Do Bettas Need Air Pumps? (& When They’re Important)

Betta ebook-ban

Last Updated on 2023-12-31

Air pumps or air bubblers are a piece of equipment that many tanks have. However, a betta tank isn’t like other tanks, and you may be wondering “Do bettas need air pumps?”

Keep reading to have all your questions answered!

Do Bettas Need Air Pumps?

You may have been told many times that air pumps are great for your fish.

Bettas don’t need air pumps. They have a labyrinth organ which allow them to breathe from the surface of the tank. However, keeping the tank well oxygenated is still beneficial, when a filter won’t aerate the tank enough an air pump is a great choice!

What Do Air Pumps Do?

The main reason people have air pumps in their tanks isn’t for aesthetic purposes! In fact, air pumps are used to oxygenate the water. It does this by moving oxygenated water to the bottom of the tank, and pushing water from the bottom of the tank (which normally contains carbon dioxide) back to the top, oxygenating it!

However, don’t be mistaken. The bubbles passing through the water aren’t what oxygenate it. In fact, it’s the surface movement caused by the bubbles! When there’s a lot of surface movement, the gas exchange between your tank water and the air increases, causing your bettas water to become more oxygenated!

What’s The Difference Between An Aquarium Filter And An Air Pump?

You may notice that your filter agitates the water surface of your tank. But is there any difference?

Well, the biggest one is that your air bubbler isn’t going to clean your tank. When water goes through your filter, it passes through many different media including sponge, biological and chemical. Once it passes through all of these media (and in many cases more) it is clean again.

However, an air pump doesn’t have these media. Even though it’s moving water in the same way as a filter, it’s definitely not cleaning it! While your tank can do just fine without a bubbler, it certainly can’t without a filter.

Are Air Pumps Necessary For Betta Tanks?

Air pumps aren’t essential for betta tanks, and in general aren’t essential for any tank. If your filter is agitating the surface of the water enough, then that’s going to be enough for a high rate of gas exchange to occur.

On top of this, if your bettas water is shifting and moving too much, then they’re going to become stressed and agitated. So if you do plan on using an air pump, then you should go for one that is more gentle.

The main reason air pumps aren’t necessary for betta tanks is because of a bettas labyrinth organ. The labyrinth organ means that bettas don’t have to breathe through gills. Instead, they can go to the surface of the water to breathe oxygen as well.

However, there are times when an air pump can be beneficial.

(Have you ever wondered how long your betta can live for?)

When Should You Use An Air Pump

If your housing your betta with other fish or even by themselves, there are times when you should use an air pump for the safety of all your fish.

If You’re Using Medication

If your betta is sick and you’re using medication then you should use an air pump. A lot of medications remove oxygen from the tank as a side effect. So without an air pump, your betta will begin to suffocate.

And you’re probably thinking that if he has a labyrinth organ why does it matter?

In some cases, such as with swim bladder disease, your betta may not be able to swim to the surface of the water. So an air pump is essential.

As A Precaution

Another reason to get an air pump is as a precaution. If there’s a power cut in your area or your filter stops working then the water in your tank won’t be aerated. Buying a battery powered air pump will fix this problem. While you’ll still have to perform water changes more regularly until your filter is fixed, at least you won’t have to worry about your betta suffocating!

Do Bettas Like Air Pumps?

You don’t really need an air pump, but what does your betta think?

Just because they’re not necessary doesn’t mean your betta won’t like them. For example, a lot of bettas like to play with the bubbles that come out of an air pump. This form of entertainment will stop them being bored and can be used as a great toy.

However, on the other hand, bettas don’t like strong moving water. So if your air pump is disturbing the water too much it’s going to stress him out.

Want to know how to take care of betta fish but don’t know where to start? Click here to read a comprehensive article on betta fish care! 

Do Betta Fish Like Bubbles?

While it’s impossible to know exactly what a betta fish is thinking, there are some behaviors that can give us clues about what they like and don’t like. For example, many bettas seem to enjoy swimming through bubbles. This behavior could be due to the fact that bubbles provide a stimulating aquatic environment for bettas to explore.


Here are some frequently asked questions people have about whether their betta needs an air pump.

How Does Oxygen Exchange Work In Water?

In a Betta tank, the oxygen exchange goes down through diffusion – oxygen moves from the air to the water surface, and carbon dioxide goes the other way. You can boost the oxygen in the water by using filters or air stones to increase the water’s surface area, or by having live plants that do photosynthesis. If you need to, you can also add an air pump or other oxygenating equipment.

What To Do When Your Air Pump Is Too Strong

If your fish tank’s air pump is too strong, you can tweak the air flow using the pump’s adjustable valve or dial, or add a flow control valve to the airline tubing to manually adjust the airflow. Also, throwing in a diffuser in the tank can tone down the bubbles in the water. These tricks can help you keep your aquarium in good shape.

Can You Use Live Plants Instead?

Live plants and air pumps do different things in an aquarium and you can’t just swap them out. Live plants give off oxygen during photosynthesis, but they don’t give enough for a packed or warm tank. Air pumps create bubbles on the surface which helps dissolve oxygen in the water. So, it’s best to use both live plants and an air pump in your tank.

What’s The Difference Between An Air Pump And Aquarium Pump?

An air pump adds bubbles diirectly to a tank. In contrast, water pumps aerate a tank by increasing surface agitation. The current created by water pumps permits air to enter the water at the surface of a tank faster than if the water were moving more slowly.

Do Air Pumps Destroy Bubble Nests?

Air pumps can totally wreck bubble nests made by some fish, like bettas. The bubbles cause too much turbulence and can ruin the nest’s fragile structure, causing it to fall apart. Plus, the bubbles from the pump can scatter the nest’s bubbles, which makes it hard for the male fish to keep it together and protect it.

Do Betta Fry Need Air Pumps?

Betta fry don’t really need air pumps, but having one can totally help them grow better. The pumps add more oxygen to the water which is super important for their survival. Just be careful not to use too strong of a pump, as it can actually hurt the delicate little guys. 

So Do Bettas Need Air Pumps?

There are a lot of great reasons for getting an air pump. You can use them in an emergency, for your quarantine tank and to keep your betta entertained! But even with all these reasons, it’s still not a piece of equipment your tank can’t go without.

Personally, I’d buy an air pump just because they’re so cheap, and if your betta doesn’t like it, at least you can use it in your quarantine tank.

But the choice is up to you, and with or without one your betta is going to be just fine!

Here’s a video discussing whether bettas need air pumps.

If you’re not sure about other equipment your betta needs then check out some of these articles:

  • Should You Keep Betta Lights On At Night? – Find out when you should buy a light for your betta, and if it’s necessary to keep it on all the time. You’ll learn about bettas circadian rhythm as well as the side effects of too much light and not enough!
  • Do Bettas Need A Heater? – You may have heard that betta fish don’t need a heater. Find out the dangerous consequences of not heating your bettas tank adequately, and what to do if your heater breaks!
  • What’s The Best Substrate For Bettas? – There are so many different substrates to choose from. It can be easy to grab the first one you see in the shop or maybe to pick stones up from the beach. If you’re thinking about doing this then you need to read this article to find out what the best substrate for bettas is!
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