The Science Of Bubbles.

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In most cases, people think bubbles are great for aesthetics and really not much more. In fact, they provide numerous benefits to the fish, bacteria, plants, and water. When you have a bubble stone, it releases thousands or more tiny bubbles about the size of a germ. These microscopic bubbles provide the aquarium with oxygen and carbon, which are the primary gasses in the earth’s atmosphere. While fish live under water, they do still need oxygen. Their gills are designed to take the oxygen in the water; most fish can actually split hydrogen and oxygen molecules that make up water. With increasing the oxygen of the water, you can prolong the fish’s life and keep it healthier.

The carbon dioxide in the tiny bubbles are great for the plants. (In fact, for smaller tanks, a carbon system can be a bit of an overkill, an air pump with bubble stones are ideal). The plants then take that carbon and turn it into oxygen, which, of course, helps the fish even more. Not only are you doing your fish a favor by introducing bubbles, but you are also doing yourself a favor. How many of you enjoy scrubbing the sides of your tank for 2 or more hours, only to have the algae come back? In tanks that have a higher oxygen content, algae is less likely or will never grow in. Algae likes water that is still and full of carbon or other toxic gases.

The big bubbles that you can see are like helicopters, the bacteria that lives in your gravel will very likely get trapped in one of those bubbles and will be shot up just above the water line of the tank before making it’s way back down. Why would this matter? Well, the entire tank is essentially a playground for bacteria. There is bacteria in the gravel, bacteria in the filter, bacteria in the water, bacteria in the air above the water, bacteria in the fish and even plants. Before you get the Lysol, make a note that most of this bacteria is healthy. Keep in mind, clear water has no life. The bacteria in the air above the water create most of the chemical balances in the water. Having bubbles and letting the bacteria in the gravel circulate to the top and back down to the bottom makes it easier for all the bacteria to balance themselves out. Keep in mind the bacteria are living organisms also and require some amount of oxygen or carbon a swell as fish.

My final analysis of Bubbles is that they will provide your tank with extra water circulation, which is always helps clean up the tank. I have also found bubbles to help break down excess food.

So now that you have a scientific analysis of bubbles, what should you consider before getting an air pump? You might want to think of a way to maximize the affects of the bubbles on the tank. The best way is to have two bubble stones. For maximum benefit, you can put one of those bubble stones in front of the filter where the water is pouring in. This will increase the micro-bubbles a little more and you’ll even see many little bubbles floating around the entire tank. Another good way, but not as effective, is to have the bubble stones on opposite ends of the tank. How ever you decide to do it, with bubble, you’ll have a healthy tank from the molecular level up.

Photo credit Kasey

So... what do you think? Please leave me a comment or give me a


  • johnarthur: Thanks. That was very informative. I once read an article that said bubblers were all that’s need for an aquarium. Still, filters seem like a good idea.
  • mystic_goldfish87: I can agree that yes bubbles are probibly more important than a filter. but it’s a little arogent to say you dont need at least one type of filtration system. I do know you can get away with a smaller filter than is recomended for a tnk if you have extra bubbles.
  • Phil Saint: well you sold that prity well, i whent out this morning and got an aeration set for both my tanks and the fish seem to love it. thanks !
  • johnarthur: Has anybody heard the old song about bubbles in my beer? They’re mostly carbon dioxide i think.
    Next week I’m going to reroute air lines to eight aquariums. Although I’m very bad at plumbing, I may add some bubblers to supplement the under gravel filtering.
  • mystic_goldfish87: your welcome Phil, I’m certain you will love them as well as your fish. and let me know how it works out John. I’ve never supplimented filters with bubbles although I wouldn’t be too surprised if they are better than filters. I havnt had to change my filter catrige in 4 months since I added my bubbles.
  • Phil Saint: iv played around for a few hours now and heres what iv got....... a 12" bubble stone across the back of the tank (under the gravel) and a bubble disc (also under the gravel) infront of the inlet for my filter. i had a few bits of moss flying around at first but its all settled now. i think its already having an effect on my pair of gold austreal, the male keeps rubbing against the female (hes never done this before) and if i dont have to change filter cartriges as often it will have paid for itself in no time.
  • dude: great post. my tank will now keep its 15" bubble stone.
  • majordiggs: Bubbles it is! On my way to Pet Smart right now!:)
  • Leroy: I have a 75g tank with two large Oscars, it has two 15 " bubble bars and a 46" spray bar along with a bubbling clam , there are many bubbles on the surf, my fish seems to love it, and they are so healthy,,,,, also I have a three foot biological canister filter on the side of the tank with two bio-wheel filters on the back of the tank, fish are very happy for the exception of rearranging things.
  • MarMan: I spent too much on a bubble wand with LEDs! It looks so nice but entirely too expensive! I also drilled a small hole into a mini lava rock and stuck an air tube inside . . . it real makes for a unique bubble stone.
  • Bonnietaylor: I am so glad to find out the usefulness of airstones, I have a 6 inch long one in my 15 gal. it looks so nice,and my fish seem to love swimming through it.
  • Laryl: A three year old post with exactly the info I was looking for.. I love this site :)
  • Lynn Peppa: Thanks for the info. bout bubbles. I think that my fry may be dying out because of lack of oxygen. I have a divider in my tank and the fry do not have ANY oxygen bubbles. the bubble coming out of the filter are on the other side of the divider where the adult fish are. I will get an air stone. Thank you
  • MeCasa: Have you found anything that will go under gravel and create periodic large bubbles
  • Guppy Lover: Thank you, Thank you! When I added 2 air stones to my 10 gallon tank, I haven’t had one death. When my favorite guppy stayed up on the surface trying to "drink" the air, I introduced 2 small air stones and my guppy is as healthy as can be now. One problem though, I have no algae at all and I have a Pleco who I think needs algae to survive. Or is that an algae eater who needs algae?
  • jimmyfisherman: Bubbles!!!!!!!
    I have a little propeller thing in my tank, and i put an air stone under it to make it spin. I did have to surround it with clear netting to keep the fish from getting caught in the propeller though.
  • William: Can you have too many bubbles? I have a tank w/ only plants now & bubbles from an airstone are getting sucked up by a filter which then spits tiny bubbles throughout the entire tank (almost like a misty fog w/ a swirling effect) - it looks kind of cool, but I’m wondering, if I add fish, will too many bubbles be irritating to the fish???
  • MarMan: No, it will not bother the fish, but IMO it looks bad when there are too many bubbles. I would move the intake away from the bubbles to reduce noise in the filter. -llg
  • Stephie: I just added a bubble stone and was wondering about it. I have a couple that already seem to really love the bubbles and swimming through them. Good info! :-)
  • William: Funny - when I moved the bubbler from 1/2 an inch under the filter intake to 2 & 1/2 inches from the filter intake, I got less than 1/4 the bubbles spit out of the filter
  • Guppy Locer: Personally, I think too many bubbles might be annoying for the fish and the viewer....that’s just my opinion.
  • BlueMantis: just an fyi, co2 doesn’t even come close to to the primary gases in our atmosphere, oxygen is abundant, but not even above 30% of our atmosphere. Although these gases are extremely important for life processes, the primary gas would be nitrogen making up about 78% and then oxygen coming in at around 20%, the rest is split up among the rest of the gases including carbon dioxide. Just thought I would say :D

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