Do Angelfish Need An Air Pump? (And Which One)

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Angelfish are fairly uncomplicated fish: they’re low-maintenance and know how to take care of themselves.

But what about aeration? Do they need an air pump in their tank, or can a filter or airstone suffice? How heavily do they rely on oxygen?

In this article, I’ll tackle these questions and more, ensuring you have all the answers. I’ll also include my personal recommendation.

Let’s dive in.

How Does Oxygen Transfer Work in Aquariums?

Oxygen transfer in aquariums is crucial for ensuring aquatic life, such as the stunning Angelfish, receive the oxygen they need.

This process happens mainly at the water’s surface, aided by water movement and certain equipment.

  • Surface Area Exposure: The more surface area an aquarium has, the greater the oxygen intake. For Angelfish, spacious surfaces mean more oxygen dissolution.
  • Water Movement: Currents, from filters or air stones, mix oxygen into the water. It’s a balancing act; too much current can stress Angelfish.
  • Plant Photosynthesis: Aquatic plants release oxygen during the day. An Angelfish benefits from this, as plants replenish the tank’s oxygen supply.
  • Equipment Role: Devices like air pumps introduce air bubbles, increasing oxygen. They’re essential in densely stocked tanks, especially with numerous Angelfish.

Do Angelfish Need an Air Pump?

No, Angelfish do not require an air pump, but it can be beneficial in certain scenarios.

Air pumps enhance water oxygenation, which can contribute to a healthier environment for Angelfish.

  • Oxygenation Boost: While Angelfish can thrive without an air pump, the added oxygenation from bubbles ensures optimal water conditions.
  • Stagnant Water Prevention: Air pumps create water movement, preventing stagnant areas. This is beneficial as stagnant areas can be harmful to Angelfish health.
  • Tank Size Consideration: In larger tanks with many Angelfish, oxygen might deplete faster. An air pump compensates for the increased demand.
  • Backup during Outages: In case of filter failures, an air pump can be a lifesaver. It ensures Angelfish still receive necessary oxygen until the main system is restored.

Also Read: Angelfish Tank Setup

Other Ways to Aerate Your Aquarium

While air pumps do have their advantages, it’s a good idea to also think about other alternatives:

1. Sponge Filters

These devices offer both mechanical filtration and aeration in a singular unit.

As water gets pulled through the sponge, it not only becomes cleaner but also circulates, facilitating aeration.

  • Efficient Filtration: The porous nature of the sponge effectively traps debris while promoting growth of beneficial bacteria.
  • Gentle Flow: Unlike aggressive currents from some equipment, sponge filters provide a gentle, steady water flow, suitable for many fish species.
  • Reliability: With fewer moving parts than complex filters, sponge filters often have a longer lifespan and fewer malfunctions.

2. Powerheads

Essentially, these are water pumps that enhance the movement of water within the aquarium. They facilitate better circulation, thereby assisting in the oxygenation process.

  • Targeted Circulation: Powerheads can be placed strategically to address areas with low water movement, ensuring uniform oxygenation.
  • Versatility: The flow rate of many powerheads can be adjusted, allowing aquarists to set the desired water current strength.
  • Additional Attachments: Some models can be combined with under-gravel filters, amplifying their filtration and oxygenation capabilities.

3. Wave Makers

These devices are engineered to emulate the natural currents found in aquatic habitats. By producing a wave-like motion in the water, they enhance oxygenation.

  • Natural Environment: Wave makers offer a more dynamic and natural water motion, replicating conditions fish might encounter in the wild.
  • Surface Agitation: The waves increase the agitation at the water’s surface, promoting efficient gas exchange.
  • Tank Dynamics: Wave makers can stimulate more active fish behavior and prevent stagnant zones in larger aquariums.

4. Air Stones

My recommendation: Hygger Aquarium Air Stone (link to Amazon)

Typically paired with an air pump, these porous stones introduce a continuous stream of fine bubbles into the water.

As these bubbles rise and burst at the surface, they facilitate oxygenation and gas exchange.

  • Consistent Aeration: Air stones produce a steady and fine stream of bubbles, ensuring a consistent oxygen transfer.
  • Aesthetic Appeal: Beyond aeration, the stream of rising bubbles can add a captivating visual element to the aquarium.
  • Versatile Placement: Due to their small size and varied designs, air stones can be placed in multiple locations, offering targeted aeration based on tank needs.

Also Read: Do Angelfish Need A Bubbler?

5. Surface Skimmers

These devices are designed to clear the thin layer of debris and organic film that accumulates on the water’s surface, allowing for better oxygen exchange.

  • Improved Gas Exchange: Skimmers remove surface films, enhancing the water’s ability to absorb oxygen and expel carbon dioxide.
  • Cleaner Appearance: The removal of the surface film ensures a pristine and clear water surface, enhancing the tank’s overall visual appeal.
  • Reduced Contaminants: Organic films can harbor potentially harmful substances. Skimmers help reduce these contaminants, leading to a healthier aquatic environment.

Ways to Increase Oxygen Levels Without Any Device

There are a few ways to increase the oxygen levels in your Angelfish tank without using an air pump or any devices. Here’s what you should do:

1. Increase Water Surface Movement

Agitating the water surface naturally aids in oxygen absorption from the atmosphere. This ensures healthier living conditions, especially for sensitive species like Angelfish.

  • Natural Waves: Gently moving your hand in a back-and-forth motion across the surface for about 30 seconds can temporarily boost oxygenation.
  • Positioning Filter: Adjust your filter’s outflow so it’s aimed slightly above the water, creating ripples and increasing the oxygenation by up to 20%.
  • Larger Surface Area: Opt for a tank with a wider top. For example, a 50-gallon breeder tank, with its expansive surface, offers more oxygenation than a tall, narrow 50-gallon.

2. Reduce Aquarium Stock

Overstocking is a common issue, leading to increased oxygen consumption.

For oxygen-sensitive species like Angelfish, maintaining a balanced number of tank inhabitants is vital.

  • Fish-to-Gallon Rule: Generally, for medium-sized fish like Angelfish, aim for a 1 fish per 10 gallons ratio to avoid depleting oxygen levels.
  • Monitor Behavior: If your Angelfish frequently gasp at the surface, consider reducing the number of tank inhabitants.
  • Species Consideration: Some fish, especially active swimmers, consume more oxygen. Keeping fewer of these with your Angelfish can balance oxygen needs.

3. Perform Regular Water Changes

Fresh water naturally contains more dissolved oxygen.

Regularly changing a portion of your tank water can help maintain optimal oxygen levels, benefiting all residents, including Angelfish.

  • 10-20% Weekly: Replace about 10-20% of the tank water every week, ensuring a consistent replenishment of oxygen-rich water.
  • Avoid Shock: Ensure the fresh water’s temperature and pH closely match the tank’s, especially when caring for sensitive fish like Angelfish.
  • Vacuum Substrate: While changing water, siphon debris from the substrate. This reduces organic waste, which, when decomposed, can deplete oxygen. I personally do that with the Laifoo Aquarium Siphon (link to Amazon).

4. Add Live Plants

Live aquatic plants undergo photosynthesis, producing oxygen during daylight hours. This natural oxygen generation can significantly benefit tank inhabitants, including Angelfish.

  • Choose Fast-Growing Plants: Plants like Hornwort or Water Wisteria can rapidly produce oxygen, enhancing the water quality for Angelfish.
  • Balance with Lighting: Ensure 8-10 hours of light daily for plants to photosynthesize efficiently, producing a steady oxygen supply.
  • Regular Pruning: Trim older leaves and stems, encouraging new growth. This not only keeps plants healthy but ensures consistent oxygen output.

5. Maintain Lower Water Temperatures

Cold water can hold more dissolved oxygen than warm water.

Maintaining a slightly cooler temperature range can be beneficial for oxygen levels, especially for cold-water species and tropical fish like Angelfish that enjoy a moderate range.

  • Thermostat Monitoring: Set the aquarium heater to a cooler yet safe range, such as 74-78°F for Angelfish, maximizing oxygen retention.
  • Natural Cooling: In hotter months, placing the tank away from direct sunlight or using fans can prevent temperatures from soaring, preserving oxygen levels.
  • Aerate during Heatwaves: During extreme temperature spikes, consider manually agitating the water surface more frequently to bolster oxygen levels for your Angelfish’s comfort.

Selecting an Air Pump for Angelfish

Selecting an air pump for Angelfish is crucial for maintaining a comfortable environment for these majestic fish.

You should prioritize gentle water movement and consistent oxygenation tailored to the Angelfish’s natural preferences.

  • Tank Size Consideration: Choose an air pump rated for your tank’s size. For a 50-gallon tank housing Angelfish, ensure the pump can handle 40-60 gallons to provide ample oxygenation.
  • Gentle Flow: Angelfish prefer calm waters; opt for pumps with adjustable flow settings. This way, you can fine-tune the current to mimic the Angelfish’s natural habitat.
  • Noise Levels: Angelfish can be sensitive to vibrations. Look for air pumps advertised as “quiet” or “silent” to minimize stress and disturbance to your fish.
  • Compatibility with Accessories: Ensure your chosen pump pairs well with accessories like air stones or sponge filters, enhancing the Angelfish’s environment without excessive agitation.
  • Reliability & Brand: Invest in reputable brands known for longevity and consistent performance. Research reviews focusing on long-term use to ensure your Angelfish receive stable oxygenation over time.

I personally chose the Tetra Whisper Air Pump (link to Amazon).

It stands out as an excellent option for Angelfish tanks thanks to its quiet performance, reliability, and various size options to suit different aquariums.


For those of you who are just skimming through, here’s a short summary:

  • Oxygen transfer is vital for aquatic life, especially Angelfish; it mainly occurs at the water’s surface.
  • Angelfish don’t inherently need air pumps, but they can be beneficial for various tank conditions.
  • Surface area, water movement, plant photosynthesis, and equipment play crucial roles in oxygenating water.
  • Alternatives to air pumps include sponge filters, powerheads, wave makers, air stones, and surface skimmers.
  • Boosting oxygen levels without devices can be achieved through surface agitation, water changes, adding live plants, and maintaining cooler water temperatures.