Do Aquarium Plants Need Air Pump? (Is it really necessary?)

Wondering, do aquarium plants need an air pump?

Well, in this article I am going to answer the same question. 

I’ll also tell you how an air pump works. And when it is not necessary to have an air pump and when it is a good idea to have one. 

Do Aquarium Plants Need Air Pump? (Is it really necessary?) image

So, do aquarium plants need an air pump?

No, if you have an optimum level of oxygen and good circulation in your aquarium then you don’t need air pump in your aquarium. Otherwise, you will require an air pump in your aquarium.

What does an air pump do?

The main purpose of an air pump is to increase the oxygen level in an aquarium.

It basically bubbles air into the water of your aquarium which increases surface agitation.

And, as the gas exchange happens on the surface of the water, the surface agitation helps to increase oxygen in your aquarium.

Besides, there are also some other things that an air pump can help with that we’ll talk about later in the article.

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Do aquarium plants need oxygen?

Now you know that an air pump is primarily used to increase oxygen in an aquarium then the question arises- Do aquarium plants help need oxygen?

And the answer is YES. Aquarium plants do need oxygen.

Aquarium plants respire just as we do. They take carbon dioxide in and exhale oxygen during the day. But at night, this process reverses.

At night plants take oxygen in and exhale carbon dioxide into the water of your aquarium.

But you don’t need to add an air pump in your aquarium because the aquarium plants require oxygen. 

Instead, you’ll need to add an air pump in your aquarium because the fish in your tank may not be getting sufficient oxygen during the night if you have a lot of plants in your aquarium.

Now, this is only one situation you’ll need to add an air pump in your aquarium. And there are some other scenarios when you may need to add an air pump into the aquarium.

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When does an air pump is necessary?

As mentioned earlier, the main purpose of an air pump is to increase the oxygen level in an aquarium.

So obviously, you’ll need to add an air pump in your aquarium if you have low oxygen levels in your tank.

Now, how do you know if your tank has insufficient levels of oxygen in your aquarium in the first hand?

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Signs of low oxygen in your aquarium

Basically, there are two ways to know if your aquarium has a low oxygen level or not.

  1. Using oxygen meter kit 
  2. Observing the behavior of your fish

Oxygen meter kit

You can easily measure the levels of dissolved oxygen in your aquarium using an oxygen meter kit.

However, those kits are costly and you don’t really need them.

This brings to our second way.

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The behavior of your fish

There are several signs that your fish will show if it is struggling to get oxygen in your aquarium.

1. The first noticeable sign is when you see your fish coming to the surface of the water of your aquarium gasping for air. 

Now there are some fish like Betta fish and Gouramis which are labyrinth fish which basically means that they regularly visit the surface of the water to gulp air before diving into the deeper levels of the aquarium.

2. The second sign is when you see your fish are not as active as they used to. And they are moving around very less then this can be due to low oxygen levels in your aquarium.

3. You will also notice rapid gills movement in your fish in case of oxygen deficiency.

This is because your fish is struggling to get oxygen in the water from the water of your aquarium.

So, if you noticed any of the above signs then you can conclude that your tank does not have sufficient levels of oxygen.

So, in case of low oxygen, you should immediately do at least 50% water change to immediately increase oxygen in your tank.

And the permanent solution is to install an air pump into the aquarium. And there are also some other ways to increase oxygen in an aquarium. You can read them here.

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Causes of low oxygen level in an aquarium

There are several reasons that can cause a low oxygen level in an aquarium.

The reason for the low oxygen level in your aquarium could be any one of the below. Or it could be caused because of multiple reasons. 

Overstocking

If you are overstocking your tank then this can lead to oxygen depletion in the aquarium.

As you add more fish into the aquarium, they will be absorbing more oxygen from the tank. And if the tank is relatively smaller then it can cause oxygen depletion as well as other problems.

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High water temperature

Warm water can hold less oxygen compared to cold water.

So, if the temperature of the water of your aquarium is high then this can cause oxygen deficiency in your aquarium.

Stagnant water

If there are some areas in your aquarium where the water is staying stagnant then this can also cause oxygen depletion in your aquarium because stagnant water does not have sufficient oxygen.

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Chemicals

If you are using any chemicals to treat fish diseases or to treat the water then this can also reduce the oxygen-carrying capacity of the water of your aquarium which can cause oxygen deficiency in your aquarium.

Excess waste

If your aquarium contains a lot of bioload then this also reduces the oxygen-carrying capacity of the water of your aquarium which can lead to oxygen deficiency.

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Benefits of having an air pump in your aquarium

Benefits of having an air pump in your aquarium image

Besides increasing the oxygen level in the aquarium there are a few other benefits of having an air pump in your aquarium.

Better filtration

An air pump can help improve the filtration in your aquarium.

The thing is, if you don’t have good water circulation in your aquarium then there will be some spots in your aquarium where the water is staying stagnant. And it is not getting filtered as much as it should be.

So, in this case, if you install an air pump in your aquarium then it will help to move the water so the water circulation in your tank will be improved. And so does the filtration of your tank will improve.

If you have a large tank then you can also use a powerhead to circulate the water instead of an air pump.

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Algae

If there are some spots in your aquarium where the water stays stagnant then it can lead to algae growth in the aquarium.

So, in this case, if you install an air pump in your tank, then the air pump will help to move the water. And this can reduce algae in your tank.

If you have a large tank then you can also use a powerhead to circulate the water which will help to control algae bloom.

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Oxygenate your tank during power cuts

A battery-powered air pump can help to maintain optimum oxygen levels in your tank during power cuts.

The thing is, the filter in your tank helps in water agitation in your aquarium. And water agitation helps to oxygenate the tank.

Now, during a power cut as your filter stops working there is no water agitation going on in your tank. This can lead to oxygen deficiency in the aquarium.

So, in this case, if you have a battery-powered air pump then it will blow air in the tank which will create water agitation. 

In this way, a battery-powered air pump can help to keep your aquarium well-oxygenated during power-cuts.

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Enhance aesthetic

You can also use an air pump to enhance the aesthetic look of your aquarium.

Basically, you have to attach an airstone to the hose of the air pump and then keep it suspended in your aquarium.

Small little bubbles will come out of the air stone which really looks beautiful and pleasing.

Nowadays there are also some air stones available which have inbuilt light!

You can check out my recommended air pump here

FAQ

Do I need bubbler if I have plants?

Yes, you may need bubbler even when you have live aquarium plants in your tank.

In fact, if you have a very heavily planted aquarium them this can be the reason you need bubbler for your aquarium.

The thing is, though live aquarium plants inhale carbon dioxide and exhale oxygen during the daytime, at night time, this process reverses. And at night, the live plants inhale Oxygen and exhale Carbon dioxide.

So, if you have the planted tank then this can lead to oxygen deficiency at night.

To cope with this issue, you’ll need to run bubbler at night in your aquarium.

However, if you don’t have a heavily planted tank and or your aquarium already contains optimum levels of oxygen then you don’t need bubbler for your tank.

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How long can fish survive without an air pump?

Your fish will survive for a few hours without an air pump. 
Exactly how much time your fish will survive without an air pump really depends on several factors and the scenario.

For example, if your tank already contains oxygen and you install an air pump which is helping you to maintain optimum levels of oxygen in your tank.

Then in this case, if your air pump stops working then your fish may still survive because the filter will help to agitate the water in your aquarium which will help to oxygenate the tank.
But still, the fish in your tank is not getting sufficient oxygen and you will need to fix the problem as soon as possible.

Now how much time exactly you have is really dependent on the number of fish you have. And how clean your tank is and how much is the water agitation in your tank.

In the second scenario, if we are talking about power outage then all the equipment in your tank will be stopped.

So, in this case, no water agitation is going on in the tank.

So, in this case, the oxygen level in the water will be depleted very rapidly which can lead to oxygen deficiency in your tank.

How much exactly time the fish in your tank will survive really depends on the number of fish in your tank have and how clean your tank is.

However, until you fix the problem permanently i.e. installing a new air pump or until the power comes on, there are a few things you can do to maintain a good oxygen level in your tank.

I have mentioned all these ways in detail in this article.

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How do you oxygenate a fish tank without a pump?

There are several ways you can use to oxygenate your fish tank without an air pump
Pitcher method
In case of an emergency, you can simply fill up a pitcher with aquarium water and pour down the water from some height.

The water will get exposed to air which will help to oxygenate the fish tank.

Use spray bar
If you have a canister filter installed for your aquarium then you can attach a spray bar to the outlet hose of the canister filter.

Just make sure to keep it attached above the water surface. 

Now the water coming out from the spray bar will get exposed to the air which will help oxygenate the tank.

Besides these ways, there are several other ways to oxygenate the fish tank you can read about them in this article.

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Conclusion

Overall, if you have an adequate amount of oxygen in your tank then you don’t need an air pump in your aquarium.

However, if you don’t have an adequate amount of oxygen in your tank then it is a good idea to install an air pump in your tank.

Besides, an air pump also helps to circulate the water in your tank which helps filtration and it helps to keep algae in control.

I hope you find this article helpful.

If you do, please share it.

Happy aquascaping!

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