- Why Do You Need a Hydroponic Air Pump?
- How to Calculate Your Hydroponic Air Pump Sizing
- Hydroponic Air Pump Noise and Other Concerns
- What Else You’ll Need With Your Air Pump
- The 6 Best Hydroponic Air Pumps For The Money
- Additional Air Pump Accessories
As a beginner hydroponic gardener, one of the things that confused me the most was how to control and maintain my nutrient reservoir. There are a lot of different variables to consider, one of the most important being the oxygenation of your nutrient reservoir.
There are three pieces here: your air stones, your airline tubing, and your air pumps. In this piece, we’ll look at air pumps, why they’re needed, and what to consider before you buy. I’ll also do some in-depth hydroponic air pump reviews as well.
6 Best Air Pumps for Hydroponic Systems
|Best OverallHydrofarm 125 GPH 2-Outlet Air PumpBest Overall||Check Current Price|
|Extra OutletsHydrofarm 240 GPH 4-Outlet Air PumpExtra Outlets||Check Current Price|
|Low OutputEcoPlus 793 GPH Air PumpLow Output||Check Current Price|
|Med. OutputEcoPlus 1030 GPH Air PumpMed. Output||Check Current Price|
|High OutputEcoPlus 1300 GPH Air PumpHigh Output||Check Current Price|
|Max OutputEcoPlus 3566 GPH Air PumpMax Output||Check Current Price|
Why Do You Need a Hydroponic Air Pump?
Because we’re growing hydroponically, everything that a plant needs to survive (and thrive) must be provided to them by us. Most gardeners think of water, light, and nutrients first, but oxygenation is a crucial part of the puzzle in hydroponics.
Think about it: in soil, there are little pockets of air in between bits of soil and water, so a plant is never fully submerged in water. Now imagine you’re growing in your favorite type of hydroponic system…but you’re not using an air pump. That stagnant water will run out of oxygen fairly quickly, and if the roots of your plants are fully submerged, they will drown in your nutrient reservoir!
It seems weird to think about a plant as being able to drown, but it’s entirely possible — and inevitable — if you don’t have the right air pump and system in place.
By using an air pump, you can take advantage of the diffusion of air into water. When placed at the bottom of your reservoir and in conjunction with a high-quality air stone, the bubbles produced will increase the dissolved oxygen level of your nutrient reservoir. The bubbles will also keep your reservoir evenly mixed, which is a nice side benefit.
How to Calculate Your Hydroponic Air Pump Sizing
What size air pump you need will depend on the size of your nutrient reservoir. There is a handy rule of thumb that states you should buy a pump with a wattage equal to the number of gallons of nutrient solution you have, but some growers find that to be a little overkill.
A better rule of thumb is to ensure that the pump you buy will provide at least 500-600cc per minute of air to your nutrient reservoir. 500-600cc per minute is the same as 500-600ml per minute, and even the cheapest air pumps will provide more than that, so most hobbyist indoor gardeners will be safe here.
If you’re growing commercially, you have other considerations and may need to open for extremely powerful pumps and complicated setups. That is a bit out of my depth as an indoor gardener, but I have heard good things about a few products that I will list in a section below.
Hydroponic Air Pump Noise and Other Concerns
For me, one of the joys of growing indoors is having a completely enclosed system that runs without much effort (once I have it all calibrated). One thing that messes with my sense of gardening zen is a noisy air pump, with a dull, droning growl that bothers me as I try to sleep or work.
Try to select an air pump that will run quiet. Most manufacturers provide a decibel level in their product specs, so keep an eye out for one that is lower than 45 to avoid too much annoying noise.
Another feature to look out for are multi-nozzle pumps. If you are running a bato bucket or multi-unit growing system, these pumps will make your life easier by not requiring you to create fancy splits in your airline tubing.
What Else You’ll Need With Your Air Pump
If you just buy an air pump, you’ll find yourself with a great tool and no way to use it. You need airline tubing and a high-quality airstone to make the whole thing work.
For airline tubing, all you’re looking for is a garden-safe plastic that’s ideally a dark color (black is best). You want black because clear tubing is susceptible to algae growth if there is any moisture in the line at all. I usually purchase aquarium tubing and it works just fine.
For your air stone, there are a lot of avenues to go down. The smaller the bubbles the airstone creates, the better. This is because there is more surface area exposed to the water, and the bubbles will travel slower. Both of these facts mean more oxygen is dissolved into your reservoir.
For airstones, I usually go with the Hydrofarm active aqua cylinder or a few of their 4” circular air stones.
The 6 Best Hydroponic Air Pumps For The Money
When we’re talking about air pumps, “best” is a relative term. In terms of raw power and features, a commercial-grade air pump is technically the “best,” but it’s overkill if you’re just running a deep water culture system. I’ve broken these recommendations down by scale to make life a little easier.
1. Hydrofarm 125 GPH 2-Outlet Air Pump
In most simple DWCs, you’re working with one reservoir that’s anywhere from 5-25 gallons. If that sounds like you, all you need is the Hydrofarm air pump with 2 outlets. It’s quiet, at a maximum decibel rating of 40, and will pump 125 gallons of air per hour through your system.
This is the one I use in all of my small-scale gardening projects.
2. Hydrofarm 240 GHP 4-Outlet Air Pump
If you have a larger system or are running a multiple-reservoir growing room, then you’ll want to upgrade to the Hydrofarm 6-Watt air pump with 4 outlets. Just like the entry-level model, it’s also very quiet at only 45 decibels and will push out 15 liters per minute (240 gallons per hour).
3. EcoPlus 793 GPH Air Pump
If you have a serious need for air in your growing operation, go for the EcoPlus commercial line. The only caveat: these are quite loud, so they’re good for enclosed grow rooms or outdoor growing operations unless you are OK with a lot of noise.
All of these air pumps are exceptionally well-built and are well-reviewed by both myself in my own personal use, as well as my gardening friends. You will need quite a bit of airline tubing, so I recommend just going with the 100’ roll from General Hydroponics just to be safe.
4. EcoPlus 1030 GPH Air Pump
With 6 valves and higher gallons per hour, this EcoPlus model is a good mid-range option for someone who has a medium-sized operation that simply needs more airflow but not more outlets to connect to tubing and airstones.
5. EcoPlus 1300 GPH Air Pump
The EcoPlus 1300 boasts an additional 2 outlets, bringing the total to 8. It also offers an additional 270 GPH over the prior option, giving you even more airflow to connect more systems or reservoirs to one central air manifold.
6. EcoPlus 3566 GPH Air Pump
If you’re running a serious grow room operation and don’t mind some additional noise, go with the maximum size that EcoPlus offers. It has 12 valves and enough airflow to aerate large-scale hydroponic systems, so it’s our personal go-to.
Additional Air Pump Accessories
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Once you’ve selected the best air pump for your needs, you’ll need a couple of additional products: airline tubing and an air stone. For airline tubing, we recommend black tubing to prevent any potential discoloration or algae buildup if moisture somehow makes its way into the airline.
For air stones, a standard 4″ round air stone will do for most projects. For this, Hydrofarm makes a quality one. But keep in mind you may need to get more air stones or a different shape depending on your system.
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