Using an air pump connected to flexible tubing, a bubbler adds beneficial bubbles to an aquarium tank. The bubbles create oxygen in the water when they pop at the surface, which can improve the living conditions for the fish and anything living in the tank.
Does your fish tank need a bubbler? The air pump simply delivers air in the tank and make fish tank water oxygen-rich. Besides aeration, air helps to move water and drives unwanted elements in the water to the surface. If you have a large, 10-gallon or more tank that houses many fish, you will most likely NEED a bubbler.
Having a bubbler in your fish tank can be beneficial to your fish if they lack the oxygen they need to survive. It is good to pay attention to the signs that you may need a bubbler and to understand the benefits of the added oxygen. Read on to find out what you should know about aquarium bubblers.
What an Aquarium Bubbler Does
Aquarium bubblers are intended to increase the amount of oxygen in the tank for the fish to breathe. But the oxygen doesn’t come from the actual bubbles themselves; it comes from the flow of water created by the bubbler.
The primary purposes for an aquarium bubbler are:
- Aerate the water – The oxygen in the tank enters from the surface and dissolves into the water through gas exchange. When the surface is still, less oxygen can enter the water. But when the bubbles from a bubbler rise and agitate the surface, more oxygen can enter the water.
- Increase water movement – The rising bubbles create a steadier flow of water in the tank.
- Helps with unwanted elements – Bubblers drive unwanted elements in the water to the surface where it dissipates from the top.
When there are too many fish in an aquarium or overfeeding is happening, the amount of waste matter increases. The number of bacteria in the tank then builds up because it feeds on the waste matter. Although these bacteria help eliminate the fish waste, it also uses up the oxygen that the fish need to breathe.
So, an aquarium bubbler is added to allow more oxygen for the fish to use.
How to Tell if Your Fish Tank Needs a Bubbler
Because a bubbler is used to help oxygen flow through the water, figuring out if you need one for your aquarium depends on if it needs the extra oxygen.
- The easiest way to tell if your fish need more oxygen is if they are gasping for air at the surface or if you see bottom-dwelling fish going to the surface more often.
- Hanging out by the filter output is another indication that the fish need more oxygen. Fish will hang out by this area because it is the area with the highest oxygen concentration because of the disturbed surface.
- Typically, a tank that needs a bubbler will be a larger tank with multiple fish. If you have a small tank with only a couple of fish, you will not need a bubbler. But if you have a 10-gallon tank that has lots of fish, you most likely will need a bubbler.
Other signs of lack of oxygen are:
- Fish are less active
- More rapid gill movements
- Fish will congregate at the surface
The most extreme clue that your tank is lacking oxygen is that your fish are dying. Fish can die for other reasons, but if you notice the other clues in conjunction to fish dying, you should take immediate action.
Benefits of Added Bubbles
Fish take in dissolved oxygen through their gills and then produce carbon dioxide at the same time. Because they need this oxygen to survive, having too many fish in an enclosed space will limit the amount of oxygen in the tank. Eventually, the tank’s water will run out of oxygen, and the fish will die.
To prevent this from happening, you need to boost the oxygen level in the water while eliminating the dissolved carbon dioxide. Doing this requires you to speed up the process of the gas exchange between the atmosphere and water. This is where the added bubbles come in.
To increase the oxygen and control the gas exchange, you want to agitate the surface water. When added bubbles reach the surface of the water and pop, they create water movement. This allows for the oxygen to be dispersed throughout the tank.
The bubbles themselves from a bubbler do not provide much oxygen. It’s the water agitation created by the bubbles that allow for extra oxygen in the tank.
Cons of Bubblers
Using a bubbler to help with oxygenation in your tank has some crucial benefits to it, but there are also some cons:
- Not as efficient as water pumps or powerheads
- Can create salt creep
- The airflow pressure can be lost depending on how long the clear tubing is
- They clog up
- Airline hoses can get pinched
- Need to be replaced often
Different Types of Bubblers
Aquarium bubblers can come in many different shapes and sizes, and they are based on personal preferences. Here are the most common ones:
- Air stones – Made from any porous substance like wood, sand, stone, and sometimes plastic, air stones can range in size. The size of the bubbles made depends on how porous the stone is – the rougher the stone is, the larger the bubbles are. Finer air stones produce tiny bubbles.
- Bubble wands – Made from the same material as air stones but in a wand shape. They come with suction cups to keep it in place and creates a wall of bubbles.
- Flexible bubble walls – Made from a flexible rubber material, these can be coiled, twisted, or spread out however you want.
- LED bubbler – This is an air stone that has an LED light in the middle to light up the bubbles creating some extra entertainment to your aquarium.
- Bubbler ornaments – These are decorative pieces like a volcano or sunken treasure that are typically made with an air stone.
Preventing a Lack of Oxygen in Fish Tank
Fish need oxygen to survive, so you want to make sure that they are getting enough to breathe. It is best to take the precautions needed to make sure your tank does not run out of oxygen. It is better to prevent the problem from arising before it is too late for your fish.
There are a few things you can do to make sure your tank doesn’t become low on oxygen:
- Don’t overstock Fish Tank on Fish – The more fish there are, the more oxygen is needed. If there are too many fish in a tank, the oxygen production may not be fast enough to keep up with them.
- Have the proper size tank – If you have several fishes in a small tank, the tank will not be large enough to have enough oxygen. If you want more fish, you should get a big tank
- Have colder water temperatures – If the tank’s water is too warm, it won’t be able to contain as much oxygen as cooler water could. Performing a water change with cooler water is an excellent way to introduce fresh oxygen into the tank.
- Check the water filter – The water filter helps move the oxygen from the top to the bottom of the tank. When the filter is clogged, it won’t be able to move as much water through it.
- Eliminate excess waste – Excess fish waste in a tank can clog the filters and create an overgrowth of algae that can decrease the amount of dissolved oxygen. It can also lower the oxygen-carrying capacity in the fish tank. Keep up with cleanings and maintenance to prevent this.
- Have plenty of light if you have live plants – Live plants are used to give off oxygen. However, if they are not given enough light, they begin to suck up all the oxygen. Make sure your live plants are not going a lengthy amount of time without light provided by Fish Tank Light – read ultimate guide.
- Read chemical labels – Some chemicals are used to fight off disease in tanks, but some can deplete the oxygen-carrying capacity. Read the label to make sure whatever chemical you use does not affect the tank’s oxygen.
Caring for Air Stones
After a while, air stones will begin to lose their effectiveness as their holes get clogged. The air stones with smaller textures are more susceptible to clogging. Depending on the mineral content in your water, they may begin losing their effectiveness around six weeks of use.
When they become ineffective, some people will replace them, but some will clean and rejuvenate them to save a few dollars. Here are the steps you can take to clean your air stones:
- Rinse the stone with clean water.
- Lightly scrub off excess buildup on the outside.
- Boil the stone for 10 minutes and then allow to air dry.
- Soak the air stone in one part bleach and three parts water for at least 24 hours.
- Attach an airline from an air pump to the stone and place it in a container of fresh water for five minutes.
- Remove the stone from the water and continue to let the air pump run to dry out the inside pores.
If you don’t have bleach or don’t like using it, you can use hydrogen peroxide for the soaking solution.
Setting Up Your Bubbler
Once you have decided your fish tank needs a bubbler, you will need to decide what kind you want and purchase all the equipment needed to get it up and running. The following are some recommendations for air pump, air stones and bubble wands:
Air Line Tubing:
Once you have your chosen bubbler, you should make sure you have the proper equipment to get it working.
- Place the air pump outside of the aquarium.
- Attach one end of the flexible tubing to the outflow valve of the air pump.
- Splice the regular valve into the airline tubing. This should be done about an inch from where the tubing is connected to the air pump outlet.
- Splice in the one way valve into the tubing. This should be done about two inches from where you spliced in the regular valve.
- Feed the airline tubing into the tank and connect it to your chosen air stone.
- Place your bubbler into the tank where you prefer. It is recommended for it to be placed in the rear of the tank.
Bubblers and Salt Water
Bubblers can be used in saltwater tanks, but aquarists will often decide not to use them because of the increase of salt creep that can happen. Salt creep happens when the water from a saltwater tank splashes out and leaves salt crystals behind after the water evaporates.
When you are adding extra bubbles to a saltwater tank, those bubbles pop at the surface and can splash out of the tank. The water can get all over the outside of the tank, the equipment, the stand it sits on, or anything near the tank. Once the water evaporates, it’ll leave salt spots on whatever it hits.
If you do choose to use a bubbler for your saltwater tank, the best way to prevent the salt creep from happening is to have a good cover over the area where the bubbles hit. If you notice water being splashed outside of the tank, wipe it up immediately to prevent a buildup of salt crystals.
Other Ways to Increase Oxygen Supply in Your Fish Tank
Oxygen is essential for your fish, and there are different things you can use to increase the oxygen quality of your tank. Along with bubblers, like air stones or wands, other options are:
- HOB filters – These hang on the back of the tank and release filtered water back into the tank from the surface.
- Powerheads – These are used to move water around the tank.
- Wavemakers – These create waves that mimic the sea.
- Spray bars – These gently spray water back into the tank from the filter outlet.
- Live plants – Live plants are one of the best natural ways of creating oxygen. However, you’ll need to make sure the plants have the proper lighting; otherwise, they will take over the oxygen supply in the tank.
How to Tell if Your Tank Has Enough Oxygen
The best way to tell if your tank has enough oxygen is by paying attention to the habits of your fish. If they are not gasping for air or acting differently, then you’re probably in the clear. If their gills are rapidly moving, then they are trying to get more air.
But if you are still uncertain, you can purchase an oxygen test kit online. These test strips can be dipped in the water to test the water levels.
Fish Tank Over Oxygenation
While making sure your fish are getting the proper amount of oxygen, it is also possible to give them too much. Having too much oxygen in your tank can have an adverse outcome; it can lead to lethal gas bubble disease.
Lethal gas bubble disease is when the fish breathes in over-oxygenated water, which transfers into their bloodstream, creating bubbles in their body tissue. These bubbles will become visible in the fish’s gills, eyes, and fins. It can also affect the fish’s heart, which can lead to death. It isn’t prevalent for there to be too much oxygen in the tank, but it can happen.
Too Many Bubbles?
Many people think that too many bubbles mean too much oxygen in the tank, but that isn’t the case. Here are some reasons as to why there are lots of bubbles:
- Bubbles on glass – When you add fresh water to a tank, bubbles will naturally form on the glass and will go away on their own.
- Filters, aerators, heaters – These pieces of equipment produce bubbles and will not be a problem if they are not bothering the fish.
- Dead algae – If there are dead algae in the tank, it can produce ammonia bubbles. This should be immediately removed, and a water change should be performed.
A bubbler is a piece of equipment that generates bubbles that create agitation at the surface of the water when they pop. When the bubbles agitate the water, it allows for oxygen to be dispersed throughout the water.
Figuring out if your tank needs a bubbler will depend on the size of your tank, how many fish you have, and the behavior of the fish. If your fish are gasping for air, hanging out by the filter, or have an increase in gill movements, then there is most likely not enough oxygen in the tank.
Several different factors can cause the oxygen level in the tank to decrease. Some examples are too many fish, clogged water filters, chemicals, and warm water temperatures.