Do Betta Fish Need an Air Pump?

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The bettas in your tank, just like other living beings, require enough oxygen to survive for longer periods of time.

They even have a labyrinth organ that allows them to get oxygen from the air above the water surface. But providing enough oxygen in the water itself should be the priority of every betta tank owner.

For this reason, many owners opt to get an air pump for their betta tank. Air pumps work in such a way that they create bubbles in the water, which speeds up and enhances the oxygenation of the water.

Air pumps don’t play an aesthetic role or are meant for visual purposes, but its purpose is a much more practical one: it creates bubbles so that there is more oxygen in the water.

The general consensus seems to be that an air pump is not a necessary part of the equipment of your betta fish tank, but it is one that should certainly be considered at some point. Air pumps can increase the quality of the water, and can thus increase the quality of life of your bettas.

In this article, we will take a look at air pumps and how can they be important for your betta tank. We will also learn more about these pumps, and compare them to some other types of pumps.

How does Oxygen Exchange work in Water?

To better understand why air pumps can be beneficial, we must first take a look at how the oxygen circulates in the tank water. A good circulation of oxygen is crucial for providing a good quality of water for the bettas.

Oxygen enters the water through the water surface, which is where the betta will get most of its oxygen from. You might even see bettas jump out of the water in their quest to get more oxygen from the air if it is insufficient in the water. The larger or the wider the surface of the water is, the more it is exposed to oxygen. But that doesn’t mean that all the water gets oxygen.

Even if the large surface is exposed to oxygen, there might still be a bad circulation of air. That happens with stagnant ponds and lakes, where the bottom of the lake rarely gets an intake of new oxygen. With quick streams and rivers, on the other hand, oxygenation is much better as the surface rocks up and down and more water gets the oxygen due to the splashes.

That is roughly what air pumps do.

What is an Air Pump used for?

The main purpose of the air pump is to move the oxygenated water from the top of the tank towards the bottom of the tank. The air moves the water from the surface towards the bottom, allowing more water to get oxygenated. That allows for better water movement from top to bottom, which also allows better circulation of oxygen.

But it is not the bubbles that we see that create the oxygen for the water, but rather, the movement of the water from the surface towards the bottom. That movement allows more water to get oxygen, even the bottom-most parts of the tank. So the air pump plays a very practical role in the fish tank, as opposed to a belief that the air pump is there for visual reasons only.

Air Pump vs. Aquarium Pump – What is the Difference?

Many people mistake air pumps for aquarium pumps, or water pumps. The main difference between the two is that air pumps generate air and use air to move the water from the surface towards the bottom, while the aquarium pumps move the water from the filter into the tank.

Aquarium pumps might be submersible or in line with the water levels. Air pumps, on the other hand, create bubbles in the tank, and allow for much better oxygenation of the water.

Do Bettas Actually Need an Air Pump?

While a betta tank can work perfectly fine even without an air pump, it is not a bad idea to include the pump in some cases, especially if the oxygenation is very bad and the oxygen levels are too low.

But many owners still choose to buy the air pump, as it is not a very expensive piece of equipment, and is very effective for providing a better quality of water. The choice is of each individual owner, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to have a good air pump in the tank.

In some emergency cases, air pumps are even required to provide a better quality of water. We will discuss these cases now.

When Should You Use an Air Pump?

In some cases, air pumps are not only desired but almost necessary, and they can improve the quality of the water significantly.

Namely, air pumps are very important for precaution. In order to make sure that your betta is getting enough oxygen, you can always get an air pump to provide better oxygenation, and it doesn’t cost that much. Or maybe there is a power cut in your area, the filter won’t work, but the air pump will.

If you are using medications, air pumps should be considered. That is because some medications take away the oxygen from the water, and deteriorate the quality of the water. When the fish is sick an air pump can help.

Air pumps are also very good for warm areas, especially in the summer, when the oxygen levels get eradicated. Air pumps would encourage evaporation, which would increase the oxygen levels. Also, air pumps are good for lower water temperatures.

Can Betta Fish Live Without Air Pump?

Yes, betta fish can live without an air pump in your aquarium. However, it is not recommended because it can cause stress to the fish. An air pump is used for the aeration of water and to produce bubbles that will enhance the beauty of an aquarium.

It also helps circulate the water in order to maintain a healthy environment for fish and plants. Betta fish are known as air breathers so they can survive in water with low oxygen levels, however, I would not recommend trying this out.

You can still keep your betta fish alive without an air pump but you have to agitate the water from time to time by doing water changes, so the water gets well-oxygenated. You can also add live plants, that will produce oxygen naturally.

Using Aquatic Plants to Produce Oxygen

Of course, you should also not neglect the importance of using live plants for producing oxygen. These plants can massively increase the quality of the water, but they can also improve the look of the tank, and give your fish a place to hide.

Aquatic plants use CO2 to photosynthesize and produce oxygen during this process, which gets dissolved in the water. Using plants such as anubias, hornwort, elodea, java fern or other easy-to-grow plants, can help a lot with keeping the oxygen level elevated in your betta fish tank.


Air pumps are often neglected by betta tank owners, but they can be a very important piece of the tank. They are not a necessary piece of equipment, but one that every tank owner should consider.

Author Image Fabian
I’m Fabian, aquarium fish breeder and founder of this website. I’ve been keeping fish, since I was a kid. On this blog, I share a lot of information about the aquarium hobby and various fish species that I like. Please leave a comment if you have any question.
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