For newbies to hydroponics, it might be confusing to discover that your system needs to provide oxygen to the plants’ roots.

All plants need to be able to access oxygen to their roots. It’s why, in extremely compacted soil, your plants can suffocate and die. When you’re growing in soil, you want it to be loose, light, and allow for drainage.

While with soil you can add worms or til it to ensure that there’s some access to air, with hydroponics, you can’t use either of these solutions. So, how does one get air to the roots of your plants?

The short answer is with air pumps. And you will also need air stones and tubing to accomplish this.

Finding the right air pump for your hydroponic system can mean the difference between the life and death of your crop.

Quick glance at the best air pumps for hydroponic systems:

Also Read:

Best Air Pumps For Hydroponics In 2022

Hydrofarm Active Aqua Pump 4 - Best Overall Air Pump

Hydrofarm ACTIVEAQUAPUMP4

Amazon 

Our overall best air pump comes from the folks over at Hydrofarm, who produce the Active Aqua line. As specialists in the field, they know precisely what horticulturists need in their equipment.

Several reasons make this a must-have air pump for hydroponic units, namely:

  • Adjustable power settings for any size unit
  • Made from excellent materials that will last
  • It is created explicitly for hydroponics

The hydroponic world often merges with aquatics gear for fish tanks, as keeping fish alive in a tank means they need access to air in their water solution.

The Hydrofarm Active Aqua Pump 4 has a max output of 15 LPM (liters per minute) or 240 GPH (gallons per hour). This is not a submersible air pump and has a noise rating of 45 dB.

The pump had to be placed on four rubber feet to achieve this low noise rating.

We think its industrial look is a plus; for some though, it might be a deterrent. It can also accommodate four ports to pump air into your unit.

Pros

  • A specialist hydroponic product
  • Durable
  • Quiet
  • Adjustable power settings

Cons

  • It might be a bit large for the average hydroponic gardener

Hydrofarm 125 GPH 2-Out Air Pump - Best Beginner Air Pump

Hydrofarm AAPA7.8L Active Aqua, 2 Outlets, 3W, 7.8 L/min Air Pump, Silver

Amazon 

This unit is perfect for those with the most basic, deep water culture (DWC) setups. Able to be fitted to a 5-25 gallon unit, it simplifies setup with only two outlets.

This pump uses minimal power, drawing 3 watts of electricity. Expect this little air pump to push out 7.8 LPH or 125 GPH.

Also, making it perfect for a small setup close to living areas, is that this air pump produces 40dB, which means it’s pretty quiet.

Once again, this is a specialist hydroponic unit and allows for adjustable airflow via the simple turn knob on top.

Also, this is a non-submersible unit, but it is more than enough for two DWC units.

Pros

  • A specialist hydroponic product
  • Great for smaller setups
  • Quiet
  • Adjustable power settings

Cons

  • It might be a bit small for some hydroponic gardeners

hygger Adjustable Air Pump - Quietest Air Pump

hygger Small Quietest Aquarium Air Pump, Adjustable Oxygen Pump 2 Air Outlets Ultra Silent Powerful Aerator Pump 160GPH 5W

Amazon 

With two outlets and taking 5 watts of power, the hygger is the quietest air pump on our list, producing less than 30dB of noise. This means you’ll barely be able to hear it if it’s running in the same room as you.

The pump also allows for adjustable flow rates with simple volume control on the side. And the dual outlets are designed for the most straightforward installation.

While this air pump is designed to work with aquatic endeavors and delivers 10 LPM/160 GPH, it can handle two simple DWC units.

And with a 5-watt motor, it can operate at five feet of depth. As with our previous picks, it cannot operate submerged.

There is a larger 10-watt version on the market but we think the lower-powered pump is perfect for indoor DWC grows because of its low noise.

Pros

  • Great for smaller setups
  • Super silent
  • Adjustable power settings

Cons

  • In the lowest setting, the five-watt pump is practically unusable

EcoPlus 3566 - Best Commerical Use Air Pump

EcoPlus Eco Air7 Commercial Air Pump 7 - 200 Watt Single Outlet, With 12 Valve Manifold For Aquarium, Fish Tank, Fountain, Pond & Hydroponics, 3566 GPH, Silver

Amazon 

For commercial operations, you don’t get much better than the EcoPlus 3566. Powered with 120 volts, it puts out 3566 GPH and can be attached to 12 outlets.

This pump has a special attachment that allows for 12 adjustable outlets, giving you complete control over an entire crop.

All the materials used in the cylinders and pistons are made from premium metals. While it doesn’t deliver all this power silently, we’re sure that this would generally be used in a commercial setting in a large greenhouse.

Also, it needs to be mentioned this isn’t the cheapest air pump, retailing at a cool $143.77.

But if you’re invested in getting the best commercial crop, it’s better to put your capital towards an excellent air pump.

Pros

  • Suitable for commercial applications
  • Adjustable power settings for all 12 outlets
  • Excellent build quality

Cons

  • Not suitable small scale
  • The price tag is a bit out of reach for urban gardeners looking to expand operations

AquaMiracle Aquarium Air Pump - Best Budget Air Pump

Aquarium Air Pump - AquaMiracle Air Pump for Fish Tank, Hydroponic Air Pump, Fish Tank Air Pump Bubbler Pond Aerator, 600GPH Commercial Air Pump

Amazon 

At $29.99, the Aquarium Air Pump for AquaMiracle is worth every penny. The 18 watts of power allows for 600 GPH of air and can accommodate six outlets.

Design-wise, the ridges on the pump also help to dissipate heat. But if you can place it in a well-ventilated room, it will last even longer.

The housing of the unit is cast from aluminum and has a brass outlet, which is durable and corrosion-resistant.

Once again, this unit won’t deliver on silence, but it is better used in a more extensive hydroponic operation.

This being said, AquaMiracle have made sure that the feet are rubberized to cut down on rattling.

Pros

  • Suitable for commercial applications
  • Great price point
  • Excellent build quality

Cons

  • Not suitable for small scale

Criteria For Choosing The Best Hydroponic Air Pumps

When it came to selecting the best air pumps for hydroponics, there were many criteria they needed to meet.

Namely:

Size

While we are also referring to the physical size of the pump, we are interested in the amount of power it has. Depending on your setup, you might require the 120 volts pumped out by larger commercial units.

When reviewing these pumps, we made sure not to mark them down due to their smaller size, as every unit is specifically designed to handle a certain amount of water.

As a general rule of thumb, most hydroponic gardeners will allot 1 watt of power for each gallon of water.

The more complex equations would be the following:

  • 1 LPM for every gallon of water
  • 17 GH for every gallon of water

We’d recommend sticking with the LPM measurement as it is easy to crunch the numbers.

It’s important to do the maths as you don’t want to over-invest in a product capable of more than you need, or even worse, under-invest.

Materials

The build quality matters when purchasing anything. This is true of buying an air pump for your hydroponic setup.

Also, air pumps will be running for lengthy periods of time, which means you need a product that can take the punishment.

Some of the products we reviewed were created with plastics, but the inner workings have to be at least aluminum.

A bad connection will mean a loss of air. If the parts are made from poor-quality plastics, they can release harmful chemicals into the water. Make sure plastic parts don’t release microplastics.

Another factor when reviewing a product is whether the materials will aid in reducing noise.

Noise

Pumps, in general, will produce noise. Noise levels can quickly turn a relaxing hobby into a constant hmmm that will drive you insane.

Making sure that your hydroponics are set up far away from your living areas will help reduce the noise. But if you’re growing indoors, you will want a quiet pump.

If noise will be an issue in your household, it might be wise to purchase a larger air pump because that unit working at half capacity will not make the same level of noise as a smaller one running at 100%.

You can also ensure that it lives on a surface that reduces noise. This can also be accomplished by placing a sound-absorbing mat underneath the pump.

Capacity

Depending on the layout of your hydroponic grow space, you will need to check how far the air pump can circulate.

Some pumps will come with instructions to inform you that the air pump should be placed above the water to allow further reach.

While others will have a more restricted range if placed beneath the water.

It’s always in your best interest to place the air pump above the water source to ensure that any leakages don’t short-circuit your pump.

Not to mention that pumps will be plugged into a wall and can cause a hazardous situation.

Also, ensure good airflow over the pump to assist with heat. You can also use a small fan to cool it down when used.

Number of Outlets

Once you’ve worked out how large your pump needs to be to aerate your nutrient solution, you will want to consider how many outlets the unit should have.

Some pumps have excellent attachments that allow for 12 outlets, while others will be ok with two.

The number of outlets required, again, is something you need to work out for your own hydroponic setup.

While some units will allow for individual adjustability for outlets, others won’t.

Useability

Being able to tap into the full potential of your air pump is essential. No one wants to own a product they can’t use to its full potential.

Make sure that you have a use for all of your chosen pump’s features.

Price

Budgets matter. So when purchasing an air pump make sure that you don’t overspend on the pump and have to take that money from some other crucial part of your hydroponic setup.

After all, hydroponic gardening can add up very quickly.

Final Thoughts

While we’d automatically point you toward selecting the Hydrofarm Active Aqua Pump 4, the truth is you may require something completely different.

We love the Hydrofarm unit as it is flexible and can handle systems large and small (even working at half capacity).

It’s also relatively quiet and will not drive anyone insane with a constant underlying hum.

But if you share a home with a sound-sensitive individual, you might want to purchase a hygger. And if your hydroponic setup is too large for the pump to handle on its own, buy a number of them.

While you can’t daisy chain an air pump, you can run multiple units simultaneously, which makes it a highly bespoke solution for your system.

If some plants require more air, you’ll want to install a more powerful unit, while others might not need a constant flow of bubbles.

The truth is, the best air pump is the one you need for your exact system and plants.