Do Goldfish Need An Air Pump? 4 Ways To Tell | Aquascape Addiction

Do Goldfish Need An Air Pump? 4 Ways To Tell

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We answers the common question of whether Goldfish actually need an air pump, it depends on a number of factors. Here is a summary to determine if you need one for your tank or not.

Do Goldfish Need An Air Pump? 4 Ways To Tell

When it comes to pet stores and dedicated fish owners, you will often see goldfish tanks with air pumps inside of them. Air pumps do look quite impressive, especially with all of those bubbles, but do Goldfish need one?

So, do goldfish need an air pump? It depends on your tank conditions and set up, if your tank meets the below criteria then you don’t really need to worry about adding an air pump and air stone;

  1. Large tank (30 gallons+).
  2. Aquarium plants that produce Oxygen.
  3. A good filtration unit.
  4. Tank isn’t overcrowded.

How To Tell If An Air Pump Is Needed

Ok, so there are some cases where you may need to add an air pump to your aquarium in order to provide your goldfish with enough oxygen/carbon dioxide, although once again, the need is rare if you have the right set up.

That said, just in case, there are some telltale signs to keep an eye out for, signs which will indicate that you may indeed need an air pump for your goldfish.

1. Goldfish Gasping For Air At The Surface Of The Water

Alright, so the number one way to tell if your goldfish tanks is in need of an air pump is if you catchy your goldfish gasping for air at the surface of the water.

If you ever see your goldfish doing this, it means that it is struggling to get enough oxygen.

This gasping can be due to other issues, such as water temperature or illness, but it is often a sign that the water contains too little oxygen.

2. Small Tank

If you have an small fish tank, you may want to consider an air pump. Simply put, the less water there is in the tank, the less oxygen/carbon dioxide there will be.

A single goldfish may get enough oxygen in a super small tank, but this is questionable. If this is the case, getting an air pump might be a good idea.

Speaking of the water surface area, if your tank is comparatively deep instead of wide, that lack of surface area will also decrease overall oxygenation.

Important: You should not keep Goldfish in small tanks, 30-40 gallons+ is actually the recommending size for them, adding an air pump to a smaller tank should only be a temporary solution until you get a bigger tank but make sure you do. (we have covered our top 5 tank picks here).

3. Surface Movement

A good filtration unit should produce some oxygen bubbles and oxygenate the water through the filtration process.

A good waterfall filter always helps with this. However, if you have a small and weak filter, or just one that doesn’t product much water surface movement, you will most likely need an air pump.

Yes, aquarium filters are often enough to oxygenate/carbon dioxide the water for a goldfish, but not if the filter is weak.

4. Temperature

Now, something that most people assume is that all goldfish live in cold water. While it is true that the majority of goldfish do prefer cooler waters, there are a select few which require warmer water.

The point here is that warmer water actually holds much less dissolved oxygen than cool water. Therefore, if you have a warm water goldfish, an air pump is definitely a good investment to make.

Note: If your goal is to simply increase the tank temperature, a good heater will be the best solution.

Do Goldfish Need An Air Pump To Survive?

Strictly speaking, if you have a large tank with lots of water and a decent amount of surface area, you have a few good aquarium plants that produce oxygen, you have a good filtration unit, and not too many fish confined in a small space, the water should contain more than enough dissolved oxygen to support a goldfish, way more than enough.

Now, you might see goldfish tanks complete with air pumps and air stones. Yes, these do help oxygenate the water in the aquarium a little bit, thus allowing fish to breathe easier.

However, strictly speaking, an air pump without the added air stone will not oxygenate the water all that much.

Best Air Pump For A Goldfish Tank

If you do need a good air pump for your goldfish tank, here is a summary of our top pick;

Tetra Whisper Air Pump

This is a basic and affordable aquarium air pump that comes in a variety of sizes. It is available in sizes for 10 gallon tanks, for 20 to 40 gallon tanks, for 40 to 60 gallon tanks, and for 60 to 100 gallon tanks.

One thing to note here is that the largest size of this air pump has dual valves so you can split up the air flow if needed.

The Tetra Whisper Air Pump comes in a cool dome shape, one that doesn’t look too bad, so it won’t mess with the aesthetic appeal of your aquarium too much. Also, the dome shape, as well as the included legs, are more than ideal for placing on any type of substrate.

You could even strap some plants to the top to totally hide it from sight. As the name of the Whisper Air Pump implies, it is very quiet, which is of course beneficial, because nobody wants to listen to a noisy air pump, and that includes your fish.

  • Multiple sizes.
  • Good value.
  • More than enough for a goldfish.
  • Shock absorbing legs for stability.
  • Can be easily kept out of sight.
  • Quiet
  • Not the most durable.
  • Gets dirty fast.

Check the current price at Amazon

How To Improve Oxygenation For Your Goldfish Tank?

Are you wondering how to improve oxygenation in your goldfish tank without having to use an air pump? There are a couple of tips we can provide you with to help you achieve just that.

  • Aquarium plants are great at producing oxygen. If your goldfish tanks needs a higher level of oxygenation, adding some more live plants to the mix will definitely help.

  • Something else that can help improve oxygenation in a tank is if the shape of the tank is right. Remember what we talked about above, that deeper tanks with less surface area have less oxygen in them. Therefore, if you get a wider tank instead of a deep tank, this should help.

  • Another thing that can help improve goldfish tank oxygenation is if you get a waterfall filter. The clean water comes out of these filters like a waterfall, thus forcing oxygen down into the fish tank along with the clean water.

  • If you have a goldfish that loves cool water, you can always decrease the water temperature as low as possible, without putting the goldfish in danger. Remember, cold water holds much more dissolved oxygen than warm water.

How Do Goldfish Breathe?

A goldfish is a regular type of fish in the sense that it breathes by absorbing oxygen through its gills. The gills of a goldfish have many blood vessels known as capillaries.

When a goldfish swims around and pulls water through its gills, the dissolved oxygen in the water is absorbed by the capillaries and the blood flowing through them.

That oxygenated blood is then dispersed throughout the rest of the goldfish’s body via the bloodstream.

You may also notice goldfish breathing at the surface, or more like gasping for air, which is their attempt to breathe when the water does not contain enough oxygen.

That being said, goldfish do not have lungs and are therefore not labyrinth fish.

Is There Too Much Circulation in My Aquarium?

Yes, there is such a thing as having an aquarium that is overly aerated with too much oxygen in the water. Of course, this usually comes along with having too strong of a water current in the tank.

If you notice that your usually slow swimming fish are being blasted all throughout the tank without any control of where they go, it’s a pretty solid sign that there is too much circulation.

Simply put, if your fish is struggling to deal with the current in the tank, then there is too much circulation.

Also, if you notice that your water is constantly cloud because sand, gravel, or debris is being kicked up, then you might have too much circulation in the tank.

In some tanks, there is so much circulation that small pieces of plants may break off and float around in the water column.


Alright, so if you feel the need, you can definitely get your goldfish tank an air pump, but with a decent tank, cool water, and a functioning aquarium filter, you probably won’t need one.

That said, if you are looking for a a good air pump, we recommend the Tetra Whisper personally or even adding a good air stone.