How to Use Airline Accessories in Your Aquarium
Aquarium air pumps are quite easy to use – just connect the pump to the air-driven device (like a sponge filter) using some airline tubing and plug it in. What accessories do you need for your airline? Continue reading to learn five common parts of an airline that can change the way you use your air pump.
1. Verify Valve
A check valve, even if you only have one item on the list, is a must-have. This valve contains a flapper, or stopper. It allows air to flow in one direction (into your tank) and prevents water from flowing in another direction (outside the tank). This cheap but important accessory prevents water from siphoning out of your aquarium if the air pump turns off or stops running during a power outage. Water leakage out of the airline tubing usually results in damage to your air pump, as well as flooding all over your floor. In extreme cases, this can lead to an electrical fire if you have appliances or power strips sitting in the water.
Every aquarium device that uses airline tube is required to have a check valve. This includes aquarium ornaments, sponge filters, brine shrimp hatchery and carbon dioxide (CO2) injection systems. The only exception to this rule is when the CO2 tank/air pump is located above the aquarium’s edge. For installation, simply cut the airline tubing between the device and air pump and connect the check valve in between. The flapper, which looks like a horizontal or colored bar at the end of the check-valve with the flapper should face the air pump. You can’t turn the air pump on if the check valve is installed backwards.
Connect the check valve between the air pump and air-driven device such that the horizontal or colored bar is facing the air pump.
The best practice is to place the check valve outside the aquarium (not in the water), close to the top of the fish tank. This position prevents water from getting to the rim and not near the air pump. The water pressure could cause leakage if it is too close to the tube. Make sure that the airline tubing has not been twisted or damaged. Final, make sure to inspect the airline tubing for any signs of dryness or hardening. This could lead to the connection leaking during an outage.
2. Air Valve
An air valve sounds similar to a check valve, but instead it is used to control the amount of air flow coming from your air pump into the aquarium. You may find an adjustable knob on some air pumps that allows you to adjust the pressure. However, if you don’t have one or the bubbles are too strong then this tool is for you.
To install an air valve, cut the airline tubing between the air pump and the air-driven device. Connect the ends of the airline tube that have been cut to the valve at each end (direction does not matter). Turn the knob until the flow is reduced. To increase flow, loosen it. Even when the knob is tightened down all the way, a small amount of air usually still escapes through the air valve. This prevents too much back pressure from building up and potentially damaging your air pump.
An air valve regulates the airflow from your pump to your aquarium device.
As with the check valve, we recommend that you add the air valve near the rim of your fish tank for easy access. Also, make sure you make clean cuts in the airline tubing and check the connections periodically to make sure the air valve is still snuggly connected.
3. T Splitter
The tee airline splitter gets its name from its T shape that splits one stream of air into two paths. This functionality is useful if you only have one air pump but wish to run a second air stone or aquarium decoration in the fish tank. Another use case would be diverting air off your main aquarium to a second tank or a quarantine tub. Each pack comes with five T airline connectors, so you could theoretically chain multiple splitters together to create additional air streams.
The T splitter separates the airflow coming from the green pump. Next, the valve controls the amount of air that reaches the sponge filter.
Air valves are highly recommended for splitting the air stream. This allows you to fine-tune how much air is going to each line. Use airline tubing with straight ends. Also, inspect the connections regularly to ensure they don’t become weaker over time.
4. Gang Valve
A more efficient accessory for splitting one air stream into multiple paths is a gang valve. We offer a model with four outlets and as many as two inlets. The two inlets allow you to add one or two air pumps as desired and then split it up four ways. Alternatively, you can connect daisy-chain two gang valves together, giving you eight ways to split your air.
A gang valve can be used to divide air between multiple air-driven devices or aquariums.
Keep in mind that each time you split the air, each outlet has a weaker output and less air going through it. You will need to adjust each air stream for every outlet you have. You don’t need any additional air valves, as each outlet has its very own adjustable switch to control how much air goes to it.
5. Air Stone
An air stone is a small, weighted bubbler that produces very small bubbles in the water. This accessory diffuses air into the tank to improve oxygenation and reduce bubbling noise. To improve the effectiveness of your filtration, you can either use the air stone alone or with a sponge filter. The air stone produces a steady stream (instead large, intermittent bubbles), that lifts the sponge filter like an escalator.
This diagram shows where an air stone goes inside a sponge filter to optimize its performance. Our sponge filter installation guide will show you how to install an airstone inside a sponge filter.
Running an air-driven device like an aquarium filter, air stone, or bubbler is one of the easiest ways to increase surface agitation and oxygenation in your fish tank. For more details on how to set up a fish tank air pump (and make it quieter), read our full installation guide here.