How To Choose The Right Pond Air Pump

Small Pond Aerator

Not every pond will need aeration, or adding air and circulation to the water, but every pond will benefit from it.  There’s no question about that.

If you look around online, or even at some local pet or hardware stores you’ll find a ton of different aerators for small ponds or water gardens.  There are so many that it can get really hard to choose which one to buy that will find your pond and needs just right.

In this post I want to share with you what I think are the things you should look for and consider when buying an air pump and system for your pond.

Fit The Aerator To The Pond

This probably goes without saying but virtually every aerator package will have some kind of rating or suggestion for a pond’s gallon size and this is the best reference you can use to fit the device to your pond.  For instance in our small pond systems, the Pond Air 2 is rated for ponds up to about 1,000 gallons and 3 feet deep.  Anything less than these numbers and you can be pretty sure the device will serve the pond well.

Of size and depth, I would frankly be more concerned about the max operational depth.  If you go much deeper than this suggestion you run the risk of damaging the diaphragm and losing air.  Certainly the overall operational life of the pump will be shortened.  These diaphragms are easy enough to replace but you really don’t want to lose air creation at an inopportune time.

Assess Your Primary Needs

Pond owners  use aeration for a couple of reasons.  First, the added dissolved oxygen and circulation is really good at protecting fish.  Second, this added air can also support beneficial bacteria so if one has algae or water quality issues, adding air may improve things.  And finally, aerators are often used in the winter to control ice coverage on a pond.

Where fish are concerned, any added air is helpful.  In one conversation I had with a Koi owner, we talked about aerators and she mentioned using two.  One has lower air output, also called CFM’s and the other created quite a bit of bubbling at the surface, so much so that she couldn’t see the fish anymore due to the agitation!

So in essence, she used the device with higher air output during the winter, which helped protect the pond from freezing over, even in very cold weather, and used the more subtle air flow at other times of the year to maintain decent oxygen levels.  Certainly if you don’t mind the added agitation of the water, you could use the higher CFM model year round.  

CFM’s are useful for comparing models of aerators, and these numbers can vary widely, but generally what we’ve found is that more output isn’t always necessarily needed.  If the device is rated (again for the pond size) and fit to a pond as suggested, it will do a good job of aerating.  The saturation or holding capacity of the water will be affected more by temperature than anything and aeration should be looked at as a protective tool to guard against low oxygen levels.  Running them consistently (24/7) will provide the results that most pond owners desire.

Other Considerations

Apart from the things noted above, I think comparing things like manufacturer’s warranties, operational costs (which should always be quite low for small pond units) and the outright cost of a system is useful.

Most of the systems available today have warranties of 2 to 3 years which is very good and ideally most of these kits will last much longer than that.  You may, after a few years, need to replace the diaphragm, which is the air creation part of the unit, and this is quite easy and affordable to do.

Most good quality small pond aerators, that will cover ponds up to 2,000 gallons or a bit more, will be priced well below $100.  And systems targeted at ponds up to 16,000 gallons or so, will be available from several hundred dollars and up to a bit less than $500.

In the end, I’m not a big fan of making this process more complicated than it needs to be.  The aerating kits you’ll find on the market today are all pretty good, and dependable.  I would caution about cutting corners or getting too skimpy when choosing a unit.  Simply make sure that the specs on the system exceed your pond’s needs and you’ll be fine.

And as always, if you have questions on small pond aerators, be sure to post those below and I’ll be happy to answer them.

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4 Responses to How To Choose The Right Pond Air Pump

  1. Henry Scott April 23, 2013 at 2:22 pm #

    Before buying air pump you should so some research on the internet, read reviews and select the best to one to avoid issues.

  2. Mark Washburn April 23, 2013 at 2:45 pm #

    I couldn’t agree more Henry. Over the years, we’ve been through a few suppliers of pumps and I think we’ve narrowed this down to a pretty good group. There are none that are perfect, things can happen, but overall, problems for us have been minimal and when something does go wrong, it get’s taken care of pretty readily.

    I personally prefer pumps with longer warranties too. It just means you get a bit more coverage on things if something goes wrong. We’ve made some recent changes to our small pond lineup partly because of that difference.

    Thanks again for the comment.

  3. meh May 17, 2015 at 10:38 am #

    Our aerator is barely producing any bubbles this year, has been fine previously. Can you suggest a remedy? Are there any replacement air stones ,if so what are they called?

  4. Mark May 18, 2015 at 10:18 am #

    Thanks for the question. If the aerator has run pretty well over a period of time, but eventually starts to lose air output, that’s normally an indication that the rubber seals on the piston and above the piston chamber are starting to wear down and leak a bit of air. Compression will drop at that point and you won’t see as many bubbles coming out into the water. This is a normal wearing part on the pumps and after a few years of operation you may need to replace them. We have a repair kit in our online store for this. The procedure is pretty easy to do with some simple tools. We have a video on the blog here which covers that I believe. Just search for aeration pump repair and it should come up.

    Secondarily you could check the airline and diffuser, and intake air filter as well. Sometimes these can get plugged up a bit but this isn’t nearly as common as the leaking seals.

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