Freshwater Fish

Goldfish Air Pump

We continue with our guide on the care of the Carassius auratus. After seeing the topic of goldfish feeding and dropsy in goldfish, we are now going to focus on knowing if it is necessary to use an aerator or air pump in the goldfish aquarium.

If you don’t give your goldfish enough you will end up with a lifeless tank, and possibly a lifeless fish. This leads us to the question:

Do goldfish need an air pump?

So do goldfish need an air pump to live? Logic would lead you to say yes. But wait! The truth is that goldfish do not necessarily need an air pump.

If you have been in the world of aquarium hobby for a while, you will have noticed that there is a lot of publicity about aquariums and air pumps. You will see them mostly in pet stores.

So your fish must need one too, right? Well, not always.

If you have a large tank equipped with a good aquarium filter capable of producing enough surface disturbance and air bubbles, for example a bottom filter, sponge filter or box filter, an air pump may be unnecessary.

However, you should make sure the water is adequately oxygenated in other ways if you decide not to use one.

How can you tell if an air pump is needed?

As I already told you, there are cases where an air pump is not necessary. But there are cases where an air pump is a must .

How to know when an aquarium pump is needed? You probably need an air pump if any of the following are true:

  • The filter is not generating much movement on the surface. The easiest way to assess surface motion is simply by looking at the water. Does it seem very still or can you see movement and bubbles produced by the air filter? If the former is true, make sure the filter is the right size for the tank. If it is, but still doesn’t cause too much water movement, you need an air pump.
  • You have a small aquarium. In fact, the secret to oxygenating water without an air pump is a larger surface area that allows more oxygen to dissolve into the water. The smaller the tank, the more likely you are to need an air pump.
  • Higher water temperature. If you didn’t know by now, not all goldfish are cold water fish. The fancy type prefers warmer waters, but hot water contains less oxygen than cold water. So if you have fancy goldfish or your tank gets really hot in the summer months, consider investing in an air pump.
  • The surface of the water is very small. Ball- shaped tanks and taller, narrower tanks don’t have as good oxygen exchange and can’t hold fish as well without additional aeration.
  • You have fish gasping at the surface of the water. Gasping for air is how fish try to breathe when they are in need of air. However, keep in mind that when they leak on the surface it can also be caused by other problems such as parasites or diseases.

If this reminds you of your tank at all, I suggest you get an air pump right away.

Air pumps do not add oxygen to the water directly. It is the alteration in the surface of the water that helps to dissolve the oxygen in the liquid.

Therefore it is essential to check if the goldfish has enough oxygen.

But how?

How do I know if my goldfish has enough oxygen?

Look for the following signs:

  • Does your goldfish gasp at the surface? This is one of the first signs that the water is low in oxygen. The thing is, it’s often confused with normal goldfish behavior. So keep in mind that healthy goldfish only sporadically gape at the surface. If you see them trying to «breathe» often, you need to create more disturbances on the surface of the water.
  • Are your goldfish gasping at the air outlet of the pump? Like panting at the surface, it’s a clear sign that they’re looking for more oxygen.
  • Do you notice a decrease in their activity? If so, it is a clear indicator that your goldfish does not have enough oxygen. In fact, goldfish are very active species, always on the move. Seeing them standing still most of the time is a big red flag that something is wrong.
  • Does your carassius auratus have increased gill movement? Any fish enthusiast should be aware of the natural behavior of their pets. If you detect any uncomfortable gill movement, giving the impression that the fish are breathing heavily, they probably need more oxygen.

Again, this may indicate other issues, so it’s best to investigate any other potential issues as well.

With this in mind:

How to improve the oxygenation of aquarium water

In addition to air pumps and aquarium filters, there are some alternative ways to improve the oxygenation of the water.

Check them out below:

  • Air Stones: Working in conjunction with the air pump, the air stone is connected to the outlet of the air pump inside the aquarium. The main purpose is to create decorative bubbles, but these bubbles can improve oxygenation in a tank that lacks this vital element. If you decide to use them, make sure the bubbles aren’t too aggressive, or they may annoy your goldfish. Smaller bubbles are preferred as they are more effective at creating gas exchange.
  • Aeration Ornaments: A more modern alternative to air stones, aeration ornaments work in much the same way. They also add style to your fish tank; You can use them to create a fantasy underwater world for your goldfish friends. Just pay attention to the bubble exit. In fact, some decorations can create jets of bubbles capable of disturbing the fish.
  • Live Plants: By far the healthiest way to add more oxygen to your tank. Aquarium plants transform the carbon dioxide released by the goldfish into much-needed oxygen. In addition, the growing plants also use the nitrates and ammonia in the water, improving its quality and minimizing the maintenance of the aquarium. Not only do they create a healthier tank environment and provide shelter for your fish, but you can also use live plants to create the perfect aquascaping that your friends will envy.


Goldfish may not necessarily need an air pump but will certainly need one if:

  • The tank filter is not large enough to create enough surface level disturbance.
  • If you keep your goldfish in a tall, narrow tank or bowl, because the small surface area of ​​the water will limit the oxygenation of the water.
  • If you keep your fancy goldfish in water warmer than 25°C.

In all other cases, a good water filter and live plants should provide enough oxygen for your underwater friends.

So what do you think? Would you wait to look for signs of oxygen deprivation, or install an air pump anyway to be sure?

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