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Best Aquarium Air Pumps

Updated on November 18, 2014

Using an Aquarium Air Pump

One of the most overlooked pieces of equipment in freshwater aquatics is the aquarium air pump. It’s a necessity but not many people do research into the right one for their tank until a humming or vibrating pump irritates them enough to pick up a new one. There are six major manufacturers in the air pump field that cater to home sized aquairums (piston pumps are generally used for ponds and 300 gallon or larger set ups) and we here at Bright Hub have reviewed them all.

JW Pet Fusion

The JW Pet Company Inc. offers a unique air pump with a patented baffle system. This system allows the aquarist to control the flow of air by turning a dial. The interior of the unit is divided into several chambers that both reduce the noise and increase the pressure of the air. By turning the dial, a different number of chambers are opened. It runs extremely quiet and the pressure is consistent. It is a solid product that does what it should without being overly fancy.

The Fusion comes in six different sizes to cover aquariums from 5 gallons all the way up to 100. Each pump comes with a 3-year limited warranty. The only drawback to this particular air pump is that it is not easy to find in local pet shops so if you need an immediate replacement this isn’t going to work. If you have a couple of days before you need the pump simply order it online from any number of retailers including Amazon.com where the largest model (the 700) runs only $21.48.

Tetra Whisper Air Pump

Tetra is probably the most common name when it comes to air pump systems. They offer consistent high quality products that operate almost silently. The unique four foot stabilization system makes the pump look like an alien landing probe or a modernist piece of art. It is this footing that makes the pump so quiet. Most pumps use a rubber base to try to keep the chassis from vibrating and making that horrible sound that most of us in the aquarium hobby are familiar with. The four feet of the tetra whisper lift the chassis up off from the ground so if it does vibrate the sound it dampened by the rubber feet.

This is my choice for best air pump and the choice of most major pet store chains as it is easy to find and almost always in stock, usually at around $42.99 for the 100 gallon model, $9.95 for the 10 gallon. The only drawback to this pump is the lack of flow control on the unit itself. A separate valve control will be required.

Penn Plax Silent and AirPod

Penn Plax offers both a Silent Air and AirPod air pump system. The AirPod is very similar in design to the Tetra Whisper with four feet that raise the main body off the ground but runs $39.99 for the 75 gallon pump. Again like the Tetra there is no way to control the airflow from the unit itself so an additional valve control system is necessary.

The Silent Air is a simple transparent blue box pump that can be placed horizontally or vertically without losing efficiency. These units are very quiet, emitting a low hum that blends easily into an ambient environment.

Penn Plax also offers battery powered back-up pumps for both the Silent Air and AirPod ($49.99). These come in handy for areas that suffer frequent power outages or for use in a salt water tank.

Rena

The Rena air pump can be used in extra deep tanks to produce continual bulling in air stones. The high powered pump is surprisingly quiet running at under 30db. It is quiet enough to be used in any room of the house, even the bedroom. Vibrations are controlled by a base filtering system that routes the sound waves into extended buffering chambers. The 10 gallon pump starts at $11.69 and the prices go up to $54.99 for the 100 gallon pump.

The Rena uses an air filtration system to clean the air before it is pumped into the aquarium. Replacement filter media is supposed to be changed every month although this is completely dependent on the interior air quality in the home.

Hydor Ario and Pico

The Hydor Ario and Pico air pumps are relative newcomers to the American market and were predominantly known for the now defunct LED lighted bubble aerator. They are still available through various online retailers but the integrity of the product is suspect (and the reason it was discontinued). The other air pumps offered by Hydor range from micro sized to ones suitable for 100 gallon tanks. They are high quality pumps that do not suffer from the poor build quality that the lighted LED versions did. The price ranges from $17.99 to $49.99 depending on size but even the smallest of these pumps comes with a regulator system that allows the adjustment of airflow making these perfect for use in smaller terrariums and betta tanks and a great value to boot.

KollerCraft TOM Stellar Air Pump

If you are looking for a no frills air pump for your initial aquarium set up that offers quality and durability then the KollerCraft TOM Stellar Air Pump is the choice for you. It doesn’t offer a regulator or fancy design just the power to feed an airstone a constant flow of fresh air in even tanks three feet deep. The high quality pump comes from a maker known for its product longevity soyou can set it and forget it for years to come. The TOM Stellar is a great deal at $21.99.

All of the air pumps on this list are good choices with the Tetra Whisper and the JW Pet Fusion being my personal favorites. The JW Pet Fusion would be the outright champion if it were more easily available on an immediate need basis. When choosing your air pump make sure that it is either easily adjustable (with your own valve kit or built into the pump) so that you can make sure you are not creating too much turbulence in your tank. Fish like a little bit of motion in the water but, unless they are mid river fish, they do not like heavy currents to swim against continually. This can tire them out and cause stress related illnesses.

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