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Even though fish live in the water, it doesn’t mean that they don’t need oxygen in order to breathe. This is why you may need a pump for your aquarium. But, you also need to make sure that you have the right pump for the tank you are using.

Pumps are made for different sized tanks, and if you have a large aquarium, a pump for a 20-gallon tank isn’t going to do a whole lot of good.

Or, maybe you need something to use while transporting fish.

We are going to take a look at a few of the best aquarium pumps for various sized aquariums and uses, so you can get an idea of what you need to look for.

Further Reading: Learn How to Select, Use, Install & Fix a Fish Tank Air Pump.

Our Picks For The Quietest & Best Aquarium Air Pump 

Prices and images pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:

5 Aquarium Pumps Reviewed

The purpose of this article is to give you some general information about various aquarium pumps, so you can be sure that you get the right pump for your needs. We are discussing aquarium pumps, travel aerators, and even pumps that are ideal for keeping fresh bait alive.

1. Tetra Whisper

Tetra 77848 Whisper Air Pump 20 to 40 Gallons, for Aquariums, Quiet, Powerful Airflow

Get The Tetra Whisper

The Tetra Whisper has a unique dome shape that along with sound dampening chambers makes it very quiet. It is powerful and reliable, and you never have to worry about it overheating and shutting itself off. It will help to create an environment for your fish that is clean and clear, so your aquarium will always look great, and your fish will be healthy and happy.

The Tetra Whisper is ideal for use with 10-gallon aquariums. The Whisper pump is reliable and ensures that your fish will get the proper amount of oxygen. It’s efficient and easy to use, and unlike other aquarium pumps, this one is actually relatively quiet. The overall design helps to eliminate any external noises.

Pros

  • Powerful enough to aerate a 10-gallon aquarium
  • The design makes it quieter than other pumps
  • Reliable and will not shut down

Cons

  • Screws may come loose and cause noise
  • Some units stop working after a few months
  • Not as quiet as manufacturer claims

Summary

If you are looking for a good quality pump for a smaller aquarium that isn’t going to cost a lot of money, the Whisper is a great option. Costing less than $10, it is perfect for a 10 gallon or smaller tank, and it is going to provide your fish with the oxygen they need.

If you need a pump for a 5-gallon tank or less check out this post.

2. Marina Battery-Operated Air Pump

The Marina is a portable aerator for fish that are in transit. But, it can also be used as a backup pump if yours should stop working until you can get another traditional pump. Because it is battery operated, this is the ideal aerator to use if there are power outages. It is equipped with an air stone and 18 inches of tubing.

The Marina is the ideal pump for fish in transit. If you need to move your tank from one home to another, this is the gear you need to have. It is portable, and as well as being great for transit, it also makes a great backup pump if your regular one should conk out on you.

Pros

  • Ideal as a backup aerator in power outages
  • Works with D size batteries
  • Comes with an air stone and tubing

Cons

  • Poor construction quality
  • Some units stop working after just a few uses
  • Will often make noise without pumping air

Summary

If you have an aquarium of any size, it is always a good idea to have a backup pump that runs on batteries in case of a power outage. The Marina is just what you need, and it will work until the power comes back on, as long as you have D cell batteries.

3. Sun YT-304

SUN YT-304 18 LPM Aquarium Air Pump with 4 Outlets, 8.5W, 120 Gallon

Get The Sun YT-304

If you are looking for a reliable pump for your aquarium that also isn’t going to cost a lot, the Sun YT-304 is a good option to consider. It is efficient, pumping 18 liters per minute, and it is very easy to use. Simply hook it up, plug it in, and it’s ready to start giving your fish the oxygen they need to survive. It is meant for aquariums ranging from 60 to 120 gallons.

The Sun YT-304 has a feature not found in many other pumps: specially designed rubber feet that keep it from traveling. These feet also help to ensure a steady air flow output and pressure, which can be easily adjusted. This unit is low in power consumption, and it pumps 18 liters per minute, so it is powerful enough for tanks as large as 120 gallons.

Pros

  • Tends to be quieter than other pumps
  • Easy to use, pressure can be adjusted freely
  • Low energy consumption

Cons

  • Some reports of weak output
  • Doesn’t seem to work for more than a few months
  • Makes more noise than manufacturer claims

Summary

For a tank that is 60 to 120 gallons in size, you need a pump that is going to work hard. This pump from Sun is ideal for larger tanks, providing plenty of aeration to fish, plants, and other creatures living in your tank.

4. Quiet Bubbles

135317 Marine Metal 2WY Bubbl Quiet 12 Vdc/110V 2 D Batt 52HRs B17

Get The Quiet Bubbles

The Quiet Bubbles air pump is perfect for smaller tanks (less than 10 gallons), including tanks for keeping live bait fresh. It is also good to use as a backup for your aquarium if there happens to be a short power outage. It has a stainless steel clip to attach it to tanks, buckets, etc.

The Quiet Bubbles aquarium pump can turn any tank, bucket, or other container into a portable live well. It operates on D cell batteries, and it is portable and lightweight. This is ideal for anyone who uses live bait, and it will aerate up to 8 gallons of water, so it is meant for smaller tanks.

Pros

  • The dry box keeps pump dry while in use
  • Perfect for keeping bait alive
  • Individually tested for quality control

Cons

  • Batteries not included
  • Flimsy construction
  • Instructions difficult to understand

Summary

While this is not a pump that should be used regularly for aquariums, it is ideal for transporting fish, and for use with live bait. It can be attached to buckets or other containers, and it is easy to use. It will pump 1.4 STL per minute and has a space-saving design.

5. Mylivell Quietest

Mylivell Quietest Aquarium Air Pump Ultra Silent High Energy Saving Oxygen Air Pump Aquarium for Fish Tank with Air Stone and Silicone Tube Black

Get The Mylivell Quietest

The Mylivell Quietest pump offers stable performance, and is ideal for small tanks, providing just the right amount of oxygen. It has a practical design, with a suction cup that will hold it in place while it is running so it doesn’t travel.

If you are looking for a powerful aquarium pump that is super-silent with no motor or other mechanisms, check out the Mylivell Quietest. This pump will help to add plenty of oxygen to aquariums up to 13 gallons, and it has a long service life. It spreads bubbles at just the right pace, and is ideal for bettas and shrimp.

Pros

  • Very quiet unit
  • Provides oxygen for tanks up to 13 gallons
  • Low power consumption

Cons

  • Not submergible
  • Problems with tubing and air stone
  • Louder than manufacturer claims

Summary

If you have a small aquarium and want a quiet pump, the Mylivell Quietest is a great option. It provides plenty of aeration for smaller tanks, and it won’t move around, thanks to the suction cup that holds it in place.

What Does an Air Pump Do in Your Aquarium?

The pump is used to provide oxygen from the atmosphere into the water by disturbing the surface of the water as well as keeping the water circulating.

This water movement helps with the oxygenation of the water and gas exchange at the surface.

Good oxygen circulation is not only beneficial to the fish; it also helps the aquarium bacteria necessary for water filtration to survive.

An air pump will cause the water to circulate so it won’t become stagnant, as well as provide air bubbles and oxygen that your fish and beneficial bacteria need to breathe in to survive.

It does this in two ways;
  1. Increase surface area
  2. Improve circulation

How Does a Fish Tank Air Pump Work?

Aquarium Air Pump Bubbles

Photo Credit: Martin Fisch

The air pump works in the two following ways.

Increased surface area:

Air pumps work by agitating the surface water, which increases the surface area of the water allowing oxygen to enter the water by way of gas exchange.

When the air pump creates bubbles, it increases the surface area of the water, allowing your tank to release more carbon dioxide and take in more oxygen.

Water circulation:

An air pump also improves circulation by moving oxygenated water from the surface to the bottom of the tank.

This allows carbon dioxide containing water at the bottom of the tank to move up to the surface where it can release the carbon dioxide and take in oxygen.

Most Common Types of Fish Tank Air pumps

General Purpose

Used mostly for decorative purposes such as ornaments and small sponge filters.

High Output Air Pumps

It would be used for very large aquariums that are odd shapes or deep.

Additionally, you would use a high output air pump if you intend to have multiple outputs to multiple devices or aquariums by way of gang valves or connectors.

Battery Powered

As it would sound, it’s just an air pump that is powered by a battery. You would use these if traveling in case of power failure or transporting fish.

What size Air Pump Do I need? How to Select the Right Size of Air Pump for Your Aquarium.

Planted Aquarium Air Pump Bubbles

Photo Credit: threephin

When choosing the right air pump for your tank, you need to keep in mind that all air pumps are rated for different sizes of tanks and should be visible on the packaging.

However, keep in mind that this rating is for standard tank sizes, and if you have a tall, long, or hexagon tank, you may need to dig a little deeper.

That said, here are a few things to consider when selecting the right size of an air pump for your aquarium.

  • Do you have a deep tank, something deeper than 18” you may need a stronger pump?
  • Do you want to run multiple ornaments of one pump?
  • Are you using a filter or protein skimmer that requires an air pump?
  • The type of air stone you are using may have too much resistance
  • If you split the tubing into multiple lines

Choosing the Right Air Pump

While there is no rule when choosing an air pump, it’s always best to pick a slightly larger pump than you think you need.

By selecting a larger air pump, you allow room to expand if needed, and you’ll be sure you have enough pressure to work any equipment or decorations.

For example, check out this post on selecting an air pump for a 5-gallon tank.

Final Thoughts

These are just a few of the best aquarium pumps that you can get for smaller tanks, as well as for transporting fish from one location to another.

Our top pick will have to be the Tetra Whisper. The price-value ratio you will get from this pump makes this one of the best. It is quieter than most pumps in a similar price range and doesn’t require much maintenance so you won’t need to keep replacing the pump.