Getting a new pet requires a great deal of research into their care and equipment. For most pets, it’s pretty straight forward. However, exotic pets like fish have thousands of opinions about their care and options for equipment. When you read through all the available equipment from wavemakers to sumps to bubblers to canister filters, it can be difficult to pick out what you need for your tank.
Betta fish do not require a bubbler, nor do they need wavemakers, sumps, or any of the more “complex” equipment. Betta fish only need a filter, heater, and 5 gallon or larger tank. Their tanks are some of the easiest and fastest to set up, which makes them a good beginner option. However, this doesn’t mean they won’t enjoy a bubbler, or that you can’t have one.
In this article, we will cover what a bubbler is, the benefits of air pumps, sponge filters, bubbling decorations, and the labyrinth organ.
What is Bubbler?
A bubbler is a general term for an object that produces a stream of bubbles when hooked up to an air pump. These generally resemble porous stones and come in many shapes, sizes, and colors. Some are just plain black balls, others are green little turtles or even bluefish.
Some can produce bubbles from the entire object, while others only bubble from certain areas. The purpose of this is to increase the overall dissolved oxygen content of aquariums, which is especially useful in warm water.
In order to function, a bubbler needs an air pump and airline tubing. The air pump pushes air through airline tubing to the bubbler, which produces small bubbles. These bubbles diffuse oxygen into the aquarium and ripple the surface of the water, which promotes extra gas exchange.
When setting up your air pump, you would ideally put it on a shelf above or adjacent to the aquarium. Do not let it touch the aquarium, as the vibrations it makes can be incredibly harmful to fish. If you cannot place it above or on the same level as the tank, this is fine as long as you have a drip loop.
A drip loop is a slack bit of cord between the air pump and the outlet it is plugged in to. If it happens to get wet, the water will drip off the drip loop, as it sits lower than the outlet and air pump, instead of dripping into the outlet.
Benefits of Air Pumps
The primary benefit of air pumps and bubblers is the increased oxygen content of the water. This can help promote the growth of fish, plants, and beneficial bacteria. They also help circulate the water, which can be a great benefit to a betta tank.
Most filters made for bettas have a very low flow, and depending on where they’re placed in the tank, there could be some circulation issues. If they are put on one end of the tank, there will be almost no flow to the other end, which is where a bubbler can come in handy.
While an air pump technically only needs airline tubing and a bubbler to work, it is best to also have a control valve and check valve as well. A control valve allows you to control the amount of air entering the tank. You may need to lower the amount going in if it makes the flow too intense for your betta.
A check valve prevents water from coming out of the aquarium and onto your floor. While it is rare, they generally cost less than a dollar and can prevent quite a bit of damage. Even just 1 gallon of water on the floor could cause devastating damage, but if left alone too long, the entire tank can drain out of the airline tubing.
By pumping air through the airline tubing, a small vacuum of pressure is created. If the power goes out or there is a malfunction, the vacuum will reverse and drain the water. Always check your tanks with air pumps during a power outage to prevent water damage.
Sponge filters, along with a few other select filters, are powered by air pumps. They are commonly used in betta tanks as they produce a very low flow, which bettas love. While there are adjustable settings on other popular filters, the lightest setting may still be too strong for your betta.
Sponge filters consist of a tube and one or two sponges. Air travels up the tube, displacing water, which creates a vacuum. This vacuum draws water and mulm through the sponge(s), where the mulm remains trapped, and the clean water continues up the tube and back into the tank. If you have an appropriately sized sponge filter and air pump, this will circulate the tank water and keep it clean.
During your weekly water change, be sure to clean out the sponge. Simply take off the sponge and squeeze it out several times in a bucket of old tank water. Mulm will come out, and you can put the clean sponge back on the tube. Do not replace the sponge if it looks dirty, as this will kill all the bacteria that convert lethal ammonia to nitrates. It is much easier, cheaper, and safer to clean it.
Bubbling decorations come in many shapes and sizes, and the bubbles often create a moving effect. For example, they could cause a dragon to open its eyes, a clam to pop open, or a volcano to bubble over. All are very fun to have around and watch, and some bettas find them entertaining as well.
These decorations do need to be cleaned more often than other decorations, but this normally consists of shaking them around in old tank water. They have the same benefits as a bubbler, as well as an aesthetic bonus, but are purely a personal choice.
Betta fish do not need a bubbler because unlike other fish, they are not solely reliant on the dissolved oxygen in aquariums. Nearly every other fish needs to get its oxygen from the water, but bettas are special.
Betta fish come from low flow, very warm water, both of which reduce the dissolved oxygen content. In order to combat this, bettas evolved to have a labyrinth organ. This organ is similar to a primitive pair of lungs and allows bettas to take oxygen from the atmosphere.
While this allows them to survive in water with low oxygen content, they are not able to rely on their labyrinth organ alone. Similarly, it is beneficial if they are able to use their labyrinth organ regularly, so be sure your betta can always access the top of the water.
While many people regard betta fish as fragile and weak, they are much more likely to survive low oxygen levels than other fish. Oxygen levels do play a role in the health of fish, especially in the warm tanks that bettas need. Many other common fish need similar temperature levels, but aren’t able to pull oxygen from the air, so if the tank doesn’t have enough gas exchange, they can die.
In conclusion, a betta fish doesn’t need a bubbler, but bubblers do have some benefit. They raise the amount of dissolved oxygen in the water as well as perfect the tank’s circulation. Not to mention, bubbling decorations are just fun to have!