Do bettas need a bubbler in their tanks?

When we are a new pet friend, we want to give it the best of worlds. And when that friend is a betta fish, we think of the aquarium, decoration, food, water quality, and bubbles.

In this post, we are going to talk about bubblers and betta fish. Are their oxygen requirements going to be met if a bubbler is added to their tank? What are the benefits of adding a bubbler to your betta’s tank?

Do bettas need a bubbler in their tanks?

The answer is no. Bettas have a special labyrinth organ that allows them to breathe air at the water surface. Hence, they don’t need bubblers or air pumps. But bubbles are so cool! Can I have a bubbler even if my betta doesn’t need one? 

Yes, you can add a bubbler or an air pump, as long as you consider what your betta thinks about that. Some bettas will enjoy the new “toy”, while others can get stressed.

Can my betta get its water well oxygenated without a bubbler? 

A betta fish can breathe through their gills when they filter oxygen from water, like any other fish. However, if we consider the betta fish natural habitat we must think of low flow, warm temperature, and a shorter water column, as they originally live in marshes, rice paddies, and slow-moving streams in South Asia.

Because betta’s natural environment can often have reduced dissolved oxygen levels, they adapted to this condition by evolving to have a labyrinth organ. 

What is a labyrinth organ?

A labyrinth is an organ that is similar to a primitive pair of lungs.  It is formed by vascularized expansion of the epibranchial bone of the first-gill arch that allows bettas to breathe oxygen from the atmosphere close to the water surface.

Although the labyrinth organ is a great specialization that allows bettas to survive in an environment with lower oxygen content, they can’t only rely on this type of respiration. Thus, a betta must have both good water quality and access to the surface of the tank. A good filtration system can help to maintain the water clean and oxygenated.

Can I add a bubbler if I want to?

Do you still want to add a bubbler? That won’t do your betta any harm as long as you keep in mind their temperament and the tank’s flow.

Let it flow… low

Betta fish don’t like the current in their water. They prefer a quieter environment with plenty of hiding spots. So, if you’re adding a bubbler make sure it has a low flow and that is limited to a corner. 

You can hide the bubbler, under a stack of rocks, a few plants, or even put a toy over the bubbler, decreasing the flow’s intensity. There are even some bubblers in the shape of animals or other types of decoration. Moreover, gangway valves direct the flow of air coming into your stones. 

In case your betta doesn’t like it, you can easily remove it. Keep in mind higher currents limit the chance of your betta bubble nesting.

How does a bubbler work?

Bubblers are usually made of limewood, porous stone, sponge filters, or they can be artificial like tank decoration. They are connected to an air pump that feeds oxygen into the bubbler. Since the bubblers have a very porous surface, that oxygen is then separated into lots of tiny bubbles. They can come in many shapes, sizes, and colors. Some can produce bubbles from the entire object, while others only bubble from certain areas. Remember that these bubblers must be cleaned regularly.

When setting up your air pump, you would ideally put it on a shelf above or adjacent to the aquarium. Do not let it touch the aquarium, as the vibrations it makes can be incredibly harmful to fish. If you cannot place it above or on the same level as the tank, this is fine as long as you have a drip loop.

A drip loop is a slack bit of cord between the air pump and the outlet it is plugged into. If it happens to get wet, the water will drip off the drip loop, as it sits lower than the outlet and air pump, instead of dripping into the outlet.

One of the downsides of a bubbler is that the bubbles are often large, so most of the oxygen rises to the surface of the tank, escaping out into the atmosphere. Hence, your betta will not benefit from them. Additionally, these big bubbles can make your fish extremely distressed depending on its temperament.

On the other hand, if a bubbler is connected to the front of the air pump, the air bubbles considerably decrease in size, thus enabling them to easily dissolve into the water. Consequently, there will be a higher supply of oxygen in your betta tank. This can be useful in tanks with a warm water environment.

Placing the air pump somewhere where it can touch the aquarium is highly recommended. The vibrations made by the pump can be extremely stressful to your betta. Instead, place it on a shelf either above or adjacent to your betta tank.

Are there other benefits of having a bubbler?

Besides oxygenating the tank, bubblers can provide other benefits to your betta, but also the plants and other tank mates if you have them. Here are they:

  • The more oxygen supply available, the less your Betta will have to swim to the surface to breathe. Consequently, it could have more energy and become more playful;
  • A bubbler can help reduce toxins by providing oxygen to the bacteria that break down ammonia into nitrate;
  • Having extra oxygen in its tank can help decrease the stress levels during cleaning or temperature adjustments; 
  • The bubbler can be a super cool toy in case you have a playful Betta;
  • Aeration helps keep natural plants alive.
  • Bubblers can help prevent algae blooming in the aquarium;
  • If your betta is sick, on medication, or with difficulties swimming to the surface (e.g., swim bladder disease) extra oxygen available can be handy.

If you choose to have an air pump and a bubbler, also consider having a control and a check valve. A control valve allows controlling the amount of air entering the tank. Thus, controlling the flow for your betta.

The check valve prevents water from coming out of your betta tank. Although this is unusual, it is better to be safe than sorry. If by any chance some water comes out onto the floor, there could be some real damage to your fish. But if the entire tank drains out of the airline tubing, we can be talking about some devastating consequences.

When the air is pumped through the airline tubing, a small vacuum of pressure is created. In case of a power shortage or an equipment malfunction, the vacuum will reverse and drain the water back. Despite Bettas not needing bubbles to survive, its quality of life will surely increase.

Will my betta be happier with a bubbler in its tank?

The answer to this question lies within the fish’s temperament. Bettas are curious, intelligent, and territorial little creatures. So, it will come down to whether they see the bubbles as an amusing toy or as something that will stress or threaten them.

A playful betta will chase and play with the bubbles provided they are properly displayed. For them, playing with bubbles can keep them entertained for a long time and it is also a way for them to get some exercise.

If your betta is shy, the bubbles can easily stress it and will make it hide most of the time. Others will attack the bubble. Paying attention to your betta’s behavior is the best way to know whether it likes the bubbler or not.

How can I install a bubbler in my betta’s aquarium?

Installing a bubbler in an aquarium can be quite easy. After choosing your bubbler (air stone, sponge filter, driftwood, or tank decorations), make sure you have enough airline tubing that goes from the bubbler’s desired position in the tank until the pump.

First, make sure that the pump is switched off. Then you will attach one end of the airline tubing to the bubbler and after choosing the place you want to put it, you can place the bubbler inside the tank. The airline tubing must be in place. You can use suction cups to help with that should you find it necessary. Next, attach the other end of the tubing to the pump. Once it is done you can turn the pump on and control the flow of the bubbler either by hiding it under some decorations or with a check valve.

Conclusion

In this post, we have talked about whether or not bettas need to have a bubbler in their aquarium. Although it is not necessary, we have discussed the advantages of having a bubbler in the aquarium, the types of bubblers, and how to install it in a tank. But most importantly, we have discussed if bettas like bubbles.

Bettas are tropical fish that are used to warm and calm waters. Although they naturally live in marshalls and rice paddings, they need a minimum of 10-gallon tank with clean water, a warm temperature of 75 to 80 F ( 23.9 to 26.7°C), and hiding spots.

Having a filter is essential to maintain the quality of water and adding a bubbler can be beneficial for that. Bubblers raise the level of aeration of your tank as well the amount of dissolved oxygen available to your betta. It also can help break down toxins like ammonia, in case of an emergency if your betta is ill, and it can also be an excellent form of entertainment. If your betta has a playful, friendly temperament.

In case your betta is super shy, it may not be a good idea to have a bubbler. It can make them stressed and even depressed. In this case, it is advisable to remove the bubbler as soon as you identify such behavior. Your betta will thank you!

All in all, bubblers can be a good addition to your betta’s tank, especially if you have natural plants and other tankmates. Make sure that all conditions of the tank are met, that the bubbler is well-positioned in the tank and that there are tiny bubbles and low current. It will be guaranteed success!

Do you have a bubbler in your betta’s tank? Does your betta enjoy the bubbles? It will be great to hear about your experience with a bubbler in your betta tank. In case you are still thinking about adding a bubbler to your aquarium and have questions about it, leave us a comment below. 

Reference

Bozzo, L. (2008). My first fish. Berkeley Heights, NJ: Enslow.

Song, M. (2006). Caring for my betta fish: An insider’s guide for betta lovers. John Alexander Enterprises Inc., USA.

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