What is an Aquarium Air Pump and Where It is Used

An aquarium air pump is an electricity-powered or battery-operated device that is used to aerate and mix up water in a fish tank. How does an aquarium air pump work? The mechanism of action depends on the pump type. It uses either a vibrating plate or air injection to make water move. When air is injected into the tank through a thin pipe, it passes through a sponge or an air stone and forms myriads of tiny bubbles that rise to the water surface. By doing so they improve the water quality in several ways.

  • They make water move constantly that prevents its stagnation. You must be aware of the fact that stagnant water is harmful to fish.
  • When rising to the surface, they break up a thin bacteria film that tends to cover still water.
  • They oxygenate the water, making it fresh and properly aerated. Fish feel much better in such an environment.

To some extent, the same effect is provided by an aquarium filter. But a high-output aquarium air pump reduces the load on the filter, which increases its lifespan. Also, it provides deeper aeration of water – this is especially important for large tanks. Finally, rising bubbles create a nice visual effect. Despite their simple construction, aeration pumps are not made equal. Depending on their mechanism of action and the power source, various types of the pumps are distinguished. Here are the most common of them.

Vibrating or Piston

Vibrating pumps use special membranes that push air in one direction. The membranes vibrate at high speed, making water move. These are the quietest aquarium air pump options but they are not very powerful, so they are used in small water tanks mainly. The pumps of a piston type use air injection to create bubbles and mix up the water. They are more powerful and suit for larger aquariums but the level of noise produced by them is higher.

Electricity- or Battery-Powered

Electricity-powered (plug-in) aquarium air pumps are the most popular ones. Their consumption rate is very law, so their maintenance costs are minimal if compared to the battery-operated units. The latter ones, in their turn, are portable and more versatile in terms of their placement. But they require an outer battery pack.

The Best Aquarium Air Pumps: a Comparative Chart

Best Choice
Tetra Whisper review
Tetra Whisper
  • Tank size: Up to 60 gallons
  • Pump capacity (Flow rate): -
  • Max depth: 8 ft.
  • Wattage: 4,8

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Also great
Hydrofarm Active Aqua review
Hydrofarm Active Aqua
  • Tank size: Up to 200 gallons
  • Pump capacity (Flow rate): 240 GPH
  • Max depth: N/A, approx. 20 inches
  • Wattage: 6

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Also great
Mylivell Quietest Aquarium Air Pump review
Mylivell Quietest Aquarium Air Pump
  • Tank size: Up to 40 gallons
  • Pump capacity (Flow rate): 24 LPH
  • Max depth: 39 inches
  • Wattage: 1,5

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Also great
Uniclife Aquarium Air Pump review
Uniclife Aquarium Air Pump
  • Tank size: Up to 100 gallons
  • Pump capacity (Flow rate): 4 LPM
  • Max depth: n/a
  • Wattage: 4

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Also great
Fluval Q1 Air Pump review
Fluval Q1 Air Pump
  • Tank size: Up to 160 gallons
  • Pump capacity (Flow rate): 2 LPM
  • Max depth: 20 inches
  • Wattage: 4

Check Price
Best Choice
EcoPlus Air Pump review
EcoPlus Air Pump
  • Tank size: Up to 150 gallons
  • Pump capacity (Flow rate): 126 GPH
  • Max depth: N/A, approx. 36 inches
  • Wattage: 3

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Also great
Danner Air Pump with Diffuser review
Danner Air Pump with Diffuser
  • Tank size: Up to 2500 gallons
  • Pump capacity (Flow rate): 1700 cu.in/min
  • Max depth: 7 feet
  • Wattage: 40

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Also great
Hpumps Aquarium Air Pump review
Hpumps Aquarium Air Pump
  • Tank size: Up to 20 gallons
  • Pump capacity (Flow rate): 240mL/min
  • Max depth: 24 inches
  • Wattage: 1,5

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Also great
Marine Metal Aeration System review
Marine Metal Aeration System
  • Tank size: Up to 35 gallons
  • Pump capacity (Flow rate): 125 GPH
  • Max depth: 30 inches
  • Wattage: 5,5

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Things to Consider When Choosing an Aquarium Air Pump

Many aquarium air pumps have a similar construction. And still, they are made different. There are some important characteristics, which you need to consider every time you choose a pump.

Noise Level

The level of noise is measured in decibels. Normally, we feel comfortable when it doesn’t exceed 30-35 dB The noise level of 40 dB can be compared to normal talking – you don’t notice it most of the time but it can turn rather annoying at nighttime. If you keep your aquarium in the bedroom or you are too sensitive about loud sounds, look for the best quiet aquarium air pump, which produces no more than 35 dB

Energy Saving

Most air pumps consume very little energy – somewhere in the range of 1.5-5.5 Watt. Commonly, smaller and less powerful options have a lower consumption rate and vice versa. Check the list of specifications of a particular pump to find the optimal ratio of energy consumption and power.

Volume per Hour

This characteristic is often referred to as the pump capacity or flow rate. It is commonly expressed in gallons per hour (GPH), liters per hour (LPH) or liters per minute (LPM). This figure shows how much water the pump can handle within the given period of time. Make sure the pump is powerful enough to handle your aquarium; otherwise, the efficiency of aerating will be low.

Pump Placement

Air pumps can vary in terms of their construction and the method of mounting. There are submersible options that are placed in the water, right on the bottom of the tank. External units are more popular: they can be placed on the floor or on a special shelf above the aquarium. Some compact pumps are mounted vertically on the outer wall of the tank with the help of a suction cup. Commonly, it is recommended to place external pumps above the water level to avoid siphoning.
Within the framework of our aquarium air pump review, we’ll cover various types of aerators. Consider the type and size of your aquarium to choose the right option.

How We Decided

To compile our ranking of top-10 aquarium aerating pumps we studied over one hundred aquarium air pump reviews on Amazon and other popular online platforms. After that, we compared the core characteristics of the chosen models. In particular, we considered such tech specifications as the water flow rate, noise level, extra accessories included, energy consumption, and the amount of water they are capable of handling. Based on the derived information, we were able to define the best price/quality options.
During the tasting, we estimated the overall build quality and the performance. Our goal was to decide whether the real performance of the pumps complies with the manufacturers’ claims. Though there were some disappointments, most of the pre-selected pumps performed really well.

The Best Aquarium Air Pumps 2020: Our Choice

In this section, you’ll find the best aquarium air pump reviews. Each review consists of a brief general description, our thoughts, and pros & cons of the model. All the core specifications of the pumps reviewed, are presented in the comparative chart above.

Tetra Whisper Easy to Use Air Pump for Aquariums

Tetra Whisper Easy-to-Use Air Pump for Aquariums


Tetra is one of the oldest and most recognizable brands in the market of fish aquarium supplies. Its Tetra Whisper aquarium air pump combines simplicity, perfect ergonomics and reliability. This is a submersible unit that is placed on the tank bottom. The four “legs” feature soft rubberized pads that dump the vibrations produced by the pump. Thanks to this, the device is surprisingly quiet, which is a big advantage, especially if you keep the aquarium in the bedroom.

What we think

On the plus side, this Tetra unit is affordable, well-made, and effective. On the minus side, it tends to get loose over time, which results in annoying rattling. However, this problem is easily fixed by making some DIY improvements. Mind that the tank should be large enough for the unit’s being placed not too close to its walls.


  • affordable and easy to use;
  • very low energy consumption;
  • decent build quality;
  • sleek design;
  • minimal noise level.


  • tends to get loose over time.
Hydrofarm Active Aqua Air Pump, 4 Outlets, 6W, 15 L/min

Hydrofarm Active Aqua Air Pump


This small aquarium air pump is powerful enough to handle up to 200 gallons of water at a rate of 240 gallons per hour. It provides a consistent airflow and allows manual adjustment of the air pressure. The unit is placed externally, so it works a bit louder than the submersible options. To dump down the vibrations, rubberized legs and multi-layered mufflers are used. With the power consumption rate of just 6 Watt, it is an energy saving option.

What we think

We strongly recommend placing the unit on a rubberized mat or a carpet to reduce the noise level. All in all, Active Aqua is a great powerful pump that comes at an attractive price of slightly over $20. Its build quality is decent, and there are very few complaints about its durability. It’s a pity it comes without tubing and air stones.


  • effective and durable;
  • adjustable air pressure;
  • consistent airflow;
  • low energy consumption;
  • four synthetic rubber mufflers.


  • a bit noisy;
  • supplied without tubing and air stones.
Mylivell Quietest Aquarium Air Pump

Mylivell Quietest Aquarium Air Pump


The unique construction of Mylivell makes it the quietest air pump for aquarium around. It uses no motors, pistons or other mechanisms that commonly produce noise – just one piezoelectric plate that works absolutely silently. The unit itself is lightweight and compact; it is easily attached to the tank’s outer wall with a single suction cup. It comes with tubing and an air stone, which make it a ready-to-use option.

What we think

If the size of your aquarium doesn’t exceed 40 gallons this pump is an ideal option for you. It is incredibly easy to use and versatile in terms of its placement. Apart from this, it produces really little noise. We love the fact that it comes with extra accessories.


  • very easy to mount and use;
  • works quietly;
  • forms beautiful bubbles;
  • comes with useful extras;
  • effective and reliable.


  • for small tanks only;
  • not waterproof.
Uniclife Aquarium Air Pump with Accessories

Uniclife Aquarium Air Pump with Accessories


Uniclife is another example of a quiet aquarium air pump that is compatible with both freshwater and saltwater tanks. With the consumption rate of just 4 Watt, it is a great energy-saving option. The unit with two outputs can handle up to 100 gallons of water without hassle. The flow rate is adjustable, which adds convenience, and all the necessary accessories are already included in a standard package.

What we think

All in all, the device is a great value for money. We love the feature of the flow rate adjusting: to minimize the noise level (e.g. at night) you may just set the minimal flow rate without switching off the pump. Another great thing is that it comes with the accessories, so that you don’t need to buy anything. That said, the standard tubing is a bit short.  The plastic case is a sort of flimsy, and there are complaints about its quality.


  • one of the cheapest options;
  • comes with plenty of accessories;
  • low noise level;
  • low energy consumption;
  • an adjustable flow rate.


  • the plastic case seems flimsy;
  • the tubing is shorter than expected.
Fluval Q1 Air Pump

Fluval Q1 Air Pump


Fluval Q1 ranks as the best air pump for aquarium tanks of 50-160 gallons. It provides a powerful and consistent airflow, and the possibility of adjusting the pressure is just fine. Thanks to the noise-suppressing chamber, the device works quietly though it is not totally silent. The unit features two outlets.

What we think

This is a well-built device with a reliable and powerful swing-arm diaphragm. Its thick outer case makes it look a sort of bulky; however, it is lightweight and relatively quiet. To our regret, it comes “bare”, without any accessories included.


  • powerful and durable;
  • 2-year warranty;
  • the flow rate is adjustable;
  • lightweight and quiet;
  • handles up to 160 gallons of water.


  • comes with no accessories;
  • the two outlets are not adjustable.
EcoPlus 126 GPH Air Pump

EcoPlus 126 GPH Air Pump


EcoPlus 2 (a 126-GPH option) is a powerful aquarium air pump with a dual-chamber pumping system. The unit produces a consistent airflow and offers an option of pressure adjusting. A smart solution of EcoPlus is a water-resistant case, which is uncommon for external air pumps. The aerator has double outputs while its energy consumption rate is low if compared to most counterparts – just 3 Watt.

What we think

While having some nice perks, such as a water-resistant outer and an adjustable airflow, this pump has a small downside – it is noisier than other similar devices. To some extent, this issue can be fixed by placing it on a rubber mat. Another disappointment is no accessories included. All things put together, you get what you pay for.


  • low price;
  • stable performance;
  • a water-resistant case;
  • adjustable airflow;
  • low consumption.


  • comes without accessories;
  • a bit noisy.
Marina Battery-Operated Air Pump

Marina Battery-Operated Air Pump


There are some situations where you need a battery air pump aquarium unit. This Marina pump is definitely one of the best options. It runs on two standard D-size batteries and provides up to 2 days of continuous fully autonomic aeration. This is an indispensable device in numerous emergency situations, such as power outages. What is great, it comes with accessories – an air stone and compatible tubing.

What we think

Like any battery-powered aquarium air pump, it is not intended for everyday use. It is much noisier than plug-in pumps but it does its job really well, providing up to 24 hours of continuous aerating. We strongly recommend buying this portable unit as a backup option for various unforeseen situations.


  • lightweight and portable;
  • great for emergencies;
  • up to 24 hours of working;
  • comes with accessories.


  • it is noisy.
Danner 04520 1700CUIN AP-20 Pond Air Pump

Danner 04520 1700CUIN AP-20 Pond Air Pump with Diffuser


This unit by Danner is a professional large aquarium air pump for aerating huge water tanks or fishponds. The powerful pump can handle up to 2500 gallons (and even more) in the ponds of up to 7 feet in depth. Besides improving the overall quality of water by aerating, it enhances bio-waste processing. To achieve the best results one should use it with a good protein skimmer.

What we think

Unlike other devices reviewed, this pump is not intended for small aquariums. This is a pro-level unit, so you will hardly ever want to use it at home. It is bulky and noisy. At the same time, it does an excellent job in large water tanks and ponds oxygenating and cleaning for both indoor and outdoor use. On the minus side, it comes without tubing or air stones.


  • powerful and efficient;
  • for large and very large tanks/ponds;
  • improves the quality of water;
  • prevents icing-over;
  • for indoor and outdoor use.


  • noisy and bulky;
  • no accessories included.
Hpumps Aquarium Air Pump with Filter Air Stone and Tube

Hpumps Aquarium Air Pump


This mini aquarium air pump is perfect for small aquariums up to 20 gallons in size. It is very quiet and consumes as little as 1.5 Watt, so one can fearlessly use it in the 24/7 mode at home. The device is easy to use and comes with all the accessories that you may need for installation – an air stone, tubing, and a suction cup for mounting on the wall of the aquarium. Keep in mind that it must be mounted externally – the case is not waterproof.

What we think

This is a great space- and energy pump, which is so quiet that you’ll hardly ever hear it. It is of the plug-and-play type; no special installation is required. Just attach the tubing, connect it to the air stone, and secure the unit externally on the aquarium wall. It creates beautiful small bubbles that honestly aerate the water and have a nice visual effect. The only small complaint is about the suction cup, which tends to get loose over time.


  • lightweight and silent;
  • easy to use;
  • energy- and space-saving;
  • affordable;
  • comes with accessories.


  • for small tanks only;
  • the suction cup could be better.
Marine Metal B15 aeration System Power Bubbles 12V DC

Marine Metal B15 Aeration System Power Bubbles


Marine Metal B-15 is a silent aquarium air pump supplied with plenty of accessories. Though the noise level is not specified by the manufacturer, numerous customer reviews confirm that it works really quietly. Its double-bellow construction allows fast and efficient water oxygenation. The unit is easy to install, and the mounting clips are supplied with the pump, as well as the premium-quality glass-bead air stones.

What we think

This is an awesome quiet air pump aquarium unit with an excellent build quality and plenty of accessories. It is a bit pricier than most rivals but it is worthy of it. It is ideal for 35-gallon tanks; however, you may use it in larger reservoirs (actually, up to 100 gallons). Superb aeration and beautiful bubbles are guaranteed.


  • effective and durable;
  • noiseless;
  • easy to mount;
  • a lot of accessories included;
  • great build quality.


  • a bit pricey.

Marine Metal Aerator Quiet Bub 1.5V 33 Hrs W/2 ‘D’ Battery


This is a small battery-powered device that can effectively aerate up to 8 gallons of water for up to 33 hours. It is great for keeping live fish bait or temporarily sustaining a due level of aeration in fish aquariums. The supply package includes a 24-inch silicone tube and an air-stone. The pump comes with a water-resistant shell and can work in both fresh and marine water.

What we think

The pump does its job well. This compact portable unit runs autonomously for almost two days. Great for those fishers who need to keep fish alive for some hours in a bucket or as an emergency unit. The pump itself is not waterproof, so avoid getting water inside it.


  • compact and portable;
  • runs up to 33 hours;
  • tubing and an air stone included;
  • affordable and easy to use.


  • not completely quiet;
  • not waterproof;
  • comes without batteries.

Five Interesting Facts about Aquarium Air Pumps

Aquarium with a working air pump

  1. Bubbles rising to the surface don’t oxygenate water. They increase the overall amount of water that contacts with air, enhancing Carbone dioxide release and oxygen absorption.
  2. Marine fish need more aeration than freshwater species, as oxygen dissolves much worse in saltwater.
  3. Air pumps help to create incredible visual effects: use ornaments, bubble cascades, and LED lighting to make your aquarium look like a fantastic treasure chest.
  4. The most powerful aquarium air pump options are widely used for artificial outdoor ponds aeration and decoration.
  5. Freshwater fish are used to a strong consistent current while marine animals feel better when the water is pulsing and the direction of movement is constantly changing.

Frequently Asked Questions

To make the most of your pump you need to know how to set up aquarium air pump correctly and how to maintain it properly. Here, we’ve collected answers to the most popular beginners’ questions. It’s easier to manage any process when you are well-informed.

Q: How to Clean and How Often Should Be Cleaned an Aquarium Air Pump?

A: As a general rule of thumb, a working air pump doesn’t require frequent cleaning. You may clean it once or twice a year. That said, you may do it at any time if the device gets too noisy or it gets clogged with debris and grime. The procedure is quite simple: plug out the device and disassemble it using the manual. Then soak all the removable parts in a vinegar & water solution for a couple of hours, gently rub them if necessary to remove the dirt, and then rinse under the running water. Let the components get dry and assemble the unit.

Q: When and How Often Should an Aquarium Air Pump Be Run?

A: There are no specific prescriptions, as an air pump is not a vital component of an aquarium. But taking into account its low energy consumption and low noise level, you can run it 24/7. It will have a positive effect on the aquarium habitats well-being.

Q: Can I Use My Aquarium Air Pump for Salt Sea Water?

A: Marine water is more aggressive if compared to fresh water. For saltwater aquariums, you will need a pump with corrosion-resistant underwater elements. Most saltwater pumps can be safely used in freshwater tanks but not vice versa.

Q: How to Make an Aquarium Air Pump Quiet?

A: It depends on the type and the construction of the pump. If you keep it on the table or on the shelf, the easiest way to damp down the vibration is to use a soft mat. Some options can be covered. That said, if a pump is mounted on a tank wall, it’s hard to make it quieter. General recommendations include keeping the pump clean and tidy and using it according to the instruction.

Q: How to Set up an Aquarium Air Pump?

A: Right after unboxing, read the user manual to know everything about your aquarium air pump: how to use it, how to set up and maintain it. Commonly, setting up is as easy as to attach tubing and air stones, put them in the water, place the pump on a firm surface above the tank, and plug it in. Mind that the surface must be solid and large enough. The pump will produce vibrations, and if the surface is flimsy or very narrow, it can just fall down. Some units are mounted on the tank’s wall, which makes an aquarium air pump setup even easier.

Q: How do I know if my aquarium has enough oxygen?

A: The lack of oxygen has a strong negative effect on aquarium habitats. Sometimes, it can even cause fish death. The situation can be improved by using a powerful air pump. To detect whether the water in your fish tank is well oxygenated or not you can make a special test. However, it’s possible to understand this just observing fish behavior. If your fish dwell slowly neat the surface, it’s a clear sign they lack oxygen. If they quickly swim in depth, they feel OK, so, you have nothing to worry about.

Q: Are air bubbles bad for fish?

A: Air bubbles in an aquarium can be caused by various reasons and mustn't be ignored. These include: from the filter outlet; from the water change; from the heater; from dead algae; made by fish. No matter which of the above-mentioned points is the reason for air bubbles in your fish tank, you should find a solution to remove them. You shouldn't delay it, especially if the reason is the dead algae. All fish need oxygen to survive in the tank. Once chlorine, ammonia, or other toxic chemicals fill it, the tank inhabitants have to float to the surface and blow bubbles. If you notice this, it means the aeration system of your aquarium needs an upgrade.


Verdict and Recommendations

An aquarium air pump is a useful accessory that improves the quality of water in a fish tank and makes it look fantastic. It’s important to choose the right pump that will cover your needs in the best way. While all the brands reviewed offer high-quality products, not all of them are good for a particular aquarium.
Those looking for a cheap aquarium air pump to handle a small fish tank may consider Uniclife Aquarium Air Pump. At the price of a little over $15, you’ll get a full-features aerator with all the necessary accessories. In terms of price/quality ratio, this pump is beyond competition.
If you need a powerful device to aerate huge aquariums or outdoor ponds, check Danner Air Pump – it can handle up to 2500 gallons of water. It is quite noisy and expensive – over $100 – but it is perfect for outdoor use. The pump is powerful and reliable; its effectiveness is preserved at the depth of up to 7 feet.
Our top pick of a battery-operated aquarium air pump is Marina pump. It can last up to 24 hours without recharging and provides a decent quality of aeration. It is nice to have it as a backup option.
There are some other great options that are not covered in the framework of this review. One of them is Top Fin aquarium air pump – a reliable and powerful device from a well-established manufacturer. Make your own research or choose one of the recommended pumps to upgrade your aquarium.

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Tiffany Gonzales

An air pump is a device attached to the outside of an aquarium that moves air through your tank water in some manner. Standard aquarium air pumps use an electromagnet to quickly vibrate a rubber diaphragm, which creates the air flow.

James Stewart

Why Use Aquarium Air Pump?

Alisa Mendoza

An air pump performs two key functions in a fish tank. It enriches water with oxygen, which makes it easier for fish to breathe. Also, it improves water circulation. As a result, the water is mixed more evenly, which, in turn, ensures a higher quality of filtration.

Aubrey Gray

Fish are fickle pets and it may be difficult to feed them properly in the correct portions. Sometimes you may overfeed your fish and it can create layers that build up in the tank. An air pump provides more oxygen into the water making your water cleaner and healthier for your fish population. Your air pump will also cause bubbles and add a cool look into your aquarium.

Marcus Gordon

If you own an aquarium, an air pump is a vital accessory that you need. The main purpose of having the air pump is to keep the water oxygenated, and this helps the fish to survive in the fish tank. The air pumps work well in ensuring that the water is not stagnant, so the air moves and circulates in your aquarium effectively and this gives fish a comfortable life.When you are choosing an aquarium air pump, it is important if you choose a quiet one so that it doesn’t disturb your fish with noise.

Melissa Fields

The Tetra Whisper air pump is available in a variety of models based on tank size. You can choose one for small aquariums up to 10 gallons, or go all the way up to the 100-gallon version. And if you’re on the fence between one size and the next, it’s usually wise to buy the more powerful pump. The Whisper is a favorite in-line air pump among home aquarists because it’s quiet. It doesn’t have the characteristic hum that many pumps produce. The dome shape and sound-dampening chambers inside greatly reduce vibrations.

Brandie Byrd

Find a Proper Location To Install Your Air Pump?

Alisa Mendoza

Air pumps are always installed outside the fish tanks. The airflow gets to the water through the tubing, which is attached to the pump. The pump, in turn, can be placed above, below, or on one level with the aquarium depending on its location. Keep in mind, however, that if the pump is placed below the tank, you’ll need to install a check valve. This is a special device that prevents water from flowing back to the pump.

Gilbert Ryan

Even though fish live in the water, it doesn’t mean that they don’t need oxygen in order to breathe. This is why you may need a pump for your aquarium. But, you also need to make sure that you have the right pump for the tank you are using.

Kristen Holt

The Uniclife aquarium air pump is one energy-efficient product that will provide quality air in your tank. More specifically, this air pump will ensure a good supply of oxygen to the aquatic pets inhabiting the tank. Maintaining oxygen balance in your tank/aquarium is one of the crucial necessities that ought to be fulfilled in whatever way possible.

Jose Bowman

Can you have oxygen into an aquarium without using the air pump?

Alisa Mendoza

To some extent, an air pump can be replaced by aquatic plants. The fact is that plants can consume carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. That being said, to oxygenate the whole aquarium you’ll need too many plants. They will occupy too much space. That is why it makes sense to combine a pump with plants, which also provide a ground for fish eggs.

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