Do Betta Fish Need Air Pump?

Do Betta Fish Need Air Pump

Air pumps are very integrated with the fish keeping hobby. In fact, they are so popular that many beginner fish keepers mistake air pumps for a solid filtration system. Many betta keepers often wonder if their betta needs air pump in the tank. Shockingly, some think air pump can be an actual substitute for a filtration system. Is it really true? Do betta fish really need air pumps?

Betta fish don’t need air pump. As betta fish have a labyrinth organ, they can absorb oxygen from the air. So, there is no need for an air pump if the tank already has a good filtration system.

Even though betta fish don’t need an air pump, you still should have one in your storage. Because, air pumps have their use in special circumstances. In the rest of the article, I’ll talk about what does air pumps do, how are they different from a filter, and lastly, when do they come in handy.

So, let’s get started.

Let’s See What Other Betta Owners Think

I asked a popular betta subreddit if air pump is a must for betta tank or just filter is fine. Here’s the post’s screenshot:

Everyone remarked it’s not a must to have an air pump. I especially liked the 4th comment from user jenbobo7. He gave an excellent tip.

Just make sure the water line is about a quarter inch below the filter outflow. This will essentially create a waterfall effect, which will break the surface of the water and in result, increase oxygenation.

What Does An Air Pump Actually Do?

An air pump produces air bubbles that rise towards the surface of the water and create surface agitation. As a result of this surface agitation, oxygen from the air gets dissolved into the water. The dissolved oxygen is crucial for fish’s breathing.

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If you want to increase the amount of dissolved oxygen into the tank water, you’ll need to create surface agitation. Surface agitation actually means creating movement on the surface or disturbing the water surface.

When the water surface gets disturbed i.e. agitated, then oxygen from the air gets dissolved into the water. This is what an air pump is designed to do.

When you turn on the air pump, it sucks air from the air and pushes it towards the air tube. The air tube connects to an air stone and the air stone passes the air through bubbles.

These bubbles rise to the surface, agitates the surface and as a result, oxygen from the air gets absorbed into the water.

Why Betta Fish Doesn’t Need An Air Pump?

Betta fish have a very interesting physical characteristic. Like all other fish, they can absorb oxygen from the water through their gills and scales. However, bettas have another way to absorb oxygen from the air.

Betta fish have labyrinth organ. Thanks to this organ, they can absorb oxygen by gulping air from the water surface. You might have seen your betta suddenly rushing towards the surface of the water and returning back just after touching its mouth to the surface. It is just gulping air from the water surface to absorb oxygen.

As bettas can absorb oxygen from the air, there is actually no need for an air pump to dissolve more oxygen into the water.

Is Air Pump The Only Option To Dissolve Oxygen Into The Water?

Air pumps are definitely not the only option to increase dissolved oxygen into the water. There are many more ways you can achieve that. If you can create surface agitation in any way, the oxygen will get dissolved. It is that simple.

water fall from the HOB creating surface agitation

An excellent example can be a HOB (Hang on Back) filter. When water from the HOB filter falls on the tank, it creates a good surface agitation. As a result of this agitation, oxygen gets absorbed into the water. So, if your tank has a running HOB, there is no need for an extra Air Pump (For most fishes).

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Another way to increase the amount of dissolved oxygen is by having real plants in the tank. Under the presence of light, plants absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. This is the basic photosynthesis of plants.

As a result, more oxygen gets dissolved into the water. That’s why real plants always create a better aquatic environment for the fish.

Air Pump vs Filter

As I have mentioned earlier, many people mistake air pump for an filter. Let me clear it, filters and air pumps are definitely not the same thing. Both are completely different.

By now, you already know what does an air pump do. It pumps air into the tank which creates bubbles, the bubbles rise towards the surface and create surface agitation. As a result of this whole process, more oxygen from the air gets dissolved into the tank water.

On the other hand, filters have more complicated jobs and purposes. A proper filter (Sponge, HOB, Canister, Sump, etc.) makes the tank environment actually habitable for the animals. It cleans the water in three levels: mechanically, biologically, and chemically (not always required).

Mechanical filtration means the sponge or pad of the filter screens out all the dust particles from the water. It makes the water clearer. Biological filtration means developing a colony of beneficial bacteria so that the bacteria can deal with harmful toxins like Ammonia, Nitrite, etc.

In some cases, the filters might also perform chemical filtration if you put a bag of activated carbon inside the filter media chamber. Chemical filtration comes in handy if the tank smells bad.

So, you can see that filters have versatile and more complex jobs than a simple air pump. Some filters also provide surface agitation, thus they do the job of an air pump too! Such as HOB filter, Sponge filter, etc.

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When You Should Use An Air Pump?

Even though bettas don’t need air pump, it is a smart idea to have one near your hand. In some circumstances, an air pump can actually become very important for the betta, such as:

If the Betta Gets Sick

When a betta gets sick, it can’t move fast enough. Moreover, if the betta is suffering from swim bladder disease (very common for betta. In fact, I lost a betta to this disease), then it won’t be able to swim properly, let alone gulping air from the water surface.

Also, when you are treating betta fish with a medicine, the amount of dissolved oxygen can get reduced. Because most of the medicines reduce the dissolved oxygen level as a side effect.

In such cases, it is important to run an air pump 24×7 so that the betta doesn’t face problem breathing.

Bettas Love & Hate Air Pumps At The Same Time

This is a very interesting topic. It has been seen that betta can love and hate the air pump at the same time. Bettas love the air pump because of the bubbles it produces. They hate the air pump because of the water flow it creates.

Bettas are very playful. When an air stone constantly produces bubbles, it can intrigue them very much. Many owners have actually seen their betta playing with the bubbles.

At the same time, bettas can’t deal with the water flow that the air stone creates. Bettas like slow moving water, it gets really difficult for them to swim where there is a lot of water flow.

So, you can say, bettas love & hate the air pump at the same time.

Final Words

Even after reading the whole article, if you want to keep an air pump in your betta tank, just go ahead. It is nothing crucial. Just make sure that the air stone is not creating too much water flow. I’ll recommend choosing an air pump that lets you control the air flow.

I hope if you found this long discussion helpful. Happy Betta Keeping!

Muntaseer Rahman

About Author

Hello, I’m Muntaseer Rahman, the owner of I’m passionate about aquarium pets like shrimps, snails, crabs, and crayfish. I’ve created this website to share my expertise and help you provide better care for these amazing pets.


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