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Do you need an air stone in your fish tank?

So do you actually need a bubbler in your aquarium? The answer depends on how your fish tank is set up and how pretty you want to make it look.

Benefits of having an aquarium bubbler

The main benefit of a bubbler is that it will help oxygenate the water column in your tank. A vast majority of the oxygen does not occur at where the bubbles are coming out, however. Instead, your tank water will get more oxygen through the gas exchange that occurs at top of the water column due to the increased surface agitation.

Furthermore, the surface agitation will also prevent an oil/protein film from building up on the top layer of the water column. Oils and proteins can get into your aquarium from fish food, fish wastes, plant wastes and even your hands. If left undisturbed, the film can get thick enough that it could prevent oxygen from getting into your tank water and potentially choking your fish and plants.

The other major positive is that a bubbler will also help water movement in your aquarium. The added current will help prevent any dead spots in your tank, which could cause water quality issues such as ammonia, nitrite and nitrate build up.

Alternatives for fish tank bubblers

Finally, bubblers (especially the more creative ones) add to the aesthetics in your aquarium.

While bubblers are effective, there are more efficient products on the market. In terms of oxygenating and eliminating oil film in your tank water, the outtake of your hang-on-back, power, sponge and canister filters should provide more than enough surface agitation. Not to mention that, if you already have live plants in your tank, then you should have plenty of oxygen available.

If you want more water movement in your tank, then a power head pump or wave maker will do a better job than a bubbler.

So, although a bubbler have some benefits, you can get these benefits more efficiently from other products.

Big bubbles or small bubbles?

An aquarium bubbler can produce big or small bubbles. So which of these are better? If you are looking to increase the oxygen intake of your tank water, then we recommend getting an air stone that produces small bubbles. This is because the micro bubbles provide a lot of surface area (as a whole when compared to the output of a few bigger bubbles) that will help agitate the water surface when they burst.

If you want better water movement, then we recommend getting a bubbler capable of producing bigger bubbles. This is because the a bubble will have to use a lot of air pressure to produce big bubbles. The increased air pressure will lead to more current as a result.

What are the different types of aquarium bubblers?

There are many types of aquarium bubblers as they come in many shapes and sizes. Some of these either come with their own air pump, or come with an built-in air pump. For those that don’t, you have to purchase your own air pump (and maybe even airline tubing as well).

Standard Air Stones

The most common aquarium bubbler is the standard air stone, which comes with many shapes and sizes. They are also made of different materials such as ceramics and plastics.

Air Wands

Air wands are basically the same as air stones. The only real difference is that the wands are designed to disperse over a line, creating a pleasant looking bubbler wall. There are also flexible wands if you want to further customize how the bubbles are outputted.

Decorative Bubblers

There are also decorative bubblers. These range from products that use LED lights, have moving parts or the combinations of both. Some decorative bubblers include calm, treasure, volcano and more.

Box, Moving Bed and Sponge Filters

Certain types of filters also use air pumps. If you haven’t read  Aquarium Blueprints’ filter guide yet, here’s a quick rundown:

Box filters

Box filters uses air to run water though sponge and other filter media. We don’t really recommend this type as it can easily be clogged up if you don’t keep it clean. As a result, the amount of air bubblers dispersing can end up being heavily restricted.

Moving bed filters

Moving bed filters uses air to constantly move filter media from inside a container. In theory this will result in stronger beneficial bacteria growth as the filter media are constantly bumping into each other, killing off the weaker microorganism and leaving more room for the stronger ones more surfaces to grow on.

Sponge filters

Sponge filters use air to suck in any debris from your water. Of course, beneficial bacteria will also grow on the sponge material as well.


Bubblers aren’t particularly effective, compared to other equipment types, when it comes to improving water quality. With that said, they are aesthetically pleasing.

To get the most out of using an air pump when it comes to keeping your water pristine for your pet fish, we recommend using moving bed and/or sponge filters as both provide additional filtration to your fish tank.