A bubbler (aka air stone) is an aquarium equipment used to add bubbles to the water. There is a split among fish lovers about the necessity of a bubbler. The answer to the question above depends on the type of your fish, the kind of water (fresh or salty) you keep, and your priorities.
How does the bubbler work?
A bubbler consists of a few components
- A porous material (a stone, wood, plastic, or rubber).
- A tube connecting the material to a pump.
- An air pump to push air into the water tank. The air pump forces air from the surroundings into the tube, from where bubbles are produced as the air moves out of the porous stone.
The function of an aquarium bubbler1. Adds Oxygen to the Water
Besides live plants in an aquarium, a bubbler can help enhance oxygen levels in a water tank.
The bubbles carrying oxygen from the air create a movement in the water, which agitates the water surface causing an exchange of gases between the water and the air above it.
(Remember it isn’t the bubble that adds oxygen to the water but the movement it creates that helps in the aeration of water.)
2. Creates a water movement
A bubbler plays a vital role in setting the water in motion, which is necessary to help replicate the movement of water in the natural habitat. It also moves waste particles towards the filter preventing foul odor and facilitating easy removal. Gases that pollute water will also rise to the surface and can easily diffuse into the air above.
3. A Bubble has an entire world inside
Who doesn’t love the beautiful circles of water trapping gas in them? Besides everything else, it is for the aesthetics of the smallest finest bubbles that bubblers have a high demand among fish keepers.
Why do you need a bubbler?
Congested tanks (with too many fish for a small volume of water) tend to need a bubbler to replenish the water with dissolved oxygen. With too many fish and stagnant water, the dissolved oxygen levels decrease quickly, therefore it is important to find a way to bring it back to its original amount, or else your little water creatures will suffocate to death.
Moreover, too many fish create more waste. Thus, more healthy bacteria will play their part in decomposition. The process uses oxygen and therefore bubblers here are life-saviors.
Even if you don’t have too many fish housing your small aquarium, it is recommended to have a bubbler to keep your fish healthy and happy.
Signs that your aquarium is in desperate need of an air bubbler
- If you see your fish gasping for air.
- If they are moving close to the filter or rising to the surface, you should know that the water is running low on oxygen and needs a bubbler.
- Fish seem to be passive.
Note: Please take into consideration that not all fish like bubblers. For instance, a Betta fish might get stressed out with the bubbles in its water. A Betta can take in oxygen-rich water from the surface, in case it runs low on the gas in other parts of the tank.
Cons of an aquarium bubbler
Bubblers cause salt creep
A process in which the water of saltwater evaporates leaving behind salt crystals. A bubbler has a disadvantage that it causes water to reach various surfaces, which otherwise would have physically not been possible for the water to touch.
Once the water evaporates, it leaves numerous salt crystals behind, which is not only unappealing to the sight but the cleaning is effort-requiring.
You might not like bubbles
Some people despise a bubbler for its noise and some argue that the bubbles in the water make their aquarium ugly; they prefer their fish in a calm and silent environment.
Other ways of adding oxygen
Bubblers are certainly not the only way of adding oxygen to the water in your aquarium. There are numerous ways of doing it:
1. Add plants
Besides providing plenty of hiding places to fish, live plants are the easiest source of oxygen in a fish tank. Only make sure you place the aquarium at a place with the most sunlight exposure.
2. Use a cup
Another easy way of adding oxygen is by filling a cup with water in the tank and pouring it back from a height. The process will allow oxygen from the air to dissolve in the water.
3. Change the tank water
Oxygen depletion can be avoided by changing the water tank in large amounts (around 40% – 50%).
Note: Remember always avoid complete water change as you will stress out your fish and unintentionally throw out most of the healthy bacteria indispensable for the Nitrogen Cycle.
4. Spray bars
Spray bars are absolute favorites when it comes to replacing bubblers. They spray filtered and oxygenated water into the tank.
5. HOB filter
A HOB filter can replace a bubbler as these hang on the back of the tank (from where it got its name) and pour water from the surface, so you get filtered and aerated water that is evenly distributed to all parts of the tank.
A powerhead creates movement in the water, which is the trick to bringing more oxygen to the water.
7. Increase the surface area
You might as well use a wide and top-open tank for a greater surface area, so oxygen can dissolve in water from the air around without you having to interfere.
Different types of bubblers in the market
To cater to your preference and personal choice, there are various types of bubblers available.
1. Air stones
These bubblers are the most affordable ones, used commonly, and come in all sizes and shapes (some air stones are shaped into treasure boxes, some into animals or volcanoes for decoration). Plastic, stone, or wood is used to make an air stone.
2. Bubble wands
These narrow and long bubblers can be adhered to the glass surface to prevent them from floating around and becoming an obstacle in the way of your little water buddies. They are similar to air stones and only differ in shape and size.
3. LED bubblers
No one can argue the fact that an aquarium can add to the aesthetic appeal of a room. What is better than the one with an LED bubbler in it to enhance the beauty of those little water bubbles?
As the name indicates, these air stones have an LED bulb attached to them. The light (most of which come with a color-changing option) manifolds the beauty of any fish tank.
4. Flexible bubble walls
These rubber walls can be moulded into any shape, thus one can change the pattern of the bubbles being released to enhance the aesthetic appeal. There is plenty of room to be creative; hang them, arrange them along the bottom of your tank or coil them in any shape to make the bubble game interesting and fun.
Bubblers might not be a necessity and skipping them can save you a few bucks but having them in your aquarium will save you from doing most of the job. Moreover, you don’t have to worry about looking for signs of your fish struggling to breathe.
The last thing you want to do is suffocate them to death, so it is better to let a bubbler save your water pets.