Air Stones: 14 Important Things Should Know (For Beginners)

Air stones are an essential accessory for an aquarium as they provide diffused oxygen for the tank’s inhabitants. Air stones are also responsible for giving small bubbles inside a tank which is a lot quieter than big bubbles coming from filters.

So why do aquarists need an air stone? Are they even necessary despite having a filter already?


What Are Air Stones Used for?

Air stones are used for circulating water and providing diffused oxygen in a tank. It also helps plants absorb more nutrients inside a tank and prevent pathogens from harming plants because of oxygen circulation.

First off, let’s describe what an air stone is. An air stone is usually porous in appearance and is either made out of limewood or porous rock. The pores on the entire surface of an air stone allow it to provide tiny air bubbles to the tank due to the oxygen that is being pushed through it via the air pump.

These air bubbles not only further oxygenate an aquarium but also provide other benefits like modifying filtration and being used as an extra decoration inside a tank. However, it’s important to take note that you can’t solely rely on an air stone to provide oxygen.

Why? Well, that’s because an air stone doesn’t produce any oxygen, it simply acts as a tool or mechanism to distribute diffused oxygen to the entire tank.

Air stones not only provide benefits for fish but also plants. So how are air stones able to do this? Thanks to the water circulation that air stones provide to a tank, that increases the oxygen levels inside a tank, and the more oxygen there is inside the tank the more likely plants can absorb nutrients and water.

Moreover, water circulation makes plants healthier and this protects them against pathogens that could make them sick if there were a lack of oxygen inside a tank.

You may check these air stones out by clicking on the links below:

Pawfly Air Stones

Lee’s Pet Products Discard-A-Stone

Hygger Aquarium Air Stone

How Do Air Stones Work?

Air stones work by attaching them to an air pump, once it’s been attached, you can set it up inside the tank.

After setting both the air pump and air stone inside the tank, bubbles will slowly form inside and fill up the aquarium. Depending on the air stone’s shape, the bubbles would either flow in one concentrated area or fully disperse in the entire tank.

Both the air pump and the air stone work hand-in-hand in aerating the water. In turn, this would provide more oxygen inside a tank, leaving both fish and plants healthy.

Are Air Stones Necessary In An Aquarium?

Yes, air stones are necessary for an aquarium because these provide further oxygenation or nutrient solution (for plants), and water circulation. All these factors are crucial in keeping both fish and plants healthy.

Without air stones, the likelihood of both fish and plant inhabitants would eventually suffer from a lack of oxygen. This is because not a lot of people can spot the signs that their fish are already deprived of oxygen. To prevent this from happening, purchasing an air stone from the get-go would help save the tank inhabitant’s lives in the long run.

Moreover, air stones are an absolute necessity because of the benefits it gives to an aquarium and its inhabitants. Such benefits are:

  • The fish can play with the bubbles coming from the air stones.
  • Pathogens, bacteria, and algae can be prevented thanks to air stones.
  • Some aquarists prefer the look that the tiny bubbles are giving.

Do Air Stones Bother Fish?

Air stones would only bother fish that don’t like large bubbles (which would come from big air stones) and if the air stone is agitating the water too much, some species of fish would be bothered by it.

Do remember that every species of fish varies from each other and some have different needs and preferences.

For instance, a Betta fish would prefer a calm water flow inside the tank, so the best course of action to take here is to get a small air stone instead of a larger one. This way, the air stone won’t create large air bubbles that would cause too much agitation in the water.

Here are a few fishes that would be bothered by strong water flow. Take note that the majority of these fish are tropical freshwater fish:

  • Angelfish
  • Arowana
  • Barbs
  • Betta fish
  • Clown Loach
  • Discus
  • Cory Catfish
  • Gourami
  • Tetras

Can I Leave My Air Stone On All The Time?

Yes, you can leave an air stone on all the time and that’s a better choice since it would be more beneficial for your fish and plants. Also, this makes the process of algae growing on the air stone slower if it’s turned on all the time.

If you’re worried about too much oxygen production, don’t be. Too much oxygen won’t harm your fish or plants. Just make sure to rub the algae off of the air stone once you see it being covered up over time.

Can An Air Stone Replace A Filter?

No, an air stone can’t replace a filter because the function of an air stone is to only aerate the water. On the other hand, filters do more for a tank such as clearing out the water, removing contaminants and providing filtration.

An air stone can only aid in the filtration process so people can’t solely rely on them and opt not to use any type of filtration system.

Air filters are essential for aquariums since these would help in keeping them clean and provide enough oxygen for fish and plant inhabitants. Ultimately, this would help fish keepers in maintaining their tanks. Without the help from filtration systems, fish keepers would have to manually clean tanks weekly.

Having filters doesn’t mean that fish keepers will rely on them 100%. Of course, as responsible aquarists, they also have to check their tanks from time to time and watch out for clogs (e.g. algae clogging air stones or debris clogging mechanical filters).

So there you have it, basically, an air stone isn’t capable of providing the functions that only a filter is able to do. An air stone can only do so much like aerating water.

Are Air Stones Bad For Plants?

No, air stones aren’t bad for plants, rather, they’re good for plants. Air stones help plants absorb more nutrients and that aids in the growth of plants. Also, air stones prevent pathogens from attacking plants thanks to the oxygen circulation that they provide.

If you have a planted tank and you’re worried about adding an air stone in said tank due to the possibility of air stones harming your plants; don’t be. Air stones provide nothing but benefits to plants.

Do I Need An Air Stone If I Have Plants?

It’s necessary for planted tanks to have air stones because without this, the roots of the plants would suffocate.

Hydroponics is another term for growing plants in nutrient solutions instead of soil. It would be beneficial for hydroponic tanks to have air stones in them since it provides constant water flow to the roots of plants. Plants are living things and living things need oxygen to survive.

If you own a hydroponic tank you may also make use of an air diffuser since it functions the same as an air stone. The only difference between an air stone and an air diffuser would be its appearance.

How Long Do Air Stones Last?

Air stones would last for as long as a year, given that they’re being maintained properly and de-clogged from time to time.

An air stone will only start to lose its effectiveness of providing diffused oxygen to a tank, once they become clogged (possibly due to algae). Several aquarists have shared their experience of having air stones that don’t function anymore after six weeks of using them.

Luckily, there’s a solution for this so you won’t have to replace your air stone with a new one. What you’ll have to do to maintain the effectiveness of your air stone is to clean it and this process would take a few days to complete, specifically, two to four days.

Here are the steps on how to clean your air stone:

  • Using fresh water, grab the air stone and rinse it, gently scrub contaminants off of the surface. Once this is done, let the air stone dry.
  • Grab some fresh water and boil it and place the air stone in the boiled water for 10 minutes. Once that’s done, get the air stone and air dry it once more.
  • Prepare a solution that would include:
    • One part household bleach
    • Three parts fresh water

Once you have combined the two, soak the air stone in it. This process would aid in disinfecting the stone. This would usually take 24 hours to complete, however, it would take longer (two days) for air stones that are very clogged.

  • To remove leftover bleach from the air stone you would need an airline and a container filled with fresh water. Attach the airline to the air stone and soak it inside the container with fresh water. Do this step for five minutes.
  • Lastly, take out the air stone from the container and let it continue to dry via the airline from the air pump. This would help the air stone dry from the inside. Once that’s finished, you may leave your air stone to air dry for 24 hours. Voila, you’re done! You may use the air stone again for your tank.

Do take note that there are lots of methods in cleaning air stones, however, not all of them are safe. Make sure to avoid microwaving air stones as this would melt any plastic that’s connected to the stone.

If you take good care of your air stone, it may last for a year before you replace it. However, if you live in a place where there is lots of dust or smoke, you may have to change your air stone a lot more frequently, specifically, you would have to replace your air stone every month.

Are Air Stones Quiet Or Loud?

Air stones don’t make noise but the air pumps do. One thing that contributes to noise would be a clogged air stone since the air pump would have to put more effort into pumping air inside the air stone, thus creating more noise.

There are other factors that would make an air pump noisier, luckily, there are easy solutions for these. Refer to the bullet points below to reduce the noise coming from your air pump:

  • Always ensure that your air stone/s are clean.
  • Place something soft underneath the air pump. A soft material would block the vibrations coming from the air pump and reduce noise.
  • Keep the air pump placed above the surface of the water. This would change the pressure being exerted from the pump and minimize noise.
  • Put the air pump on a solid surface. A dense material would block noise as compared to putting the air pump on a hollow surface.

Are Air Stones Good For Bettas?

Small air stones would be good for Bettas since these would create small bubbles, and small air stones don’t cause too much water movement. Bettas dislike too much water flow so a small air stone would be an ideal choice.

Since air stones are not only known for oxygenating water but also providing agitation to a tank, it would be a smart choice to opt for a small air stone compared to a large one. Why? Well, Bettas hate strong currents and too much water flow, large air stones would do this because it generates large bubbles.

So the best course of action here would be to get a smaller air stone. If you don’t want to buy an air stone for your Betta then that would be alright as well. Since Bettas prefer low water flow and are used to low oxygen, not having an air stone wouldn’t cause any problems to their health.

Can You Have Too Many Air Stones In An Aquarium?

Yes, you can have too many air stones in an aquarium. Too much oxygen would cause gas bubble disease to fishes. Also, too many air stones would cause a lot of agitation inside a tank which would surely affect fishes that dislike too much water flow/movement.

Ensure that you have the right amount of air stones inside your tank to prevent gas bubble disease from happening to your fish. Three air stones would be the maximum number for a tank size of 125 gallons, so you should have less air stones in smaller tanks.

Moreover, if you’re planning to get more than one air stone, your tank inhabitants should be fine with strong water flow.

Do Discus Fish Need Air Stones?

Yes, Discus fish would need air stones. Discus fish need to live in a tank with high temperature, in turn, the oxygen levels inside their tank would drop. To fix this issue, an air stone is highly recommended to provide more oxygen to the tank.

By now we’re aware of what an air stone contributes to a tank. So if you own a Discus fish, it’s highly recommended that you get an air stone for your tank to provide oxygen to your fish. An air stone wouldn’t affect the high temperature in your tank so you shouldn’t be worried about that.

What Are The Most Popular Air Stones?

Pawfly Air Stones, Lee’s Pet Products Discard-A-Stone, and Hygger Aquarium Air Stone are the most popular air stones in the market (Amazon).

All three air stone products from their respective manufacturers have received high ratings from several aquarists. Also, two of these air stones have been labeled as Amazon’s Choice, so that gives us the reassurance we need that these products are definitely worth the purchase.


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