Aquarium Air Pump Setup

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Why do you need an aquarium air pump for your aquarium(s)?  You don’t unless you have a piece of equipment that requires air to work.  Basic equipment needed was covered in a previous post of mine called Aquarium Equipment- The Basics. Any water movement will add oxygen into your water column.  I will venture to say most people are like me, air bubbles floating up through the water column has a calming effect.  Air pumps can be a simple aeration in one aquarium or provide air for multiple aquariums.

Aquarium air pumps provide the oxygen needed for fish, not the extent that humans need, but it’s still needed for most fish.  Ways to get oxygen into the water column is with bubblers, water agitators, sponge filters, hang on back filters, etc… any form of water agitation will add oxygen.  The two in that list that require air pumps to function are bubblers and sponge filters.  Sponge filters are my choice for the fish room; the reason cost, by far the cheapest way to filter multiple aquariums.  Most are visible and can be unsightly, but they are effective, only requiring air to operate.

Air Pump Size Considerations

The type or size of the aquarium air pump needed will depend on multiple factors.  What are you providing air to will be the main consideration, is it just an air stone?  Then a small air pump is all that’s needed.  Are you wanting to supply multiple aquariums?  Then a larger industrial air pump will be needed to support multiple aquariums.

Marina Air Pump

If your lucky enough to have multiple aquariums or even a fish room,  then large volumes of air is a must.  You need to consider purchasing a larger air pump that will supply all of them.  Plumbing an air system that will support multiple aquariums is a lifesaver on your electrical bill and keeping you sane with limited cords running around the room.  Everyone has been there with a pump, filter, lighting, and heater cords running everywhere.  Talk about a fire hazard!

Minimum Air Volume

The number of valves and equipment you want to supply will determine the pump size  required to function.  More fittings you attach the larger your pump will need to be.  Equipment that needs lots of air to operate will require a larger pump; if you have efficient equipment, it will reduce the need for larger pumps.

Keep in mind how deep your tanks are, as this will decrease the number of fittings that your pump can supply air too.  A pump may pump enough air down 6 feet from the height of the pump for a few fittings.  Once you max out that pump rating, it will affect all fittings with reduced air or no air at all.  Adjustable valves allow you to flow minimum air needed for each piece of equipment, allowing more fittings on the system.

Prior to purchasing an aquarium air pump, determine how you will use it and the amount of equipment it will feed.  This will save you from having to purchase another pump later down the road.

Central Air System

The benefit of having a central air system in your fish room is only needing one pump to supply all equipment that needs air.  Let’s examine my setup to give you ideas about how to get your system up and running.

The Pump

I went with a linear Piston Air Compressor from Jehmco.com.  Pump Model is LPH45 with a rating of 47LPM at 1.5 psi, I chose this pump size after taking my room size and expected number of tanks.  Most quality pumps will list how many outlets they can supply.  When selecting your pump take into consideration when doing this how many pieces of equipment you expect to put into each tank.  A 10-gallon aquarium will need less air than a 100-gallon tank.  The size sponge filters I run I use one filter for every 20 gallons.  Determine your maximum gallons for your room this is needed in case you want to expand.  Say your room can hold a maximum of 300 gallons with your setup take 300 divided by 20, and you will need to supply 15 sponge filters.  Don’t forget about other equipment in your calculations.

Mount the air pump as close to the ceiling as possible, while allowing enough clearance for air flow around the entire pump.  This is important to allow quality circulation to keep the pump cool and supplied.

Air pump and platform
Platform and Pump

The Platform

Where and how you mount the aquarium air pump is critical to eliminate vibrations on the shelf and walls that will create annoying noises.  To help eliminate the vibration on the walls, put a rubber or noise absorbing material between metal or wood and the wall.  The shelf needs to be level for the pump to operate properly and reduce the unit from degrading faster.

For my air pump platform, I used a shelving system you can purchase at home depot, two mounting brackets that attach to the wall.  Small cantilevers that slip into the mounting brackets and a piece of ½” ply-wood.  I screwed the wood to the cantilevers so it would not vibrate off them.  

Room Supply Line

Aquarium air pump setup
Air pump setup with Supply Line

Coming off the pump is a flexible 90° elbow that comes with the pump.  Off of this I used ¾ inch breaded flexible tubing, this ran over to the wall where it’s connected into ¾” PVC.  The PVC runs around the ceiling against the walls in a complete loop.  This makes the closed loop system with the PVC making a square around the room.  The closed loop system provides a continuous amount of air need for your equipment.

Tank Air Supply Line

Self Tapping Air Valve
Self Tapping Air Valve

I of the 3/4 inch PVC I used 3/8 inch self-tapping chrome air valves.  They work amazing (purchased off of amazon), and the install was simple.  For install drill a hole into our PVC slightly smaller than your valve.  To insert the valve I put the male end that would connect to your tubing into the drill like a bit and slowly drill it into the pilot hole.  Be sure not to drill too fast as it could strip out and create air leaks. 

After completing this the only skill you need is inserting the other end onto a piece of equipment that needs air.  Adjust each valve to the desired amount of air.  I’ve found that most of my sponge filters I can close the valve down to ¾ open.  This will allow more fittings in the system and eliminate excessive flow that will disrupt splashing water. 

Additional Valves

Extra valves help reduce too much air pressure if the pump you is larger than what your setup needs and planning for expansion.  If you purchase a pump that is excessively larger compared to the amount of equipment you will want to purchase an air exhaust silencer.  Adding additional valves will allow you to bleed off most of the extra air with little noise.

Aquarium Air System and Pumps

There is no set answer to what type of setup you need; it all depends on your equipment and what you prefer.  A couple tanks will only require a single small pump, but if you are looking at supplying an entire fish room proper planning.  Having a plan or idea on number of tanks is a must, this will reduce issues in the long run.  Taking the time to plan it out will reduce the chances of wonder why that last tank doesn’t have air.

Take the time prior to purchasing an air pump to determine expansion possibilities.  If you are like me and dreamed of a fish room, then pre-plan and think about your layout and what type of equipment you will need.

I hope this was helpful and please check back later additional articles will be posted on this topic and others.  If you find errors or you think my information is inaccurate, please email me at fishkeepingblog@gmail.com  I am always open to suggestions as it allows me to continue to learn and improve my fish room. 

Keep it Fresh!        

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