driving you crazy?

Don’t sweat it! You might not need to buy a quieter air pump. Here are some simple tricks to dull the loud whirring sound your air pump gives off…

Raise the depth of your airstone

During our review, we noticed that depth contributed to the sound that an air pump gave off. This was especially true of air pumps designed for smaller tanks. The deeper the tank, the harder the motor works to pump air to the bottom.

The end result is more noise.

If you have inadvertently purchased the wrong-sized air pump for your aquarium, try moving the airstone closer to the surface. This simple trick could drastically reduce the booming roar your air pump makes.

Move your air pump

Put your hand on your air pump. Feel those vibrations?

Well, these vibrations could be responsible for the loud noise your air pump makes. You see, anything leaning up against your air pump will also rattle.

This could be as simple as the power cord being draped over your air pump, or maybe your air pump is pressed up against a hard surface.

You might even find that the surface your air pump sits on could be the cause of your noise!

During our review process, we tested air pumps on a variety of surfaces including wooden shelves, carpet and tiled flooring.

As we soon learned, air pumps can make more or less noise depending on the surface that they sit on. Yep, the solution to your noisy air pump could be as simple as moving it.

One of our aquarium cabinets has a shelf made from laminated particle board. When we placed any air pump on this shelf, the entire cabinet vibrated, making the air pump sound louder than it actually was.

We were able to dampen the noise by placing a foam mat underneath the air pumps – similar to those foam mats that come with new glass aquariums.

If you are experiencing similar problems, grab a piece of foam or rubber for your air pump to rest on. This will help absorb the vibrations, resulting in a quieter operation.

Fill any unused outlets

Air pumps with multiple outlets are great because they make it easy to run airline tubing into multiple tanks.

But what if you are not using the extra outlets? These could actually be adding to the noise your air pump makes.

Fortunately, this is an easy fix. Simply cut a short length of tubing and attach it to your unused outlets – your air pump will immediately sound quieter.

How many airstones can an aquarium air pump run?

If you only want to run a single airstone from your pump, then skip this section.

When it comes to running more than one piece of air-driven equipment, there are two ways to do it:

1. Branch your airline tubing: Using an airline connector or gang valve, you can split your airline tubing so that a single tube now branches into two pieces of equipment.

2. Buy a dual outlet air pump: Larger air pumps often have more than one outlet (the nozzle that connects to your airline tube). Behind each outlet is a diaphragm delivering a dedicated stream of air. This allows you to connect each piece of airline tubing to its own pump without having to purchase separate air pumps.

If you want to use two airstones in the same tank, then the first option will work just fine, assuming your air pump is strong enough for the job.

However, if you want to connect a single air pump to different equipment – say an airstone and automatic fish feeder (to keep the fish food dry) – then you will need to go with an outlet or air pump for each.

Why?

Well, here is where things get a little tricky. Pay attention because this is where many beginners make mistakes.

When it comes to powering air-driven equipment, there is one thing that you need to remember:

Air takes the path of least resistance.

Just like you choosing the shortest route home from the mall, air from your pump will take the easiest route through your airline tubing.

So, if air has the choice between going inside your aquarium and fighting its way out of your airstone or exiting your airline tube through an opening, it’s going to make the second choice.

Similarly, if you have two airstones in two different tanks and one tank is deeper than the other, then you may find that air is going to flow through the airstone that is easiest to escape from (the shallower tank).

This problem can be avoided by either using a dual outlet air pump or multiple air pumps. By using a dedicated pump, the air no longer has a choice to make and will travel, as expected, through the connected equipment.

Essential aquarium air pump accessories

Before I finish, I want to cover the different accessories you’ll need before you can use your new aquarium air pump.

While some air pumps include these accessories in the box, many don’t. So, stock up if you need to.

1. Airline tubing

Airline tubing for aquarium air pump

Consider airline tubing as the tunnel that connects your air pump to your airstone or sponge filter. Buy it in a roll and cut it to length.

For more information, check out FishLab’s airline tubing guide.

2. Air check valve

Air check valve for aquarium air pump

If you buy an aquarium air pump, then an air check valve is essential. This small piece of plastic could actually save your tank.

You see, if your air pump fails, say when a storm causes a power outage, then water can drain back down the airline tubing, siphoning water out of your tank – similar to when you use a gravel vacuum to suck water out of your tank.

A check valve allows air to flow in one direction and prevents water from flowing the other direction, eliminating this problem completely. Grab a couple in case they clog.

For more information, check out our air check valve guide.

3. Air control valve

Air control valve for aquarium air pump

Are you finding that too much air is flowing from your air pump into your aquarium? Simply place this valve on your airline tubing to solve your problem.

By twisting the knob, you reduce the amount of air that enters your tank, resulting in calmer bubbles and currents.

For more information, check out FishLab’s air control valve guide.

4. Airline connector

Three-way airline tubing connector for air pump

Want to use more than one airstone or sponge filter with your air pump? You’ll need to branch your airline tubing into multiple paths.

An airline connector allows you to do exactly that. Depending on the connector you choose, you can split your airline tubing into two or three paths.

For more information, check out our airline connector guide.

5. Gang valve

Airline tubing gang valve for aquarium air pump

If an air control valve and a connector had a baby, this would be the result. Not only does a gang valve allow you to split your airline tubing into multiple paths but also control the airflow of each run.

For more information, check out FishLab’s gang valve guide.

Conclusion

Despite the promises made on the packaging, no air pump is quiet. They also differ drastically in terms of performance.

Fortunately, with the help of this guide, you should now be able to choose the best air pump for your aquarium.

Which air pump do you use with your aquarium? Let me know in the comments below!

Ian Sterling

I've been keeping fish for over 30 years and currently have 4 different aquariums – it's an addiction. I'm here to teach you everything there is to know about fishkeeping.

I also use this site as an excuse to spend lots of money on testing and reviewing different aquarium products! You can find my reviews here.

Comments (77)

Thank you, Ian, for the great information. I have not seen such a comprehensive review. From what you have stated it would be better for manufacturers to rate them for the tank depth. I agree the Tetra Whisper is noisy it’s in the box under the bed with numerous filters made redundant. I am running a Hidom at the moment and that seems to be reasonable. However, following this article I have ordered the Eheim 100 and should be here tomorrow.

Hi Robert,

Thanks for the lovely feedback. I understand why manufacturers don’t rate their air pumps by depth – it allows you to better compare their air pump to their competitor and rank a winner.

Based on over 30 users ears and our own decibel meter, I think you’ll be very happy with how the Eheim 100 air pump sounds. Unfortunately, I cannot compare it to the Hidom, it’s not an air pump that is commonly available here in the US.

Please update me with your thoughts on how it compares!

Les, The Eheim 100 if great, it is sturdy and very well made and the output will drive more than I want. Interesting on the compliance plate it gives the air pressure of 200mb my old one also had pressure on the plate of 0.016MPa (160mb). Do they all do this as that is an easy way to compare efficiency?
Robert.

Hi Robert,

Unfortunately, what the compliance plate on aquarium air pumps says, isn’t what the units actually produce. Some, but not all did state either a psi, mba or Mpa but in most instances, we found that what was stated wasn’t an accurate representation of the air pumps power.

Trust me, I would have loved to have not sit there with a timer and wait for a water bottle to drain more than anyone – it took a darn long time to test all these air pumps, but I couldn’t find a quicker way to accurately compare air pumps.

Unfortunately, this makes it difficult for a consumer to make a direct comparison between brands when buying off the shelf.

Ian, ran across you page and was impressed with your format and criteria. I am an experienced fish keeper, but just upgraded to a discus tank. I couldn’t figure out why they weren’t eating until I realized my thermometer was off by 3 degrees! I just ordered the Vee Gee and also the Whisper 150 to get a sponge filter going as well in my 90 gal. You should create a “donate” button for folks like me. Based upon your “about” info I assume you are a “little guy” with your sponsors who help you afford to test the products. Keep up the good work. Mark

Hi Mark,

Thanks for the lovely feedback, I’m glad I could help. Discus are stunning fish. A great choice for a tank upgrade.

The site is primarily run by me, although admittedly my wife does help out on some of the larger guides (sometimes you need more than two hands!) I do make a little bit of money if people buy through the links on my site, but it doesn’t cover costs, so the sponsors help with the gap, but it’s still a passion project. I do like the idea of a donate button, but like fish, this site is a hobby for me. If I was to take money directly from readers, I would feel obliged to create more content. Unfortunately, between my work, my fish and my wife, I hardly have the time to reply to comments, let alone create reviews. This is just a side project and I am happy knowing that it helps out readers like you – seriously, it means the world that you stop and comment.

The best way you can help out is to let me know what you think of any recommendations you buy. Big brands constantly swap where they manufacture their products and it can drastically affect their quality. Take the Aqueon Pro Heater. When I first reviewed it, it was manufactured in Italy, and those units are still going strong today. They then swapped manufacturing to China and I can no longer recommend them, 2/5 units I tested failed in under a month. Everything else about these heaters is identical but the place of manufacture.

Also, your feedback can help me identify areas I might have missed – while I try to be comprehensive with my testing, with so many different models, something that is worth mentioning can easily be missed – I’m only human.

Thanks again, Mark!

Hi there, awesome review of air pumps. I am wondering if you have ever tested the Hydrofarm Active Aqua Air Pump, 4 Outlets, 6W, 15 L/min. It is recommended by another review site although they are not nearly as thorough as yours.

Thank you for sharing this wonderful plethora of various air pumps for us aquarium enthusiasts!!

Hi John,

Thanks for the awesome feedback. I did not review the Hydrofarm, as part of the criteria was not to review “generic chinese” brands. The Hydrofarm is available under a wide variety of different brand names world wide. Here is the link to buy it from aliexpress – a generic chinese market place.

My experience with rebranded products from these Chinese websites has not been positive, so this one was omitted from the test. I don’t trust those overwhelmingly positive Amazon reviews.

Oh, I see. Thank you, I greatly appreciate your insight. I always try to do a little research before a purchase and the Hydrofarm Active Aqua pump is recommended on several other review sites; Fish Tank Adviser, Aquarium Advisor, Modest Fish, and Thoroughly reviewed. It was one authors best pick.
Sadly though, some reviews seem like reworded marketing material from the air pumps own manufacturer sites. I asked you because of all the many review sites I have read, FIsh Lab is not only very thorough, it is the only site that explains it’s testing methodology, which for me makes it the most credible. Excellent job.
I still have to make my decision but I have narrowed it down between the AP150 and the Fluval Q2. I can find the Fluval for $10 less than the AP150 and the repair kit is half as much, but I suspect the AP150 is a better quality pump. I plan on using it to air up a 14″ bubble wand in a 45 gal tank 19″ deep, just in case you care to share some more wisdom. Wish me luck and thanks again!!

Thanks again for the fantastic feedback. Unfortunately many websites, don’t physically test their recommendations. That’s why you’ll often see the same photos on their website as the amazon page. Going further, based on some advice given, I doubt they are even fishkeepers. I know it seems funny that something can be called a “review” without having touched the product, but unfortunately, that’s the case with a lot of cheaper products. The lack of credible reviews was actually part of the motivation for me creating reviews like the one above. I can see why others don’t do it, buying up all the product is prohibitively expensive, as is the hundreds of hours spent testing them. It’s part of the reason these reviews have somewhat come to a halt at the moment – I need to save some more money before I can afford the product for the next review (likely heaters). At the moment, this website is very much a passion project and doesn’t cover it’s own costs. But that’s fine, that’s the price of doing something properly 🙂

The fluval Q2 is strong but It’s also loud and will likely develop a rattle over time, which will make it sound louder. However, this is easily fixed. It’s a screw inside the device (you’ll need to take it apart) that comes loose. For whatever reason, Fluval doesn’t tighten this screw enough. Tightening this screw gets rid of the rattling. Obviously, only take the air pump apart if you are confident you know what you are doing.

The 150 is the superior of the two pumps in terms of performance and noise. You’ll have to do some digging to find replacement parts for the AP150. Currently, you can pick them up dirt cheap from here:

https://www.kensfish.com/parts-fittings/fusion-air-pump-rebuild-kits.html

Whatever pump you buy, I do recommend buying a replacement diaphragm with it. The only thing that is certain is that eventually, this will fail. While using a bleed valve can help reduce backpressure, that rubber suction cup takes a beating over it’s life. Having a spare on hand means you can quickly swap it over without it impacting your tank too long. Replacement diaphrahms generally have to be ordered online and mailed out, very few fish stores keep them on hand – which means there will be some down time for whatever it is powering in your tank.

If you need any other help, I’ll try advise to the best of my ability.

Ok Ian, thanks very much, the AP150 it is. I will purchase an extra diaphragm set from Ken’s fish too. Love that place. I already have a check valve but I am going to order the parts needed for bleed valve set up you recommend. Very clever; regulation and a little back pressure relief simultaneously. I love it.

I was a little perplexed when you stated the AP150 had superior performance vs the Q2. I assume you mean quality wise. In your test results the Q2 is listed as having 25% more output at the 20″depth that I plan on using it at.

I will be placing the air pump 12″ underneath the aquarium on a shelf inside the aquarium stand, which as I understand it, creates additional back pressure. That additional load probably makes the AP150 the best design and better choice for me.

I know that I am not alone when I say that I very much appreciate all of your advice and all of of your time and work making an awesome aquarium enthusiast website!!!!!!!

Hi again, John.

You are spot on with your interpretation of my throwaway statement “superior performance” my apologies here, with answering so many different comments I sometimes get a little lax with my replies. Of the two, I would expect that the AP150 would last considerably longer than the Q2, the workmanship appears to be better. But at the end of the day, no company has made an above-quality product that will last a lifetime. It seems every company has chosen to compete on price rather than quality. Unfortunately, all airpumps are pieces of plastic and rubber that will eventually have an end-life. It’s a shame, I would personally pay extra for a “premium option.”

Based on your use case, the AP150 should be appropriate. Admittedly, the bubble wand will be the variable here. If you thought airpumps were inconsistent in their construction and performance, wait to you start experimenting with airstones, bubble wands and other bubble creating devices. Unfortunately, brands and models of bubblers come and go all the time. I would love to create a review, but it wouldn’t be current for long enough to justify it.

Thanks again for the lovely feedback!

Hi Dana,

They are expensive and the power cord is really short. Performance wise they are middle of the road. I am yet to do a sound test with a decibel meter, but based on my ears alone, I can guarantee they do not beat the quietest air pumps on this list. If you are looking for an option to keep your tank going in a power outage, they might be a viable solution, but that’s the only reason I would choose one over anything else on this list.

Hi Ian great article! Very well done. I see you tested the Fusion pumps but didn’t say much about them. I have 1 200, 2 400s and 1 700 and I have been very impressed with how quiet they are and how well they have held up. 2 of mine have been running for over 2 years and still perform as new. For the price I think they are a great value. My 700 is running 8 dual sponge filters in as many tanks and for $20 that’s pretty good in my book. Just wondering if you have any more insight on them. Thanks again for the great work and through research.

Hi Kyle,

At the end of the day, despite my testing, most (sorry Aqueon) worked to varying degrees. If you have found an air pump that fits your budget and your are satisfied with it’s performance, then don’t let this article skew your opinion. I know I would personally stick with what I know to work – especially if it had been going strong for 2 years.

However, when compared against each other, they can’t all be winners. Based on testing, the Fusions air output performed poorly in all brackets at 30 inches relative to other air pumps. At 20 inches the difference was less noticeable, but it still under performed. Sound wise, it sits middle of the road, not the quietest in any category but certainly not the loudest.

That isn’t to say it’s a bad air pump. It isn’t. But the purpose of the guide was to focus on the winners of each category, so they took the spotlight.

Thanks again for your feedback!

Hi Ian!
I came across this blog for something completely different, and I just wanted to say that I’m so glad I did! I read everything: your blog was so helpful, for things I didn’t even know it could have been a problem for my fishes and to have a repertory of accessories review! You explain everything so well and simple, it makes it easy to understand for someone who isn’t a native english speaker. I will definitely follow your blog for any other new articles and take pleasure reading them. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and experiences!

And so, I have a question related to air pump:
I have a male betta alone in a 5 Gallon. He has been recently sick with fin rot (or, I believe so) and I treated him with medecine during a bit less than 3 weeks with water change every 2 days. Although, nothing seems to grow back, even if he acts perfectly normal. I’m planing on buying almond leaf, and was wonderig if an air pump (aka more oxygen) could help him heal his tail better?

Would you have any other suggestion that could help my boy?

Have a good evening!

Hi Florence,

Thank you so much for the lovely feedback, I am so glad that you find my articles helpful.

To elaborate on your question:

An air pump won’t help your betta heal faster. Oxygen enters through the surface layer of water, not through bubbles that are given off by an airstone. An air pump that is too powerful can cause more issues, as betta like slow to still water and an airmpump can create too much current, further causing stress.

With all illnesses, water quality is key. Use an aquarium test kit to ensure ammonia and nitrite are 0 and keep nitrate below 10 ppm by performing regular water changes. In addition to your medicine, this will give your little one the best chance of recovery. It can be a slow process, but it’s incredibly rewarding when your fish makes a full recovery!

Hi again!

Thank you for your help, after a few months, my betta is feeling better! His tail still hasn’t grow fully like before, but there’s an amelioration. He swims in a wierd L shape (as if his ass is light and keep floating), but still looks perfectly happy. Turned out the filter of this aquarium only has carbon. I added some ceramic rings, and the water quality is way more stable than before!

Although, my other male betta (also in a 5G) also started to have fin rot two weeks ago. Since I noticed it sooner, I treated it, but the amelioration is not as good as I would have like. His fins don’t seems to be affect by the rot anymore, but he still acts like ill, as he naps (or lay around) a lot. He used to swim fast and to flare at the snails; he used to be pretty bossy. He still reacts rather joyfully when I enter my room, but otherwise he seems kinda down… He doesn’t keep his fins as open as he used to.
Would you have any idea of what could cause this?

Hi Florence,

Hi again Florence!

I’m glad to hear your fish are on the road to recovery – fin regrowth can take a loooooong time!

Your test kit should provide clues to most health issues – since a lot of health problems can be linked back to poor quality water. What does your test kit measure?

Good evening!

I took a water quality test today, and the only alarming stat was GH at over 180ppm. Could it be the source of the problem?

Hi again Florence,

I wouldn’t believe that would be causing you too many issues. It’s certainly on the high end for tropical fish though. I would more be concerned with your ammonia, nitrite or nitrate. What did these measure respectively?

Good morning!

The Ph was at 7,5; there was less than 2 mg/l of Nitrite and around 5mg/L of Nitrate.
I’m going on vacation this week and I have to say that I’m quite worried for him, as I won’t be there to look out for him…

Hi Florence,

Unfortunately, being away while a fish is recovering is tricky. Is there anyone else you trust to care for him?

Thank you for this awesome guide. But i got a huge question in my head.
Official site (and packaging of the products) state that
Q2= is for 80 gallon tanks
Q1=is for 160 gallon tanks

This test tells us otherwise. This means the cheaper is more powerful, and better ? Which seems like, erm, wrong 😀

Hi Kubilay,

You have the two models mixed up, the Q1 is for 80 gallons and the Q2 is for 160.

As outlined in the article, The Q1 has two nozzles, this reading is the combined air output. In practicality, you would only be connecting a single airline to an airpowered device. By this logic, the Q1 is weaker, which is correct and to be expected.

You say you tested 60 pumps (less the two that arrived DOA) for loudness, but I don’t see the results here. The only one you list as quietest for medium-size tanks you also say (in effect) you don’t really recommend because it’s overpriced. So what are some reasonably priced ones that you would recommend as quiet?

Hi Steve,

You likely won’t find a budget air pump that is quiet. The trade-off is typically power which, in my opinion, automatically disqualifies it from recommendation. Air pumps that have been designed for both power and sound dampening are few and far between and charge accordingly.

I decided not to list the recorded decibel readings in this guide. After much deliberation, I came to the conclusion that people would buy air pumps on “noise levels” alone, which does not result in a beginner ending up with an appropriate product. Since all my guides on this site are aimed at beginners, I didn’t want to over complicate things.

This is in addition to discovering that noise is entirely subjective with testers ears incorrectly identifying which air pump was quieter when compared to my test equipment.

If you value quiet, I recommend the Eheim, as per the article. I make my stance known on it’s price, but it’s still my number one recommendation for medium sized tanks.

Hi Ian,

Have you, perchance, tested the Hygger Ultra Quiet HG-811 mini air pump? I am looking for a small, quiet pump for my small, 1 fish office tank that will not be too conspicuous.

You noted that the Mylivell pump was the smallest available at 3″x3″. However, the Hygger HG-811 is just 2.4″x2.4″. I am curious as to which pump would be better for my intended purpose. High PSI is unnecessary due to the small size of the tank, in fact, I am slightly concerned that a larger pump might produce too much pressure.

~ Regards, Michael V.

Hi Michael,

I have since tested the Hygger, it’s basically the same air pump as the MyLivel circular airpump. Having opened them up, they appear to share the exact same components. I’m not sure if I got a faulty one, but my Hygger was quiet for the first month before making a noticeably loud buzzing sound, almost like an old fluorescent lamp. I have read other people had this issue too.

If you are looking for an air pump for “visual” bubbles or very light surface agitation they are fine. If you are relying on one for efficient filtration, say using a sponge filter, then it’s best to buy based on power rather than noise – the filter is essentially the life support systyem of your tank.

Hello,
Hopefully you can answer my question.
I have a 220 L tank 900mm long, 500mm high and 400mm deep. I want to run a sponge filter and read you reviews on air pumps. I was wondering if the Eheim 100 would be OK to run a sponge filter in this tank. Maybe would run an air stone as well.
Also what would be the best back up battery operated pump to run the filter in case of power outage. Sorry about the metric but I’m from Australia.
Thank you for any help as I’m new to aquariums.
Cheers
Chris

Hi Chris,

I mentioned earlier in the guide the amount of air flow you will need for a sponge filter. Match this with the big chart that outlines how the air pumps perform at different depths.

Unfortunately, you’ll have to do the conversions here since I did the test on the imperial system.

I don’t want to do the imperial to metric conversions for you as I would hate to make a mistake and be responsible for recommending something inadequate – I would feel terrible 🙁

On the battery backup front, given the Cobalt Air Pumps are USB powered, these should work anywhere in the world, although those sold locally will very likely use a different plug to what we have here.

I wish I could be more help here, I do not have a whole lot of insight as to what products are available down in Australia.

Hello Ian,
Thank you for your testing. I want to power a single bubbler, like a Oenn Plax 5 inch rectangular porous stone that is surrounded by a plastic frame. It is for an 18 to 20 inch deep tank. I noticed most pump for 20 to 30 Goh have two outlets. I however only need one. What do I do with the extra outlet? Can I run tubing out of both into a tee and with one line coming out and attach it to the bubbler giving me double the power?
Thank You

Hi Michael,

If your bubbler is powerful enough, you can simply run a short length of airline tubing off the second and leave it out of the tank (this should get rid of that hissing sound somewhat if you direct the end of the tube away from you)

Hello 2 questions:
1) what size/gallons would you classify as small,medium,large tanks?

2) I always put my pumps under my tank in the stand cabinets. Di you think having the pumps above the tank have any effect on the power of the air driven?

Thanks.

Hi Lars,

1) Check the big table in this guide, just before it, I help you determine how much air you need relative to the depth – that should give you a better idea of what is right for your tank.

2) It won’t make a difference, the only advantage to having it above the tank is that a siphon effect isn’t formed if the pump shuts off. This can easily be prevented with a check valve though, if you are storing it below the tank.

I have kept aquariums off and on since the mid 60s while avoiding having become an expert. My favorite air pump was the Silent Giant. My latest Aquatop Breza pump is a horrible little device that was advertised as blissfully quiet. The kind of bliss that makes you desperate for reviews with actual data.

Your comparison testing was great. The fact that you make actual measurements and describe the test methods really helps. You have done a lot of work and for the most part this is very informative. Your flow rate table is excellent. But. It is hard to connect the noise level to the various products without opening all of the links. (Thank you for the links). Since you apparently measured the noise level on all of the pumps, it would have been much more helpful to list all of the data. Another two columns in the flow table would have been very helpful. The first additional column would be decibels and the second would be perceived noise or apparent noise. I could see where something like 45 db / inoffensive would compare well to 40 db / obnoxious.

it is also hard to identify the various pumps. The “Best all-around aquarium air pump for most tanks” is what exactly? There is a picture, but I had to open a number of links to figure out what it was called. The quietest Mylivell pump is a piezoelectric pump made by Shenzhen Heyi Precision Pump Tech Co. http://www.asiappump.com/ http://www.heyi-pump.com/cpzx_1107 searching for AsiaPPump will get you to the higher output model YDBQ4112.

Hi Dave,

Thanks so much for the feedback, I really appreciate it. You’ve given me a lot of great suggestions and I’ll try and incorporate them when I update the guide, I plan on doing a re-test next year as a couple of new air pumps have come onto the market – I love the solution on ranking them by inoffsensive / obnoxious, that actually solves my biggest problem of presenting the data, since two pumps at 45 db can sound completely different, which is why I avoided sharing it in the first place.

I remember the Silent Giant! My dad used it on one of his tanks, it was a large cylinder. From memory, it would dwarf just about every air pump I tested in this review. I would love to test it to see how it compares to modern air pumps. Unfortunately, most brands are now trying to make their air pump as small and cheaply as possible. I would love to see a “professional” style air pump for those who are willing to sacrifice aesthetics for performance.

Hi Ian,

The old Silent Giant had a fairly conventional rubber diaphragm pump in a tin can buried in fine gravel inside the plastic case. The old ones can still be rebuilt and come up on eBay sometimes. The name has been resurrected and the new pump sounds like a good candidate for your next test. As soon as you have another hundred hours to spare we would love to see an update. https://thecichlidstage.com/new-air-pump/

Thanks for the link Dave, I’ll definitely check it out. Updating this guide is definitely on the to-do list and I would love some new pumps to test alongside this bunch. I’d love to know if the double casing provides equivalent sound dampening to the old fashioned but obviously effective sand.

Hi Ian. I have read some time ago that you measure the amount of fish in your tank according to the gallons of water such as 1 inch of fish for every gallon. Also Ian how often are we required to feed fish thanks much.

Hi George,

That rule is a bit of a myth. For instance, one inch of koi need 30 gallons of water. It’s best you look up how much each fish needs. A single goldfish needs a lot more than a single betta, even if they are the same size.

Once again, it would depend on your fish how often you feed them. This information can easily be found online or through your local fish store (don’t go to a big box chain like petco or petsmart, they generally give bad advice)

Unfortunately, there are so many different fish and each requires it’s own unique care.

Thanks Ian. As of now I ee 9 tropical fish and one miniature albino frog. In my 29 gal tank. It seems to be sufficient and roomy for them. I have been feeding them once every morning and they do expect it.
Thanks Ian for being here

Dear Ian,
I have a 75 gallon bow-front glass aquarium is twenty years old. The tank has never been used, never seen a drop of water; but I want to use it now. My question: Should I reseal the tank before settling it up? And, if so, should I remove all of the original glue from a tank that has never seen water?

Hi Jerry,

That’s a good question. Silicone sealant has a lifespan regardless of whether or not it comes into contact with water. That exact lifespan depends on how it was stored, temperatures it was exposed to etc. Regardless, at 20 years I would be very hesitant to suggest filling it. I would look into another aquarium first, you might find it cheaper to buy a new one that it is to reseal, after time and effort is taken into account.

Ian,
This is a very useful information. I have many of these air pumps and I generally agree with your assessments. I have some questions on air pumps. Have you experiment with using a pond air pump for indoor aquariums? I have lots of aquariums and I was thinking that it would be more economical to put gang valve on a powerful pond air pump. Is that a good idea? If so, do you have any recommendation Are they too loud for indoor? I saw a Hakko air pump for 1000-2000 gal pond that’s below 40dB noise.

Thanks.

Hi Hari,

Thanks for your feedback.

It’s been a long time since I ran a pond airpump to multiple tanks. I made the swap over to individual air pumps after the pond pump failed and it affected all my tanks. Now if one goes, all the other tanks won’t have issues.

From memory, it was quite loud too in comparison to these smaller pumps. I’m unsure where they are at now with sound dampening as this was some years back. Unfortunately, I’m probably not the right person to ask here as my experience is not current.

Hi Ian,
I am a distributor for a Japanese pump called FujiMAC. It is a high quality wastewater pump but also commonly used in Asia for Koi and fish rooms. If you were interested in trying one and posting a review I would be happy to ship one to you. Our pumps do not fail and we are coming out with a model with an integrated alarm that would let you know if the air supply is compromised. I suspect our pumps are quieter than some of the little ones you tested.

Hi Martin,

I’ll definitely be in touch when I update this review. Those pumps look very well made. Thanks for notifying me of them!

Hi there!

Can you tell me, if I have an air pump with two outlets, can I block one off, to enable more air to come out of just the one outlet?? If yes, how?

Hi Mandy,

Good question! In most cases, no, as you are creating back pressure that will cause premature wear on the pump. Your best option would be to buy the appropriate sized pump.

Great post as well as the other ones about different equipment! I learned a lot!
I have two 2.5 gal tanks with small single sponge filters. I’m planning to get a gang valve with 2 outputs like your other post suggested so I can adjust the flow if needed but not have it beat up the air pump.
My question for you is: what air pump do you recommend for me?

Hi Taylor,

Unfortunately, I since every tank is so different, I don’t make individual recommendations. For you, you would determine the depth at which the sponge filters will sit, then choose an air pump that gives enough airflow for that depth. Tetra makes the cheapest air pumps, but they are a little noisy.

Umm yes the top fin five gallon is wack.. that baby would work for a 300 gallon. I plugged it in and I was like nope.. Back to petco with u. tried the tetra, its a whisperer lol. Thanks ian.

Hi 406 Aqua,

I’m sorry you had the same experience, I’m glad to hear the Tetra model is working better for you though.

Hi Ian,

First I’d like to thank you for makings these reviews. I think I spotted an error. In the chart listing all the pumps and their airflow at different depths. The second to last item is labeled “Tetra AP100 (2x)” but has specs that sound more like the AP150 and it links to the AP150 on Amazon. I suspect the labels on that chart got mixed up. If not it seems odd the 100 performs so much better than the 150.

Hi Greg,

Thanks for commenting! I just double checked my test notes and this is correct. The AP100 has two air nozzles and the number represents the total air available. In practice, you would use two pieces of air driven equipment, one attached to each nozzle. In effect, each piece of equipment here is only getting half the air flow listed. The AP150 has a single air nozzle that is more powerful than a single nozzle of the AP100.

I can see the confusion, I actually didn’t know how to best present this data since it isn’t an apples to apples comparison. Measuring all of them by a single air nozzle would have put these multiple nozzled air pumps further up the chart.

I’ll try and come up with a way to make this easier to read when I update the guide. Thanks for pointing this out!

Hi Ian
This was a great survey and a huge work from you! I‘m looking forward to your announced actualisation of the test. Although you found out, that the loudness of airpumps is not only an objectively measurable fact, but also differs subjectively, I would be very interested in all the indications of the dBA measurements. And I also tell you why: If a producer of a trademark writes in his homepage or on the box of his product, that the loudness of its product was for example 35 dBA, I have no idea how he mesured this, in which distance, etc.
But you with your survey can create conditions, that are equal for all your measurements. So, the results are comparable to each other. This is the fact that counts over all and what makes your survey so valuable and useful!
By the way: Could you also test the trademarks Hailea and Schego, if possible? Those trademarks are very popular for aquarists in the german speaking part of Europe 😉
Thank you very much
Kind regards
Stephan

Hi Stephan,

Thanks so much for the kind words.

Listing the DBA is on my to do list, the next time I update this guide. However, being international you’ll need to be mindful that some of these brands create similar products for international markets but are louder or quieter on the dBA rating. This is another reason why I held off adding this list – while the majority of my audience is American, I do get a lot of UK/EU readers, and I would hate for them to buy a product base don my listing and then fail to get the same experience.

Unfortunately, Hailea and Schego are not readily available in the USA. As much as I would love to, reviewing these brands wouldn’t help my readers.

Hi Ian,
I am very sorry to hear that Schego ist Not available in your Country.
I am not sure, but i think Schego is one of the oldest Manufacturer of air Pumps for Tanks.
Many Air Pumps works without Filter Felt or it is difficult to change or you are unable to get a new one.
Not so at Schego they are easy to change and to buy.
I am changing the Filter Felt once or twice a year, so no dust will get insite.
You can also get every module of this Pumps seperatly as spare parts. Last Year I have to change the broken cases of two 15 year old Pumps, without any Problem.
In my opinion Schego make the best pumps for Tanks Up to 200 Gallons.
But If you use the Schego WS3 in a Tank that ist too little it would bei very loud. You need to place the airstone deeper than 25 Inch auf wait a few days to get the pump quieter.
The most of my tanks are about 100 Gallons and i use the Schego WS2 or M2K3 with 35 inch Marina Air Curtain which works fine and quit.
In my opinion also the kind of the air check valve has to do with the loudness, but maybe it is only a different kind of sound which seems louder for me.
Maybe it would be a good Deal for someone, who starts to import Schego and Halea to your Country.
And many thanks for this great review.
Yours Sincerly Stefan

Hi Again Stefan,

It seems that Germany has some great products that should be imported to America. It’s highly unlikely we would have any airpump here last over 15 years. When I was last in Europe, I had so much fun looking at all the different aquarium equipment we don’t have here. Some of it seems exceptionally well made. If ever Schego or Halea becomes available here, I would love to review them. Thanks again for sharing your experience with these products!

Finally, a great review of products “by the numbers”, not hearsay or brand-funded. Thank you!
I live in a beach community with a 30-year-old and 30-gallon acrylic tank powered by a single Eheim. Unlike this German workhorse, I have never achieved long-term reliability/success with most any brand of air pump, which relies on rubber booty diaphragm(s). I was led to understand that the dilapidation of the rubber is (possibly?) caused by ozone levels…
Most likely the Eheim in your list may have a different mechanism to output consistent and reliable air. Would it possible to list/describe the alternative mechanisms in use? Especially, those which will NOT require purchasing “spare” booties >> WHEN the pump fails.

Hi RandiO,

That’s the first I have heard of the rubber wearing down due to ozone levels. My understanding is that over time rubber hardens and becomes less flexible, which leads to wear.

I had the Eheim pump open. It too had rubber diaphrams. I think every single pump I tested did. Unfortunately, air pumps are not made for reliability. My experience with the different brands leads me to believe that they are manufactured to be somewhat disposable in nature. Unfortunately. I’d happily pay more for a premium air pump that was built to last but as of right now, it doesn’t seem to exist.

There are many kinds of rubber, and all of them are affected by ozone to different degrees.The rubber used in an air pump is most likely to be EPDM rubber which is generally more resistant to ozone than others. Like any other moving part, the pump diaphragm and valve flaps will wear out eventually. All rubbers break down over time. There are lots of rubber manufacturers and many grades of EPDM rubber. Not all of them are well made or balanced for this application. The pump manufacturer has to select the best balance of cost and properties, and some put too much emphasis on cost.

I read some reviews on other websites and found that some pumps that were quiet there are noisy here and vice versa. I think that the problem is a sad lack of quality control. A poorly assembled set of good parts is unpredictable. Some come out better than others, and it is a roll of the dice whether you get a good one. The internal parts can shift a little. Since there isn’t a lot of room inside things don’t have to shift very much before the moving parts start hitting something and make a huge racket.

I have had a good pump start to make a lot of noise when something inside shifted. I opened it up, made some adjustments and it was a lot quieter. This was 50 years ago, I was a kid and all I remember now is that there were some adjustments that changed both airflow and noise.

Hi Dave,

Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge here. I was completely unaware of this relationship between rubber and UV and I really appreciate you sharing your knowledge here.

The noise levels are entirely subjective, which was a big discovery in this review but I would be hesitant to trust other websites who have not at least used a decibel meter to confirm the sound output.

I agree. You have the only quantitative testing, which is why I bookmarked your site, not the others. I had to look up a number of other reviews to find what I was thinking about with the difference in noise rating. The pump that I had in mind was probably the Fluval. You found that it rattled or developed a rattle over time due to a loose screw. That’s what I was talking about with the tight clearances and internal parts shifting. fishtankadvisor.com found the Fluval to be (subjectively) very quiet, so it sounds like their sample’s internal parts hadn’t shifted, yet.

Another good example of the quality issue is your experience with the Quiet Flows that were dead on arrival. Apparently they can be quiet when they do work, but they also ship defective units.

I wouldn’t mention my preference for a flow rate in cc/sec over gallons per hour, but the difference is so small that you could say they are equivalent. 1 gallon per hour is 1.05 cc/sec. I can visualize a cc of air as 10-20 small bubbles, but a gallon per hour is hard to visualize. Since most pumps are rated gal/hr or ml/min, you are stuck with the customary units.

Funny you mention that site, it’s actually one of the reasons why I started paying and actually testing products. I noticed a trend that other websites don’t test the product the recommend. Instead, they appear to re-write amazon reviews. One way of telling is that they list the very same dimensions off amazon (these are often inaccurate/box dimensions) It also leads to them sometimes listing the weight of a product and other times skipping it in the same review – but this is the total packaging weight rather than the product weight.

People at my local fish club kept complaining about it so I took it on myself to do something about it. In hindsight I’m not sure it was the right decision. I have sunk so much time into this that it’s begun to feel more like work than a hobby. With that said, I do love chatting to people like yourself and my readers have taught me so much that I didn’t know. Like you sharing how UV impacts rubber degradation. Didn’t that lead me down a rabbit hole as I researched further.

I’ll admit, my testing processes are by no means scientific but I do believe it simulates how your everyday fishkeeper would use a product.

Yeah, I didn’t know what to do with the quietflow Air Pump. If I was to re-order them, and they worked fine, I wouldn’t be guaranteeing that others wouldn’t experience my first round of problems. When the working strongest air pump was outperformed by the mid-range one, and and taking into account aqueons other product performance I have tested, I decided not to recommend them. It is very possible that since, they have improved their construction process and they may actually be viable now.

This goes both ways, the Aqueon Pro heater used to be made in Italy when I originally tested it and it was amazing, on par with the Eheim Jager. Yet when Aqueon shifted their manufacturing to China, the very same model had a failure rate that put it among the worst heaters. This is a problem that I don’t actually know how to address since I can’t afford to constantly re-test the same products every 6 months.

Great suggestion! When I update this guide, I’ll see if I can add a cc/sec column to the table without making it appear to squashed on mobile phones!

Very good article about aquarium airpumps. There is something missing here tho (but this is actually something no one talks about for some reasons…, anywhere on the internet.). It’s about that hole, usually on the bottom of the airpump that has a (cotton) disk filter over it. The air intake which is pretty inportant in my opinion. I change it every 3 months because it become gray-sh to dark because of the air impurities. That’s something many beginners must learn because if that filter gets clogged with dust and other air impurities, your pump will have hard times geting the air from outside and pushing it into aquarium. As I said, I usually change that tiny cotton disk every 3 or 4 months, and comparing to the new ones I replace, the used filter is gray to black in color.
Cheers.

Hi Kaitlin,

That’s a good point you make, although I must admit I have never swapped my intake filter. I have an air purifier in the room and have found this to never be an issue. Definitely great advice though and I will include it in the guide the next time I update it.

Excellent article on air pumps. Exactly what we need in making an intelligent decision. My setup has three (3) 20 gallon tanks with sponge filters; so this study was perfect – thanks!

I was about to purchase the Tetra 150 but noticed the ratings in your chart for this model were far less than the Tetra 100 which is a different design. The Tetra 150 GPH at 20″ was also relatively far less than the Tetra 300. Is this an error on the 150?

Hi Mike,

Thanks for the awesome feedback! Regarding your question, I can see how this is a little confusing and I probably could have come up with a way to present this information better.

The Tetra AP 150 is indeed the more powerful of the two, out of a single air nozzle (it only has one) the 100 has two air nozzles, however these are individually weaker (the reading shown is combined output)

So if you have a deeper tank, the 150 is actually the better choice since an individual nozzle on the 100 is weaker.

I hope I have not confused this further, please let me know if this needs more clarification.

Ian,

Boy, it’s so hard to find a review site these days that isn’t a shill for some product or another.

This review was great. I do a lot of testing (in the tech space) of various software and hardware products, and I know a good writeup (and decent testing methodology) when I see one. This was one. Keep it up – don’t change a thing.

Cheers,

-Stuart

Thanks for the kind words Stuart, I really appreciate it.

I can see why most websites don’t bother physically testing the products they “review”, I can’t do many of these on account of the time it takes. This one took close to three months to finish. The costs involved in purchasing every single product make this a labor of love.

If you have a blog where I can see your tests on software and hardware, I would love to read it!

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