If the air pump in your aquarium is too loud, there are a few simple techniques you can use to solve your problem. In most cases, replacing the pump will not be necessary.
Use foam padding or similar material to dampen the noise of an air pump that is too loud. Several inexpensive techniques are available to help lower the irritating sounds from the pump but try not to restrict the airflow, or the pump could overheat.
Whether you’re a fan of fresh-water tanks or prefer salt-water ones, fish-keeping can be a rewarding experience. It’s an inexpensive hobby if you have a small set up, or it can cost several thousand dollars if you have grand ideas.
Whatever your ambitions as an aquarist are, if you have an air pump, you’re probably not fond of its noise. Depending on the age of the pump, you can perform simple repairs and modifications that will quiet the noise and allow you to enjoy your aquarium without distractions.
How Do You Silence an Aging Pump?
If you have an older air pump that you’ve used for several years, you may have noticed it getting louder over time. In most circumstances, you can perform the following repairs on an aging pump to decrease the racket:
- Replace the diaphragm
- Tighten the screws
- Replace the airstones or diffusers
***Remember to unplug the device before you attempt any repairs***
The rubber diaphragm in your pump is not built to last. It’s in constant movement and should be replaced every year. However, if you buy a pump that is not designed to work with a large tank, the diaphragm will likely fail in less than a year.
Check your pump’s specifications to find the ideal tank size and purchase a replacement kit for the diaphragm. Be sure to buy a kit from the same company that made the pump. Each manufacturer has a different design and size for its diaphragm.
Over time, the vibrating from an overworked diaphragm can loosen the interior screws holding the pump compartment together. Remove the screws on the outside of the pump to expose the interior.
Sometimes there are only one or two screws in the interior, and if you carefully tighten them, you may notice an improvement in the unit’s vibrations.
Unlike the pump it’s attached to, airstones are unrepairable. Depending on the style and quality, most bubblers aren’t too expensive or difficult to replace.
If the airstones become clogged and unusable, you’ll hear the pump’s noise grow louder. If you replace the bubblers every six weeks and keep the tank clean, you shouldn’t have a problem with a noisy pump.
How Do You Silence a New Pump?
If you have a brand-new pump (even an expensive model), and you can’t stand the unholy puttering it makes, here are some inexpensive ways to dampen the noise:
Soundproofing for New Pumps
- Mount on a foam block or padding
- Insulate the interior compartment
- Suspend in a jar
- Place on a cushion or small blanket
Some fish keepers suggest mounting the pump above the water level to improve the noise and avoid back siphoning. While this setup may reduce the noise, it poses a severe risk to your fish if it falls in your tank.
Air pumps aren’t waterproof or designed to be submerged in water. Securely mounting the pump above the water level will safeguard your creatures in the event of a power outage. However, if you install a check valve, like this one, you can mount the pump wherever you want.
During a power outage, a check valve or non-return valve will interrupt a reverse after flow scenario that occurs when the air pump’s location is below the water level.
Mounting on Foam
Although some are more aesthetically pleasing than others, foam blocks can help minimize the noise caused by vibrating air pumps. Cut a section out of the top of a foam block to fit your pump and cut two grooves for your air tubing and power cord.
You can try using the same kind of foam used to pack electronics, or a sturdier option is to purchase a fitness block like this one. The foam will absorb the pump’s vibrations and will keep it from sliding off a table or cabinet.
Countless varieties of foam blocks and padding are available online and in pet stores. Although they are much lighter and less sturdy, foam aquarium filters can muffle your noisy pump.
One drawback of using a lightweight aquarium product such as a sponge filter is that they’re not easy to sculpt with a knife or scissors. Use poly foam or a firmer material.
Insulating the Interior Compartment
Most air pumps, especially the cheaper models, contain a lot of unused space in their interior compartments. These open-air zones contribute to your pump’s noise by amplifying the vibrations. By insulating the hollow areas in the chamber, you can reduce the vibrating and the sound.
Start by unscrewing the pump to reveal the interior compartment. You’ll see small, empty spaces in the chamber.
You can stuff small pieces of filter fiber into the spaces, but be sure to avoid covering the diaphragm, wires, or screws. Once you insulate the pump and screw it together, you’ll see an enormous reduction in the pump’s noise.
If you’d like to view a step-by-step video, made by an aquarist with a spherical air pump, on how to insulate a pump, click here.
Suspending in a Jar
One of the strangest and ingenious ways to muffle your pump racket is to suspend it in a jar. Find a large jar with a wide lid and lower your pump into it.
Suspend the pump in the jar, and don’t allow the legs to touch the sides or bottom. If the pump touches the glass when you turn it on, you’ll have another acoustic nightmare on your hands. Use duct tape to secure the power cord and air tubing at the top of the jar. Avoid crimping the tubing or the cable.
By taping the opening of the jar entirely, you can effectively muffle the noise. It shouldn’t be an airtight seal. Leave a few small gaps by the cord and tubing, or the pump could overheat. If you want to see a video on how to suspend your pump in a jar, click here.
Using a Cushion or Towel
If you’re searching for a cost-effective and straightforward solution to your pump noise, try placing the pump on a folded towel or small cushion. Among aquarium owners, the most common complaint is that the pump’s vibrations cause a rattling noise.
Some complain that the pump vibrates so much it slides around and falls onto the floor. When the pump sits on a wooden table or dresser, the annoying rattle is amplified. The towel cushions the pump and prevents it from moving around.
Are There Alternatives to Air Pumps?
If you have a small, cold-water tank, you may not need an air pump. Some water filters will agitate the water enough to aerate the water for your fish and plants. However, an air pump is useful if your pets are sick and require medicine.
A slow-moving current will help distribute the drops of medication. If you apply medicine to a relatively stagnant tank of water, your fish will take longer to ingest the meds.
If you want your tank oxygenated without an air-pump, you can install powerheads. This alternative to the pump provides a stronger current than most bubblers. If you’d like to view a video on how to install a powerhead with a sponge filter, click here.
The powerhead, since it lies inside your tank, doesn’t emit annoying sounds like an air pump. The only sound you’ll hear is bubbling water.
The high-end air pumps emit less noise than cheaper models, but the pricy models aren’t necessarily silent, and some still infuriate their owners.
The rattling air pump is a frustrating experience shared by aquarium lovers from around the world. Repairing old pumps and modifying the new models will reduce any vibrations or sounds that you despise.
This cheap fix will allow you, as an aquarist, to relax and enjoy your hobby with only the sound of bubbling water in the background.