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Do Puffer Fish Need Air Pump?

Pufferfish care and maintenance can be tricky but once you get the hang of things, keeping one can be a very satisfying experience. One of the main questions hobbyists ask is “do puffer fish need an air pump?”

If you are new to keeping a pufferfish, it is important that you consider this as well. 

In this guide, we will tell you exactly whether puffer fish need an air pump or bubbler or whether they can survive without one.

Do Puffer Fish Need Air Pump?

Pufferfish do not necessarily need an air pump. Sure, you could add a pump – it is entirely a personal choice. However, an air pump isn’t a necessity for pufferfish. They are perfectly capable of taking up dissolved oxygen from the water and even from the surface of the water.

A puffer fish is swimming in a tank with an air pump.
A puffer fish is swimming in a tank with an air pump | Credit: sueb4830 / Canva.com

In short: pufferfish do not need any extra air. That’s why you don’t need to add an air pump, especially if you have a good filtration system in place. You can always add one for decorative purposes but it isn’t an absolute necessity.

Signs That Your Pufferfish Needs More Oxygen

Unfortunately, there are no clear signs that a pufferfish needs more oxygen. It is best to test the water from time to time. In some cases, your pufferfish’s behavior might indicate that it needs more oxygen:

  • Coming up often to the surface of the water – Your puffer might hang out more towards the surface of the water. It might appear to gasp.
  • Swimming less vigorously – As such, pufferfish are slow swimmers. But when the oxygen levels in the tank drop really low, your fish might swim even less. It will attempt to get more water over its gills to obtain whatever little oxygen it can.
  • Lack of appetite – low oxygen levels could also impact your fish’s appetite. Since your pufferfish will have labored breathing, it might not eat much or not at all.
A puffer fish is living in an oxygen-deficient tank.
A puffer fish is living in an oxygen-deficient tank | Credit: Supersmario / Canva.com

If you notice these signs, then you need an air pump or air stone in your tank.

Best Air Pumps for Puffer Fish

There are many air pumps available on the market and they all have different features and purposes. Some air pumps create decorative bubbles as a backdrop in the aquarium. Some are designed to work under the gravel. 

Choose an air pump based on your tank’s size, depth, purpose, and also ease of installation and use. Most importantly, the pump should also have a quiet operation.

We recommend the following air pumps suggested by many puffer fish owners:

NameFeaturesProsCons
Tetra Whisper Air PumpSuitable for 40-gallon tanks.
Also available for larger tanks up to 100 gallons
1) Easy to use
2) Durable
3) Value for money
Not quiet; some units made a high-pitched sound.
Uniclife Aquarium Air Pump Dual Outlet Perfect for 10-60 gallon freshwater and saltwater tanks, 25 dB quiet operation,  max air flow rate 64 gph1) Adjustable; regulate bubbles, meet desired airflow
2) Quiet operation
3) Long-lasting
Some units had a very strong air-flow
ActiveAqua Air PumpAvailable in 4 sizes1) Adjustable airflow
2) Powerful operation
3) Easy to setup
4) Sturdy and durable
Very loud.

Alternatives to Air Pump

There are several alternatives to using an air pump. Air stone, filter, and extra plants are some ideas.

Filter – As mentioned at the beginning of this guide, an air pump is not necessary if you have a good filter. A filter with its outlet 2 cm over the water’s surface agitates and disturbs the surface.

This surface agitation adds adequate oxygen to the water. The benefit of using an aquarium filter over an air pump is that it looks good and is not noisy like many air pumps tend to be.

Marineland Magniflow Canister Filter For aquariums, Easy Maintenance

Marineland Magniflow Canister Filter For aquariums, Easy Maintenance
  • 3-STAGE FILTRATION: Water flows through media layers to filter water and ensure a clean aquatic environment
  • VERSATILE: For freshwater and saltwater aquariums
  • FAST SETUP: Water-tight canister lid lifts up for easy removal
  • EASY MAINTENANCE: Valve block for quick release to shut down water flow – separates from housing for quick, spill-free maintenance
  • THREE SIZES AVAILABLE: Comes in 220 GPH, 360 GPH and 360 GPH sizes

Last update on 2022-10-26 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Hang-on-back filter – Also known as HOB for short, hang-on-back filters for aquariums move the water from one side (the side away from the aquarium) to the other (the side closest to the aquarium). This movement of water also brings air with it and improves oxygenation.

MarineLand Penguin 350 Power Filter 50 – 75 Gallon Aquarium, 350 GPH

Sale
MarineLand Penguin 350 Power Filter 50 - 75 Gallon Aquarium, 350 GPH
  • WITH ROTATING BIO-WHEEL: Patented Bio-Wheel technology provides excellent wet/dry biological filtration.
  • MULTI-STAGE FILTRATION: Delivers mechanical, chemical and biological aquarium filtration to maintain a clean aquatic environment.
  • COMPATIBILITY: Use with Marineland Rite-Size Filter Cartridges (see individual filter for sizing recommendations).
  • FIVE SIZES: Available in 75 GPH, 100 GPH, 150 GPH, 200 GPH and 350 GPH sizes.
  • Age range description: All Life Stages

Last update on 2022-10-26 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Air stone – Air stones circulate the air around the fish tank and produce tiny oxygen-filled bubbles. They also lift the different layers of water in the tank to the top of the water.

hygger Aquarium Air Stone, Bubble Stone Fish Tank Oxygen Stone

Sale
hygger Aquarium Air Stone, Bubble Stone Fish Tank Oxygen Stone Ultra Silent Deep Dissolving Oxygen Diffuser Kit for Aquarium Fish Tank and Hydroponic (Black, 4 Inch)
  • 🐟【Fine bubble】 Oxygen stone refines the air output from the air pump into a particle bubble, which is smaller and denser, like the "atomization" effect, and the bubble size can be adjusted, and the different oxygenation amount can satisfy different use requirements
  • 🐟【High dissolved oxygen rate]】 Compared with ordinary bubble stone, the nano bubble stone emits more bubbles, and the gas and the water surface are more widely contacted, which makes the dissolved oxygen amount larger
  • 🐟【Quality Nanomaterials】: The nano-stone is sintered at high temperature. The material is sturdy and durable. It can be used for a long time and has better dissolved oxygen effect. When the bubble burst into the water, the sound is super quiet
  • 🐟【Air pump wattage】 The weighs of air stone is 15.2oz/430g and is easily placed at the bottom of the fish tank, suitable for fresh water and salt water. It is driven by an air pump of 4 watts or more. PS: The deeper the water, you may need to use a larger wattage air pump to drive it
  • 🐟【Air pump accessories】: 4 inch nano air disk stone, 1 control valve, 1 check valve, 2 suction cups, 1 T-shaped connector, 1 reducer of connecting 8mm and 4mm. Note: Hose and air pump are not included

Last update on 2022-10-26 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Aquatic plants – The addition of aquatic plants not only adds oxygen to the water but also reduces the ammonia and carbon dioxide produced by your pufferfish.

A puffer fish is swimming in a tank with many aquatic plants 
A puffer fish is swimming in a tank with many aquatic plants | Credit: slowmotiongli / Canva.com

What Other Things Do Pufferfish Need in Their Tank?

There are several types of pufferfish and they all have different requirements. It is very important that you research your species of pufferfish carefully so you can provide it with the right care it needs.

In general, here are the important things your pufferfish will need in its tank:

Plants and hiding places – in their natural habitat – which could be freshwater, salt water, or brackish water in between river and sea, pufferfish hide in the vegetation or in the crevices of coral reefs. So add plenty of plants and crevices to its tank.

Exotic Environments Caribbean Living Reef Aquarium Ornament – Large

Substrate – Fine soft sand is ideal for most pufferfish so it won’t hurt them.

AQUANATURAL Oolitic Aragonite 10lb Aquarium Sand for Reef

Sale
AQUANATURAL Oolitic Aragonite 10lb Aquarium Sand for Reef, Saltwater and Marine Tanks and Aquariums
  • Unsurpassed buffering capability - keeps pH at a stable 8.2
  • 98% pure calcium carbonate - no impurities like other sands
  • Naturally renewable oolitic aragonite from a sustainable source
  • Pisces is the only company that has a lease with The Bahamian government to harvest aragonite

Last update on 2022-10-26 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Tank mates – Pufferfish are generally solitary creatures. They are also known to be quite aggressive and territorial. As such, it is best to house them alone. If you want to add tankmates, choose the submissive ones or the ones that will stay out of your puffer’s path. Some good choices are Danios and Blood-fin Tetras.

Water parameters – Pufferfish are very sensitive to nitrates and ammonia in the water. Maintain the pH between 7 and 7.6. For freshwater pufferfish, keep the hardness between 8 and 12 dKH. Keep the water flow rate low as these are slow swimmers.

API SALTWATER MASTER TEST KIT 550-Test Saltwater Aquarium Water Test Kit

Sale
API FRESHWATER MASTER TEST KIT 800-Test Freshwater Aquarium Water Master Test Kit, White, Single, Multi-colored
  • Contains one (1) API FRESHWATER MASTER TEST KIT 800-Test Freshwater Aquarium Water Master Test Kit, including 7 bottles of testing solutions, 1 color card and 4 glass tubes with cap
  • Helps monitor water quality and prevent invisible water problems that can be harmful to fish and cause fish loss
  • Accurately monitors 5 most vital water parameters levels in freshwater aquariums: pH, high range pH, ammonia, nitrite, nitrate
  • Designed for use in freshwater aquariums only
  • Use for weekly monitoring and when water or fish problems appear

Last update on 2022-10-26 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Filter – a good quality filter is important to keep your tank water clean.

FAQs

Do puffer fish need air?

Like all fish, pufferfish need oxygen and they use dissolved oxygen in the water. If the oxygen isn’t adequate, a pufferfish might come to the surface of the water to take in air.

Do pea puffers need a heater?

Pea puffers need water temperature between 74 and 82 F. If your room temperature drops below this range in winters or if you use air conditioning, then a water heater is a must-have accessory for your fish.

Can aquarium fish survive without an oxygen pump?

Most aquarium fish can survive without an oxygen pump especially if you have a good filter producing a lot of water movement. However, if you do not have a filter or pump, the fish could die within a couple of days in the still water.

Is it hard to care for puffer fish?

Pufferfish need strict water parameters and ideal tank conditions to survive. These could be tricky for newbies to maintain. That is why puffer fish do not make the best starter pets.

Final Verdict – Do Puffer Fish Need an Air Pump?

Pufferfish do not necessarily need an air pump especially if you have a good filtration system. Adding an air pump is entirely a personal choice. As such puffers are capable of taking in oxygen from the surface of the water.

We hope this guide gives you a better understanding of your pufferfish’s care.

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