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Can Fish Sleep With The Air Pump On? Should You Leave It On?

Air pumps play an important role in oxygenating water in an aquarium. There is no denying this aeration device is a useful piece of equipment. But have you ever thought about whether your fish can sleep with an air pump on? Would it be better to turn it off for a few hours at night?

Generally, fish should be able to sleep without being bothered by bubbles or water agitation created by air pumps. Besides, if you want, you can turn off your air pump at night, but make sure the filter continues to run, so it fulfills the required aeration in the aquarium.

The following article covers the nitty-gritty of sleep cycles in fish and how an air pump might affect them. If you aren’t sure about whether to keep your air pump on at night or give it a break for a few hours, this guide should help you form a decision.

Does an Air Pump Disrupt Sleep Cycles in Fish?

can fish sleep with the air pump on
To get it straight to the point, air pumps barely cause any inconvenience to fish from sleeping. It’s simply a matter of time; your fish get used to the bubbles flow and waves produced by the air pump, then they aren’t easily disturbed by it.

Moreover, fishes will often swim away from powerheads, air stones, or any outlets if it’s causing them discomfort in sleeping. Most aquarium fish have a regular sleep schedule, but it’s not uncommon for a fish to sleep anytime during a day or night.

Now, you may be surprised to know that fish don’t sleep as we humans do. It’s different from what we think of as sleep. Researchers often refer to fish sleep as rest. However, fish tend to slow down metabolic processes and brain cortex activity in these resting stages. These resting phases promote the same restorative functions in fish as deep sleep does in humans.

Interestingly, fish sleep with their eyes open. You may ask why? That is because they don’t have eyelids to close, except for some sharks. Therefore, it’s hard to guess whether a fish is sleeping or awake.

Mainly, the lack of physical responsiveness in fish is a telltale sign to know when they are resting. When it’s time for fish to sleep, they will lie motionless, often at the bottom of the tank. If you watch their gills, you will notice they’re breathing slowly.

Can You Turn Off the Air Pump at Night?

can fish sleep with the air pump on
As we know, bubbles and water agitation doesn’t cause much disturbance to fish while sleeping; you don’t need to turn off your air pumps, particularly for that reason.

However, if you have other compelling reasons you want to shut down your air pump, you must fulfill the following conditions.

If you have an air pump that works separately from the filter and has its own cable, then yes, you can turn it off. The whole aim is to keep the filter running continuously so it maintains adequate oxygen in the tank even while the air pump is off.

In case your air pump is in some way attached to the filtration system and works independently of it, then you shouldn’t turn it off, as it will also shut down the filtration process.

If you go lurking around the internet, you will find people giving horribly wrong advice and inflicting unnecessary fear claiming that fish will die if you turn off your air pumps. Unless your air pump is used for driving filtration, which means it works with the filter, you shouldn’t face any issues switching it off.

How to Reduce Air Pump Noise?

Technically, it’s not the bubbles or water currents that cause stress to your fish. However, the constant whizzing of the air pump can be irritating for both aquarists and the tank’s inhabitants.

If you are being bothered by air pump noise and it’s loud enough to trouble your ears, understandably, the vibrations transmitted into the tank can cause inconvenience to the fish as well.

An air pump often produces a humming noise when touching an object, like an aquarium stand. Fortunately, it’s an easier task to remedy this issue.

You can place a small towel, foam padding, or similar soft material under the air pump to absorb the vibrations. Applying this simple measure will help you dampen the noise effectively.

It’s also suggested to clean the air stones more often and always keep the air pump on a higher level than the aquarium. You can also try to set up your air pump away from the pillows.

How to Identify Oxygen Level in Your Aquarium?

can fish sleep with the air pump on
Being able to determine the oxygen level present in your fish tank will help you know the water condition: it’s over-oxygenated or oxygen-deprived. And based on that, you can decide when to turn off the pump or let it run until the oxygen level reaches a certain point.

To get the most accurate estimation of the oxygen level available in your aquarium, you can use a digital oxygen meter. Alternatively, if you need an affordable measure to get the job done, get yourself a chemical test kit. It will give you a rough estimation. It can be flawed at times and might give manipulated results depending on the chemicals in the tank.

Another method you can use to ensure proper oxygen level in your aquarium is to notice the inhabitants’ behavior. If you see your fish often coming near to the surface and gasping for air, then it’s a clear sign that the oxygen is low in the water.

Since it doesn’t require any tool, you can use it at your convenience to get a rough idea of whether oxygen is needed. However, we don’t advise you to entirely rely on this method, as you may get wrong on your observation.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do aquarium air pumps use a lot of electricity?

If you have a newly installed air pump on your fish tank, and you are worried about the soaring electricity bills, you can take a sigh of relief as air pumps are usually low in consumption. Starting with a bare minimum of 3 Watts, air pumps go up to 25 – 50 Watts for the heavy-duty models, ensuring it won’t make a dent in your pocket.

Is an air pump a necessary device for fish tanks?

An air pump is arguably a helpful device, but it’s not necessary. The main job of an air pump is to fulfill the need for required oxygen in the water. You don’t need an air pump if you have a power filter installed on your aquarium that agitates the water enough to provide proper circulation and oxygen. It certainly helps to have additional aeration equipment, but you can still build a healthy tank without it.


Here we wrap this article hoping that it answers all your questions regarding air pumps, their effects on fish sleep cycles, whether to keep it off at night or not, and methods to reduce loud noise.