Best Aquarium Air Pumps: The Ultimate Review Guide

There’s no doubt about it…

Every aquarium owner will need to buy an air pump at one point or another. They are an unavoidable piece of equipment for anyone in the fish keeping hobby.

Fortunately, aquarium air pumps have gotten significantly better over the last few years and now offer great reliability and functions.

In this guide, we dive into our top picks for the best aquarium air pump on the market as well as their respective strengths and weaknesses.

Best Aquarium Air Pump: Top Choices

Here are our choices for the best aquarium air pumps you can buy:

1. Hpumps Ultra Silent Air Pump


When it comes to air pumps, the Hpump Ultra Silent Air Pump is extremely hard to beat. It combines stable performance with great quality to form one of the best aquarium air pumps on the market. The Hpump is famous for being virtually silent, so if noise is a big factor for you, look no further. Once the tubing is attached, you can’t even hear a whisper.

In addition, the Hpumps is lightweight and efficient. It is by far the smallest unit on our list, which is a huge plus in my book. The included suction cup allows it to stick easily to the side of the tank, making placement a breeze. Overall, the Hpumps Ultra Silent air pump is a perfect portable option for those who value silence and ease of use.

Pros

  • Quietest option on the market: Tons of brands have tried to produce a “silent” aquarium air pump (looking at you Tetra Whisper). Though several have done well, nothing comes close to this Hpumps. It is completely silent.
  • Compact design: A lot of aquarium air pumps out there are bulky and difficult to place around you tank. Not the Hpumps. This air pump can be placed anywhere on the tank with the included suction cup. It only measures a few inches across, so you don’t have to worry about it being an eye sore.
  • Energy efficient: The largest version is only 3.5W, so you it definitely wont suck you wallet dry with extra energy costs.

Cons

  • Slightly lacks on power: With the complete elimination of sound comes a slight decrease in power (kind of). In my opinion, this tradeoff is completely worth it. The largest model is rated for tanks up to 40 gallons, so if your tank is getting close to the limit, you may want to purchase two.

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2. Tetra Whisper Air Pump


Next on our list of the best aquarium air pumps is the ever popular Tetra Whisper.  True to its name, the Whisper one of the quietest air pumps available for purchase. It isn’t completely silent, but it definitely gets the job done with a surprisingly little amount of noise.

One of my favorite features on the Whisper is the design. It doesn’t rattle or slide around my desk like some other air pumps, yet provides a lot of power for its size. It has quite a sleek build and doesn’t look bad at all. In addition, the pricing of the Whisper is extremely reasonable, especially for the quality.

Pros

  • Quiet: The Tetra Whisper was built with the purpose of making it as quiet as possible. Though it is slightly louder than the Hpumps, the Whisper definitely won’t be bothersome. For the increased power, you can’t really complain about the slight increase in noise.
  • Extremely price efficient: Not only is the Whisper one of the best aquarium air pumps, but it is also one of the cheapest. For the price, the Whisper is very hard to beat.
  • Effective design: The dome shape design of the Tetra Whisper supposedly reduces vibration. Based on my experience, the Whisper vibrates significantly less than air pumps of equal size. If you have any problems with vibration, try sitting your Whisper on a mouse pad.

Cons

  • Gets louder with time: There are a few reports of the Whisper having problems around the 6 month mark. Most complaints revolve around the pump getting louder over time. If this happens to you, try to tighten up the screws under the unit. This usually takes care of the problem as they just loosen over time.

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3. Fluval Q Series Air Pump

Fluval is a trusted brand in the fish keeping hobby, so it’s no doubt that their air pump is top notch as well. The Fluval Q Series comes in two versions, the Q1 (45-80 gallon) and Q2 (50-160 gallon). Compared to any other on this list, the Fluval Q’s are built for power; these things are strong.

With the increase in air pumping power comes a bit more noise. If you have a small tank or prefer a quiet air pump, this might not be the one for you. For those with larger tanks or just don’t mind the noise, it is a great, reliable option.

Pros

  • Very powerful: The Q Series by Fluval is one of the strongest air pumps on the market. If you’re after a lot of air flow, this is a great choice.
  • Adjustable flow control: We know that these pumps are powerful, but what if you don’t want all that power? The Fluval Q is fitted with an adjustable flow control to help you get the perfect flow rate for your tank.
  • 2 year warranty: If anything goes wrong with your Fluval Q within the first 2 years your are completely covered. Pretty nice, right?

Cons

  • Can be pretty loud: There were quite a few instances in which the Fluval Q operated much louder than advertised. If noise is a big issue, you might want to look into other options.

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4. ActiveAqua Air Pump

If you can’t tell by the picture, the ActiveAqua Air Pump is a serious piece of equipment. It is available in multiple sizes (up to a massive a outlet unit), so everyone is sure to find one to fit their needs. In addition, the ActiveAqua is completely adjustable in terms of air flow thanks to a convenient knob on the top of the unit.

The ActiveAqua is a large unit, so its not surprising that it delivers an impressive amount of power. The multi-outlet design allows you to place a few air tubes throughout the tank, providing a more even flow of air.

When it comes to noise, this unit seems to either be a hit or a miss. Some units are nearly silent, while others are excessively loud. It is essentially a gamble on whether or not you will get a quiet unit.

Pros

  • Multi-Outlet design: Multiple outlets allow you to place a few air stones throughout the tank. This allows you to use the air pump for multiple purposes and provide an overall more even air flow.
  • Powerful air flow: One of the more powerful air pumps on our list. It provides great flow, but can be a little noisy.
  • Adjustable air flow: The convenient knob at the top of the unit allows the use to adjust the amount of air being pumped into your tank. This is great for those who want a powerful unit, but don’t want to use 100% of the power all the time.

Cons

  • Fragile: There are several report of the ActiveAqua breaking due to minor drops. Try to be careful when handling this unit.
  • Can be noisy: Like we said before, this unit can either be a hit or miss. Some units are quiet while other are pretty loud.

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Frequently Asked Questions about Aquarium Air Pumps

If you have any questions about the best aquarium air pumps, we are here to help:

What is an aquarium air pump?

Like you have always heard, there are no silly questions! An aquarium air pump is a piece of equipment that is used to pump tiny bubbles into the water column of a fish tank. There are several benefits of using an air pump, which we will discuss below.

What are the benefits of using an air pump?

Using an air pump in your aquarium has several beneficial effects:

  • Increased dissolved oxygen concentrations: Fish breathe oxygen. That oxygen, though, is dissolved in the water and filtered out by their gills. Increasing the concentration of dissolved oxygen in your tank help promote the health of fish or anything else living in your tank.
  • Better water flow: As bubbles flow through your tank, they take water with them. This increases the flow of water throughout your tank and eliminates any dead spots.
  • Promotes growth of beneficial bacteria: As you probably know, beneficial bacteria are vital to a healthy tank. Air pumps help promote the growth of these bacteria, which keep your Nitrite and Ammonia level at safe levels.
  • Reduce algae growth: By increasing oxygen levels and increasing flow rates, air pumps help reduce the growth of algae in your tank. As someone who has battled unsightly algae before, this is a huge plus.

Do I need an air pump for my aquarium?

Air pumps are not always a necessity for your fish tank. A good filter will sometimes provide enough water circulation and aeration, making air pumps unnecessary. That being said, there are several great uses of aquarium air pumps:

  • Air pumps are a great backup to have in case of a failed filter. Though they will not technically “filter” the water, air pumps will provide enough gas exchange and circulation to keep your fish alive until you can get a new filtration system.
  • Certain decorations require an air pump to function. These decorations provide not only visual benefits, but also places for your fish to hide.
  • Some types of filters, such as sponge filters, require air pumps to function. Sponge filters are most often used with delicate fish or newborn fry.
  • Air pumps are often used to provide water circulation in parts of the tank that would otherwise be stagnant

While air pumps may not be necessary for use 24/7, every aquarium owner should have one in their box of equipment; even if it is just to keep their fish alive in case of an emergency.

What should I look for in an air pump?

Aquarium air pumps are pretty cheap and simple. There are two main things you should look for when purchasing an air pump:

  1. Noise: Personally, this is the deciding factor when I am buying an air pump. I keep my main tank in my bedroom, so my air pumps must be really quiet. After all, you can always add more than one pump if the power is lacking; you can’t get rid of that annoying buzzing that a lot of pumps make.
  2. Power: Those with larger tanks that are kept away from the main living area of the house will probably be more concerned with power. Most of the units on our “best aquarium air pump” list above are available in multiple sizes, so everyone should be able to find something adequate. Be warned, though; larger air pumps can get pretty noisy.

Final Thoughts

Choosing the best aquarium air pump really depends on your needs. If you value a quiet pump over anything else, both the Hpumps and the Tetra Whisper are great choices. If you need a powerful air pump and don’t care too much about the noise factor, you might want to go with the Fluval Q or ActiveAqua. 

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