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Home > Betta fish > Do Betta Fish Need Air Pumps & Bubblers? Reasons, Facts, & FAQ

Do Betta Fish Need Air Pumps & Bubblers? Reasons, Facts, & FAQ

2 betta fish in tank

The Betta fish (Betta splendens, also known as Siamese Fighting Fish)  is a popular pet for fish enthusiasts because of their beautiful color variations and easy upkeep. The Betta belongs to the Anabantoid family of fish, which all have a special biological addition that helps them survive.

If you’ve considered getting a Betta fish (or already have one) as a pet, you might wonder whether they need specialized tank equipment. Luckily, Betta fish don’t need air pumps or bubblers in their tank because of the specialized organ we mentioned; read on to discover what your Betta will need and how they use their labyrinth organs to survive.

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Why Do Betta Fish Not Need Air Pumps and Bubblers?

Betta fish (along with other Anabantoid fish) have labyrinth organs, which help them take in oxygen from the water. The amazing aspect of these bony organs is that they’re designed to breathe air, meaning the Betta can breathe air from the surface. Alongside their gills, which filter oxygen from the water (like regular fish do),1 the Betta can periodically surface and gulp air.

Because of the vascular labyrinth organs, additional air pumps and bubblers aren’t needed for your Betta’s tank; in fact, agitating the water’s surface with a bubbler might cause more problems than it solves for them!

betta fish in aquarium with nature light
Image Credit: MANU PARADY, Shutterstock

What is a Labyrinth Organ?

Some fish develop a labyrinth organ due to their environment being low in oxygen. When oxygen levels in the water dropped too low for the fish to survive, the Betta learned to cope by evolving the labyrinth organ and taking air from the surface.

The labyrinth organs are found behind the gills in the Betta and are bony structures with several folds to increase their surface area. These organs are filled with blood vessels to transfer as much oxygen to the Betta’s bloodstream as possible with each air intake, like how our lungs work! As a trade-off, the Betta’s gills are smaller than on other fish of their size.

Do Air Pumps and Bubblers Stress Betta Fish?

Because the Betta swims to the surface to breathe air, they can face problems that other fish might not encounter. The risk of meeting a predator at the water’s surface is much greater for the Betta than for other fish, and they’ll also need to know where the surface is! They produce “bubble nests” when they breed, which float on the surface of the water. For that reason, Betta fish prefer a calm surface of water in their habitat.

Bubblers (also known as air stones) are aquarium furnishings that produce bubbles in a tank. Bubbers are usually connected to the air pump and feed air through a tube from a stone or other equipment. This helps diffuse bubbles in the tank but can create more movement on the water’s surface when the bubbles rise.

Air pumps inject oxygen into the water and create bubbles to release CO2. Air pumps and bubblers are usually found together, but because of the Betta fishes’ labyrinth organs, they don’t need them.

Bubbles rising to the surface can agitate the water and cause stress for your Betta fish, so avoiding using them is better. This doesn’t mean an air pump should never be used; if your veterinarian recommends more oxygen for your Betta, an air pump can be a good way to provide it.

betta fish coming out from a pot in aquarium
Image Credit: Kosit Pajuthai, Shutterstock

How Do You Oxygenate Water for Betta Fish?

All fish need oxygen to survive, including the Betta. You need to provide oxygenated water for your Betta, and there are a few ways you can do it:

  • Using a good filter (an essential; all fish should have a filter in their tank)
  • Increasing the number of living plants in the tank
  • Change the shape of the tank; rectangle tanks have more surface area for oxygenation than fish bowls

The best way to provide oxygen for your fish is to use a good filter. The filter will agitate the water enough that carbon dioxide can leave the tank and oxygen can enter it without moving the water too much. Filters also help keep the water clean and clear, which is important for your Betta’s health and happiness!

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Final Thoughts

Betta fish need oxygen to breathe like other fish. Like other fish, they do have gills. The Betta has a set of gills on either side of their head that they use to draw oxygen out of the water. However, Bettas and other members of the Anabantoid family have a special adaptation to help them cope with the lower oxygen concentration in their natural habitat: the labyrinth organs. They don’t need an air pump or bubbler to survive in a tank; Bettas can swim to the surface, gulp air, and take oxygen from the water!


Featured Image Credit: OHishiapply, Shutterstock

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