Do Goldfish Need A Bubbler: Practical Aesthetic Or No Need

do goldfish need a bubbler
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Last Updated: July 28, 2022 by Flora Gibbins

A bubbler, also known as an air or water pump, is a piece of equipment that helps increase oxygen levels in a fish tank. It creates bubbles that disturb the water surface to aerate the water.

Though efficient…

Many aquarists wonder whether or not to buy an air pump when purchasing tank equipment for their goldfish. Some do not find the need for a bubbler when the tank already has a filter.

So, do goldfish need an air pump? This article provides answers to this question and more. Keep reading.

How An Air Pump Works

aquarium air pump image

An air pump is a device that features airline tubing. This tubing runs from the air pump to the tank water and connects to an air stone.

When an air pump is plugged into an outlet, the air is pumped at high speeds through the tubing and the tiny holes in the air stone to create bubbles.

These bubbles agitate the water surface to allow diffusion of oxygen and carbon dioxide release. It is safe to say that an air pump increases airflow to prevent water stagnation.

Do Goldfish Need A Bubbler?

aquarium with air bubblers image

Now that we understand how an air pump works do goldfish need one? Well, it depends.

As with all aquatic life, goldfish need oxygenated water to live. And some goldfish species need oxygenated water to swim around the tank.

Goldfish live in temperatures between 60 and 74 degrees Fahrenheit. They are adapted to living in cooler water, unlike tropical fish that thrive in warm water.

These temperate fish draw in oxygenated water through their gills. The gills contain string-like cilia that absorb oxygen to pass it into the goldfish’s body.

Other times, goldfish swim to the surface to gulp air with their mouth. This mainly happens when their tank is dirty or has insufficient oxygen. If the goldfish’s tank has a limited oxygen supply, your fish could easily die.

Benefits Of Adding Air Pumps To Goldfish Tanks

aquarium with goldfish and bubblers on the background

Bubbles Add More Oxygen

The bubbles created by the air pump and air stone contain more oxygen. They add oxygen to the water.

Moves The Water Around

A bubbler prevents water stagnation by moving the aquarium water around. This balances the water temperature in the aquarium and improves oxygen levels.

Increases Surface Agitation

An air pump creates surface movement to allow the absorption of oxygen in the water. Surface agitation removes carbon dioxide and introduces more oxygen.

Creates An Aesthetic Appeal

Moreover, the bubbling effect enhances the overall look of the tank. Besides, it provides enrichment for your goldfish.

Having an air pump ensures that your fish have enough air, especially when the tank is overstocked, you own a small tank with a small surface area, or the water appears still.

However, there are drawbacks to adding a water pump to an aquatic environment. The bubbling can push weak goldfish around, making it difficult to swim. This can stress them out and lead to a weakened immune system.

Additionally, a bubbler can remove all the CO2 from the water, thus inhibiting plant growth. The high gas exchange may prevent the aquatic plants from growing. Besides, some aquarists find bubblers noisy.

Fun Fact: Before investing in a bubbler, you should consider two things initially; namely, (1) the number of fish to keep and (2) the size of the tank you’re going to use. Focusing on the second requisite would help you with the first one; hence, your tank choice is of high importance! Check our article here to learn more — Goldfish Tank Size: A Beginner’s Guide To Aquarium Setup.

If you are looking for other methods to improve air circulation apart from air pumps, look into the following options.

Other Ways To Add More Air In A Goldfish Tank

You can improve air quality without having to purchase an air pump. Some ways to effectively do so are:

Using A Filter

aquarium filter pump

A filter is a piece of aquarium equipment that removes toxic matter from the water. Moreover, the filter media harbors good bacteria to remove toxic chemicals.

When a filter replaces the cleaned water in the tank, it creates water movement. This improves air circulation and keeps the goldfish tank clean. Besides, some filters feature a waterfall system or a built-in spray that moves the surface water.

Add Live Plants

Aquatic plants also improve a tank’s oxygen levels. These plants naturally increase the tank’s oxygen levels, use CO2, and reduce the harmful nitrites.

When adding aquatic plants, ensure they are large and healthy since goldfish enjoy nibbling on plants. Java moss, java fern, and anubias are excellent plants to try.

Use A Bigger Tank

aquarium with different goldfish species

Larger tanks have more surface area, which promotes gas exchange. Longer aquariums are preferable for keeping goldfish instead of the taller ones. Additionally, getting a larger tank will prevent waste accumulation and high carbon dioxide levels.

Maintain Low Temperatures

Water temperature affects oxygen levels in a tank. Warm water has less oxygen than cold water. The temperature can rise if the surface water is stagnant or the tank accumulates waste and debris.

So, filtrate the water frequently and agitate the surface of the water with a filter or an air pump. Cooler water will provide all the needed oxygen.

Make Frequent Water Changes

Changing the tank water improves water quality and air quality. It prevents the buildup of toxic waste. When performing water changes, siphon the substrate to remove trapped debris and gasses.

You may need to make more water changes in a fish bowl or small tanks compared to bigger tanks.

This YouTube video discusses how often you should perform water changes:

Avoid Overfeeding

Uneaten food usually decays to cause ammonia buildup and toxic CO2 levels. This can affect the tank’s oxygen levels, which is why you should avoid overfeeding your fish.

Signs Your Goldfish Tank Does Not Have Enough Oxygen

You must understand how goldfish act when there is limited oxygen in their tank’s water supply. If you notice the following signs, act fast to save your fish.

Fish Gulping

If your fish are gulping for air at the water’s surface, they are not receiving enough oxygen from the water. The water’s surface usually has more air than the bottom of the fish tank.

Increased Gill Movement

Your goldfish’s gills will move rapidly as your fish struggle to draw as much oxygen. In other words, the frantic movement of gills is proof of your goldfish struggling to breathe.


The lack of oxygen reduces your fish’s activity. You will observe goldfish lying at the bottom, not moving. However, lethargy does not always mean little oxygen in the tank’s water. It can also mean the water is too cold or the fish are sick.


Constant yawning is another sign that your goldfish require more oxygen. When the water does not have adequate oxygen, the fish will appear to be yawning as they try to draw the little air.

Staying Close To The Pump

Your aquarium does not have enough oxygen if your goldfish constantly hovers around the bubbler, trying to catch the next bubble. But you can correct this by changing the air pump’s settings.

Still Water

There is no gas exchange if the water surface in the fish tank is still. Oxygen will not enter the tank, and the CO2 will not leave. This can cause the goldfish to gasp for air or become lethargic.

High Temperatures

This fish species prefer cold water as it contains more oxygen. If the tank temperatures are on the higher end, your goldfish will not get adequate air.

If you notice any of the above, add a filter or an air pump to agitate the water’s surface and increase the oxygen supply in the tank.

Small Aquarium

Fish bowls and small tanks have a smaller surface area, which means insufficient breathing air. The lesser the surface water movement, the less oxygen that gets to the water.

Moreover, small tanks are prone to waste buildup, so it is best to conduct an ammonia test regularly.

Final Thoughts

Do goldfish need an air pump? Yes, if your aquarium has still water, if the temperatures are high, or if the tank does not have a large surface area. Generally, an air pump will improve the air quality in the tank’s water.

However, goldfish do not always need a water pump. If you own a big aquarium, the large water surface will allow gas exchange. Aquatic plants and a filtration system can also help oxygenate the water.

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