The 5 Best Air Pumps for Freshwater Aquariums in 2023

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Close-Up Of Fish Swimming In Aquarium At Home
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An air pump is not always a necessity for oxygenating your tank, but it can be a great way to supplement oxygen levels and improve water flow. Even if your tank may not require an air pump to maintain optimal conditions, your fish might benefit from one anyway.

"It’s important to consider the enrichment provided as well!" Ashley Emanuele, DVM and a Certified Aquatic Veterinarian at Oak City Aquatics in North Carolina told The Spruce Pets. "Goldfish in particular seem to enjoy bubble walls, and can often be seen riding the bubbles up and down."

The right air pump should not only be the correct size for your system, but should also come with everything you need, such as tubing and air stones. Our favorite, and best overall pick, is the HIRALIY Aquarium Air Pump, which has multiple customization options and all the basic features you need. But there are other pumps available that may fit your aquarium even better.

Here are the best aquarium air pumps.

Our Top Picks

Best Overall

HIRALIY Aquarium Air Pump



What We Like
  • Highly adjustable to many systems

  • Clear instructions

What We Don't Like
  • Less ideal for super small systems

We recommend the HIRALIY Aquarium Air Pump for most aquariums because it has useful features, great accessories, and multiple ways to configure it to work with a variety of tank sizes. The HIRALIY pump is a compact box with dual air outlets, rubber feet to tamp down vibration, and a knob for adjusting the flow rate.

It comes with two lengths of 6.6 feet silicone tubing, so you can easily adjust it to fit your tank. It also comes with a wide variety of useful accessories including four air stones, two return valves (in case you want to set up the pump in a position that's lower than the water level in your tank), and suction cups to help organize tubing.

In addition to all the components, the company has provided clear instructions on setup and installation. The HIRALIY also operates quietly.

Dimensions: 4.7 x 2.4 x 2 inches︱Weight: 1.04 pounds︱Power: 3 watt

Best for Small Tanks

Aqueon QuietFlow Air Pump 10



What We Like
  • Upright positioning helps with placement and hose setup

  • Built-in check valve

What We Don't Like
  • Known to be loud

Looking for a small air pump for your nano tank? Then be sure to check out the Aqueon QuietFlow Air Pump. This small model has a unique vertical setup, eliminating hose kinks, and comes with a built-in check valve. This unit can handle 2-10 gallon tanks and comes with one port, perfect for your smaller aquarium.

Dimensions: 4.2” x 2.4” x 4.5”︱Weight: 0.65lbs︱Power: 1.5 watt

Best Bubble Curtain

PULACO Ultra Quiet Aquarium Air Pump



What We Like
  • Highly adjustable to many systems

  • Clear instructions

What We Don't Like
  • Less ideal for super small systems

Looking for a bigger bubble effect? Then try the PULACO Ultra Quiet Aquarium Air Pump. It comes with two air bars instead of stones to create two mini bubble curtains. Some fish really enjoy having more bubbles to play in and this setup will move more water around than a traditional round air stone. Keep in mind that the bars will need to be secured with the included suction cups so they don’t float to the surface. If you only want one mega curtain, this kit provides a joiner, eliminating the hassle of isolating one port and instead combining the two together.

Dimensions: 5.5” x 4.7” x 3.3”︱Weight: 11 oz,︱Power: 3 watt

Best Accessory

U-picks Mini Aquarium Air Pump Kit



What We Like
  • Best for small tanks

  • Easy to setup

What We Don't Like
  • Limited customization

  • Can get loud with prolonged use

Made for smaller systems, the U-picks Mini Aquarium Air Pump Kit has a novel feature: its pump can be suctioned to a wall to limit noise! Rather than relying on rubber feet, this air pump can be suctioned to a vertical area around your tank, such as a window or tile. Do NOT suction it to your tank since the vibrations will disturb your fish. This all-in-one setup is ideal for 1-15 gallon tanks and creates minimal noise.

Dimensions: 3” x 2” x 0.6”︱Weight: Not listed︱Power: 1 watt

Best Budget

Tetra Whisper Air Pump



What We Like
  • Easy to find and setup

What We Don't Like
  • Does not include additional components

  • Can be loud

Tetra brand products are available at most major pet stores and with a low price tag, this air pump is easy to find and cheap to add to your tank. Unlike the other setups listed, this unit just includes the pump with two ports. It does not include the tubing, check valves, or airstones, but this allows you to customize your tank and use higher quality components since you save money on your pump! Although we just looked at the small model, this air pump can be found in various sizes, depending on how big your tank is.

Dimensions: 3.9” x 2.75” x 5.5”︱Weight: 1.1 pounds︱Power: 2.5 watt

Final Verdict

When it comes to selecting an air pump for your home aquarium, look no further than our Best Overall Pick, the HIRALIY Aquarium Air Pump. Its ability to be fully customized makes it an ideal choice for almost all aquarium setups. If you’re looking for an air pump for a nano tank, check out the Aqueon QuietFlow Air Pump. With its upright positioning and built-in check valve, it saves you space for your tiny tank.

What to Look for in an Aquarium Air Pump

Tank Size

Not all air pumps will work well in small or large tanks. A supersized air pump will blow your fish around in a small tank and a small pump in a large tank will barely make a blip. Be sure to choose an air pump that is the correct size for your tank.

This also means choosing an air pump that will best suit your fish. "Use caution with higher pressure air pumps when keeping small or delicate species like betta—the increase in flow may make movement around their tank difficult!" Ashley Emanuele, DVM and a Certified Aquatic Veterinarian at Oak City Aquatics in North Carolina told The Spruce Pets.

Number of Ports

Some air pumps will pull double duty with two output ports, or more, instead of one. This allows you to add in multiple aeration features to spread throughout your tank. If you have excess ports, you will need to block them off or combine them in order to have your pump function correctly.


Although you can buy all of your air pump components separately, some pumps include air stones, tubing, check valves, suction cups, and more. If you have particular requirements for your setup, you may not like the cheaper offerings of the all-in-one kits, but they are certainly convenient.

"Use of an air stone can encourage interaction with parts of a tank that may be avoided," Emanuele said.

Freshwater vs. Saltwater

Thankfully, all air pumps can be used in both freshwater and saltwater. As with all other saltwater tank components, be sure to clean your air pump regularly to ensure it stays free of salt crust from evaporating tank water.

  • Do I have to have an air pump in my tank?

    Absolutely not! If your tank has adequate flow from your filter outflow or powerhead, you do not have to add an air feature. Provided your filter is properly setup, it should provide all the oxygen your tank inhabitants require unless you have an overstocked system.

  • How do aquarium air pumps work?

    Aquarium air pumps work by forcing atmospheric air out through a port and down the airline tubing. They will usually end in an airstone, a small porous rock that will diffuse the air into small bubbles. Small bubbles are better for incorporating more oxygen into your tank water and providing more water movement.

  • What are aquarium air pumps for?

    Aquarium pumps are utilized for a variety of reasons. Firstly, they are incorporated into an aquarium to provide dynamic water flow. If you have a large system or a small filter, your water may not be properly circulated throughout your tank. You can help move things around by adding a powerhead or an aerator or air pump.

    In addition to providing water movement, air pumps also add oxygen to your tank water. By diffusing air through a small airstone or bar, you are improving your water quality by providing additional oxygen to your fish, invertebrates, and plants.

  • How can I quiet an aquarium air pump?

    If your pump is suspiciously noisy, especially just out of the box, you should contact the manufacturer. These items are very small and can often have mechanical issues.

    Once you have a properly functioning pump, be sure to place it correctly on a solid surface a few inches away from your tank. If you do not have a check valve, be sure to place your air pump above your tank’s water surface to prevent backflushing down the line in the event of a power outage. Most air pumps come with rubber feet to limit vibrations. Make sure no other filter components are touching your vibrating air pump.

    If your air pump is still too loud, try placing it on a block of foam or an extra filter pad. Try to avoid building a foam box for your filter, since this can cause your unit to overheat. If your filter is still too loud, despite modifications, you might want to get a new one.

  • Do I have to use a check valve?

    Check valves create a one way route for air to enter your aquarium, but not return the opposite way. Most of the pumps in this review include check or return valves that will prevent back siphoning. Back siphoning occurs if the air pump is ever shut off, either intentionally or due to a power outage. If the pump is below the water line, gravity will force the tank water down the hose and spill into your unit. If not caught, you could accidentally siphon out your entire tank, leaving your fish high and dry!

    Check valves prevent this back siphoning from occurring but are not required. If you have a pump that does not include check valves, if you place your air pump above the water line, you will prevent back siphoning. Do not place it on top of your tank, however, since the vibrations will cause your fish to stress out and can cause excess noise in addition to water damage from evaporation.

Why Trust The Spruce Pets?

Dr. Jessie Sanders has ten years experience working full time as an exclusively aquatic veterinarian and spent years working in major public aquariums. She has extensive experience with a wide variety of aquarium products and how they directly impact the health of the environment and inhabitants.