7 Best Air Pumps for Hydroponics: 2021 Guide

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Many small air bubbles rise through the water and break through the surface.

An air pump is a critical component of any active hydroponic system. Without good airflow, your plants will starve for oxygen, leading to reduced harvests or even total plant failure. 

These are the most important factors to choosing an air pump:

  • Adequate airflow output for your reservoir size
  • Number of air outlets
  • Sturdy build and reliable function
  • Low noise production (if your hydroponic system is in your living area)

In this article, we’re covering our picks for 7 of the best air pumps for hydroponics. We’re basing our opinions on the factors listed above, and we’re covering good pump options for everyone from beginners to advanced growers. 

Let’s get started!

RELATED: Just getting started with hydroponics? Don’t miss our beginner-friendly guide to Deep Water Culture to help you through the start-up process. 

Hydrofarm Active Aqua Pump 4

**Best Overall Air Pump

Hydrofarm Active Aqua Pump 4
  • Output capacity: 15 LPM/240 GPH
  • Air line tubing size: 3/16-inch
  • Power requirement: 6 W
  • Noise level: 45 dB max
  • Number of tubing outlets: 4
  • Product dimensions: ‎9.4 inches long, 6 inches wide and 4.1 inches tall
  • Submersible: No

The Active Aqua line from Hydrofarm wins our top choice for best hydroponic air pump, for a couple of reasons:

  • There’s a suitable power level for you no matter the size of your hydroponic system
  • Strong materials and construction lasts for the long term
  • Designed for hydroponics

Hydrofarm offers this Active Aqua in four power levels. In this review, we’re looking specifically at the Active Aqua 4 model.

At 15 LPM of air output, you’ve got enough power for three 5-gallon buckets or a 15-gallon reservoir.

Four air outlets make it easy to split your airflow, and each outlet produces a reliable, steady stream of air. You can also control the airflow via the dial on the pump’s outer case. 

But even though it’s powerful, this pump is also quiet. To reduce the noise factor, Hydrofarm mounted the pump on four rubberized feet and added an internal muffler to quiet things down even further. 

One small gripe about the Active Aqua pumps is the slightly bulky build. But the outer shell does do a great job of protecting the inner components. 

Here are the other model options Hydrofarm offers in their Active Aqua pump line: 

  1. Hydrofarm AAPA3.2L: Produces 3.2 LPM and has one outlet. (*Be aware that 3.2 LPM is too weak for anything but small, countertop hydroponic set-ups)
  2. Hydrofarm AAPA7.8L: Produces 7.8 LPM and has two air outlets
  3. Hydrofarm AAPA25L: Produces 25 LPM and has 8 air outlets

Pros

  • Built for hydroponic use
  • Durablity and longevity
  • Multiple options for power levels and air outlets
  • Quiet

Cons

  • A bit bulky

Hygger Adjustable Air Pump

**Quietest Air Pump

Hygger Adjustable Air Pump
  • Output capacity: 10 LPM/160 GPH
  • Air line tubing size: 4mm (0.16-inch)
  • Power requirement: 5.0 W for the smaller pump, 10 W for the larger one
  • Noise level: Less than 30 dB
  • Number of tubing outlets: 1
  • Product dimensions: 4.7 inches long, 3.9 inches wide and 3.5 inches tall
  • Submersible: No

Here’s our winner when it comes to the quietest air pump for hydroponics.

Hygger specifically manufactured their pump for quietness, including features such as rubber suction cups to reduce vibration and a suspended motor that has no contact with other components.

So if you’ve got your hydroponic garden near your living space, this could be a great option. 

This pump comes in two power levels:

  1. 5 watts of power that deliver 10 LPM/160 Gallons per hour (GPH): (This is the model we’re featuring here)
  2. 10 watts of power that deliver 16 LPM/255 GPH (view here on Amazon)

We also like that this pump offers an adjustable airflow, so you can tailor the output to your plant’s needs. 

However, some users mention that the output is pretty poor on the lowest setting. So you may want to start a little higher and work from there. 

Pros

  • Two size options
  • Adjustable flow rate
  • Extremely quiet operation

Cons

  • Extremely low output on lowest setting

Simple Deluxe Commercial Air Pump

**Best-Built Air Pump

Simple Deluxe Commercial Air Pump
  • Output capacity: 38 LPM/600 GPH
  • Air line tubing size: 3/16-inch
  • Power requirement: 18 W
  • Noise level: <60 dB
  • Number of tubing outlets:
  • Product dimensions: 5.7 inches long, 3.3 inches wide and 3.7 inches tall
  • Submersible: No

“Simple Deluxe” is an excellent name for this excellent device.

This air pump looks like a minute radiator heater and is made of a high-quality aluminum alloy, and earns the “best-built” badge on our list.

It also happens to be incredibly powerful, busting out 38 liters per minute. This is more than enough to run most deep water culture setups, and with six air outlets, you can easily run multiple reservoirs with just one pump. 

The air outlets on the Simple Deluxe aren’t incorporated onto the body of the pump, but instead function as an attached manifold of six outlets. Each outlet has its own on/off valve, which is super handy for scaling your hydroponic system up or down.

But when it comes to noise, this pump is definitely on the loud side. Even though rubber feet reduce vibration, you’ll still be able to hear your pump if it’s near your living area. 

Pros

  • Super powerful
  • Durable build
  • Perfect for powering multiple reservoirs

Cons

  • Significantly louder than many other pumps

AQUANEAT Aquarium Air Pump

AQUANEAT Aquarium Air Pump
  • Output capacity: 19 LPM/300 GPH
  • Air line tubing size: 3/16-inch
  • Power requirement: 8.5 W
  • Noise level: Not stated
  • Number of tubing outlets:
  • Product dimensions: 7.5 inches long, 5.5 inches wide and 3.5 inches tall
  • Submersible: No

With this Aquaneat pump, you get a lot of power, enough to run up to three 5-gallon buckets or a 19-gallon reservoir. 

And with four air outlets, it’s really easy to hook up a few different pieces of tubing to different buckets. 

But what you gain power, you do sacrifice in quiet operation. Even though Aquaneat doesn’t share the actual dB level, many users comment this pump is pretty loud. 

However, if your hydroponic setup is outside or in a garage or outbuilding where the noisiness is mitigated by it not being a regular living space, this pump could be a great choice.

Pros

  • Powerful motor
  • Four outlets for multiple small tanks
  • Airflow adjustment dial
  • Compact size

Cons

  • Runs loud

INCLY Aquarium Air Pump

INCLY Aquarium Air Pump
  • Output capacity: 15 LPM/245 GPH
  • Air line tubing size: 3/16-inch
  • Power requirement: 7 W
  • Noise level: Not stated 
  • Number of tubing outlets: 4
  • Product dimensions: 8.35 inches long, 7.28 inches wide and 4.8 inches tall
  • Submersible: No

This small but mighty air pump incorporates several smart design features. Here are a few that are especially noteworthy:

  • A filter on the air intake port
  • Sound insulation
  • No moving parts to create noise or friction

Each of the outlets on its four-way manifold can be individually opened and closed. This makes it super easy to adjust your airflow between multiple tanks. 

And with 15 LPM to work with, you can run up to three 5-gallon buckets simultaneously. 

One thing we don’t like is that INCLY chose to put the high/low power switch on the unit’s bottoms, which is kind of an awkward placement. 

But fortunately, while it’s a bit annoying, it’s not a huge issue and doesn’t affect performance at all. 

Pros

  • Compact design saves space
  • Ideal for multiple small tanks or one larger one
  • Easy to control the airflow to separate tanks

Cons

  • Output switch has an odd location

Vivosun ACO-014 Air Pump

Vivosun ACO-014 Air Pump
  • Output capacity: 21 LPM/332GPH
  • Air line tubing size: 1/4-inch
  • Power requirement: 14 W
  • Noise level: Less than 60 dB
  • Number of tubing outlets: 4
  • Product dimensions: 6.8 inches long, 5.9 inches wide and 4.6 inches tall
  • Submersible: No

Despite its compact size, this Vivosun air pump delivers enough airflow to easily run four 5-gallon buckets or a large 20-gallon reservoir. 

A 4-outlet copper manifold attaches to the main air outlet, and the valves on each outlet let you direct the air wherever you need it.  

Vivosun really went to great lengths to get the pump’s powerful motor operation as quiet as possible:

  • Rubber feet to dampen vibration noise
  • The motor is fully enclosed to prevent contact with other pump components
  • Single-piece casing reduces bumps and rattles
  • An interior sound-absorbing sponge

But one thing we don’t like is the main air outlet placement. Vivosun put it on the top of the pump, so the main air line lies directly on the pump itself. This can lead to some vibration and noise issues, even though the pump itself runs quietly.

Pros

  • Powerful motor produces high airflow
  • Great for multiple 5-gallon buckets or a large reservoir
  • Adjustable-flow manifold outlet
  • Pump motor is engineered for quiet operation

Cons

  • Awkward air outlet placement

Rifny Adjustable Air Pump Kit

Rifny Adjustable Air Pump Kit
  • Output capacity: 5 LPM/79 GPH
  • Air line tubing size: 3/16-inch
  • Power requirement: 3 W
  • Noise level: Less than 40 dB
  • Number of tubing outlets: 2
  • Product dimensions: 4.3 inches long, 2.4 inches wide and 2 inches tall
  • Submersible: No

The Rifny air pump is by far the smallest option on our list today, but it has several attractive features to boast. 

Instead of being just a pump, this is a start-up kit that includes:

  1. Two cylindrical air stones,
  2. Two lengths of air line tubing
  3. Two one-way valves

The pump has dual air outlets that each produce 2.5 LPM, and when you use them together, you get a grand total of 5 LPM. This is enough airflow for a single 5-gallon bucket or other small counter-top hydroponic system. 

Last but certainly not least, the Rifny air pump kit also has an attractively low price point. 

Bottom line: This option doesn’t offer the high function of the other pumps on this list. But it could be a perfect choice if:

  • You’re just experimenting with hydroponics and don’t want to make a large investment
  • You want a kit that already contains all the essentials
  • Your hydroponic system is small

Pros

  • Ideal for beginners and small hydroponic systems
  • Compact design
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Not enough power for tanks larger than 5 gallons

What Does an Air Pump Do?

To put it at its simplest: An air pump pumps air.

But how does it work?

To get a bit more technical, a pump takes in air from the surrounding environment, compresses it with a motor and then sends it out through a valve mechanism at an accelerated speed.

When you connect the valves to air stones at the bottom of your hydroponic system, this compression-and-release creates oxygen-rich bubbles in your nutrient solution.

And for active hydroponic systems, this oxygenation process is crucial to produce healthier plants and greater yields.

This is because plants and their root systems don’t just need water to live, but also oxygen. It is a vital component of the process known as cellular respiration, in which root cells absorb oxygen to use for converting sugar to energy.

In a conventional soil-based setting, it isn’t difficult for plant roots to obtain oxygen, as the oxygen molecules pass easily through the soil particles.

But in hydroponics, where the root systems are totally submerged, there is no oxygen passively reaching them and they have no way to seek it out themselves. 

In fact, studies show that without enough oxygen, the plants won’t be able to efficiently absorb water even though they are completely surrounded by it!

So an appropriately sized air pump (paired with an air stone) introduces the necessary oxygen your plants need to thrive. 

RELATED: Did you know that not all hydroponic systems use an air pump? Visit our posts on how to set up a Mason jar hydroponic garden and what you can grow with passive hydroponics. to learn more!

What Size Air Pump Do You Need for Hydroponics?

The 2 traditional metrics for a hydroponic air pump are:

  • 1 LPM for every gallon of water 
  • 17 GPH for every gallon of water

To figure out what size air pump you need, simply refer to the volume of your reservoir/s.

I personally prefer to use the LPM metric, just because it’s a simpler 1-to-1 ratio.

One thing to be aware of: With air pumps marketed for aquarium use, you’ll often see something on the product listing or package like “Appropriate for 100-gallon tanks.” 

It can be easy to see that statement and assume that this pump will work for a 100-gallon hydroponic set-up as well.

But that’s not true. Fish tanks require far less airflow than hydroponic systems. 

For example, a pump that’s ideal for a large fish tank may only produce 2.5 LPM of airflow. That’s fine for fish, but it isn’t enough for powering hydroponic systems.

Most air pumps are primarily designed for aquariums, and many of them also work great for hydroponics. So don’t be afraid of buying one.

But be sure to look closely at the actual air output, and always use the metric we listed above to figure out how much capacity you need for your hydroponic system. 

How to Set Up a Hydroponic Air Pump Safely

Air pumps are powered by electricity, and hydroponics necessarily involves lots of water. So it’s important to make sure that these two never meet.

There are a few simple things you can do to make sure that your hydroponic air pump is as hazard-free as possible:

  • Position the pump higher than the reservoir, so that water can’t drip down the outside of the tubing into it.
  • Plug the pump into a surge protector instead of the wall outlet. 
  • Use one-way valves to prevent water from backwashing up the inside of the tubing into the motor.
  • Avoid overheating by placing the pump in an area with good airflow, or use a small fan to cool it as it runs.

How to Keep Noise Levels Down

Especially if your hydroponic system is in or near your main living area, noise level matters. 

Here are a few tips to keep the racket down:

Buy a bigger pump. The harder a pump has to work to compress and expel air, the louder it will be.

A small pump running at full capacity will be louder than a stronger pump running at partial capacity.

So try getting a pump with twice the capacity that you need, and turning its output down to about half.

Place your pump on a mat. Putting a sound-absorbing material under the pump can really cut down on noise.

These can be some good options:

  • A washcloth
  • A placemat
  • A mousepad

Frequently Asked Questions about Air Pumps for Hydroponics

Definitely- there’s a lot of overlap between aquarium supplies and hydro supplies.

Just make sure that you have a pump that’s big enough for the size of your reservoir.

Ideally, at all times. Constant oxygenation creates healthier, bigger plants.

Yes. Deep Water Culture is an active hydroponic system, meaning it uses powered parts (in this case, an air pump and air stone) to increase yields.

A passive system, like the Kratky method, however, does not use air pumps. 

Final Thoughts

The number of hydroponic air pumps may seem a bit overwhelming at first. There certainly are a lot to choose from!

But the good news is that you could make a start with almost any of the entries on this list and get a reasonably good result. 

The most important thing is to get sufficient airflow to your plants, so always take the time to calculate the numbers and buy accordingly. 

Do you have any other questions about air pumps for hydroponics? Do you have any other suggestions to make?

We’d love to hear from you in the comments!

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