You might be shocked to learn that plants do not require soil to flourish. The four crucial components that all plants need to thrive are sunlight, air, water, and nutrients. Hydroponic gardening is soilless. You will use a combination of water and air to meet your plant’s growth needs.
A high-quality air pump pushes oxygen through the water for the roots to absorb and to prevent unwanted algae growth.
Choosing the best air pumps for hydroponics could get very frustrating and overwhelming because you really need to know where to begin.
Don’t worry about getting the right product though. I have a few things that could help you choose the best air pump.
Before I continue talking about what would work best with your garden, one of the best air pumps out there would be Active Aqua Commercial Air Pump.
Knowing that it’s a commercial air pump could make you feel like it’s off-limits since it probably is expensive to run it, but surprisingly, it only runs on 12 watts! It’s something great if you want something compact and inexpensive to run.
Don't Have Time To Read The Entire Review?
I've simplified everything for you. Here is a straightforward table that provides the top 4 picks to choose from as per your requirements.
Best Air Pump For A DWC (Deep Water Culture) System: General Hydroponics Dual Diaphragm Air Pump
The Best Air Pump For Small Scale: Hydrofarm Active Aqua Air Pump, 4 Outlets, 6W
Best Air Pump For Commercial Hydroponic Systems: Hydrofarm Active Aqua
Perfect For Indoor Plants: Danner Manufacturing Supreme OXY-Flo Low Volume Air Pump
The Difference Between the Water and Air Pump
Most beginners starting with either aquaponic or hydroponic are confused between water and air pump. In fact, a majority of them think that they are the same, which is not really true.
Both aquaponic and hydroponic pumps utilize nutrient-rich water and oxygen without the use of the soil.
So what is the difference between the two pumps?
Let me explain…
In hydroponics, you don’t make use of soil to grow your plants or vegetables. Water takes the place of the soil to provide your plants with all the necessities. That explains why you need a water pump to create a healthy environment for plants to grow.
While that might be the case, there's still something that is missing. Water and water pumps are not enough to sustain your plants.
...Give me a chance to explain.
The soil has air particles and oxygen that are essential for the growth of your plants. That means, without the sufficient oxygen, the plants will die.
While it may seem like giving water to our plants is enough, the truth is that there's no oxygen in it yet. Stagnant water is a sign that the water has no oxygen and without it, your plants won't grow to the optimum level you want them to. The worst scenario is that they may even die.
Therefore, you'll need an air pump to supply oxygen to the water so that your plants, vegetables or aquatic life can grow to their optimal level.
Why Some Hydroponic System Need Air Pumps?
Your plants will need an excellent hydroponic system set-up for them to get the nutrients they need for their growth. It may seem fairly obvious, but it is not. You'll need water and combine it with nutrient solutions.
The reservoir pumps nutrients solution so that it could reach the roots of vegetable or plants. That’s when absorption takes place.
Stagnant water will create bacteria build up and pathogens that may harm the plants. Most importantly, absorption of nutrients won’t take place in stagnant water.
If you want to protect your reservoir pump and ultimately prevent pathogens and harmful bacteria from stopping your plant's growth, you need oxygen. It is because plants use the oxygen to absorb nutrients in the solution.
The best way of supplying your plants with enough oxygen is using air pumps. Additionally, the oxygen should also be at a constant temperature, which is the room temperature. That’s ideal for your plants or vegetables to thrive.
How To Calculate Your the Air Pump Size You Need
Honestly, this was more challenging for me at the beginning. Even today, I still have to sit down and do some calculations before I think of buying an air pump size.
Don't worry. I'll make things easier for you.....
Alright, the size of the pump will depend on the size of the nutrient reservoir you've. If that's the case, you need to buy a pump that has a wattage that’s equal to the number of gallons with the nutrient solution. I know this can be an overkill for some growers, but I'll try to make it simple.
Always make sure that the pump you are going to buy can produce anywhere from 500 to 600cc per minute of air.
Because that’s enough amount of air that the nutrient reservoir needs to distribute oxygen that would help the plants grow.
For those who don't understand CC, it is the same with having 500 to 600 ml per minutes of air. Even the cheapest air pump on the market will produce more than what I've stated above.
How to Choose the Best Hydroponic Air Pump
Now that you understand the benefit of the air pump, you need to know the criteria to follow when buying an air pump for a hydroponic system.
The truth is, there are lots of them in the market today, and you've to know what you're exactly looking for.
Fortunately, we've a checklist with three reminders that you can use in choosing the right hydroponic air pump for your plants.
best air pumps for hydroponic systems: Compare, Buy & Save
No matter your intentions, though, the table below will guide you to find the best one for your needs.
Choosing the right sized pump for the job
The size of your hydroponic air pump matters a lot because it'll determine the amount of oxygen your plants are getting.
A common rule of thumb most indoor gardeners agree with is a minimum of 1 watt per gallon of water.
I wouldn’t wish to go to the technical aspect of this, but I'll make it simple for you.
What I mean is that the more air, the more oxygen your plants receive, and that translates to a 1 watt per gallon of water.
More air won't harm or affect your plant's growth, but as a grower, I believe that most of us can't know if their plants are receiving more or less oxygen.
So, here's my guideline about size, always stick to a bigger-size air pump so that you don't have to buy extra air pumps in the future.
How Loud Is Heat Pump Noise?
I know that most air pumps emit annoying humming sounds. Well, as it turns out, most air pumps can't work without emitting noise. Otherwise, how will they work or meet your ultimate obligation if they don’t use turbines to run their operations?
Honestly, no air pump doesn't emit noise. Not even those advertised as ultra-quiet. You can just find one that produces little sound. I'm comfortable with the noise because that's how they work.
If there's one thing that I've to admit, that is the fact that all the four products I've reviewed emit a considerable amount of noise that won't affect the quality of anyone’s sleep or eardrums at night.
Pump nozzle loadings – overview and factors to consider
This will depend on how many reservoirs you've at the moment. If you've more than one, then you need more nozzles.
Increasing the number of nozzles is perfect if you're growing several types of plants in your garden all at the same time. Nozzles make it easier for you to split the airline tubing, so they are also for convenience.
Top 5 Hydroponic Air Pumps to buy in 2018
Choosing the best air pumps for hydroponic system could get very frustrating and overwhelming because you really need to know where to begin. Don’t worry about getting the right product though.
General Hydroponics Dual Diaphragm Air Pump: Best Air Pump for a DWC (Deep Water Culture) System
If you ever feel like you need an air pump that’s exclusively meant for hydroponic purposes, then you need to try the General Hydroponic dual diaphragm air pump.
The first thing that'll catch your attention is the 4 outlets which are ¼ inch each. That means you can use it whether you've a small or large reservoir. I see the General Hydroponic air pump as something powerful because it pumps lots of oxygen.
The interesting thing I found out is that it can be split to provide air to at least eight farm units and still be powerful.
With the General Hydroponic air pump, you can expect 320 gallons of air per hour, which is roughly 20 liters per minute. Apart from its high performance, the air pump features durable material meant to last for years of excellent performance.
Let's talk about the common problem most hydroponic growers have and see if General Hydroponic meet our expectations.
When it comes to noise, it is advertised to be ultra-quiet. Unfortunately, some customers complain about its noises.
Another incredible thing I found that fascinates me about the General hydroponic is the fact that its light. You can move it from one place to another.
Value for money?
I love the General hydroponic dual diaphragm air pump, but I hate two things about it. One is the noise, and the other is that it can only last for one and half a year before you need to buy another pump. I expected the pump to take at least two or three years before I buy another one.
What I do love about it is its performance. It is indeed superior, and that makes it beat other hydroponic air pumps on the market.
Hydrofarm Active Aqua Air Pump, 4 Outlets, 6W: The Best Air Pump for small scale
Raise your hands if you've a large system or multiple-reservoir! Everybody, right? Okay, you’ll be happy to know that you can just upgrade to Hydrofarm Active Aqua air pump.
...Let me explain Why?
It comes with an excellent air pump system that throws out lots of air and a variety of outlet options. At only 1.4 lbs, I consider it to be super light and compact enough for you to move it around easily.
Apart from that, the Hydrofarm Active Aqua is suited for Deep Water Culture because it has superior durable pumps. Alternatively, you can also use it for small-scale set-ups and hydroponic beginner system.
You'll also notice that it delivers 240 gallons per hour, which is sufficient oxygen to keep water circulating in your tank. The exciting thing that most people love about this air pump is its minimal noise disturbances.
Value for money?
Like Aqua Active air pumps, it has artificial rubber construction that does an excellent job of maintaining steady airflow throughout the day.
Another great addition I noticed in its design is the control pressure knob located on its top. You can do an excellent job of adjusting the airflow and pressure to the level you want.
Any downside? Of course, no product in the world is perfect. I am okay with the price, but I saw most customers still complain about its humming noise.
Hydrofarm Active Aqua: Best Air pump for Commercial Hydroponic Systems
While the General Hydroponic air pump had four outlets, Active aqua commercial air pump has eight outlets, which means, this is a hydroponic air pump that'll support multiple air stones for nutrients circulation and aeration.
Unlike other air pumps on the market, the beauty about using Active Aqua is its powerful ability to produce enough air bubbles at a speed of 25 liters per minutes or 400 gallons per hour. Even the General hydroponic we just reviewed falls short on this.
Although I consider the pump to be mighty in performance, it should put a smile on your face because it only uses 12 watts. Even if you run it 24/7, you won't have to worry about the amount of power bill you've to pay.
At first, I was curious and wondered how this air pump maintains a steady pressure at all times. If you've bought hydroponic air pumps in the past, you'll notice that this is not the case. The air pressure usually starts to decline with time.
But in the case of Active Aqua, they've artificial rubber to maintain steady air pressure and the good news is that you can adjust it to the amount of pressure you want.
Value for money?
If you're looking to pump air to separate outlet that doesn't depend on each other, you've every reason to try Active Aqua.
Let's turn our attention to durability. Will it last longer, or will it last you at least two years? The answer is yes, and happy customers report that they've used the pump for more than two years.
The only thing that beats me off about Active Aqua is the fact they don't have replaceable diaphragms. The pump will last longer, but still, I'll still need replaceable parts in the future without buying a whole unit.
Danner Manufacturing Supreme OXY-Flo Low Volume Air Pump: perfect for indoor plants
Do you know what people like about the Danner OXY-Flow air pump?
It's adjustable and can pump air out of a diffuser tubing without making noise, but that's not all there’s to know. It has lots of incredible features.
First, the air pump has a couple of nozzles that pump pressure at 275 CPM, which is a lot by the way. In addition to high pressure, it rarely produces a loud noise. In other words, it is so silent that you won't even hear noises at night when it is running, which is a great thing.
The unique thing I noticed is that hydroponic growers need to adjust and control the flow of air. What you need to keep in mind is that few hydroponic pumps offer this flexibility.
Because of its superior performance, the pump provides 40 watts of power to maintain the steady flow of air up to a maximum depth of 10 feet. Honestly, this is extremely powerful.
Value for money?
But here's the exciting part about this air pump. Even in its highest setting, you'll hardly hear loud noises. Although there are still some customers who are complaining about a humming sound, it produces that can be heard within a certain distance.
The only problem I've is that it has weak pumps which make it not suitable for Deep-Water Culture.
Can You Run The Pump 24/7?
Sure, and it is advisable that you run it all the time especially when the plant's root is still under the water. Running it on a 24/7 period relieves the plants from stress, retains the pump life and prevents pathogens and bacteria from growing inside the plants.
Can You Reduce the Noise?
There's no definite answer for this, but a lot will depend on where you place your reservoir. If you put it inside the house, you've no option but to tolerate it. I've mine placed outside our living area.
Choosing the best hydroponic air pumps shouldn’t be a problem now that you've read the guide and taken bits of information that'll help you in the buying process.
Keep in mind that there's no air pump that won't produce noise. The turbines have to turn which means noise is inevitable.
The location you choose for your reservoir would be the main determining factor. I hope this short guide opened your eyes to the best hydroponic air pumps available on the market.
Lindsey Hyland grew up in Arizona where she attended University of Arizona’s Controlled Environment Agriculture. She has supplemented her formal education by working on various organic farms, including spending a semester abroad in India.
Growing and/or raising just about anything gets her excited. She is especially passionate about environmental justice and low-tech, sustainable ways to better run small-scale farms and homesteads. Lindsey started Urban Organic Yield to discuss gardening tips and tactics.