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Quietest and Best Aquarium Air Pumps: Buying Guide and 5 Reviews

Aquarium air pumps are used to keep water circulating through your aquarium, preventing stagnation and helping oxygenate the water to help your fish breathe.

They are also used in some simpler, yet still effective models of water filter.

It’s one of the more expensive and important items you’ll buy for your aquarium but choosing the right one is often a difficult decision, especially for people new to the world of fish keeping.

That’s why we’ve created this buying guide to steer you toward buying only the best aquarium air pump.

Best aquarium air pump written beside an illustration of a pump bubbling in a tank

Now, before you even start shopping you need to know a few things: how do aquarium air pumps actually work? When do you need a specialized deep water pump? What are you actually going to use it for? What’s the pumps purpose in your specific tank set up?

Not all models are created equal, can have different power ratings, different purposes, some suitable for powering filters, some for air stones and ornaments, can have 1, 2 even 4 outputs – The options are many.

But not only that, they can also be pretty noisy. So believe me, you also want to seek out the quietest aquarium air pump you can find. More on that later…

So keep reading to find out exactly what the right pump can do—and which one is right for you.

At a Glance: Our Top 5 Picks For Best Aquarium Air Pump, from the 7 in our Roundup

Note: The links above take you to more information, current prices and customer reviews on Amazon.

Best Aquarium Air Pump – Our Recommendations for The Top, Quietest Models in 2019

Now you know a bit more about air pumps, what they’re used for and hopefully what type and power you need, you should be ready to see a few options.

Below we list and discuss our top recommendations, and we’re sure you’ll find the right one for you.

Active Aqua 6-Watt 15-LPM Air Pump with 4 Outlets

Hydrofarm Active Aqua Air Pump, 4 Outlets, 6W, 15 L/min

This aquarium air pump is available with 1 to 8 outlets, making it suitable to drive either many devices in a single aquarium, or multiple aquariums at once.

The 4 different models are rated at:

  • 1 outlet model: 50-GPH flow rate, or 3.2 liters per minute
  • 2 outlet model: 125-GPH flow rate, or 7.8 liters per minute
  • 4 outlet model: 240-GPH flow rate, or 15 liters per minute
  • 8 outlet model: 400-GPH flow rate, or 25 liters per minute

So there’s a model to suit almost all requirements.

Every model features a multi-level muffler which reduces noise to a modest 45 decibels maximum, which can be reduced further if you follow our advice for placement above. This pump is extremely quiet, it will not be keeping you awake at night.

A dial on top of the housing lets you easily adjust the air pressure, although you should be warned that the highest setting increases the sound produced. We would suggest buying a higher spec model than you perhaps need, and not running at 100% to keep the sound down.

This is one of the best aquarium air pumps you can get if you have multiple aquariums or devices you wish to run. It is quite powerful but it should not be used for outdoor ponds as the housing is not water resistant.

What we love about it:

  • Four outputs allow you to power several different accessories in multiple aquariums
  • It’s nice and quiet
  • Specialized rubber pieces ensure steady output and pressure
  • It doesn’t use much power

What could be better:

  • It is massive, making it less than ideal for people with limited space
  • It doesn’t come with T stops or any of the other standard accessories – But this could be a good thing as it keeps the cost down and you can then only buy what you need.

 

Click to Learn More / Buy from Amazon

 

Tetra Whisper Air Pump

Tetra Whisper Air Pump, For 20 to 40 Gallon Aquariums

The Tetra Whisper is available in 5 different models covering tank sizes from 10 to 100 gallons.

Due to many unique features in it’s design, it’s one of the very quietest air pumps on the market. It has an arched shape that s designed to flatten the frequencies generated, and prevent reflections of sound off the surface it’s placed on.

Together with rubber feet that partially isolate the unit and dramatically reduce vibrations, this truly is one of the quietest units you will find on the market.

What we love about it:

  • This really is one of the quietest air pumps around
  • It is small enough to work in any space
  • The dome shape and color are quite attractive

What could be improved:

  • There is no hose / other attachments included

 

Click to Learn More / Buy from Amazon

 

Tetra Whisper Air Pump for Deep Water Applications

Tetra Whisper Air Pump for Deep Water Aquariums

Tetra is one of the leading brands manufacturing aquarium products today, so it’s little wonder this is their second product on our list.

The Tetra whisper for deep water is their most powerful air pump and includes two models in the range – One suited to 150-gallon tanks, and one for 300-gallon tanks – each of which is able to handle the back pressure produced at such depths of 8 feet to still function correctly.

This incredible pressure does also mean they are highly suited to multiple stones, ornaments or filters, and suffer much less than other models with stones or valves becoming clogged over time, it just powers through.

What we love about it

  • Incredible strength, can be used in huge tanks, and deep water.
  • Lifetime limited warranty
  • Quiet in relation to it’s output

What could be improved

  • No way to adjust air flow (turn it up or down), it needs an external regulator

 

Click to Learn More / Buy from Amazon

 

VicTsing Ultra Silent Dual Output Air Pump

VicTsing Air Pump Ultra Silent High Out Energy Efficient Aquarium Air Pump Fish Tank Oxygen Air Pump With 2 Air stone/2M Silicone Tube-Black

The ‘VicTsing ultra silent’ is a lightweight, portable air pump which has two outputs so you can power multiple air stones or devices at the same time.

It’s also one of the few aquarium air pumps which actually comes with its own air line tubes and even its own air stones. The tubes are 100CM and 110CM long so they can be used in multiple aquariums that aren’t directly beside each other.

The VicTsing is ideal for shallow tanks with 30 gallons and deep tanks with 10-15 gallons. It’s very quiet and therefore excellent for an aquarium setup in the bedroom.

What we love about it:

  • It’s one of the few models that comes with its own hose
  • The double-headed pump which allows you to hook it up to multiple tanks
  • It is compact and attractive, suitable for pretty much any living space
  • The motor is very quiet
  • It’s very affordable, cheaper than many of the other models mentioned in this article

What could be improved:

  • The hose it comes with tends to kink and isn’t particularly flexible. It can only effectively circulate up to 30 gallons of water depending on the height of your tank

 

Click to Learn More / Buy from Amazon

 

Fluval Q1 and Q2 Air Pumps

Fluval Q2 Air Pump

The Fluval Q range has two models, the Q1 and Q2.

The Q1 is good for all aquariums up to a limit of 80 gallons, while the Q2 is good for aquariums from 50 to 160 gallons.

They are small yet powerful pumps with a single output and with adjustable flow control, built to last and backed by a 2 year warranty.

Manufactured to run extremely quietly with a double wall design, they have also engineered a ‘noise suppressing baffle chamber’ that Fluval claims makes this their quietest pump to date.

They are not submersible, so must be positioned outside of the tank, and there’s no fixture for hanging, so it must be placed on a flat surface, for which there are 6 pegs / feet that reduce vibrations and hence sound created during operation.

What we love about it:

  • Well designed, to be small yet powerful.
  • Quiet operation despite it’s power
  • Great price compared to some others on our list

What could be improved:

  • Single output only, so need to purchase split valves to drive multiple air stones or devices
  • Could have a provision for hanging for those that prefer this to laying it flat

 

Click to Learn More / Buy from Amazon

 

EcoPlus Single Outlet 1 to 18W Commercial Air Pump

EcoPlus 793 GPH 728450(3000 LPH, 18W) Commercial Air Pump w/ 6 Valves | Aquarium, Fish Tank, Fountain, Pond, Hydroponics

Do you have a large tank or a fish pond which needs some air circulation? The EcoPlus 728450 is a powerful but affordable option, boasting 793 to 3566 gallons per hour rating!

It features a single powerful outlet to which you can attach different chrome accessories to provide up to 16 outlets (a 6 way is seen in the image above) so you can operate multiple devices or use it to circulate oxygen in multiple tanks.

The EcoPlus 728450 is however quite loud, so most people don’t like it for indoor use, but it is an excellent air pump for someone with several aquariums kept out of the bedroom or a pond in their backyard.

What we love about it:

  • It is incredibly compact and lightweight
  • There are multiple outputs for connecting to different devices or tanks
  • It is powerful enough for large tanks or ponds

What could be improved:

  • It can overheat if you have it constantly running in a hot environment, so it must be kept out of the sun / extremely hot environments
  • It is fairly loud for indoor use, making it better for ponds than it is for large tanks

 

Click to Learn More / Buy from Amazon

 

EcoPlus 3W 2 Outlet Air Pump

EcoPlus 126 GPH (480 LPH, 3W) Air Pump w/ 2 Outlets | Aquarium, Fish Tank, Fountain, Pond, Hydroponics

The EcoPlus 728360 is another compact but powerful model, designed for medium-sized tanks.

Its two outputs come with built-in valves so you can easily control the air pressure. The housing is highly water resistant and doesn’t heat up as quickly as the housing of the other Eco model in our list, making this an excellent choice for small ponds.

The 126GPH flow rate model is ideal for medium-to-large tanks and small ponds while the largest version, 380GPH, will keep most of even the largest ponds oxygenated.

If you’re looking for something that’s powerful, portable, and attractive, the EcoPlus 728360 is an excellent choice.

What we love about it:

  • It has an attractive exterior which will look great in almost any home
  • Both outputs have their own valves
  • It’s great value for the price, being powerful enough for all medium and most large tanks

What could be improved:

  • Despite it’s claim to have a double damping system for eliminating sound, the EcoPlus is kinda loud unless kept on the ‘low’ setting.

 

Click to Learn More / Buy from Amazon

 

What is an Air Pump?

As the name would suggest, an air pump is…wait for it…a piece of equipment that pumps air. I know, my knowledge is legendary.

Anyway…

It is a sometimes vital piece of equipment used in an aquarium to pump air where it’s needed, sometimes to drive filters, to power ornaments, to create streams or curtains of bubbles that help oxygenate the water, and to create currents within a tank.

Not all tanks need them, so they are often optional. However, they do create a beautiful effect, and there are a few benefits to having them, as we’ll discuss further on in this guide.

How Do Aquarium Air Pumps Work?

Almost all models use an electromagnet to rapidly move a rubber diaphragm back and forth, pumping air through an outlet ready for use.

Most run on standard power, which means you have to plug them into a wall socket, but some offer a dual option allowing you to run them on battery power.

What are the Benefits of Aquarium Air Pumps?

They are most often used to help prevent water stagnation by helping to cycle water throughout a tank, avoiding ‘dead spots’ of still water. As air bubbles rise, they ‘drag’ water up with them. This rising water pulls in surrounding water to replace it, and hence creates water circulation, redistributing the water in a tank.

The currents created are also of benefit to your fish, enriching their environment compared to a still, motionless tank.

They are necessary for ‘bubble up filter’ operation: The same process described above of rising bubbles pulling the water up with it as it goes is also taken advantage of in some filters, where air is bubbled up through filter media and the water taken with it is cleaned. You will know if you have this filter or not, and if so then an air pump is essential.

There are also many aquarium decorations which require air from a pump to move or pass through them to create the desired effect. ‘Air stones’, which either bubble or give off a fine mist of air, are the most common aquarium decorations, but there’s also spinning wheels, opening and closing valves, rising and falling objects and so on.

Protein skimmers in a saltwater aquarium also require an air pump to operate.

Air pumps help with aeration, of the release of carbon-dioxide and oxygenating the water. As the air bubbles break at the water surface, CO2 is released and at the same time oxygen absorbed into the water. Many people believe the bubbles themselves add oxygen, but it’s not the case, it’s the breaking of the waters surface.

This release of CO2 and addition of dissolved oxygen is great for all your tanks inhabitants: Your fish, beneficial bacteria and more.

Finally, bubbles just plain look nice! A nice rising curtain of column of bubbles from an air stone is a nice to look at, and improves the overall aesthetics of your tank, not to mention the fact some fish learn to enjoy playing in the bubbles which is great to watch.

You might also be interested in:

What to Consider When Choosing an Air Pump

Only once you’ve figured out what you want to use your air pump for you can figure out which one is right for you by considering the following factors:

Size of the Tank

Most models will have a tank size rating, so you should make sure to check this before making your purchase.

Perhaps more importantly, if your tank is taller than 20 inches or so, you will need a special ‘deep water aquarium air pump’, of which Tetra manufactures a great one and we will discuss further below.

Output

Generally listed as Volume Per Hour, this is how much airflow your aquarium air pump can move, especially useful to know if used with a filter or protein skimmer in saltwater aquariums.

Any aquarium decoration which requires air should tell you how powerful the pump needs to be for the device to work.

If you can’t find anything specific on the box or in the product description call customer service to get the correct number.

Aquarium Headspace

If using an air pump in a filter, this is the height the water needs to be pumped against gravity. How much you need is dependent largely on the type of filters you use, and a pump can be too weak or too powerful.

In a bubble up filter, you want a pump that is able to shift enough water up through it to be filtered, so it needs to be quite powerful. But if using an under gravel filter, if it is too strong, it could blow away your substrate as it works. So there’s a sweet spot.

The manufacturer of your filter will tell you what strength you need, so pay attention to them, they know best.

How is it Powered?

There are only tow options here: Battery powered and mains powered.

Unless you live in an area with frequent power cuts and you want a battery operated backup in case mains does drop out, I cannot see any reason to buy a battery operated one. Stick with mains if you can.

Number of Outputs

Generally speaking, air pumps come with 1, 2 or 4 outputs, so you will want to match this to the number of air stones, ornaments and potentially filters you are hoping to drive.

Noise Level

They can be very noisy. As discussed above, they work by vibrating a rubber diaphragm back and forth very fast, which causes vibration and potentially lots of noise. And it’s the sort of incessant, non-stop noise that really grabs your attention and drives you mad. So…

Please, make sure when you pick a model that it’s described as ‘quiet’ or ‘silent’. You really do want the quietest aquarium air pump you can find, because a loud one is horrible, I’ve been there.

Regardless of the model you choose, it will always create some sound, but there are measures you can take to silence it, and we will give you the details further below.

Where to Place your Aquarium Air Pump

Where you put the air pump has a massive impact on how effectively it functions, how long it lasts and how much noise it creates.

Your air pump should always be above the water level in your aquarium.

Many people put theirs in the cabinet underneath their tank, but this is actually one of the worst places you can put it!

Below the water level, it can make the pump have to work harder, the extra pressure can make it run louder and there’s a risk of water running down the inside or outside of the tubing, into the pump, causing electrical failure and potentially even electric shock.

You should NOT place the pump on top of your tank.

Unfortunately, you also can’t place it on top of the tank—this will cause vibrations which stress your fish out, potentially even leading to a stress-induced death. There is also the risk of it falling into the tank. So what do you do?

One of the most common solutions is to build a shelf directly behind the aquarium and slightly above it, then place the air pump there. You can also hang it from a well-secured hook just above the water level, but this requires a lot more work.

Make sure the pump doesn’t actually touch the tank walls because this will vibrate the whole aquarium and hurt your fish. Any shelf or hook you place it on instead, should also be kept away from the walls and roof of the tank.

If placing on a surface, make sure it’s solid, not hollow.

If you place your pump on a hollow container, the vibrations will resonate, be amplified, and the noise will distract and drive you crazy.

Place a sponge or cloth under it!

Placing the pump on a soft sponge or cloth, rather than directly on a shelf, will significantly reduce the noise. This is particularly important if you’ve got a powerful model that drives several things.

Types of Air Pumps

There are a few different ways to categorize air pumps depending on their purpose:

  • Tank Size – Most aquarium air pumps are rated for a specific tank size but this only really matters if you’re planning to use it to power a filter. You’ll also generally want a more powerful model if you’re going to be powering large air stones or multiple accessories.
  • Purpose – Some air pumps are designed specifically for deep water. You will need one of this type to properly circulate the water in a deep tank more than 18-20 inches tall.

Accessories

Usually, when you buy an air pump all you get is the machine itself, so you’ll need to get some accessories before you can set it up:

  • Air Line Tubing – Airline tubing is used to connect the pump to the device it is actually powering. You want to look for something that’s strong but flexible and that won’t kink. Penn Plax Flexible Air Line Tubing is a good option.
  • T-Fittings – T-Fittings are connectors which you can use to connect output ports. This is recommended if you have a dual output model but you only want to power one device. Using only one output on a dual output model will usually provide an imbalanced air flow.
  • Air Pump Control Valves – These valves let you control how much air is being pumped at any given time. You may not actually need these depending on the purpose of your pump but they are quite useful. The Uxcell 10 Piece Plastic Aquarium Fish Tank 2 Way Control Valves (amazon link) are a great option that allow you to control multiple airlines.
  • Air Stone Diffusers – Air stone diffusers create very small bubbles which are useful for filtration. The Jardin Aquarium Fish Tank Ponds Ceramic Air Stone Diffusers are high quality and can be used with any tank.
  • Air Ornaments – There are many different types of ornaments/decorations which are powered by air ornaments. Common air ornaments include miniature treasure drivers, air bubble volcanoes, and sunken windmills.

Conclusion

The most important factors to consider when choosing an aquarium air pump is what you’re actually going to use it for, how deep your tank is and how many devices you want to set up.

If you’ve read through this list and you’re still not sure what the best aquarium air pump is for your needs then scan the reviews on Amazon and other sites. Find good reviews from people with tank setups similar to yours and you’re sure to have found a winner.

Happy fish keeping!

 

Product image credits: © Amazon.com

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B Hamilton

Hey there! I'm Brian, a lifelong enthusiast and fish keeper with a wealth of knowledge and experience on freshwater aquariums, that I love to share on this site. If you have any questions or need any help, please do ask in the comments section below, I'd love to hear from you and will help where I can.

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