Do Betta Fish Need A Bubbler And Air Pump?

Wondering if betta fish need a bubbler and air pump? This guide is for you!

Many new owners are at a loss on whether to install a bubbler and air pump in their betta fish tank.

Perhaps, you are in the same conundrum. After all, doesn’t your betta fish need to breathe like every other fish?

Well, the truth is that your betta fish does not need a bubbler or an air pump. And the reason for this is simple. Your betta fish is wonderfully designed to breathe air at the surface through an organ called a labyrinth.

If you are a betta fish pet parent or plan to be one soon, you should understand all the essentials of assembling a quality tank. And you’ll realize that a bubbler or an air pump is not one of them.

In this post, we detail the reasons behind this.

betta fish air pump bubbler

What Are Air Pumps and Bubblers? What Do They Do?

An air pump is a device attached to a tube passed from outside the tank to the bottom of the tank.

Air is pumped through this tube, pushing the water from the bottom of the tank, thus creating bubbles.

Often, air pumps are attached to bubblers at the bottom of the tank.

Although the action done by an air pump makes everything look cool and sophisticated, does it add any value to the ecosystem?

For starters, it does not clean the water. Instead, it just pushes the water from the bottom to the top to create bubbles.

The water is still the same, with all the dirt, chemicals, and carbon monoxide. So, for all intents and designs, air pumps are for aesthetic purposes.

They make your betta tank look cool, but nothing more!

However, as we’ll see later, you can apply air pumps under particular circumstances.

What is the Difference Between an Air Pump and an Aquarium Filter?

As we initially intimated, your betta fish does not need an air pump. Instead, this animal can fetch oxygen from the water’s surface because of that unique organ called a labyrinth.

However, an aquarium filter is an essential component of the tank.

The biggest difference between the air pump and aquarium filter is that while the air pump does not clean the water, the filter does.

The aquarium filter is fitted with several mediums- a sponge, a biological medium, and a chemical one.

Each of these mediums has a vital role in cleaning the water in the tank. For example, the sponge removes dirt, grit, and other physical debris that may compromise the water quality.

The biological medium deals with waste from your fish and other tank tenants that may threaten your pet’s health. These include ammonia, a major threat in a betta fish tank.

The chemical medium cleans toxins from chemical interactions, such as carbon monoxide.

So, as the water passes through the filter, it is actually cleaned. However, a bubbler does not have this media. As such, it cannot clean the water.

So, although the water filter and the air pump move water similarly, the filter is an essential component of the tank while the bubbler is not.

How Do Bubblers Work?

Bubblers work alongside and together with air pumps. They are made of porous lime wood or stone. Some keepers prefer to use bubblers made of specially engineered plastic or glass.

These materials are connected to the end of the air pump at the bottom of the tank.

When the air pump supplies air, the bubblers break the oxygen into tiny bubbles. These bubbles are sent to the surface.

Sometimes, these bubbles can be so intense that they destabilize the ecosystem in the tank.

However, suppose the bubbler is controlled sufficiently. In that case, the bubbles will not be too fast and will dissolve in the tank water easily.

So, bubblers break down the air the pump supplies, making it easier for oxygen to dissolve into the water.

Are Air Pumps and Bubblers Necessary for Other Fish Tanks?

Just like bubblers don’t work for betta fish tanks, they won’t work for any other. As such, they are not essential for any fish tank.

All you need is a filter that agitates the surface water hard enough. The harder this agitation takes place, the higher the exchange of gases within the tank.

However, your betta fish will not be happy if the water is agitated too much. Betta fish thrive in calm, gentle currents.

They become stressed when the currents interfere with their activities. This means that even if you’re using an air pump, use settings that create gentle stirrings of the water, not rough ones.

Do Betta Fish Need Oxygenated Water?

Like other fish, betta fish have gills that draw oxygen out of the water. The fish pushes water through the gills, and draws out oxygen as the water goes through.

However, unlike most other fish, a betta fish has a special organ called a labyrinth. This organ enables the betta to draw oxygen directly from surface air.

So, although betta fish needs oxygenated water, it can do with far less than most other fish would.

You can improve your fish’s conditions by adding plants and an excellent filter to the tank.

What is the Labyrinth Organ in Betta Fish?

Betta fish is in a group of fish known as labyrinth fish. The labyrinth fish are so called because they have the labyrinth organ.

This small structure is almost similar to the human lung, allowing these fish to access oxygen directly from surface air.

Occasionally, your betta fish go to the top of the tank and hang with the mouth touching the water’s surface.

What your fish is actually doing is drawing air from the surface and absorbing oxygen through the labyrinth.

This gives bettas the dual advantage of drawing oxygen from the water (through gills) and surface air (through the labyrinth).

When to Use a Bubbler or Air Pump on Your Betta Fish

Although betta fish don’t need air pumps, you may use this equipment in some situations. Here at a look at such situations.

For Medicine Uptake

Should your betta fish become sick, he may have to use a bubbler to uptake medicine. In addition, your vet may prescribe medication that may interfere with oxygen solubility.

In this case, your pet will not be able to get adequate amounts of oxygen in the water. Sometimes, the betta swims to the surface to get air through the labyrinth.

However, this is not always possible. Take, for instance, a case of a betta fish that suffers from swim bladder disease.

This fish cannot swim to the surface to access oxygen through the labyrinth. Therefore, the air pump and bubbler come in handy in supplying extra amounts of oxygen to the water.

For Emergencies

Most people have standby generators or power stations in their homes in case of a power blackout. In the same way, it’s a good idea to keep the air pump on standby in case the filter breaks down.

For Large Betta Tanks

Small betta tanks don’t have as much oxygen needs as larger tanks. This is because larger tanks are likely to hold more fish.

In this case, it’s advisable to have bubblers to supplement the work of water filters.

For a Warm Betta Tank

Tanks in warm waters deplete their oxygen levels pretty fast. This is because high temperatures have a way of affecting oxygen solubility in water.

If this describes your betta tank, you need an air pump to help increase the oxygen levels.

For Planted Betta Tanks

Plants use carbon dioxide during the day and release oxygen. However, this function is inverted at night, when they take up oxygen and release carbon dioxide.

As such, you need an air pump to increase the oxygen levels in your betta fish tank if it has many plants.

For a Cleaner Betta Tank

In a betta tank (and any other fish tank, for that matter), ammonia is generated when waste products are broken down.

If these waste products are not cleaned out quickly, ammonia, nitrates, and nitrites start forming.

These are hazardous to your betta’s life. Their presence in the tank indicates that your pet’s immunity has been compromised, and it’s just a matter of time before the situation turns fatal.

This situation can be salvaged in one of two ways (or both). One, you need to clean the waste before it degenerates.

Two, healthy bacteria attack the waste and prevent it from breaking into ammonia, nitrates, and nitrites.

This is where the bubbler comes in. Bubbles in a betta tank encourage the growth of healthy bacteria. These bacteria stand guard to demolish the toxins before they affect the fish.

Therefore, having bubblers ensures the tank’s continued cleanliness and general health for the sake of your betta fish.

At the same time, a bubbler produces oxygen, which healthy bacteria depend on to thrive.

For Tank Aeration

If you want your betta fish tank to be well-aerated, you may have to invest in a good-quality air pump. Aeration and oxygenation are not the same.

While oxygenation means oxygen production, aeration is the oxygen distribution in the tank.

A bubbler disperses oxygen evenly in your betta fish tank, so your pet feels safe regardless of where he is.

Installing an air pump and a bubbler makes breathing easier for your betta fish.

For a Chic Look

Earlier on, we stated that air pumps are primarily meant to give an aesthetic appeal to the tank. A good number of betta keepers install air pumps for this and for no other reason.

They enjoy looking at the walls of tiny bubbles created by the air pump. They regard this as a most welcome addition to the general look of the tank.

For Betta Happiness

In many cases, bettas only use the labyrinth organ when there’s a shortage of oxygen supply in the water.

This means that your betta fish would prefer to fulfill its oxygen needs from the water. If you can make this possible, your betta will be happier for it.

You can use an air pump and bubblers to create an extra supply of oxygen in the water for the sake of your betta’s happiness.


The truth is that an air pump and bubblers are not an absolute necessity in a betta fish tank. However, you may want to install them because of the benefits mentioned above.

And anyway, they’ll still look cool on your betta fish tank, whichever way you look at it. To cap it all, these gadgets are quite inexpensive!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How Does Oxygen Exchange Work in Water?

Oxygen exchange in water takes place through diffusion. This is the process by which molecules move from an area of higher concentration to a lower concentration through a semi-permeable membrane.

The semi-permeable membrane is the water surface area in a betta fish tank. Here, oxygen gets in as carbon dioxide comes out into the air.

How Can I Boost Oxygen Absorption in a Betta Tank?

You can boost oxygen intake in your betta tank by using filters. Filters are highly recommended because, besides increasing oxygen concentration, they clean the water of impurities and chemicals.

Also, you can boost the oxygen in the water by using an air pump and air stones. These create bubbles that increase the water’s surface area, thus expanding the room for more oxygen intake.

Another helpful trick is to plant aquatic plants. During the day, these plants use carbon dioxide in the water and release oxygen.

What Should I Do If the Air Pump is Too Strong?

Adjust the airflow using the valve or dial inbuilt into the pump. This pump will also help you to increase the flow if it is too weak.

If your pump doesn’t have that adjustable valve, add a flow control valve to the airline tubing, which you can manually manipulate to increase or decrease the flow.

Do Air Pumps Destroy Bubble Nests?

Yes, air pumps create too much turbulence that can burst the nests already built by the betta fish. In addition, the turbulence caused by the bubbles can totally wreck your plans to increase your betta colony.

Also, bubbles from the pump can dislodge and scatter the bubble nests, making it hard for the male betta to bring them together again.

Do Betta Fry Need Air Pumps?

Like their parents, betta fry has no need for air pumps. However, air pumps boost the water’s oxygen supply, which can give the fry an easier breathing time.

The little bettas will not have to keep going to the surface for a gulp of supplementary oxygen.

If you use a water pump, ensure it does not create too much turbulence. This is because the betta fry are still small and weak.

Creating strong currents will only make their lives miserable.

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