Can an Air Pump Work As a Filter in an Aquarium

Facing a lower oxygen level or dirty aquarium, what can you do to deal with the issues? Frequent water changes? You can also add some effective aquarium equipment, like an air pump or a filter. Next, this article will discuss aquarium air pumps and aquarium filters. Without any more delay, let’s get started.

Content Table

The purposes of an air pump

An air pump is a mechanical device to circulate water with electricity. In aquarium words, it is an aquarium aerator, which uses an air stone to collect and release oxygen. Next, let’s take a look at the purposes of an air pump in aquariums.

Oxygenate the aquarium water

An air pump plays a role in increasing surface agitation, which creates bubbles to aerate the aquarium. Then it oxygenates the aquarium water. The more oxygen in the aquarium, the happier the fish. If your fish gasp for air on the water’s surface, it is time to add an air pump.

Expel excess carbon dioxide

Adding an air pump to your fish tank improves the water density and expels excess carbon dioxide. Also, the water flows deeper into the tank, which enables aquatic plants to absorb more carbon dioxide. However, for a planted tank requiring carbon dioxide supplements, adding an air pump is not an advisable alternative.

Increase the water pressure

Increasing the water pressure is another purpose of the air pump. Usually, the water pressure in an aquarium is about 1 bar. However, the pressure will increase to 5 or 6 bar after adding an air pump.

Running equipment

Besides, adding an air pump is helpful to operate a corner filter or a protein skimmer.
pump and filter

What does an aquarium filter do

An aquarium filter is one piece of aquarium equipment to make sufficient surface agitation. It is used to remove excess waste and toxic substances, such as ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate. Also, filters can circulate the water and then aerate the fish tank. Provided that there is a large amount of fish in your aquarium, then it is best to add a filter. Because fish will produce feces, which may cause bad water quality and be damaging to fish after being decomposed.

Additionally, the reasons that filter media are necessary for aquariums are:

  • Promote the nitrogen cycle
  • Maintain stable water quality
  • Keep fish or other creatures healthy
  • Improve the dissolved oxygen level
  • Promote the generation of beneficial bacteria
  • Convert the harmful substances into harmless ones

Can an air pump work as a filter

As we have mentioned above, air pumps are aquarium aerators, which are mainly used to aerate your aquarium, oxygenate the water, and expel excess carbon dioxide. The filters are aquarium equipment to make sufficient surface agitation and remove profitless and harmful substances. Air pumps and filters are two different items with diverse significance.

Specifically, for tanks keeping oxygen-consuming fish, adding an air pump is critically crucial. Take Kuhli loaches as an example, they are oxygen-consuming fish, belonging to tropical fish. Facing oxygen deficiency, they will feel full of stress or even face death. As a result, to keep oxygen-consuming fish healthy, you’d better add an air pump to your fish tank. On the contrary, sometimes it is less important to add an air pump to a planted tank due to plants need carbon dioxide to survive. For instance, the occasion when you need to supplement carbon dioxide manually. By the way, it is feasible to turn off your air pump at night. For example, there are other aerators in your aquarium.

aquarium filter and the pump

On the other side, aquarium filters are essential for tanks. Because the tanks are relatively smaller and have limited water capacity. If there are few fish in your aquarium, maybe you can apply an air pump only. Because there is less waste. However, as for an aquarium with a large amount of fish, it is best to add a filter.

Because fish will produce feces, which may cause bad water quality and be damaging to fish after being decomposed. Aside from that, if you do not want to add an aquarium filter, adding some filter media is another great option. In general, there are three main types of aquarium filter media, mechanical media, biological media, and chemical media. You can choose the suitable filtration accordingly. Nevertheless, filter media blocks are not feasible for saltwater tanks. Because the debris attached to the media will be decomposed into NO3. It is harmless to fish but is harmful to conch, sea urchins, crabs, sea shrimp, and coral. If the concentration is above 20 ppm, these creatures will face death.

In short, if there is a great filtration system and an ideal oxygen level, there is no need to add an air pump. Actually, in most instances, it is crucial to add an aquarium filter. Seeing that an air pump can not help to remove waste and toxic substances. Without an aquarium filter, waste and toxic substances may accumulate, which would lead to dramatic changes in water parameters and poor water quality quickly. And it would be a threat to tank inhabitants. But for an aquarium with many fish and plants, adding an air pump and a filter will be equally essential.

Do I need an air pump with a filter?

In the case of a small fish tank demanding an air pump with a filter, what should you do? Do not panic. A canister filter can help you out. Take the fish tank filter pump as an example, it is a 4-in-1 multi-function filter, including water purification, filtered water, water pumping, water circulation, and oxygen supplement. Featuring a built-in water pump with activated carbon filter cotton, it can better filter the aquarium water. Also, the mesh filter cotton is helpful in forming a nitrification system quickly. Furthermore, the filter is a U-V green water killer, which can turn green water clear in 3–7 days.


Though air pumps and filters make sense in ensuring an ideal aquarium environment, they can not keep themselves clean. You should clean the air pumps and filters regularly, for example, once a month. Otherwise, the aquarium tools may be clocked with waste or other substances. Also, sometimes you need to change the filter media.

That is all for today. For more additional ideas about aquarium air pumps or filters, please feel free to leave messages in the comments. We’re happy to receive your sharing. Finally, thanks for your reading.

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