Do Betta Fish Need an Air Pump? Understanding The Benefits

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Do betta fish need an air pump? That’s a question that’s often asked by newbies to the betta-keeping hobby.

A betta tank needs an air pump to power an efficient filtration system.

However, bettas evolved to survive in still or even stagnant water, and they don’t appreciate too much water movement. For that reason, you don’t need to use a bubbler or oxygen pump in your betta tank.

Read this guide to learn more about why an independent air pump isn’t strictly necessary in a betta tank.

Do Betta Fish Need An Air Pump?

So, do betta fish need an air pump? The answer to that question is yes and no!

To avoid confusion, let’s start by explaining the various uses of an air pump in a fish tank.

Air Pump

Uniclife Aquarium Air Pump Dual Outlet

An air pump has two uses in a fish tank.

  • Air pumps are used to power a filtration system. An air pump can be integrated into the filter unit or used separately from it, depending on the style of filter system you choose.
  • If you want to provide additional water surface agitation for your tank, you can use an air pump to power a bubbler.

Aquarium Filter

An aquarium filter:

  • pumps water around your fish tank, preventing dead spots,
  • removes particles of solid waste from the water,
  • draws dirty water through the filter media, where beneficial bacteria “clean” it by processing ammonia and nitrites and return the clean water to your fish tank.

We strongly recommend running an aquarium filter system in your betta’s tank. Most fish deaths are caused by accumulations of ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates in the water, and an efficient filtration system can prevent that.

Air Pump vs. Aquarium Filter

Air pumps have two primary uses in betta fish tanks: air pumps and aquarium filters.

do betta fish need an air pump - aquarium filter pump and aquarium filter

Aquarium Air Pump

An air pump is not the same as a filter, although you need an air pump to run one.

An air pump is used to increase water surface agitation in the betta’s tank, improving gaseous exchange and therefore increasing the levels of dissolved oxygen in the tank. Most of the air bubbles created by the pump remain intact until they reach the water’s surface, so they don’t actually put more oxygen into the water.

Usually, an air pump is attached to an airstone or a bubbler decoration via a length of aquarium airline.

Airstones are artificially created porous stones. When the pump is switched on, it pushes air down the airline and through the airstone, creating bubbles that float upward, disrupting the water’s surface.

Sometimes, an aquarium decoration, such as a shell or a deep sea diver, is used in the same way. The airline connects to the decoration, pushing air bubbles into the tank.

Aquarium Filter

do betta fish need a filter

An aquarium filter uses mechanical, biological, and or chemical filtration to remove solid waste particles and chemical toxins from the water. The biological element of the filter is home to beneficial bacteria that process toxins, helping to keep the environment safe for your fish.

In addition, the air pump element of the filtration system ensures that your fish tank has adequately oxygenated water for your livestock.

Many types of aquarium filters have an integral air pump that powers the filtration system. However, some filters need a separate air pump, with undergravel and sponge filters being examples of that design.

In addition, you can buy battery-powered air pumps that come in handy as a temporary solution if your filter’s pump fails.

Do I Need An Aquarium Bubbler If I Have A Filter?

Bettas are labyrinth fish or Anabantoidei. That means the fish have evolved a lung-like labyrinth organ that enables them to breathe atmospheric air. In fact, you’ll notice your betta making regular journeys to the water’s surface to take gulps of air.

In the wild environment, betta fish live in slow-moving or stagnant water bodies where dissolved oxygen is often in short supply. The labyrinth organ enables the betta to survive by using air to supplement the dissolved oxygen in the water column.

Naturally, bettas must use their labyrinth organ, regardless of the amount of oxygen in their tank water. So, provided you have an efficient filter in your betta’s tank, you don’t really need an air bubbler, too.

What About A Betta Fish In A Bowl?

Ideally, a betta fish should live in a tank with a filter system, a heater, and plenty of plants and decorations. That kind of setup ensures healthy water quality for your Siamese Fighting fish.

Thankfully, the practice of keeping bettas in tiny vases or bowls without a filter is now outdated and viewed by many fish keepers as being cruel to the fish.

Another problem with betta bowls is that they don’t provide much surface area for gas exchange, which can lead to an environment where there’s not enough dissolved oxygen to sustain the betta.

Unfortunately, using an air pump to try to aerate a bowl will create far too much water surface movement for the betta’s comfort.

Do Air Pumps Stress Betta Fish?

3 femal betta fish

As previously mentioned, wild bettas are hardy fish that live in water bodies with very little water disturbance. Ornamental betta fish have been bred with long, flowing tails and extravagant finnage, which looks amazing but is something of a handicap when it comes to swimming.

If your betta can’t easily swim up to the surface to feed or breathe through his labyrinth organ, he will undoubtedly become stressed. In addition, if your pet is buffeted around his tank by streams of bubbles, his stress levels will become sky-high.

So, if you add a bubbler to your betta’s tank setup, you will probably stress him. Stress impacts the betta’s immune system, leaving him vulnerable to attacks by parasites and diseases.

Bubble Nesting

Male betta fish build bubble nests, even if they are alone in the tank, without female bettas to encourage that behavior.

Unfortunately, an air bubbler or pump can disrupt the nest-building process, scattering his carefully constructed bubble nest all over the place and stressing your poor pet!

What Are The Benefits Of Using An Air Pump In A Betta Tank?

Of course, there are some benefits to using an air pump in a betta tank.

Increased Oxygen Levels

female betta
Image Source:

If you keep your betta fish in a small nano tank with a couple of snails or shrimp for company, it’s likely that the oxygen levels in the habitat are fine for your community, provided you also run an efficient filtration system.

However, if you keep your betta in a larger tank with lots of peaceful companions, you might need to boost the oxygen levels in the tank, and one way of doing that is by using a bubbler placed in one corner of the aquarium where it won’t upset your fishy friend.

Improved Water Circulation and Movement

In addition to keeping the environment healthy, clean, and safe for your betta fish and his companions, using a filter system powered by an air pump improves water movement and circulation.

In addition to improving dissolved oxygen levels in the tank by agitating the water’s surface, an air pump moving water around the tank helps to prevent dead spots from forming.

Dead spots in your betta tank can prove fatal to your fish. Essentially, dead spots are areas of stagnant water that form because there is little or no water flow to disrupt them. The water becomes loaded with harmful chemicals and bacteria that can kill fish.

Water treatment by Oxygen machine

In addition, a good water flow throughout the aquarium provides oxygen for the colonies of beneficial bacteria that live in your filter media, on the tank surfaces, plant leaves, and decorations.

Promotes Healthy Environment For Betta Fish

Improved circulation and thriving bacteria promote a healthy environment for your betta fish and his tank mates.

Final Thoughts

I hope you enjoyed our guide to whether bettas need an air pump in their aquarium. If you did, please share the article with other betta enthusiasts!

Betta fish have a special labyrinth organ that has evolved to enable the fish to breathe atmospheric air in times when dissolved oxygen is scarce. Ordinarily, an effective filtration system powered by an air pump is all you need in an average-sized betta tank.

The filter pump helps to oxygenate the tank by disturbing the water’s surface so that your betta and his fishy friends can breathe.

Bettas don’t appreciate too much water movement in their environment and can become stressed, especially if the water’s surface is disrupted too much. For that reason, you don’t need to run an air bubbler in your betta’s aquarium.

Wanda is a second-generation aquarist from the sunny tropics of Malaysia. She has been helping her father with his freshwater tanks since she was a toddler, and has fallen in love with the hobby ever since. A perpetual nomad, Wanda does her best to integrate fish-keeping with her lifestyle, and has taken care of fish in three different continents. She loves how it provides a nice break from the hustle and bustle of life.

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