Do Guppies Need A Bubbler or Air Stone? (Answered and Explained)

Do guppies need a bubbler or an airstone? Guppies do not necessarily require an airstone or bubbler, but they do require water circulation and movement, which can be delivered either from a filter or an airstone or both. Adding an airstone to a guppy aquarium creates water surface agitation, which in turn increases the amount of oxygen available to the guppies.

Eating Daphnia
Eating Daphnia

I first started keeping guppies over 30 years ago. Ever since I received my first 10-gallon guppy aquarium I have been totally addicted to guppies. I don’t think a single day has passed when I didn’t have at least one tank in my fish room filled with guppies.

Guppies are justifiably one of the most popular fish in the freshwater fish-keeping hobby today. The amazing rainbow of colors they are available in, coupled with their hardiness and ability to produce live babies, makes them popular the world over. One question fishkeepers new to the hobby often ask is…

What Does An Airstone Do In An Aquarium?

In our aquariums, the fish are totally reliant on us, the aquarist to provide them with everything they need. This includes oxygen in the water to allow the fish to breathe. Water contains both oxygen and carbon dioxide.



When the water surface is agitated, there is an exchange of gases between the water and the air above. This exchange allows the water to maintain the correct balance of both oxygen and carbon dioxide.

An airstone connected to an aquarium air pump allows a constant stream of bubbles to rise through the water column. One common misconception is that these bubbles are adding oxygen to the water.

Whilst it is probably true a very small amount of oxygen will dissolve into the water as the bubbles rise, the reality is the bubbles are rising quickly and the time for any oxygen to dissolve is very small. Instead, the real benefit comes when the bubbles ‘pop’ on the water surface, causing movement of the surface and allowing the exchange of gases to take place.

A secondary benefit to the bubbles rising through the water is the additional water movement. As the bubbles rise, they take with them water. As the water travels up with the bubbles, freshwater is drawn into the stream of bubbles, thereby creating water circulation.

This circulation helps keep the temperature in the aquarium equal throughout the whole tank and delivers nutrients to plants.



Is An Airstone The Same As A Filter?

An airstone itself is not the same as a filter, although some filters, like sponge filters and under gravel filters do take advantage of air stones to create the water movement they need to physically filter the aquarium water.

I recently wrote an article which is titled Do Guppies Need A Filter which further discusses filtering a guppy tank.

Can Guppies Survive Without An Airstone?

Guppies can survive just fine without an airstone, providing there is another source of water circulation and surface agitation in the aquarium. This circulation and agitation usually come from the aquarium filter, but can also be derived from a powerhead or aquarium circulation fan, blowing water around in the tank.

What Else Does An Airstone Need To Work?

Airstones themselves don’t produce the bubbles, they need to be attached to an aquarium air pump. Aquarium air pumps come in a vast range of sizes and prices, starting with the USB Nano Aquarium Air Pump from Aquarium Coop, which comes in at under $10, going up to large industrial linear piston air pumps which can be used to power dozens, sometimes hundreds of aquariums at once.

What Size Air Pump Should I Get For My Guppies?

The size pump should be sized to the aquarium. The smaller the tank the smaller the air pump. If you use a large, powerful air pump in a small aquarium, the bubbles will create a tornado of water and air which will distress and probably kill your guppies.

Equally, a very small air pump in a deep aquarium may mean the pump doesn’t have enough power to push air all the way to the bottom of the tank. Take some time to look at the box the air pump comes in, it will usually give a guide as to the correct size tank the pump is suitable for.

Are Guppies Scared Of The Bubbles?

Providing you haven’t got a massive stream of bubbles pouring out of your airstone, churning up the tank, and making it impossible for your guppies to swim around, they shouldn’t be scared of the bubbles coming out of the airstone.

Apart From An Airstone And Air Pump, Is There Anything Else I Need?

Apart from the air pump and the airstone itself, there are a couple of other items you will need. An airline tap will allow you to turn down and control the airflow from your air pump to your airstone.

The airline tap can also be useful for balancing the airflow if you have more than one outlet from a single air pump.

Secondly, a backflow check valve is invaluable. A check valve stops water back siphoning from your aquarium if the power goes out and your air pump stops blowing air. An entire aquarium can quietly drain out through your airline if your air pump stops working and you don’t have a backflow check valve.

Some other factors to consider are, does your guppy tank need a heater or does it need a filter?

In Conclusion

Whilst your guppies can live just fine without an airstone, they do need many of the benefits the airstone brings to your aquarium. An airstone will bring surface agitation to your aquarium, which in turn increases the amount of oxygen available to your fish and increases water circulation, which benefits your fish, your plants, and your filter.

The well-respected YouTuber and owner of Aquarium Co-Op, Cory Mcelroy, suggests that EVERY aquarium should have an airstone in it, no matter what fish or filtration system you are using.

One Last Thing…

If you enjoyed this article on Guppies, why not check out some of my other articles on guppies including Can Guppies Live With Angelfish, How Long Do Guppies Live For, and How Many Guppies in a 5 Gallon Tank?


About the Author

I’ve been keeping, breeding, and showing tropical fish for nearly 30 years. Over that time I’ve done it all! I’ve had great success and I’ve made some really foolish mistakes (like the time I bought an Asain Walking Catfish). Read more…
Richard James
Editor