dwarf gourami

Healthy dwarf gourami are the result of a property equipped aquarium. Make sure that aquarium air pump used for aeration will drive the airstones when they are at the bottom of the tank.

Here’s a technology that really has improved.
One of the first things new hobbyists discover about fishkeeping is the aquarium air pump. Soon they become aware of just how many ways there are to use it in an aquarium. Oddly, there are lots of aquarium air pumps on the market, but not much information about them. In this article I’ll try and bring you up to speed. You will know at least enough to make the best choices for the money, and you’ll also know how to get the most from these devices.

Air pumps for the hobby are based on several technologies for producing oil-free air. Pet stores and hobby breeders like me often use centrifugal blowers to handle upwards of a hundred shallow aquariums. Commercial facilities with deep tanks, vats or ponds, or those that have extremely long piping, may require pumps capable of handling lots of back pressure, such as large rotary vane, diaphragm or compressor pumps. Hobby aquarists have a choice of small vibrator diaphragm pumps or piston pumps. Piston pump motors are open to the air and salt spray, they’re noisy, and replacing the valves is a nuisance. Few piston pumps are still on the market. Diaphragm pumps, once looked on with disdain because they buzzed and, in general, had little output, have improved remarkably.

How do they work ? Ordinary alternating current (AC) energizes a transformer inside the plastic housing, which in turn energizes a U-shaped electromagnet surrounding it on three sides. A flexible flat metal armature points toward the opening of the U surrounding the transformer. This armature is tipped with a separate, isolated magnet, perhaps a centimeter square. When AC power is turned on, the current running through the transformer energizes the surrounding electromagnet. This causes the small magnet at the end of the armature to sympathetically vibrate faster than the eye can see some 60 cycles per second which is the frequency of alternating (house-hold) current in the U.S. The far end of the metal armature is seated on a rubber foot locked into the plastic housing of the air pump. About halfway along the now vibrating metal armature a screw attaches the armature to a flexible diaphragm either hemispherical (rounded at the far end) or semicylindrical (flat at the far end) sitting atop an air chamber. The bottom of the air chamber is inflexible, with a discharge port that leads to a short internal air line.

This, in turn, leads to the outside of the unit where all you see is the plastic or metal nozzle or port to which air line tubing is attached. The hemispherical or semicylindrical diaphragm is usually made of black rubber, but it could al    so be made of a synthetic material. The bottom of the air chamber is fitted with a rubber or synthetic one way flapper valve to keep the air going out. If it failed or was not there, then the air chamber would simply breathe in and out with the action of the diaphragm. Most vibrator air pumps on the market today can be readily unscrewed from the bottom, allowing easy replacement of either the rubber diaphragm or the entire armature-diaphragm-flapper unit, depending on the manufacturer.

In all cases, the costs of replacement are minimal and the aquarist has the satisfaction that comes with successful do-it-yourself repair. Typically, the base plate has holes on the rim for screwing the air pump onto a wooden wall, floor, or anywhere else, which is an important convenience for vibrator pumps that tend to walk on smooth surfaces.

air pumps

this airpump has one transformer and one diaphragms, with separate air chambers. Excess air can be bled off using a gang valve to reduce back pressure on the diaphragm for pump that don’t have an output control knob.

Vibrator air pumps vary in the number of pumping units, a unit consisting of the transformer, armatures, dedicated diaphragms and external ports. Most often, a single transformer is surrounded by a single electromagnet that operates one or two armatures, occasionally four. The sizes of the air chambers between the diaphragm and flapper valve also vary. What does not vary is the number of vibrations, which in our 60-cycle alternating current country equals 60 vibrations of the diaphragm per second. Engineers can increase air output by increasing the size of the air chamber and the diaphragm covering it, or by using multiple air chambers. Diaphragm pumps have pretty I much displaced piston pumps in today’s market. Noise, repairs and output are concerns of the past because of several innovations. First, manufacturers have, for the most part, given up building larger, less energy efficient, stronger, but more energy expensive, diaphragm units. Instead, they offer models with multiple pumping units that join inside to provide doubled or quadrupled output , at lower wattage and construction cost. More importantly, this makes repairs (replacement of diaphragms or complete armatures) easy and inexpensive. Second, they’ve worked out the optimal armature-diaphragm technology. Third, good baffling (soundproofing) and rubber pads have eliminated noise. The new transformers hum, but they no longer buzz like a worn-out fluorescent ballast. Fourth, most of the pumps have built-in or replaceable air filter pads, increasing the life of the diaphragms and thereby the pumps. And finally, by packaging replacement parts for sale at pet shops, they’ve allowed aquarists to fix almost any pump themselves.

The Pumps
Let’s look at some of the pumps on the market today. I evalutated vibrator air pumps, in part, on the technical materials provided by the manufacturer, as well as by opening them up and inspecting them inside. I tested the top of the line pums of each series in the following manner. A wooden air diffuser was attached to the end of an air line, which in turn was rubber banded to a yard stick. I then evaluated output volume at the bottom of a 150-gallon marine tank (23 inches of water depth providing back pressure) to see whether that pump would, in my opinion, produce enough air at that level of back pressure to operate a wooden diffuser in a counter-current protein skimmer. For purposes of evaluation, I presumed that the technology of the top-of-the-line unit in any series would be the same as in the smaller units in that series. Differences in any series would be due number of diaphragms and, to lesser extent, their sizes. Finally, I testes only consumer type pumps sent for evaluation.  Keep in mind that I’m only doing a comparative analysis. Just because a pump won’t run a wooden air diffuser in 23 inches of water doesn’t mean the unit won’t serve well in either a shallower tank or with less demanding types of airstones.

replacing internal parts as needed ensures sufficient air pressure without having to replace the entire pump. Dealers generally stock replacement parts for brand name units.

replacing internal parts as needed ensures sufficient air pressure without having to replace the entire pump. Dealers generally stock replacement parts for brand name units.

Tetra offers three lines (Challenger, Whisper and Supra) of its Second Nature vibrator air pumps, featuring the synthetic Silaflex (TM) flapper valve, said to be an improvement over rubber. The basic Challenger II is a two-outlet, low priced unit without an adjustable dial. The popular priced Whispers 400, 600, 800 and 1000 contain differing numbers of armatures with their own dedicated diaphragms in the same pump housing. The Whisper 400 and 500 each has a single armature and diaphragm, the 600 and the larger 800 have two, and the top-of-the-line 1000 has four. The 1000, 800 and 500 have the added feature of a top-mounted dial to adjust the air volume released. The 600, 800 and 1000 have two air nozzles to accommodate their separate armature-diaphragm units. The 1000, with four armature-diaphragm units, pairs them internally to feed into two exit ports. It is also packaged with a spare diaphragm and (most big pumps have this) a plastic T for combining outputs. Power consumption of the 1000 is about the same as a night light 6 watts. The Second Nature Supra series comes in four models: the 4001 through 4004. Improvements over the Whisper line include a patented air baffle to cut down on noise, an improved flapper valve material, Silaflex IITM and somewhat larger, heavier armatures and diaphragms. The top-of-the-line Whisper 1000 provided little air at the bottom of the 150, and even combining both outputs (four diaphragms) produced insufficient air to run one air diffuser for a counter-current protein skimmer. The Supra 4004 is a lot more powerful. At 23 inches of depth in the 150-gallon marine tank, the output from a single outlet (there are two) was more than sufficient to run a deep protein skimmer. Because that’s only half its output, this unit will operate a two-diffuser counter current skimmer all by itself.

Penn Plax offers quietest aquarium air pump with the Silent-Air series of vibrator air pumps, models SA-X1 through SA-X6. The Xl, X2 and X3 have single plastic ports, the X4 and X5 have two plastic ports. The SA-X6 has four metal ports and is the only unit with an adjustable dial on top. The big unit consumes 15 watts and, looking at the pump’s intestines through the clear dark-purple plastic, will appeal to kids who like bionic movie fantasies of people lost inside computers. The ports for the air outlets are on very short tubes connected to the clear cap, rather than the base, and complete removal for easy armature or diaphragm replacement will require unscrewing the metal ports or disconnecting the rubber tubes. The two doubled diaphragms on their two armatures are massive and they would be easily unscrewed for replacement when you purchase the repair kit if only they were more accessible. This unit is powerful. One of the four ports was more than enough to force lots of air out of the wooden air diffuser at 23 inches depth in the 150-gallon marine tank. Two ports would handle a standard two-diffuser counter-current skimmer with ease, but by using T fittings to feed the four ports to just two air lines you could really move air through your protein skimmer. This is an impressive pump with terrific output.

Vibra-Flo air pumps include the VF-1000 through VF-6000, plus a battery-powered unit that uses two D cells. The VF-1000, -2000 and -3000 have single plastic ports, the -4000 and -5000 have two plastic ports, and the VF-6000 has a single metal port. The -3000, -5000 and -6000 have adjustable dials on top. Do you, by chance, remember those old blue battery-operated air pumps that used to be on the market (and perhaps, still are in bait shops)?  The Vibra-flo battery-operated pump, on the other hand, is very different. I do a lot of field work and took it on a collecting trip to the Missouri Ozarks in mid winter, inserting two brand new D cells to give it a fair test. What a suprise I got ! The output was terrific, and not much less even on a single battery. Most impressive was that it ran for three whole days ! Perhaps that says something for the batteries, but it also says a lot for the pump. This unit will stay in my truck as standard collecting equipment, and I recommend it as a backup unit to deal with the occasional power outage. One of these inexpensive pumps and a set or two of new batteries should back up every important large home aquarium where uninterrupted aeration is critical.

Hagen offers an extensive line of air pumps. The smallest are the Elites, consisting of the 799, 800, 801, 802 and 803 models. Next come the Maxima and Maxima R, and finally, the top-of-the-line Optima, with a single outlet. All feature  the Tensile-FlexTm high tensile rubber diaphragm. The Elites all have a single armature and diaphragm. The Maximas have double armature with two diaphragms and two ports powered by one transformer; the Maxima R has an adjustable knob. The Optima is also adjustable, has a single metal port (the others have plastic ports), and at 7 watts is 17 percent more powerful than the 6-watt Maximas and much more powerful than the very small wattage Elites. The Optima comes with a spare diaphragm. The vibrator unit is enclosed within a metal box inside the plastic housing, requiring an extra step and three more screws to remove. I must confess that I didn’t expect much when I saw the Optima’s 7-watt electrical unit, but I was wrong. This baby poured out a huge volume of air at the bottom of the 150 marine tank, with more than enough to run a counter-current protein skimmer wooden air diffuser.

Quality pumps will provide more than enough air for the appropriate size aquarium.

Quality pumps and filter air aquarium will provide more than enough air for the appropriate size aquarium.

Fritz offers the Ultra air pumps, F, which include the Mini (to 10 gallons), 5/20 (to 20 gallons), 15/50 (to 50 gallons) and 30/80 (to 80 gallons). The choice of plastic or metal ports doesn’t seem to follow any logical order, and the three smallest units (one plastic port, one metal port, two metal ports) differ from the two largest units (two metal ports in the 15/50 and an over-and-under pair of plastic ports in the 30/80). The 30/80 has three settings on top for low, medium and high air output. A single transformer and electromagnet operate a pair of armatures with their dedicated diaphragms. The unit comes apart and goes back together readily, making diaphragm replacement a breeze. The company also sent along performance graphs of pressure vs. flow conducted by an independent laboratory. One graph shows that the Ultra 30/80 produces 15 standard cubic feet of air per hour (SCFH) at zero head (no back pressure) on the high-output setting, dropping 50 percent at 60 inches of head.  At the other end of the scale, the Mini produces 4.5 SCFH at zero head, dropping 50 percent at just 6 inches. This illustrates how greatly air pump aquarium can differ from one another, even within the same model series.

battery powered air pumps have come a long way from the earlier models which seldom functioned as advertised.

battery powered air pumps have come a long way from the earlier models which seldom functioned as advertised.

Although rather small in overall size and with no information on wattage, I was surprised at the terrific output of the 30/80. One port produced abundant air from the diffuser at 23 inches depth in the 150 marine tank to operate a counter-current protein skimmer with ease, and clearly both ports would operate both wooden diffusers of a good skimmer.
Perfecto offers a line of air pumps that includes the 200, 400, 500 (single diaphragm and port), 600, 800 and top-of-the-line 900 (double diaphragms on the armatures, and two ports) models. The 900 is for multiple tank setups or unusually deep aquariums. Only the 900 has metal ports all the others feature plastic and only the 3.5 – to 12-watt 900 has an adjustable knob to regulate wattage and air output. Replacement kits contain the armature, diaphragm and flapper, all in a single unit, and there are different sizes for different pump models. I got a kit for the 400 and 600 and found that the old fitting lifted out easily for replacement. The adjustable 900 is a heavy unit with massive diaphragm components, and I wasn’t surprised that one port produced plenty of air from the wooden diffuser at the bottom of the 150-gallon marine tank to operate a protein skimmer. Once again, the two ports will easily operate both diffusers on a deep counter-current skimmer. It was clear from my tests that the name brand companies are offering some very nice pumps. Aquarists have it better than ever when it comes to air pumps.