Did you know that you can grow plants without soil? Your plant’s roots need four essential things to thrive; moisture, sunlight, nutrients, and oxygen. If you provide your plants with these components, they will thrive and flourish!
Hydroponics is one of the best-known ways to grow plants without soil. This means you grow your plants, whether houseplants or vegetable crops, in water rather than soil.
Plants that grow in water will have an abundance of moisture and light. But water in itself does not contain nutrients or sufficient oxygen. We can add nutrients to water manually in the form of nutrient solutions; as for the oxygen, that’s where the air pump comes in!
We cover all of the ins and outs of how to choose the best hydroponic air pump for 2023 below, along with our top choices for the year.
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What Is An Hydronic Air Pump, And Why Use It?
An air pump does what it says! It pumps air (oxygen) into the water of your plants. But why is this beneficial? Do you need an air pump to grow plants with hydroponic gardening?
Have you ever tried to spend more than a minute underwater? It’s going to be hard to breathe! The same goes for your plant roots. If you’re growing your plants in water for a long time, there will not be enough oxygen available for the roots to execute cellular respiration, which may lead to suffocation and root rot in hydroponic systems.
Using an air pump can also help prevent the algae growth or bacteria in your water reservoir!
An air pump will also help to keep the water in your reservoir moving. Stagnant water attracts pests and diseases and can cause roots to grow brittle and shallow. All in all, using air pumps can be a good idea if you are growing plants in hydroponics!
How Does A Hydroponic Air Pump Work?
A hydronic air pump pulls atmospheric air into a tube, releasing it through an air stone into the water. Bubbles with dissolved oxygen enter the water reservoir through the air stone or air diffuser, creating breathable air for your plants’ roots.
Air pumps are used not only in hydroponic gardening but also for fish tanks and even small ponds in a backyard garden to provide fish with oxygen. In some cases, fish are even kept in the hydroponic reservoir to produce nutrient waste for the plants in the system.
Why Use A Hydroponics System?
There are numerous benefits to using hydroponics instead of soil. Hydroponics requires less maintenance, uses less water, and allows growers to produce vast crops because you can grow more plants in less space.
A hydroponic system makes it much easier to control the growing environment for the plants, allowing you to create optimal conditions with less effort.
You can even use a hydroponics system to get your outdoor plants started before the growing season. If that is something you are interested in, check out our guide on how to transplant hydroponic plants into soil!
6 Types Of Hydroponic Systems for Plants
The wick method is the most straightforward method of hydroponics. In this system, the plant sits in a growing medium such as LECA, soil, bark, or moss. The water reservoir sits below the plant, and the water is wicked into the soil medium through a rope or other piece of fabric.
You may even use this method yourself because it’s the same method we use in our guide to DIY self-watering planters! This type of hydroponic system is great for small indoor plants, and they don’t require much maintenance.
Deep Water Culture System (DWC)
You will see DWC being used most often by large-scale growers, as these are some of the best systems for large-scale operations. Here, the roots of the plants grow exclusively in water. Usually, the plants hang above the water reservoir in a net or styrofoam sheet, and the roots grow freely in the water!
A DWC setup requires a little more effort, as the roots that are continuously submerged in water will drown unless you give them additional oxygen. A water or air pump will help provide air to the roots so they won’t suffocate and sufficient water flow to prevent other stagnation issues.
Ebb And Flow System (EFS)
This method is also known as the “Flood and Drain” method. This system periodically pumps water to the plant’s root zone via submersible pumps. After a certain amount of time, the excess water returns to the original reservoir for later use.
Nutrient Film Technique (NFT)
The Nutrient Film Technique is similar to EFS but has a slightly different shape. In NFT, the nutrient solution continuously flows over the plants roots, giving them an even supply of nutrients at all times. In this system, water always flows from one reservoir to the other.
You can find the drip system among large-scale gardeners all around the world. With the Drip System, the plants grow in a medium such as coir or moss. From a large reservoir, water is getting pumped into a large tube.
From there, a network of smaller tubes spread around the plant (called ‘driplines’). The driplines then drip the water into the soil medium of the plants, providing them with moisture and nutrients.
In aeroponics, the plant’s roots grow in the air. Underneath the plant’s roots is a large water reservoir accompanied by a mister. This mister periodically spreads water damp in the air so the roots remain hydrated and moist. It’s important to note that the water level never directly touches the plant’s roots in aeroponics.
This method allows for excellent airflow without using an air pump, but it comes with the risk of the roots of your plants drying out quickly if there is a technical issue.
Does Every Hydroponic System Need An Air Pump?
No, not every method of hydroponic plant growing needs an air pump. Air pumps are only necessary when there is insufficient access to natural oxygen for your plant’s roots.
The only method that requires an air pump is the deep water culture method. Because the roots of the plants are always in water in a DWC system, they will surely drown if there is no additional oxygen supply!
While it’s not a necessity for the other methods, there is no harm in using an air pump for any kind of hydroponic setup. There is no such thing as ‘too much oxygen’ for a plant’s roots!
How To Pick The Best Air Pumps For Your Plants
So, now that you know what an air pump does, you’re likely excited to get one for your hydroponic garden! But how do you know which pump will work well for your plants? What things do you need to look out for when choosing the right air pump?
There are a couple of important factors that come into play when you are choosing a pump for your hydroponic setup.
But the good news is, there are many excellent options. So your perfect air pump is undoubtedly out there!
The Size Of The Pump
The first thing you must look for in a pump is the right size. A common rule of thumb when picking the right size of your hydroponic air pump is to keep the wattage equal to the number of gallons of nutrient solution.
You can find the wattage of your air pump on the packaging! Remember that this is a minimum, and there is no upper limit. The more oxygen in your water, the better your plants will grow.
Of course, specific calculations will give you a more precise answer to how strong your air pump must be, but this is a bit redundant. Aiming for 1 watt per gallon of water is a handy rule of thumb to remember when searching for the right size air pump.
How noisy your air pump will be is a personal preference, but it is still an important factor to consider. You will want to look at how much noise a pump makes before you purchase it! Since the machine will run all day, you want to ensure the sound doesn’t annoy or bother you.
Also, consider the location of your hydroponic system. Is it placed in the garden or garage? Then the noise is manageable. However, if you keep a hydroponics setup in your bedroom, you don’t want to be kept up all night by the noise of your pump!
Some hydroponic pumps come with multiple nozzles, which can be helpful if you have large reservoirs or want to set up multiple smaller ones. Splitting your airline tubing is always possible, but this can be time-consuming.
And since many pumps come with multiple nozzle attachments, you can easily save yourself the trouble.
Our Top Picks for the Best Hydroponic Air Pump In 2023
Are you looking to find the best hydroponic air pump for your hydroponics system at home? Below you’ll find our top picks, along with why we love them and recommend them to everyone!
1. Hydrofarm Active Aqua Air Pump 4
The Hydrofarm Active Aqua Air Pump 4 f is a favorite water pump of many. Its strength ranges from 40 to 1100 GPH (Gallons per hour), making it an excellent pick for gardeners on any scale!
This pump has an adjustable pressure dial, making it easy to adjust the airflow strength throughout your water reservoir. It also has a unique characteristic: an internal muffler that minimizes noise, even when used on higher power levels.
2. Hygger Adjustable Air Pump
This is your pick if you’re looking for the quietest hydroponics air pump. The Hygger Adjustable Air Pump produces less than 30 dB (about as loud as quiet whispering); this air pump is an excellent pick for those who keep their hydroponic systems inside or in their bedrooms. It has built-in suction cups that reduce vibration, lowering the noise significantly.
But don’t mistake low noise for low power! This small but strong pump has enough power for up to 600 gallons of water reservoirs. It can reach up to 225GPH, so it may not be suitable to cover a large surface area. It’s also one of the cheapest air pumps on this list, so it is a great option for hobbyist indoor gardeners!
3. General Hydroponics Dual Diaphragm Air Pump
This air pump is the only one made specifically for hydroponic purposes. If you are a beginner to hydroponics, the General Hydroponics Dual Diaphragm Air Pump is one of the best options. With 360GPH, this air pump will ensure healthy and robust plant growth.
This hydronic air pump has four air valves, making it easy to set up multiple hydroponic systems connected to one pump. However, this pump is relatively small. Depending on the size of your nutrient reservoir, it may not be suitable for bigger hydroponic growing setups.
4. EcoPlus Eco Air7 Commercial Air Pump 7
The Ecoplus Commercial Air Pump is a powerful air pump with as many as 12 nozzle ends. This is the best hydroponic air pump for people who use large-scale hydroponics or have multiple setups that need an air supply.
This powerful 3566 GPH air pump is made from aluminum alloy, making it durable and lightweight. It’s easy to set up, and the detachable air outlets make it easy to adjust the scale of your hydroponics system.
However, please note that this pump can be loud. If you’re sensitive to loud noises, perhaps this pump is not your best pick.
5. Simple Deluxe Commercial Air Pump
Are you looking for heavy-duty pumps? Look no further. The Simple Deluxe Commercial Air Pump can pump up to 29 gallons per minute, making it one of the most powerful pumps on this list.
It’s made from premium materials, such as aluminum alloy, a copper outlet nozzle, a synthetic rubber diaphragm, and a high-quality air tube that won’t crack or break during use.
But the good things about this ideal pump don’t end there. It has built-in heat-resistant management, automatically turning off the pump when it overheats. It’s equipped with a strong electromagnetic motor that will last you years.
How To Get The Most Out Of Your Air Pump
Now that you’ve got yourself a hydronic air pump, it’s time to put it to use! These pumps often come with simple instructions that make setting them up a breeze.
But there are some ways to get the absolute most out of your newly purchased air pump!
- Turning your pump on and off daily can be a chore. Spare yourself the drama by letting your pump run 24/7. Not only does this eliminate the risk of forgetting to turn it on, but your plants also prefer a constant supply of oxygen to their roots. It’s a win-win!
- If your pump is noisy, the best way to reduce the noise is by placing the pump on a sound-absorbing mat, such as a mouse mat or washcloth.
Accessories For Hydronic Air Pumps
For a hydronic air pump to work, you need two things: airlines (tubes) and air stones or diffusers. You often need to buy these items separately, as they are sold separately from the pump.
Airlines / Air Tubes
When choosing airlines for your pump, choosing a dark color is best. Clear tubes will also do a great job but may attract algae! Further, choosing durable tubes that won’t break or split easily is essential.
Air Stones / Diffusers
The best air stones provide an even, strong stream of tiny bubbles. Remember that the more bubbles, the more oxygen for your plants! It’s best to get a large air stone and place it in your reservoir. This way, you can provide a stable air flow for your plant’s roots.