Do Goldfish Need An Air Pump?

If you’re looking after goldfish, then you may be wondering, “Do goldfish need an air pump?” If you are, then you’ve come to the right place. In this article, not only will you learn whether they need an air pump or not, but you’ll also learn what air pumps do, the signs that your goldfish are suffocating, and alternatives to air pumps as well!

What Do Air Pumps Do In Goldfish Tanks?

To know whether your goldfish needs an air pump, the first thing you’ll need to know is what exactly it is air pumps do. Here are the benefits of having an air pump in your tank.

Increase Surface Agitation

The main benefit of air pumps is that they increase the surface agitation in your tank. When this happens, carbon dioxide is removed from the tank, and more oxygen is also introduced to the tank as well.

Ensuring there is enough oxygen in the tank is essential for your goldfish, as just like us, they won’t be able to breathe without enough oxygen.

They Help To Move Water Around

Adding an air pump into the tank can also help move water in areas where it may just sit. This is going to help improve the overall oxygen levels in the tank as well as helping to balance out the temperature in the tank and increase the amount of water the filter can process.

Directly Adds More Oxygen To The Water

The bubbles from the air pump are going to directly add more oxygen into the tank. While the most essential gas exchange is going to help from the surface agitation, the added oxygen from the bubbles themselves is going to be welcomed by your goldfish.

Make The Tank Nicer

And lastly, air pumps often make the tank nicer for you and your fish (when they’re not too powerful). Adding an air pump to your tank is going to help keep your fish from being bored, and a lot of people like the way their tank looks with an air pump in it.

(Did you know guppies might need air pumps too?)

Do Goldfish Need An Air Pump?

In most cases, it’s not necessary to add an air pump to your goldfish’s tank. However, there’s also not harm to adding an air pump either. If you’re worried that there’s not enough oxygen in the tank, or if you just want an air pump, then by all means buy one.

However, just remember that in most cases they aren’t an absolute necessity for survival. When considering whether your should add an air pump to the tank there are a few things you’ll need to take into consideration. Some of these include how many fish you’re keeping in a tank, how big the tank is, whether there are other methods of oxygenation and whether you’re using a filter.

What Are The Signs That Your Goldfish Isn’t Getting Enough Oxygen?

Fortunately, there are going to be a lot of signs that your goldfish isn’t getting enough oxygen. And if you’re paying attention, you’ll be able to spot them early and save your fish!

Here are some of the most common signs that you’ll need to look for:


One sign that your goldfish isn’t getting enough oxygen is lethargy. When they don’t have enough oxygen circulating inside their bodies they’re going to become tired and lose energy.

However, there are also a lot of other reasons that your goldfish may be acting lethargic, including water that’s too cold, sickness, and poor diet. So just because you notice that your goldfish is lethargic, it does’t necessarily mean that they’re not getting enough oxygen.

They’ll Stay At The Top Of The Tank

The water at the top of the tank is going to contain more oxygen than the water at the bottom. If you notice that your goldfish are always at the top of the tank, especially when they’re gasping for breath, then that’s a very good sign that they aren’t getting enough oxygen. (However, if you notice they seem to be floating at the top without being able to swim freely, then they may be suffering from swim bladder disease.)

betta care facebook group

Their Breathing Will Be Laboured

You may also notice that their breathing is a lot more labored. Their gills may be moving faster than normal, as well as sticking out more to try and take in as much oxygen as possible.

However, once again, this can also be a sign of other things such as disease (especially parasites), so make sure you’re looking for other symptoms to get the best idea of what’s causing it.

The Surface Of The Water Is Still

The surface of the water should constantly be agitated to make sure oxygen is entering the tank and carbon dioxide is leaving it. If the surface of the tank never seems to be moving, then the chances are, there’s not going to be enough gas exchange.

The Water Temperature Is Too High

Goldfish like much cooler temperatures when compared to tropical fish. But the cool water isn’t just to keep their bodies at the right temperature. The lower the water temperature, the more oxygen there’s going to be in it.

So keeping the water temperature low is also essential for increasing the amount of oxygen in the tank for your goldfish.

(Find out whether you should use a heater for your goldfish tank.)

They Hover Around The Pump

If you have an air pump already, you may notice that your goldfish stay near it, trying to catch the bubbles as they rise. This is another sign that your tank isn’t getting enough oxygen. If this is the case, then you may need to change the settings on the pump or add another pump.

The Tank Is Small

And lastly, the smaller the tank is, the less oxygen there’s going to be in the water. This is especially true if your tank is narrow. When the tank is narrow or small, then the surface area of the tank isn’t going to be nearly as large as a bigger tank.

With less surface area, there’s going to be less surface agitation which means less gas exchange and less oxygen. Which is just another one of the many reasons you need to make sure you’re keeping your goldfish in a big enough tank.

What Are The Downsides Of Using An Air Pump

Now you know the positives of using an air pump, as well as what they’re used for, you may be thinking about going out and getting one right away. However, before you do that, you should be aware that there are also a couple of downsides.

Weak Fish May Have Trouble Swimming

If you have weak fish in your tank or fish that aren’t fully grown, then the air pump may push them around the tank and stop them from swimming properly. This is going to stress them out, and the constant struggle to swim will also weaken them and their immune system.

So if you have other fish in your tank that is small, you should rethink whether it’s a good idea to get an air pump. And if you do get one, try to get one that isn’t overly powerful or one that is adjustable.

They’re Noisy

Just like a filter makes noise, air pumps also make noise. And sometimes, the amount of noise they create isn’t worth the small benefit that offers most tanks. If you need an air pump, then definitely get one; however, if you’re goldfish are doing fine without one, then this is definitely a problem with air pumps that you need to consider.

They Remove co2

If you’re adding co2 to your tanks for your plants, then you may want to reconsider adding an air pump. If the gas exchange is too high in your tank, then too much co2 may be lost from your tank. And, of course, plants need that co2 in order to grow.

If you notice that after adding an air pump, your plants aren’t growing healthily, then you may need to remove the air pump.

Are There Other Ways To Oxygenate Your Tank?

Fortunately, there are a couple more ways you can oxygenate your tank, so air pumps aren’t always essential. In fact, in a lot of cases, these methods will work just fine.

Here are the other ways you can oxygenate your tank.


One of the best ways to get more oxygen into your tank is by adding lots of live plants. Not only are they going to add more oxygen to the tank, but they also use up carbon dioxide in the tank, so it’s a win-win situation.

And they’re not just going to remove co2 either. They also need ammonia and nitrate to grow as well, which is another great reason to add them to the tank.

If you’re just getting started then you may be wondering what plants to add to your tank. Java fern, java moss, and anubias are some great choices for beginners, and they’re going to look fantastic in any light.

Fortunately, they don’t require much care either, so you can leave them in the tank and just forget about them. However, other live plants are going to require more care, which is something you’ll need to take into consideration when choosing.


The filter itself is also going to improve the aeration in the tank, and in some cases, this alone is enough. As long as the water coming out of the current is strong enough, then it’s going to agitate the surface of the tank constantly, helping the gas exchange.

However, if the current becomes too strong, it could push smaller or weaker fish around the tank. So make sure that you’re not making it overly powerful, just to aerate the tank. It may be better to invest in an air pump instead if it’s needed.

(Here’s what you need to know about getting a filter for your goldfish.)

Live Plants

Lastly, you can also add live plants to your tank. As previously mentioned, they’re great because they need carbon dioxide to survive, and they replace it with oxygen. Not only do they do this, but they also make the tank feel much more natural for your fish and give them lots of places to hide.

The only downside of plants is that they are going to require some level of care. Fortunately, the level of care depends on your choice. If you want low-maintenance plants that only need pruning and can survive in most conditions, you can definitely find some (like java moss).

However, as you become more and more interested, you may notice that other plants are much more hard work and require more of your time. So you’ll need to take this into consideration before purchasing.


Now you know that in most cases, your goldfish isn’t necessarily going to need an air pump; however, they’re also not going to cause any harm if you add them to your tank.

Besides adding air pumps, you can also use the filter to add oxygen to your tank or add live plants.

About the author

Hey there! I'm Antonio, the passionate owner and chief editor of Betta Care Fish Guide. With over half a decade of hands-on experience, I've become your go-to expert for all things betta and tropical fish.

Over the past 5 years, I've not only kept bettas and other tropical fish but also connected with a diverse network of hobbyists, seasoned fishkeepers, and even veterinarians.

Now, I want to help other beginner fish keepers who had the same questions as me when they were just starting out! So they can save themselves a ton of time and keep their fish happy and healthy!