Can Fish Sleep with the Air Pump On?

Can Fish Sleep with the Air Pump On?

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In order to keep your aquascape oxygenated, you have to use some sort of air pump. Aeration is a crucial aspect to keeping your tank healthy without building up bacteria and other debris in the tank. But, it is machinery and many people wonder if fish can sleep with the air pump on.

In most cases, fish can sleep with the air pump on without bother from water agitation or noise. But, if your air pump is noisy or you notice stressed fish after they sleep, then you will have to do something about it. You can fix the problem, buy a new air pump or turn it off at night.

We’ll explore fish sleeping cycles and how they coalesce with an air pump. Also, there will be deeper discussions about how to fix a noisy air pump and ensuring your fish receive the proper aeration while they doze off for the night.

How Air Pumps Don’t Often Bother Fish Sleep Cycles

Fish sleep at all times of the day, so the air pump or stone won’t be bothersome in the least. If your fish are new to the tank and the air pump disrupts their sleep, give them a little time to adjust to the noise. After a few days, they won’t even notice it.

What’s more, if they are scared or uncomfortable with equipment in the tank, they will swim and confine themselves somewhere away from it. In fact, researchers at Stanford noted that fish will locate a calmer area to sleep when they find water movements bothersome.

How Do You Fix a Noisy Air Pump?

It’s not the bubbles or water aeration that will bother you and your fish as much as it will be the consistent vibration. If you have a noisy air pump, you have three options to fix the problem: you can turn the air pump off, employ noise absorption or buy a new device altogether.

Turning Off the Air Pump

The easiest option is to turn the air pump off at night. But this is only possible if it’s separate from the water filter and has its own cord. However, you will have to keep the filter on so oxygen levels will remain stable and continuous. If the air pump isn’t independent of the filter, then you have to keep it on 24/7.

Noise Absorption

Another thing you can do is use something to absorb the noise. Take an old towel, bed sheet, foam padding or other soft, plush material. Wrap this around the area of the air pump that’s creating the vibration. Also, try to place the air pump in a location where the vibration won’t rattle the aquarium.

Buying a New Air Pump

The final option is to buy a brand new air pump. But, this should be your last resort after all other efforts fail. When you hunt around for one, be sure it features being quiet with a low decibel level. Also, make sure the air pump is the appropriate size and has the right output for your specific tank size.

Other Important Tips

Regardless of which method you go with, there are some other things to take into consideration. First, you should keep the air pump or stone (along with all other equipment) as clean as possible. This will reduce noise and vibration that can be disturbing to fish when they sleep.

You will also want to check the oxygen levels in your tank every day. This will be especially true if you turn it off at nighttime. If your fish don’t have the right amount of dissolved oxygen particles in the tank, they will struggle and can possibly die if they struggle for too long.

How Do You Measure an Aquarium’s Oxygen Levels?

The best way to measure an aquarium’s oxygen levels is by using a digital oxygen meter or a chemical test kit. However, the test kit will only provide a very loose approximation. The meter will give you an exact reading. Which one you want to use will depend on how particular your fish are with water parameters.

Persistent Measuring

If you are going the route of turning off your air pump before bedtime, then you should measure oxygen levels prior to turning it off and again when you wake up before turning it back on. When it’s over-oxygenated, you can safely turn it off while still allowing the filter to run. In the event it’s under-oxygenated, you will have to keep it on.

Observe Your Fish

Another indicator of oxygen levels are in the fish themselves. If they are struggling to breathe or spending more time at the top of the tank than is normal, there isn’t enough oxygen in the tank. If they are spending an unusual amount of time at the bottom of the tank, there’s too much.

It’s a good idea to use a combination of methods to get an accurate read on the oxygen in the tank. Do not rely on the fish alone. For instance, if you notice they’re spending a lot of time at the top of the tank, then do a reading to see how much oxygen is in the tank.

How Can I Ensure My Fish Have a Good Night’s Sleep?


The first step to ensure your fish have a good night’s sleep is by understanding their habits. This means reading up on your particular fish and paying close attention to their sleeping habits.

Understand Where Your Fish Likes to Sleep

Some fish like to sleep in décor, like treasure chests and driftwood. Others like to sleep amid the leaves of plants and yet there are those who prefer drifting mid-water or lounging at the bottom of the tank. Make sure you dampen any noise coming from the air pump or other equipment to accommodate their sleeping quarters.

Also, check to see where your fish claim their territory and keep all equipment away from there. In the event you have a noisy air pump, observe the tank and the vibration emitting the noise and configure things to reduce it.

Cover the Walls of the Tank

There are some aquarists suggest covering the tank walls before bedtime. This will create a quieter environment for your fish. You can use a sheet, cardboard or other such material. As long as it won’t impede on the filter or air pump, this will be a good way to make sure your fish sleep well.

Sounds Outside of the Aquarium

Don’t play music near the tank when your fish are sleeping. This is especially true for tunes that have a lot of bass or drums. This is also true for other pets you have, like dogs that bark incessantly. Keep them away from the tank to ensure a good rest for your fish.

The main takeaway here is to remove any possible disturbing sounds so that your tank’s inhabitants stay happy and healthy.


Is It Necessary to Have an Air Pump for Fish?

You can operate a very healthy tank without an air pump. However, that means you need to use the power head on the filter to rely on aeration. So, while an air pump or stone isn’t entirely necessary, it is a good idea to have one. This is especially true if you have picky fish or a planted aquarium.

In the case your tank is huge, you must have an air pump. There is no way around this. But, smaller tanks can get away with not having one.

What Other Ways Can You Aerate an Aquarium?

If you don’t want or have an air pump, you can aerate the aquarium with the power head from the water filter. You just angle it against the surface of the water until it builds up enough dissolved oxygen in the tank. Be sure to take a reading to ensure it’s at the appropriate levels.

You can also use anything else that pushes air out if you don’t have a water filter head. Some people report being able to use a mattress pump, a bike tire pump or even a hair dryer on a cool setting. Don’t use heat unless the water temperature is also cold. You don’t want to make the water hotter than what your fish can handle.

How to Tell When Fish Are Asleep?

You won’t really know right away if your fish are sleeping or awake. This is because they often sleep with their eyes open. However, they will be still for long periods of time or hideaway in some foliage within the tank. The largest indicator, though, is their lack of physical responsiveness with slow moving gills.

However, it’s important to understand that fish don’t have normal sleeping times like people do. They sleep or nap whenever they feel like doing so. Fish also do this in the wild as well. Even though they are aware of daylight and nighttime, they will sleep at any time of day.