Fish Tank Air Pump Vs Filter: A Detailed Comparison

Fish tank air pumps guarantee fish have enough oxygen to breathe even if the water includes medication or photosynthesizing plants.

A fish tank filter can increase oxygen levels if the current generates sufficient surface water movement and displacement, where oxygen enters the water.

Air pumps do not filter water like aquarium air filters. Filter bags contain charcoal-like material. But an air pump and sponge in the tank will clean and oxygenate the water.

In this article, I’ll aim to settle the debate between the fish tank air pump and filter.

Fish Tank Air Pump vs Filter: A Quick Comparison Table

Here are some key differences between the fish tank air pump vs filter

FeaturesAir pumpFilter
Motor capacityModerateComparatively high
Swimming abilityHighLow near the filter
Provide oxygenHighLow
Water purificationLowHigh
UsageNot essentialAll fish tank
Price$22.97- $66.50$1.41- $20.67
Fish Tank Air Pump Vs Filter

What is the Key Difference Between the Fish Tank Air Pump VS Filter


A tank’s water is aerated using an aquarium air pump. Surface agitation releases carbon dioxide and oxygen into a tank’s water. Aquarium pumps use airline tubing to add air to tank water. Fish receive oxygen from surface agitation. Your fish may not get enough oxygen if the tank’s water is motionless.

A filter removes trash, ammonia, and nitrates, and aerates the water so your fish can breathe. Unless you want an aquarium full of dead fish or plastic fish, this is a wonderful thing. Make sure your filter is working at maximum capacity because water movement increases oxygen.


It is not possible to utilize an air pump as a filter in an aquarium because these pumps do not possess the capability to capture any of the particles that are present in the water.

An air pump, on the other hand, will assist in aerating the water and releasing additional oxygen for your fish to consume.

However, you can utilize a filter to help give oxygen if the current is strong enough to generate sufficient water movement and displacement at the surface, which is where oxygen enters the water. This is the case only if the filter is placed in the water.

So, strictly speaking, according to the function, the fish tank filter takes the lead.


Tanks don’t need air pumps. Without an air pump, fish can have long, healthy lives. Fish oxygen deficiency symptoms may indicate other issues.

Fish live without filters for three to seven days. Repeatedly filtering water prevents poisons from settling.

So, every aquarium needs something to clean the water. For a small fish tank, you can clean it by changing 50% of the water. But it makes the fish a little bit nervous.

Biological filtration is the cheapest, most effective, and most stable approach to break down harmful ammonia. Mechanical filtration removes plant leaves, uneaten food, etc. before they decay into ammonia.

Keep in mind that an air pump cannot replace an aquarium filter, therefore you need a robust filter to enhance dissolved oxygen levels and provide appropriate water circulation in the tank, while the air pump creates bubbles and ripples to increase surface agitation.


No matter how expensive or well-made it is, an air pump will always shake. Over time, this vibration can make a lot of noise.

An air source heat pump will make 40 to 60 decibels of noise, depending on the system, how well it was installed, and how well it is taken care of. Again, this is based on the assumption that you are one meter from the unit. The upper limit is not something that happens often.

Tank filters usually make a soft electric hum when plugged in. This form of noise is low enough in decibels to blend in with other home sounds.

The air pump usually makes noise, but a poorly functioning filter can too. Anything inside the filter can get dusty, broken, or out of place, making more noise than usual.

So, based on the noise problem, the filter in a fish tank is more convincing.

Swimming Ability

Aquarium fish adapt to water currents differently. Stronger fish can handle swift currents. Others prefer slow currents like smaller, weaker fish.

The air pump’s flow rate can be adjusted depending on the fish in your tank. Fish don’t care about the flow rate.

A fish tank filter may be too strong and harm the aquarium environment. This component should be powerful enough to oxygenate the water and clean the tank. If your fish struggle to swim or the water is excessively choppy, the current created may be too strong.

Since the filter has a faster flow rate than the air pump, it is less good for fish, but you can still change it.

Water Purification

Air pumps can purify water at some certain. In other circumstances, rising bubbles from an air stone circulate water. It preserves fresh air in the tank, which is very crucial.

At the water’s surface, oxygen is absorbed. Fish will die if there is little oxygen between the water surface and the lid. As long as your tank has a cover, an air stone or sponge to pump fresh air into the tank is a good idea.

Fish tank filters serve two purposes. It does double duty by both oxygenating and cleaning the water in your fish tank. The water in an aquarium gets oxygenated because of the filter.

To facilitate gas exchange and boost oxygen levels in the water, they generate surface water movement in the tank. The water in an aquarium is oxygenated not just by the air bubbles floating in it, but also by the filter that moves the water from the bottom to the top.

The filter wins because it does double duty without requiring any extra parts.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can fish live without an air pump?

Obviously, your aquarium fish can live without an air pump in the tank. Most hobbyists don’t care one way or the other about adding air pumps because their tanks already have good filtration systems and they don’t need to add anything else.

How to Lower the Fish Tank Filter?

Buying a filter suitable for your fish tank is usually advised. If you upgrade the fish tank, you might use filters that let you control flow. Add rocks, caves, and plants to the aquarium. Use the flow control of the filter.

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Arif H Fahim

Welcome to PetFishTank! My name is Arif. I make an effort to publish educational articles using my many years of expertise as a fish owner.

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