Bubblers are my favorite thing in a fish tank – besides the fish, of course! I am always amazed at how bubbles form, rise to the surface and disappear again and again.
But are bubblers for fish tanks any indispensable? Like a filter and a heater? Or are they just good enough for aesthetic purposes?
In this blog, I will let you in on everything you should know about bubblers.
What are they exactly? And what purpose do they serve? Is there such a thing as the best aquarium bubbler?
Keep reading to know!
What Is An Aquarium Bubbler? How Do Bubblers Work In Fish Tanks?
An aquarium bubbler refers to a small device attached to the air pump through an airline tube to create bubbles in the tank. Some examples are airstones, bubble walls, and bubble wands.
An electromagnet produces vibration in a rubber diaphragm inside the bubbler. The vibration forces air to move in and out of the bubbler.
As it happens, the air is forced out into the water, creating bubbles.
5 Best Bubblers For Fish Tanks
- Aqueon Flexible LED Bubbler Wand
- Pawfly Airstone Disc Bubble Diffuser
- Aqueon Multi-Color Flexible LED Bubble Wand
- Winomo Bubble Wall Airstone Tube
- Pawfly Airstone Bubble Mineral Ball
Aqueon Flexible LED Bubbler Wand
This is the bubbler I use in one of my cichlid tanks. Aqueon is a name we can all trust, and they haven’t disappointed this time either. The makers haven’t cut corners while producing these wands, and it really shows in the product.
If you don’t believe it, check out the thousands of 5-star reviews the product enjoys on Amazon!
The wand is fully flexible. You can bend it any way you like to create the look you want. It generates a curtain of bubbles that are accentuated with beautifully colored LEDs.
You can simply twist the wand to the desired shape and bury it under the substrate. Or else, you can fit the wand above the gravel, so it serves as a subtle night-light for nocturnal fish.
You have to connect the bubbler wand to the air pump and plug the light into a power outlet. What’s impressive is that these 2 features operate independently. You can create the bubbles with or without the light.
Bells And Whistles:
- Completely customizable
- Flexible wand
- Features bubble curtain and LED light
- Simple operation
- Light doesn’t have an on/off switch
Pawfly Airstone Disc Bubble Diffuser
Pawfly airstone disc bubble diffuser comes in 3 sizes: 2 inches, 4 inches, and 8 inches. They can be used either for an aquarium or a hydroponic growing system.
This bubbler is made with mineral material and sintered at a very high temperature. Thus, it’s entirely safe for your tank’s inhabitants. It produces an impressive display of bubbles that look especially great when sited in one corner of the tank.
The bubber weighs around 7 pounds. So, it sinks quickly to the bottom. But there are also 3 suction cups to hold the bubbler in its place.
The unit is washable and durable and can be used for both saltwater and freshwater tanks. However, if you have a saltwater tank, I’d recommend against getting a bubbler.
To use the bubbler, you simply want to attach the bubbler to the desired surface using 3 easy-mount suction cups. Also, the stone should be soaked entirely in water for an hour before use.
Bells And Whistles:
- Dual purpose: aquarium and hydroponic growing system
- Easy setup and operation
- Sturdy built
- Requires a powerful pump to work effectively
Aqueon Multi-Color Flexible LED Bubble Wand
If you’re looking to create a decorative bubble curtain accented in multiple colors, this might just be the product you’re looking for. The colors continuously change, producing shades like green, blue, and pink.
You can entirely customize the lighting or set it to change colors automatically.
The bubble wand is completely flexible – giving you the freedom to shape it however you want to suit the tank’s aesthetics.
It comes with suction cups to secure the wand to the aquarium.
Since the bubble wand and LED lights operate differently, you can choose to only create the bubble effect and skip the lighting effect.
Bells And Whistles:
- Entirely customizable light settings
- Features bubble curtains and colorful lights
- Easy setup and operation
- Flickering might be disturbing to some
Winomo Bubble Wall Airstone Tube
The Winomo bubble wall airstone tube is around 10 inches long and is perfect for tanks that are 10 gallons or larger. It is made with durable, hard plastic and soft rubber – thus, it has an excellent built quality.
This product instantly creates hundreds of tiny bubbles that amp up the tank’s aesthetics by many folds. If you want to create extra bubbles, it comes with an enclosed connector.
Also, the tube can be cut short with a razor blade if you want.
The tube comes with 2 powerful suction cups that together produce enormous power to attach the tube to the glass surface.
Bells And Whistles:
- Highly effective
- Can create extra bubbles
- Requires a pretty powerful pump
Pawfly Airstone Bubble Mineral Ball
Yet another product from Pawfly on our list today – I had to absolutely add it. It’s one of my personal favorites. It produces just the right size of bubbles.
It can be used equally effectively in hydroponic setups as well.
The bottom is designed flat and wide, so it sinks and sits stably in the tank without requiring support. The airstone itself is made with artificial volcanic rock and features a non-corrosive metal nozzle that can create very fine bubbles.
You have to soak the stone completely for 3 hours before using it. To clean it, you simply need an old brush. It does get clogged after a few months of usage.
Bells And Whistles:
- Easy operation and setup
- Medium-sized and very fine bubbles
- Doesn’t need extra fixings
- Not customizable
Are Bubblers Good For Fish Tanks?
Yes, bubbles are absolutely great for fish tanks. Besides the obvious aesthetic appeal, they help to oxygenate the water and increase the water movement. They also help in waste management by washing away the gunk towards the filter.
Adds Oxygen To The Water
Certain fish like bettas can breathe in air from the surface. However, the rest rely on the dissolved oxygen available in the water.
And thank heavens, bubblers add oxygen to the water. Let me tell you how.
On the surface, it seems like oxygen gets into the water through the bubble. Yes, it’s true – but this way, the contribution is so small that it doesn’t add up to anything.
So, what’s the drill?
Oxygenation in the tank happens through a process known as gas exchange. The oxygen from the air enters the water’s surface and gets dissolved.
The oxygen enters the water through direct absorption from the atmosphere, which is encouraged by turbulence. If the water is still, less oxygen will enter the water column.
If the water is moving, a greater amount of oxygen will enter the water.
Remember how the water surface in rivers, lakes, and seas is constantly moving? This amplifies the chance and extent of oxygenation.
A bubbler does the same thing in a fish tank on a much smaller scale. For instance, when the bubbles rise, they agitate the surface and produce current.
And as we discussed above, a greater amount of oxygen will enter the water this way.
I don’t need to explain why fish need oxygen and what happens if there’s not enough oxygen available in the tank.
If your tank is lightly stocked, your fish can go through their entire lives without requiring a bubbler. But if the bio-load is on the heavier side, the oxygen demand will exceed the supply.
Therefore, it’s best to get a bubbler for your fish tank – even more so if you have a densely stocked tank.
Helps With Waste Management
Bubblers serve as an excellent medium to drive unwanted elements in the water to the top, causing them to dissipate from the top of the water.
Dissolved gasses like carbon dioxide and dissolved waste that you’d rather not have in your fish tank will be pushed to the surface by a bubbler, keeping the rest of the tank clean and pristine.
And those waste that will not dissipate from the top will be driven to the filtration unit, allowing your filter to catch all that gunk that doesn’t belong in the tank.
So, all in all, bubblers help to keep the tank clean directly and indirectly.
Enhances Water Movement
When the air bubbles rise in the fish tank, so will the water. This effect creates a current that circulates water around the tank.
And water current is essential for many reasons. From oxygenating the water to transporting nutrients and food to washing away the waste, water movement is indispensable on many grounds.
Beautifies The Tank
I don’t want to sound vain, but adding a bubbler enhances your tank’s aquascape by several folds. Besides all the goodness, simply watching the bubbles form, rise, and disappear continuously is a treat for the eyes.
This is the reason why a lot of bubblers these days come in the form of really clever decorative ornaments.
Should You Get An Aquarium Bubbler For Your Fish Tank?
Since bubblers help to oxygenate the water and increase water movement, they play a consequential role in keeping the environment healthy. But are they exactly indispensable?
If your tank has enough oxygen and water movement to begin with, the tank can most probably make do without an air bubbler.
However, if the tank doesn’t have enough oxygen or water movement, a predicament common in densely stocked and small tanks, your tank’s inhabitants will highly benefit from an aquarium bubbler.
That being said, the benefits of a bubbler can be easily achieved with equipment already present in the tank. For instance, you can aim the filter return toward the water surface or simply use a circulation fan.
The kind of fish you have also determines whether the tank needs a bubbler or not. For instance, bettas have evolved to live in stagnant water and can even breathe oxygen through the air.
So, in this case, you can choose not to add a bubbler.
Do Saltwater Tanks Need A Bubbler?
In saltwater tanks, a bubbler can lead to salt creep, which in turn can cause irregular salinity. When the bubbles burst at the surface, they splash tiny amounts of water.
When the water dries, it leaves a small amount of salt crystals.
Therefore, you’re better off using a powerhead to reinforce oxygenation and water movement. A circulation fan or a wave maker are also recommended.
I know a couple of hobbyists who successfully use bubblers in their saltwater tank without any issues. However, I’d still recommend against it if you’re new to the hobby.
5 Kinds Of Aquarium Bubblers
Bubblers come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. The 5 most common types of aquarium bubblers are:
- Bubble wands
- Bubble walls
- LED bubblers
- Bubbler Ornaments
Cheap, effective, and reliable – airstones are the most common aquarium bubbler available.
The name can be pretty confusing. Although christened airstone, this kind of bubbler can be made with porous materials like wood, sand, and even plastic.
As one would expect, airstones come in different shapes and sizes. I once had an airstone shaped like a turtle.
The bubble’s size depends on how coarse the airstone is. So, naturally, a rough airstone will produce larger bubbles, whereas a fine airstone will create tiny bubbles.
Bubble wands are simply long and narrow airstones. However, the look it produces is quite different.
A bubble wand helps to create a wall of bubbles, creating a rather unique look than what a simple airstone creates.
These wands come with suction cups to stop them from floating around the tank.
Bubble walls are flexible little devices that can be spread around, coiled, or twisted in any way you like. They come in varying lengths and are usually made of flexible rubber.
The bubbler’s surface is dotted with small holes to allow the bubbles to pass from the hose and into the water.
Bear in mind that you will need to either clamp or weight the hose down – especially pay attention if you plan to display the bubble wall horizontally.
An LED bubbler is simply an airstone with an LED light, but it looks like something straight out of a fairytale.
Besides requiring an air pump, a LED bubbler must be plugged into an electrical outlet. When the colored light shines through the bubbles, it creates a beautiful aquarium light show.
These days, LED bubblers are equipped with remote control – helping you change the color and intensity for variation.
Bubbler ornaments come in really clever shapes and sizes, ranging from a volcano to sunken treasure chests to landmarks.
Whatever the exterior is, the interior consists of an airstone carefully concealed by design.
Frequently Asked Questions
How To Setup A Bubbler In My Fish Tank?
Setting up a bubbler is super easy. It requires minimum effort and time. Here’s what the process looks like:
- The pump should go outside the tank – so you just need a flat surface to lay it on.
- Attach one end of the tubing to the bubbler.
- Attach the other end of the tubing to the outflow valve of the bubbler air pump.
- Place the bubbler in the part that receives the least airflow.
Having said that, all bubblers come with detailed instructions. So, make sure to read everything from cover to cover before experimenting.
Why Isn’t My Aquarium Bubbler Working Properly?
An aquarium bubbler’s malfunctioning is most likely due to the lack of strength of the air pump. If the air pump’s force is not strong enough, it won’t be able to provide the pressure required to push the air through and produce bubbles.
In this case, you’d want to purchase a stronger air pump.
But if you find the bubbles exiting from the base of the bubbles, the chances are that you have a leak. Unfortunately, this is a common plight when it comes to cheap airstones where the base has not been properly glued.
This issue can be fixed by using epoxy resin.
Do I Need A Bubbler If I Have A Filter?
You don’t need a bubbler if you have a good filter that can stimulate enough surface agitation and oxygenation.
It sure is nice to experience the effect created with a bubbler, but a bubbler might not be necessary as long as you have a functional filter.
Can Fish Live Just With A Bubbler?
As we discussed above, a bubbler isn’t indispensable. And by no means is it an alternative for a filter. A fish cannot live with just a bubbler. It needs a filter, a heater, and possibly an air pump.
A bubbler helps to oxygenate the water and increase water movement, but it cannot effectively filter out the gunk.
What Can I Use Instead Of A Bubbler? | Bubbler Alternatives
Although they cannot replicate the theatrics of a bubbler, the following can be good alternatives for bubblers:
- Spray bars
- HOB filters
- Live plants
What Are The Cons Of Using An Aquarium Bubbler?
Aquarium bubblers are great, but they do come with certain caveats too. For instance, they’re not as efficient as powerheads and water pumps. Likewise, in saltwater tanks, they can create salt creep.
Also, the airline hoses can get pinched, the bubbler can get clogged up, and the bubbler might need to be replaced often.
How To Tell If My Fish Tank Needs A Bubbler?
If your fish tank is small and densely populated, it probably will benefit from an air bubbler. If the fish have become lethargic, showing rapid gill movement, and congregating at the surface, it’s a sign that there’s not enough oxygen in the tank.
Final Words: Bubblers For Fish Tanks
Bubblers for fish tanks aren’t an absolute necessity, but it doesn’t hurt to own one. Matter of fact, a bubbler can enhance any tank’s look quite drastically at minimum cost and effort.
Besides the aesthetic appeal, a bubbler also helps to oxygenate the tank and increase water movement. And both these processes are directly linked with a fish’s well-being and survival.
The recommendations I have made above are based on my own experiences or the meticulous research I carried out to provide the right answers.
You can be assured that all bubblers mentioned above have our approval!