Bubbler for Fish Tank: Are Bubblers Necessary for Fish Tanks?

An air bubbler is actually just an air pump connected to a piece of tubing so the air spray can be channeled from the air pump to wherever you need it in your aquarium.

The air bubbles contain oxygen so when the bubbles pop, it adds oxygen to the water.

The channeled air also moves water in dead spots in your tank where the water isn’t circulating so bacteria and other detritus can’t build up in the still water.

Good water circulation and oxygen are great for your fish but is an air bubbler necessary?

Bubblers aren’t always necessary but sometimes they are needed to make sure you have oxygen in every part of your tank, if you have a little tank you probably don’t need an air bubbler, but if you have a larger tank, an air bubbler can be placed in dead spots with low or no oxygen.

When you bring fish from the wild and put them in an aquarium, you are mimicking their natural world.

When fish live in a lake, ocean, or river per se, if they aren’t getting enough oxygen, they can simply move somewhere with more water flow.

In a tank, they are confined to smaller spaces, so it is important to have oxygen in every part of your tank so they can enjoy every inch of their already smaller existence.

What Does an Aquarium Bubbler Do Exactly?

An aquarium bubbler creates more water movement, which in turn creates more oxygen.

An aquarium bubbler does this by:

  • Aerating The Water – Oxygen primarily enters your tank through the surface of the water when it touches the water and dissolves. When the surface of the water isn’t moving, less oxygen is dissolved. By moving water below the surface, the water in your tank is rotated so all of the water can swing by the surface and grab a bite of oxygen. This is why it’s called aerating the water because you are moving all the water to the surface, where it touches more air.
  • Removes Waste The water movement created by a bubbler also helps release unwanted waste in your tank by releasing it into the air when the affected water hits the surface.

The bigger the tank, usually the more fish you have and with more space, there is a higher chance for more dead spots in your water.

This creates a higher build of water in your tank and also more bacteria. Although some bacteria help eats waste matter, the bacteria can also steal oxygen that your fish need.

Water movement simply eliminates dead spots in your water and helps ensure your fish have enough oxygen.

How Do I Know if There’s Enough Air in My Fish Tank?

Most filters come with a built-in water pump that circulates air, so you usually only need a bubbler for species that require more oxygen like seahorses, or if the tank is simply too big and there are dead spots.

Here are the easiest ways to tell if there are dead spots in your tank:

  • You fish are constantly coming to the surface for air, especially if they are a bottom-dwelling species.
  • Tie a one-inch piece of string to the end of a rod like a chopstick and move the end of it all around your tank. The string will move with the water flow kind of like a flag blowing in the wind. If the string quits moving with the water flow and simply sinks down, then there is no water movement.
  • Simply put, if you have a large tank, you will need a bubbler.
  • If your fish aren’t very active, especially if they are an active species, they probably aren’t getting enough oxygen and you need a bubbler.
  • Obviously, if our fish are dying, it shouldn’t get to this point if you follow the advice above.

Benefits of an Air Bubbler

  • When fish breathe through their gills, they are receiving oxygen that is dissolved in the water and then exhale carbon dioxide. The bubbler ensures that the carbon dioxide is carried to the surface where it is released while newly circulated water takes its place.
  • Fish don’t have as much space in a tank as they do in the wild, so you have to use artificial means to mimic their natural environment. A bubbler ensures they have proper water movement like they would in their natural wild environment.
  • The bubbles are like little air cars, transporting the used air to the surface so new air can take its place. The bubbles don’t actually provide oxygen, the bubbles just transport the air. The oxygen exchange takes place at the surface.

What to Watch Out For

Although bubblers can be very beneficial, there are some things you need to be on the lookout for like:

  1. Bubblers are not as powerful as water pumps or powerheads, so you may need more than one.
  2. Splashing at the surface can create salt crystals, but you just need to keep it cleaned regularly. You just want to use a bubbler if you have dead zones in your water, so you usually only need one anyways which will have minimal splashing.
  3. If the tubing going to your bubbler is too long, it can lower the air pressure, in turn minimizing the output of your bubbler. The tubing and bubbler can also get clogged up or the airline can get pinched like a garden hose.
  4. Bubblers may need to be replaced often if they are not working properly.

Types of Bubblers for Your Aquarium

Although they all do the same thing, bubblers come in different styles for different situations or preferences.

Airstones – are usually made of porous stone or lime wood. They eliminate noise and prevent large air bubbles which are common from the normal filter air pumps.

Bubble Wands – these are made from the same material as air stones but they are shaped like a long wand with suction cups so if they are installed correctly, they can spray a long line of bubbles across the entire aquarium.

Air Stone Bubble Release Balls – Release the air bubbles in a circular fashion to better spread the bubble distribution.

Flexible Bubble Walls – these are kind of like a bubble wand, except they are usually longer and are actually flexible, so you could even put them in a zig-zag pattern at the bottom of your aquarium for better bubble distribution.

LED Aquarium Bubbler – These are pretty cool for the aesthetic side of your aquarium as they light up the air bubbles with an led light so your guests can see quite the colorful bubble show.

Bubbler Decorations – these are simply aquarium decorations like a sunken ship that are made as an air bubbler or have an air bubbler built in.

How to Setup an Air Bubbler in Your Fish Tank

After you pick out the air bubbler you like or that most closely fits your needs, the setup is basically the same.

You can either buy a kit that has the pump, tubing, and bubbler or you can buy everything separately.

Once you have your chosen bubbler, you should make sure you have the proper equipment to get it working.

  1. The pump should be the type that goes outside the aquarium so you just need a flat surface to lay it on.
  2. Attach one end of the flexible tubing to the outflow valve of the bubbler air pump.
  3. Attach the other end of the tubing to the bubbler.
  4. Place the bubbler in your tank where the lowest airflow is or in one of the dead spots you have located.

All of your bubblers should come with instructions.

We recommend getting a kit that comes with everything unless you are wanting to customize it.

Some decoration bubblers come in a kit as well that includes everything you need such as a volcano decoration that comes with the pump, tubing and even a red led light that makes it look like the volcano is erupting red bubbles.

Taking Care of Your Air Bubblers

How To Keep The Oxygen From Getting To Low In Your Fish Tank

Even though your fish are completely underwater they still need oxygen to live.

The best way to ensure they don’t run out of oxygen is to prevent this from happening in the first place by:

Make Sure The Tank Is Big Enough A good rule of thumb is one gallon of water per inch of fish. Oxygen gets produced in the tank in cycles, mainly from air getting into the water, especially if you have a bubbler. However, if there are too many fish crammed together, they will consume the oxygen too fast. The bigger tank the better because it will have more oxygen and you won’t have to clean the tank as much anyway because there will be more room for waste.

Three’s A Crowd – Okay, we don’t mean only put three fish but again don’t put too many fish together, or well, you get the drift…

Keep Your Filter Clean – If your filter gets clogged, the water flow will slow or stop resulting in less water movement which is one of the keys to producing more oxygen.

Keep Your Tank Clean – If your tank gets too dirty, algae or bad bacteria can grow, which consume oxygen to survive. Keeping your tank clean can keep these bad guys out.

Good Lighting For Live Plants – Besides air entering your water by movement or surface agitation, live plants are the second-best way to get oxygen into your tank. Plants require the right type of lighting to produce oxygen, so listen to the expert you buy them from or do your research to make sure you have the right type of lighting to keep your plants healthy.

Chemical Use – Sometimes chemicals are used for sick fish, just make sure if you use one of these chemicals that it isn’t going to deplete the oxygen level of your tank.

Can I Use A Bubbler In A Saltwater Tank?

Most saltwater aquarium keepers don’t like to use air bubblers but you can still use them.

The problem lies with the salt in the water…

When the bubbles rise to the surface of the water, they pop and splash salt which leaves salt spots that can leave an ugly appearance, taking away from the aesthetic quality of your aquarium.

Hey! We want our aquariums to be beautiful since their main purpose is supposed to be relaxing to look at right?!

Sometimes the water can end up on the sides of the aquarium and even on the aquarium stand.

Bubbler Alternatives

I think we have convinced you how important oxygen is for your fish but there are other gadgets besides a bubbler to make sure your fish are getting enough oxygen.

  • HOB filters
  • Powerheads
  • Wavemakers
  • Spray bars
  • Live plants

How Do You Know IF Your Fish Tank Has Enough Oxygen

The best and easiest way is to purchase oxygen test strips or a test kit.

Don’t Overdo It!

Too much oxygen can kill your fish.

Just get the test strips or kit.

Too many bubbles don’t mean there is too much oxygen.

These extra bubbles could be from algae, your equipment, or a freshwater change.


You don’t have to have a bubbler but they can make sure you have oxygen spread throughout your tank without any dead spots.


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