Do Betta Fish Need A Bubbler/Air Pump?

Does your aquarium seem to lack flow? Do you think it would look more interesting and enticing with more bubbles?

Bubblers are a great addition to aquariums because they add extra airflow. But, not all aquariums need them.

Do betta fish need a bubbler? Keep reading to find out.

Do Betta Fish Need A Bubbler?

Generally, betta fish are not going to need a bubbler.

Why is that? Betta fish have labyrinth organs, meaning that they must breathe air to live. It would make sense that they would need a bubbler for proper oxygen concentration. But, this isn’t really necessary. Bettas frequently come to the surface of their tank to breathe air.

The best thing you can do to ensure your betta gets enough air is to choose a shallow tank. Bettas are poor swimmers, and they’re not used to swimming in deep tanks. Yes, they should live in at least 5 gallons of water. But, their aquarium should be longer than it is tall.

What Is A Bubbler?

A bubbler, or an airstone, is a small device that goes into the aquarium to add bubbles. They are usually made from limewood, porous stone, glass, or plastic.

Often, you’ll keep these near the bottom of the tank, but you can place them anywhere. You can add airstones to the aquarium alone. You can also buy decorations with a bubbler incorporated.

Bubblers and airstones connect to an air pump via a rubber or plastic tube. The pump is what actually creates the air, not the bubbler. The pump pushes the air through the tube and into the bubbler which makes the bubbles.

Do Bubblers Add Oxygen To The Water?

The job of a bubbler is to add oxygen and flow to the water. The more flow an aquarium has, the more oxygen will be in the water. This is because oxygen enters the water from the surface through gas exchange. Stagnant water is not equipped to allow much gas exchange.

Often, if you have a filter that produces low flow, you’ll need to add a bubbler as well.

Many people are mistaken about exactly how bubblers work. Yes, they create bubbles, but those bubbles do not add oxygen directly to the water.

As we mentioned, oxygen enters the water from the surface. As the bubbles rise to the surface, they pop and agitate the water. This agitation and flow of the water allow for more gas exchange. So, more oxygen can enter the water.

Why Can Bubblers Be A Problem For Bettas?

Bubblers can actually be problematic for bettas. The entire job of a bubbler is to add flow to the tank. It stirs up the water and creates a current.

Bettas Don’t Swim Well

Bettas have long, flowy fins, so they are weak swimmers. They don’t do well with a lot of flow. If there is too much flow in the tank, you will notice them struggling to swim. If there is no place for them to hide from the flow, they can become exhausted and sick. Bettas that can’t escape flow may hide at the bottom of the tank where they can lay away from the bubbles.

In the wild, bettas live in shallow rice paddies where the water is fairly stagnant. This is why their labyrinth organ is so useful. They don’t need to pull as much oxygen from the water as other fish. They get most of their oxygen straight from the surface of the water.

Bettas Get Their Air From The Surface

Usually, it’s alarming to see fish going to the surface to grab air. It means that the fish is suffering because there isn’t enough oxygen in the water. But, this behavior is completely normal for bettas, and it’s actually a good sign.

Still, your water shouldn’t be completely stagnant, it needs to have a bit of flow. Bettas do still have gills. So, they do pull oxygen from water the same way other fish do, they just don’t need as much. Bettas can survive on much less oxygen than other fish.

For a little bit of flow, you can simply buy a good filter. Choose a filter that is just strong enough to agitate the water, but won’t cause your betta to struggle.

It’s a great idea to add some live plants to your aquarium as well. They will naturally add oxygen back into the water.

What If Your Betta Lives In A Community Tank?

As we said, most fish do not have labyrinth organs as a betta does. This means they must get oxygen from the water column through their gills.

If you’re keeping your betta with other community fish, it may be a good idea to add a bubbler to help out your other fish. Smaller tanks like 10 or 20 gallons may not need them. The filter likely adds enough airflow on its own.

Tanks that are larger than that likely need a bubbler, though. A bubbler will help your other fish get the oxygen they need.

If you choose to place a bubbler in your community tank, place it somewhere it won’t disturb your betta. The bubbler should not be so strong that it creates a flow throughout the entire tank. Your best bet is to place it in a corner. It can create flow and oxygen for your fish, but it leaves plenty of low-flow areas for your betta to enjoy.


Bettas are able to survive in less-oxygenated conditions than other fish. They also have labyrinth organs to breathe air straight from the surface of the water.

So, it’s not necessary to keep a bubbler in your betta’s tank. In fact, it may do more harm than good. Bubblers create a lot of flow which can make it hard for your betta to swim.

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