Do Betta Fish Need an Air Pump?

Last Updated on February 2, 2023

Are you wondering if air pumps are necessary for your betta fish tank?

If so, you’ve come to the right place!

Air or oxygen pumps are sometimes helpful, but they’re not essential for your fish’s survival.

In this article, I’ll explain why betta fish don’t need air pumps and when they are useful. I’ll also answer some common questions related to the topic.

Let’s get started!

What is an air pump?

An air pump for an aquarium is a device used to bring air into the water column. You can plug it into a socket powered by electricity.

To produce a bubbling effect, you can use an air-line hose tubing from the air pump and put it into the aquarium.

This piece of equipment has been a hobby for so many years and it is inexpensive. Any beginner going into the hobby of taking care of a new betta fish will surely ask themselves if it needs an air pump.

Does betta fish need air pump?

This is a valid question for beginner aquarists, as air pumps are often considered essential for your pet fish’s well-being.

But when it comes to bettas, the short answer is no. Air pumps are unnecessary.

While it might seem counterintuitive, you don’t have to worry about lack of oxygen in your betta tank water.

That’s because betta fish are air breathers. Like us, they can take oxygen directly from the air with their special ability!

Therefore, all betta fish need to survive is access to the water surface – where they can gulp air.

However, if you choose to use one, there are still advantages an air pump can give to your pet. I’ll tell you some later.

Do bettas like air pumps?

Not all bettas like air pumps. Some find it too loud or too strong of a current for them, while others are perfectly fine with it.

A lot of hobbyists will share unique stories regarding how their pet betta fish would react to air pumps.

Some will tell you that their red betta fish love to swim through the bubbles while others will say that their blue betta fish just ignores it.

Or that a male betta fish will react differently from a female betta fish but really it depends on the temperament of your own betta fish.

But one thing we know is, a betta fish can survive without an air pump.

How can a betta fish survive with no aquarium pumps?

Evolution is the answer!

Let’s have a quick review of a betta’s history and origin.

Betta fish emerged from the Mekong Basin of Thailand in Southeast Asia. From there, they have spread throughout the region.

The climate of this place is tropical. And it has a dry and wet season.

During the hot season, water levels drop significantly. And that affects the oxygen levels in the water.

To survive in this environment, they developed a “labyrinth organ.”

Bettas have evolved the ability to breathe gaseous air from the water surface and get enough oxygen they need.

betta near the water surface – image from

This neat evolutionary trait has allowed betta fish to survive small amounts of water during the hot summer months of the dry season.

So as long as they do not fully dry up and remain moist, they will survive.

Pretty cool, right?

What is a labyrinth organ and how does it work?

As mentioned, labyrinth fishes like bettas can breathe by gulping air from the water’s surface.

This is one of the reasons why you need shallow betta tanks. So they can go to the surface more easily.

The gulped air then goes into the labyrinth organ for oxygen absorption.

betta fish labyrinth organ – image from

Within the labyrinth organ, there are many cavities of maze-like compartments. And they consist of thin bony plates called lamellae.

Lamellae, also known as thin membranes, line up alongside blood vessels. And because of its structure, oxygen can pass through with ease.

The blood vessels then carry the oxygen all throughout the betta fish’s body.

Because of this special ability, a betta can stay alive for quite a while in little or no water.

Bettas also use this to hop from one puddle to another in search of nice water conditions in the wild.

This is where the pervasive myth that a betta fish can survive in low amounts of water came from. And while they can last for a while in this setup, they won’t be entirely happy.

As a good pet owner, you should let your betta thrive.

In addition, here’s another thing you need to know: Betta fish aren’t born with a fully functioning labyrinth organ.

As small betta fry (the term for baby fish), they use their gills to get oxygen from the water.

The labyrinth organ only develops as your betta fish matures.

This probably coincides with the betta fish’s needs. When the labyrinth organ becomes adequately developed, your pet fish can start using this organ.

It will then depend on it more than it would with its gills.

Related: Can Fish Sleep with the Air Pump On?

Advantages of using an air pump

Although it’s not essential, investing in a battery-powered air pump can still benefit your betta.

Air pumps aid in better oxygen circulation and gas exchange

An air pump is your ticket to an oxygen-rich aquarium!

It helps oxygen come into the tank water and any excess carbon dioxide out of it. This maintains a healthy environment for your betta fish, allowing them to thrive better.

They are perfect for keeping steady oxygen levels in quarantine tanks

Quarantine tanks are usually smaller and contain fewer plants.

At the same time, you need warmer temperatures to help with the healing process. All of this can drastically reduce oxygen levels in your tank.

That’s where an air pump comes in handy! It helps keep enough oxygen, which is essential for any fish.

Air pumps can help increase beneficial bacteria in your tank

It doesn’t directly help create more beneficial bacteria. But an air pump is a must if you plan to use a sponge filter.

Sponge filters are highly effective in harboring beneficial bacteria and, thus, helping to wipe out the ammonia in your tank.

You need an air pump to run this aquarium filter successfully. So by investing in one, you can create a better environment for your betta!

These are just some good reasons why you should consider getting an air pump for your betta fish.

What’s the difference between an air pump, bubbler, and oxygen pump?

Air pumps, oxygen pumps, and bubblers are related tools aquariums use to keep the water oxygenated.

Air pumps work by pushing air through a tube or hose into the tank, creating bubbles that dissolve into the water and increase its oxygen content.

Oxygen pumps, on the other hand, use an internal pump to draw in air from outside of the tank and force it through a diffuser, where it is then released into the tank as micro-bubbles.

Bubblers are devices that attach to an air pump or oxygen pump and create more giant bubbles, which help to aerate the water more efficiently.

All three of these tools work together to ensure that your fish have a healthy environment with enough oxygen for them to thrive.

Related: Can You Have Too Much Oxygen in a Fish Tank?

What other ways can I use to introduce oxygen to my betta tank?

If you’re looking for ways to introduce oxygenated water into your betta tank that doesn’t involve an air pump, you can consider these few alternatives.

aquarium with live plants – image from

Live plants use photosynthesis to produce oxygen as a byproduct of gathering energy from sunlight.

As long as they get enough light, they will actively produce oxygen and help keep your tank well-oxygenated!

Additionally, live plants can provide hiding places for your betta fish and make their living environment more natural and aesthetically pleasing.

Through a filter

Filters are also a great way to introduce oxygen into your betta tank.

They use mechanical and biological filtration to clean the water in your aquarium.

Removing harmful toxins such as ammonia and nitrates can save your fish from developing swim bladder disease and other illnesses.

Is it normal for my male betta fish to gulp air and make lots of bubbles?

Yes, it is.

Male bettas will make bubble nests in the wild when they are ready to breed. It’s a way of attracting female bettas passing by. Though highly territorial, these fish will come together just to reproduce.

However, it’s normal for your male betta fish to make a bubble nest even when no females are around. This shows they are content, healthy, and happy in their territory.

I already bought an air pump for my betta fish. What can I do with it now?

Don’t throw it away or sell it just yet! You can still use it in other ways.

For instance, you can use it to power your sponge filters.

Sponge filters are the best way to keep your fish tank clean, as they collect waste and debris without disrupting the aquarium’s water chemistry.

Additionally, it provides a huge surface area for good bacteria to grow and thrive.

Another great use for your air pump is to power bubble wands. Bubble wands are the perfect way to create a beautiful, calming effect in your fish tank. They can also aerate the aquarium and provide oxygen for your fish.

And although bettas love still water, they can also benefit from the current created by air bubbles.

Do Bettas Need Air Pump?

What’s the recommended air pump?

Here is an example of a popular air pump from a company that has been in the industry for a very long time. Hobbyists recommend it a lot.

How can I oxygenate my water without a pump?

The disadvantage of using an air pump is that it creates a buzzing sound because of the rapid vibration.

You can hear this sound throughout the day other sounds in the household can overlap the noise. However, some people are annoyed by it.

To avoid this, you can use a different kind of filter instead such as a hang-on-a-back filter or a canister filter.

These are usually quieter. This will allow you to create surface agitation and provide filtration without the sound of an air pump.

This hang-on back filter has a trickling waterfall feature which will provide lots of surface agitation.

SunSun Tech’n’Toy HW-602B 106 GPH 3-Stage External Canister Filter

This canister filter is suitable for betta fish tanks between 5 to 10 gallons.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do bettas like air pumps?

Not all bettas like air pumps. Some find it too loud or too strong of a current for them, while others are perfectly fine with it.

Can betta fish live without an air pump?

Yes, betta fish can live without an air pump. Bettas are great examples of labyrinth fishes. They have evolved a labyrinth organ that allows them to absorb oxygen directly from the water’s surface.


Air pumps are an optional source of oxygen for bettas.

You can also use them to power a sponge filter in your tank, which removes harmful toxins and provides biological filtration.

However, it’s essential to consider the size of your betta fish tank before buying an air pump and ensure the flow output is gentle enough for your fish.

I hope we answered all your questions about air pumps for betta fish tanks!