Do Betta Fish Need Air Pump: Unveiling the Aquatic Secrets!

A vibrant betta fish swims in a clean and well-maintained tank.

Oxygen is necessary for all bettas to survive. But Betta owners often argue over does betta need air pump. Some betta lovers argue that it is essential. While others argue that it is not required.

Relax! if you’re feeling confused about the topic. All you need to do is keep reading to get the solution to all your problems with this curiosity!

To unveil the aquatic secrets close to this matter, we embark on a journey through the world of betta fish care, exploring their natural habitat, and the role of air pumps in maintaining their well-being.

Join us as I explore the secrets of whether betta truly needs an air pump.

Do Bettas Need Air Pump?

Betta fish do not usually require an air pump in their aquarium.

Betta fish are labyrinth breathers. It means they have a specialized organ called the labyrinth organ. That organ allows them to breathe oxygen directly from the air.

Most bettas don’t usually require air pumps in their betta tanks. In spite this, there are several circumstances where using one is beneficial.

This adaptation enables them to survive in oxygen-deprived waters.

An air pump can be used to power air stones, porous stones connected to the air pump by tubing. This helps to promote gas exchange (oxygen in, carbon dioxide out) at the water’s surface.

When air pumps are too strong then replace your air pump with one that is smaller or has adjustable air flow.

If you can, try adding an air stone to the aquarium equipment if the bubbling sounds are too loud.

Moreover, although betta fry don’t technically require air pumps, having one can definitely aid in their growth.

The pumps increase the water’s oxygen content, which is crucial for their existence.

Do Betta Fish Need a Bubbler?

As I have highlighted above, bettas are labyrinth fish. And as a result, they have an organ that has been carefully adapted to enable them to breathe air directly from the surface.

Therefore, betta fish do not necessarily require a bubbler. They can benefit from bubbler under certain circumstances.

Whether you should use a bubbler in your betta tank depends on several factors.

These factors include the size of the tank, water parameters, and the setup of the tank.

All bettas need oxygen to survive. Bettas use their gills to breathe air or to access their labyrinth organ.

The ideal dissolved oxygen levels should be between 5-7 ppm. However, your fish are at risk if the levels in the tank water fall below 3 ppm.

Benefits of using Air Pumps for Betta Fish

Air pumps are normally utilized to maintain the oxygenation of the water in an aquarium. It is essential for fish survival.

However, this does not imply that every aquarium needs an air pump. Many aquariums are capable of maintaining acceptable oxygen levels without it.

Using air pumps in a betta fish aquarium can have several benefits.  It’s important to use them judiciously to avoid creating excessive water movement. This can stress Betta fish.

Here are some potential benefits of using air pumps for Betta fish:

Creates a Water Flow:

An air pump created gentle water movement. This movement can help distribute oxygen more evenly throughout the aquarium.

This ensures that oxygen-rich water reaches all areas, including the lower levels of the tank.

Promotes Better Circulation:

Improved water circulation can help prevent the buildup of stagnant areas in the tank. This can also help to reduce the risk of localized water quality issues.

It can also help distribute heat more evenly in the tank, maintaining a stable water temperature.

Improves Water Quality:

Air pumps can promote gas exchange at the water’s surface. This helps in removing excess carbon dioxide from the water. This also aids in maintaining stable pH levels.

Better circulation can also prevent the accumulation of debris and waste in certain areas of the tank. This can make it easier for your filter to remove impurities.

Benefits of Using a Bubbler in a Betta Fish Tank

Using a bubbler (aerator) in a betta fish tank can offer several benefits when used appropriately. Here are some advantages of using a bubbler in a betta fish tank:

Oxygenates The Water:

A bubbler creates a continuous flow of bubbles. It helps in oxygenating the water.

This is particularly useful in tanks with limited surface area for gas exchange.

Oxygen-rich water is crucial for the health and well-being of betta fish. As they breathe air from the water’s surface.

Adds Movement:

The bubbles generated by the bubbler can create gentle surface agitation and movement in the water.

This movement can help prevent the formation of stagnant areas in the tank. It also helps in improving overall water quality.

Circulates The Water:

Bubblers can aid in distributing heat evenly throughout the tank. It also prevents temperature variations and ensures a stable environment for your betta.

They also help in distributing any herbs or medications evenly in the water.

Entertains Your Fish:

Betta fish are known for their curiosity and interaction with their surroundings.

Some betta fish may enjoy playing in the bubbles created by the bubbler. 

This can provide mental stimulation and entertainment for your betta.

When Should You Use Air Pumps and Bubblers?

Using air pumps and bubblers in a betta fish tank can be beneficial in various situations.

As per my opinion, I want to mention here briefly some occasions when you might consider using them:

When Your Betta is ill:

Suppose your betta is sick and experiencing respiratory issues. In that case additional oxygenation from an air pump can be helpful in maintaining their health.

When Your Filter Dies Out:

Suppose your filter stops working temporarily or needs replacement. In that case an air pump can provide aeration and maintain water quality until the filter is fixed or replaced.

When Your Betta isn’t Playful:

If your Betta appears lethargic or stressed, gentle water movement from a bubbler can provide mental inspiration and encourage activity.

If You Have a Large Tank:

Larger tanks often require additional water movement to ensure proper oxygenation and prevent stagnation. Air pumps or bubblers can help achieve this in larger setups.

The Water Gets Dirty Fast:

In tanks vulnerable to quick water quality deterioration. Hence, increased aeration can help in maintaining water clarity and quality.

If Your Betta has Tank Mates:

Suppose you keep Betta fish with other species in a community tank. In that case some tank mates may benefit from increased oxygen levels, and a bubbler can help provide that.

The Water isn’t Well-Oxygenated:

In cases water lacks sufficient oxygen in a tank. Then air pumps or bubblers can ensure a healthy oxygen level for your fish.

There are no Live Plants in the Tank:

Live and floating plants naturally oxygenate the water during photosynthesis. If your tank lacks live plants, supplemental aeration may be necessary.

Planted Tanks:

In planted aquariums, when plants consume oxygen at night during respiration. In that case aeration can help maintain oxygen levels when the lights are off.

If You’re Using Medication:

Some medications can reduce oxygen levels in the water. Using an air pump during medication treatments can help ensure your betta’s oxygen needs are met.


Some betta keepers use air pumps or bubblers as a precautionary measure.

These ensure optimal water conditions and oxygen levels, even if their betta appears healthy and active.

When using air pumps or bubblers, it’s crucial to adjust the flow rate to create gentle water movement.

And also ensure that your betta is not stressed by excessive instability.

I advise that you should always monitor your fish’s behavior. Adjust the aeration accordingly to maintain a comfortable and stress-free environment.

Your Betta Tank doesn’t Need a Bubbler and Air Pump if:

I can tell with certainty based on my own experience that you can confidently skip a bubbler and air pump in your betta tank during the following conditions:

You Have a Small Tank:

I have observed during my journey that in small Betta tanks, typically ranging from 5 to 10 gallons or less, the surface area-to-volume ratio is usually sufficient for oxygen exchange.

Small tanks often have limited space. Make it easier to maintain appropriate oxygen levels without the need for additional aeration.

Your Betta Lives Alone:

Betta fish are territorial and often prefer isolation. When kept alone in their own tank, there is usually less competition for oxygen. In this case aeration from an air pump may not be necessary.

You already have a Filter:

Suppose your betta tank is equipped with a functioning filter. It can provide adequate water movement and oxygenation by breaking the surface tension.

In such cases, the filtration’s output may be enough to maintain oxygen levels.

The Water Is Clean and Well-Oxygenated:

When a fish tank is well-maintained, and you regularly perform water changes, it can help ensure that the water remains well-oxygenated.

Proper care and water quality management can eliminate the need for additional aeration.

You can also care that some fish, like bettas, can completely destroy bubble nests by using air pumps.

The fragile nest’s structure could be damaged by the bubbles’ excessive turbulence, which could eventually lead to its collapse.

Additionally, the nest’s bubbles may be dispersed by the pump’s bubbles. It creates challenge for the male betta fish to maintain and defend it.

How to Tell if a Fish Tank Doesn’t Have Enough Oxygen?

Through first-hand experience, I have come to realize that recognizing signs of insufficient oxygen in a fish tank is fundamental for the well-being of your aquatic pets.

I am highlighting some indicators that your betta tank may not have enough oxygen:

Your Fish are Gasping at the Water’s Surface:

When your fish are seen repeatedly coming to the water’s surface, where they gulp air. It’s a clear sign that they are struggling to obtain enough oxygen from the water.

This behavior is especially noticeable in betta fish, which are labyrinth breathers.

Your Fish are Gulping Air:

Some fish may be observed actively gulping air at the surface. This behavior is a desperate attempt to acquire oxygen when the dissolved oxygen levels in the water are low.

Your Fish are Listless and Lethargic:

Fish that are not receiving sufficient oxygen may become lethargic and inactive. They may also lose their appetite and become less responsive.

Your Fish are gathered around the Bubbler:

If you already have an air pump or bubbler in your tank, and you notice that your fish meet around it.

It’s a sign that they are seeking the oxygen-rich area created by the bubbling water.

Your Fish are Dying:

In severe cases of oxygen reduction, fish can become stressed and weakened.

This situation can lead to illness and, ultimately, death if the issue is not addressed on time.


Overcrowding the betta tank with too many fish can lead to increased oxygen demand and a decrease in oxygen levels.

If you have more fish in your tank than it can support, you may notice signs of oxygen levels deficiency.

I advise the following steps to address these issues and improve oxygen levels in your fish tank:

Increase Aeration: If you don’t already have an oxygen pump or bubbler, consider adding one to improve water circulation and oxygenation.

Check Water Parameters: Ensure that temperature and pH are within the appropriate range for your fish species. Warm water holds not enough oxygen.  So maintaining a suitable water temperature with a heater is essential.

Reduce Overcrowding: Avoid overstocking your tank. Maintain a reasonable fish-to-water volume ratio to prevent excessive oxygen demand.

Perform Regular Water Changes: Regular water changes help to remove accumulated pollutants such toxic plants and replenish oxygen levels. Ensure that you use dechlorinated water at the correct temperature.

Add Live Plants: Live aquatic and floating plants can help oxygenate the water through photosynthesis. They also provide hiding spots and create a healthy environment for your fish.

Monitor and Adjust: Continuously observe your fish’s behavior and monitor water parameters to ensure that oxygen levels remain adequate. Adjust your aeration and maintenance practices accordingly.

You can help maintain a healthy and thriving aquatic environment for your fish.

So, you must recognize the signs of low oxygen and take appropriate action.

How does Oxygen Exchange Work in Water?

Oxygen exchange in water is a vital process for the survival of aquatic organisms.

It occurs through following several mechanisms:

  • Surface diffusion.
  • Photosynthesis by aquatic plants. 
  • Aeration through mechanical means. 
  • Water movement. 
  • Labyrinth breathing in some species.
  • Diffusion through gills.

These processes ensure that oxygen is made available to organisms in aquatic environments.

Moreover, some factors can influence the rate of oxygen exchange, with warm water holding less oxygen.

These are temperature, pressure, salinity, and dissolved substances.

Maintaining appropriate oxygen levels in aquatic ecosystems and aquariums is essential for supporting aquatic life.

Thorough understanding of these mechanisms and factors are necessary for effective management and saving efforts.

Difference between Filters and Air Pumps

Filters and air pumps serve different purposes in aquariums and fish tanks. Here are the key differences between filters and air pumps:



Aquarium filters are primarily used to remove physical and chemical impurities from the water in aquariums and fish tanks.

They help to maintain water clarity and quality by removing debris, uneaten food, and harmful toxins like ammonia and nitrites.


Filters operate by passing water through various filter media, which includes:

  • Mechanical filtration – removing particles
  • Biological filtration – breaking down harmful substances by beneficial bacteria 
  • Chemical filtration – removing dissolved impurities

Water Movement:

Filters create some water movement within the tank. Remember, their primary function is not to oxygenate the water.

Some filters, like sponge filters, provide gentle water movement, but this is incidental to their main purpose.


Filters contribute to oxygenation indirectly by breaking the water’s surface agitation during water movement, allowing for gas exchange.

However, their main role is not to increase oxygen levels in the aquarium.

Air Pumps:


Air pumps are designed primarily for aeration. That means increasing the oxygen levels in the water by introducing air (containing oxygen) into the aquarium.

They create air bubbles that rise to the water surface and promote oxygen exchange between the water and the air.


Air pumps work by drawing air through an intake valve and pushing it through an airline tube into the aquarium.

The air is released through an airstone or diffuser. It creates bubbles that provide oxygen to the water.

Water Movement:

Air pumps can create water movement and surface agitation as a byproduct of the bubbling action.

This can help to distribute oxygen more evenly throughout the tank and prevent the formation of stagnant areas.


The primary function of air pumps is to oxygenate the water.

They are particularly beneficial in aquariums with high oxygen demand, densely stocked tanks, or in situations where natural aeration is limited.

One of the best ways to oxygenate a betta fish tank is by using a filter to create some water movements.

What are Some Alternatives to an Air Pump?

Indeed, there are alternatives to using an air pump for oxygenation and maintaining water conditions in an aquarium or fish tank. Here are two key alternatives:

Aquatic Plants:

Live aquatic plants are excellent natural oxygenators for aquariums.

During photosynthesis, they absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen into the water.

This oxygenation process occurs when the plants are exposed to light.

Therefore, having a well-planted aquarium can help maintain oxygen levels during daylight hours.

Some aquatic plant species are particularly effective at oxygen production, such as Hornwort, Anacharis, and Vallisneria.

It’s important to balance the number of plants and add nutrients to prevent potential issues like algae overgrowth.

The balance of fish and plants in a planted aquarium will determine whether or not it needs an air pump.

During the day, plants absorb CO2 and exhale oxygen. This process reverses at night, lowering the oxygen content and raising the CO2 content of the water.

Water Changes:

Another important thing is to change water regularly for maintaining water quality and oxygen levels in an aquarium.

When you perform a water change, you replace a portion of the old water with fresh, dechlorinated water.

This not only removes accumulated pollutants but also introduces fresh oxygen into the tank.

The agitation caused by pouring in new water can also promote gas exchange at the water’s surface.

The frequency and volume of water changes depend on factors such as tank size, stocking levels, and water quality parameters.

In some cases, especially in larger tanks, additional aeration from an air pump may still be necessary. This ensures optimal oxygenation and water quality.

Final Thoughts on does Betta Fish need Air Pump

In short, betta fish usually don’t need air pumps or bubblers in their tanks. They can breathe directly from the air’s surface.

However, in certain situations, like larger tanks or when fish are unwell, air pumps can be beneficial for oxygenation.

Live plants and regular water changes are natural alternatives to maintain oxygen levels.

The key is to observe your betta’s behavior and modify the tank setup accordingly for a healthy and comfortable environment.

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