Hydroponics Air Pumps Explained in 5 Speedy Minutes

Air pump

Hydroponics Air Pumps? Hmmm. When you think of hydroponics, you think water instantly – it is in the name – but plants are more like people than you might think… they need air, even in their underground roots.  As soil isn’t the solid mass you might think of it as being, when plants are in the ground they actually get plenty of access to the air.  With many hydroponics systems, however, the roots are often completely submerged into water.  Water, of course, has some “air” in it – the Oxygen content of water lets fish breathe – but that can become quickly depleted by roots.


In the real world, there are many processes that can replenish the Oxygen in water – again, without these, fish would die.  In fact, you’ll note that many hydroponics systems don’t use hydroponics air pumps at all.  What good hydroponics air pumps can do, however, is provide a lot of extra Oxygen and really boost plant health and growth *OR* make up for deficient natural oxygenation in your system.

Plant Roots, Source


Today, we’ll look at when and how to use hydroponics air pumps as well as the pros and cons of using them.  We’ve also made a checklist for you to go through if you decide to make a purchase.  Again, for many systems they are optional so we really want you to come out of this article knowing if you want hydroponics air pumps and exactly what problems you might encounter while using them.




When should I use hydroponics air pumps?


As we mentioned earlier, hydroponists use hydroponics air pumps to increase the oxygenation of the water in their systems.  Whenever water moves, like the flowing of a river or the crashing of waves, it picks up Oxygen from the environment rather quickly.  The likely more stagnant water in many of your systems won’t be getting Oxygen so quickly, which can outright kill the roots or slow plant growth.  The trick is figuring out if you need more Oxygen in your system!


If you’re into aquaponics or are simply into fish, you might’ve bought some in the past.  These usually have dozens of uses before wearing out and are likely fine for the average consumer.  We’d certainly recommend them for any beginner, they are price effective!  For the more advanced hydroponics, however, you might consider buying a DO Probe.  These are infinitely reusable (so long as you avoid breaking them!) and give very accurate results, but are more costly.  For more information, check out our guide on Oxygen levels and how to check them!




How are air pumps used?


There are a lot of air pumps on the market and any good air pump kit is going to come with instructions.  So, absolutely, the first place you should go to learn about how to use your air pump is via the instructions!  However, if you’re on the fence about getting an air pump it might behoove you to get an idea about how they’re used before getting one.


If you take a good look at the picture we have here, you’ll see that there are 4 key components to a basic air pump unit.  Let’s look at how they’re each used:


Hydroponics Air Pumps, Hose, Backflow Valve, and Air Stones,
Hydroponics Air Pumps, Hose, Backflow Valve, and Air Stones, Source


Outlet Plug – I think you’ve got this one!

Air Pump Unit – The main part of the system.  This *cannot* get wet unless you have a very special system that says it can.  Consider storing it in a waterproof container.  Advanced systems might come with settings for speed, etc.

Tubing – The tubing is going to be carrying your air into your system.  Make sure the tubing is tough enough to resist tear and long enough to comfortably reach where you want it to go.  Lightweight tubing might float, which might or might not appeal to you depending on your system design.

Air Stones – The air stones create bubbles when the pumped air is forced through them.  This oxygenates the water heavily for your plants’ roots and, if you’re making an aquaponics system, keeps your fish healthy too!




What are the cons I keep hearing about?


You might have HEARD some bad things about air pumps.  Yes, really, heard.  Depending on where your air pump goes, you might need it to be a bit quiet.  Not all air pumps are going to be able to give you the quiet you need.  


If your hydroponics garden is out in the shed, you might get away with up to 60 decibels (dB) but you wouldn’t want anything over 40 dB for something in your house.


How high do air pumps get?  Luckily, most brands that sell a ‘quiet’ version keep the decibel rating below 40, but there are some that definitely get into the ’60s.  Be sure to check the rating (and check honest reviews) before making any purchases.




The Hydroponics Air Pumps Checklist:


Air pumps are actually quite intricate and there are lots of things to consider, so we’ve made a handy checklist for you to look over before you make a purchase.


___ – My pump unit is water-resistant or won’t get wet.

___ – My tubing is tough or won’t rub against sharp surfaces.

___ – My tubing is long enough for my system.

___ – My tubing fits snugly with the unit I’m purchasing.

___ – My tubing fits snugly with the air stones I’m purchasing.

___ – I’ve checked if the decibels will be comfortable for me. (or My wife)





That’s all we have for today on this topic.  There is definitely a lot to cover and you should do your own due diligence before getting hydroponics air pumps.  If you don’t want to deal with one, remember there are still great wick systems and Kratky systems (amongst many many others) that don’t use them!  The benefits that hydroponics air pumps can add to your system – and the near necessity of using them for aquaponics – really does make all of the efforts spent learning about them worth it in the end though.  The roots and gills of biotic factors in your systems will thank you for sure!



Picture of Bobby


HI! I'm Bobby, an entrepreneur, inventor, green builder and urban farmer. I've been a custom home builder since a kid and an avid gardener. The critters, bugs and climate outside our new home forced me to check out some new ideas in gardening. I found out about Hydroponics and have spent years learning the best techniques to build the best, most efficient, home hydroponics systems. I built one of the first ever, small scale, mobile hydroponic systems. Would you like to know how I did it?