Aquarium tubing is those plastic-looking hoses that can run all over your tank if you’re not careful.
Especially for beginners, it is easy to grab the cheapest aquarium tubing you can find, but there is actually a lot to learn about this slinky airline running through your aquarium.
Aquarium tubing comes in multiple diameters depending on the size of your filter. Make sure you know the size of your filter prior to purchasing your tubing.
The easiest way for me to teach you about aquarium tubing is to answer the most frequently asked questions.
What Type of Tubing is Used for Aquariums?
For the basic 55-gallon aquarium and smaller, there are two types of aquarium tubing: silicone and vinyl.
Silicone Aquarium Airline Tubing
First, what is silicone?
“Any of a class of synthetic materials which are polymers with a chemical structure based on chains of alternate silicon and oxygen atoms, with organic groups attached to the silicon atoms. Such compounds are typically resistant to chemical attack and insensitive to temperature changes and are used to make rubber and plastics and in polishes and lubricants.”https://languages.oup.com/
Silicone is by far the preferred airline tubing for aquariums today because of its flexibility and its resistance to temperature changes.
It comes in different colors as well for appearance.
If you have a black aquarium background, they make black silicone aquarium tubing.
If you have a blue aquarium background, they make blue silicone aquarium tubing.
If you have a green aquarium background, they make green silicone aquarium tubing.
If you have a white aquarium background, they make clear aquarium tubing.
If you’re not very picky, you can use clear aquarium tubing for all of the backgrounds. As long as you run the clear aquarium tubing along the edges of your aquarium, observers won’t even notice it.
The main problem with silicone aquarium tubing today, especially the cheaper options, is they mix silicone with vinyl or other ingredients.
If you are shopping online, a lot of the silicone aquarium tubing for sale won’t even list that the tubing is silicone, or for that matter what it is made of, because they probably mixed the silicone with other ingredients.
This isn’t a huge problem as the cheap aquarium tubing is still flexible and will last for a long time but, you can find aquarium tubing out there that is pure silicone.
Also, if you get one of the colored tubings, they can block light better, which can keep algae from growing as fast as with clear tubing.
Vinyl Aquarium Tubing
Vinyl tubing can also be called plastic tubing, but it is usually made out of vinyl.
First, what is vinyl?
“Synthetic resin or plastic consisting of polyvinyl chloride or a related polymer, used for wallpapers and other covering materials and for records.”https://languages.oup.com/
The first thing that comes to my mind when I hear vinyl is vinyl records which feels like hard plastic to me, so you can imagine how much harder vinyl aquarium tubing can be than silicone.
Not much to say about vinyl tubing.
Silicon aquarium tubing is just as cheap so it is better to go this route.
The only advantage I have found with vinyl tubing is that it comes in more colors.
Since vinyl tubing is stiffer, it can harden and crack easier than silicone.
What Size is Standard for Aquarium Tubing?
A 3/16 inch diameter is the standard size for aquarium tubing. This is the opening or inside of the aquarium tubing.
The inside diameter is standard so that all aquarium tubing will fit connections on air pumps, air stones, filters, etc.
The thickness of the tubing can vary.
Silicone tubing is thicker than vinyl tubing and some DIY tubings are even thicker.
Pro Tip: Make sure you buy from a reputable seller and save the receipt. Some aquarium airline tubing is so generic that it will be too loose and slide off the connections. If it does, get a refund.
Pro Tip: Always put a check valve in your airline to keep water from backing up into your water pump and ruining it.
What is Airline Tubing Used for in a Fish Tank?
The sole purpose of airline tubing in your fish tank is to transport air from your air pump to wherever it needs to go in your fish tank.
It can connect your air pump to an airstone, under-gravel water filter, or aquarium decoration.
If air is released through any of these, the purpose is to release more oxygen into the water, so you don’t have any dead spots in your aquarium with low-no oxygen.
Airstones are weighted and usually in the bottom of your tank. They gradually release air bubbles into the tank while reducing the noise from bubbling water.
Should I get An Aquarium Tubing Kit?
An aquarium tubing kit is a smart investment, especially if you are setting up a tank because they come with tubing, connectors, a check valve, and sometimes with a pump and airstone.
You will still need some cutters but you can get those here.
How Do I Hide My Aquarium Air Tubing?
The easiest way to hide your aquarium tubing is to run it down the very back corners against the wall the aquarium is going to be against.
Once you run the aquarium tubing along the bottom and connect it to the air stone, decoration, or whatever, you can cover it in gravel.
If you want to cover the tubing running down the back corner of your aquarium, you can place plants in front of it.
This is one of the fun parts of having an aquarium as you can get very creative.
How Do I Cut My Aquarium Air Tubing?
You may see a lot of people using a razor or other things, but the easiest and most professional way to cut your tubing is with a tube cutter.
When Do I Replace My Aquarium Tubing?
Aquarium tubing is cheap, so you should just replace it when you start seeing signs of wear like:
You should also buy extra aquarium tubing since it is so cheap.
Pro Tip: Always measure more tubing than you need before cutting it. You can always cut a little more off if you have to.
You don’t need to stress too much about aquarium tubing.
If you are looking at aquarium tubing at your local pet store, you can look it up on Amazon to check the reviews and get a feel if it is a good product or not.
Even if I don’t buy it from Amazon, I still like to look there for products to see the reviews.
If you are just starting, you might want to buy the kit with everything, but it isn’t necessary.
Tubing is the most important thing to buy for quality.
The connectors and check valves can be bought separately.