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Does an Air Pump Disrupt Sleep Cycles in Fish?

Do Air Pumps Affect Sleep in Aquarium Fish San Diego, CA

Acrylic tank manufacturers take pride in being able to set up aquariums in just about any place. One popular request involves transforming a headboard into an aquarium, and such a project would require dampening the vibrations of the air pump by setting it up away from the pillows. Larger tanks require more powerful aeration systems that can generate a lot of noise, but this is more of a problem for the aquarists than for aquarium species. In general, fish should be able to sleep without being bothered by the air pump. What you need to look out for is the actual bubbling and the agitation of the water column. Often the loud noise coming from the air pump is due to it touching an object like the aquarium stand, and the vibration is casting a loud hum. The aquarium experts at Aquatic Warehouse share what you need to know about how an air pump might affect sleep cycles in fish.

Fish Sleep Cycles

Marine biologists have conducted extensive research on the topic of fish sleep cycles, and the invariable conclusions is that all aquarium species need a period of rest equivalent to what we do when we turn down for the night. Fish need sleep for the same reasons we do: to rejuvenate, restore energy, and promote overall health. We may not see fish close their eyes, but diurnal species such as zebra danios reduce their metabolic and brain cortex activity at night to experience light and deep sleep phases.

Factors that May Disrupt Fish Sleep Cycles

Stanford University researchers have looked into the possibility of fish suffering from sleep disorders, and their investigations have been inconclusive. What is known, however, is that intense light flashed at zebra danios after the sunset will interrupt circadian rhythms. After being kept awake for hours, danios will try to catch up on lost sleep on subsequent nights. A similar observation was made with regard to water currents. Danios invariably sought sleeping spots away from the surface and air stones at the bottom of tanks.

Water Column Agitation and Tank Wall Vibration

The water bubbles air pumps generate keep dissolved oxygen levels adequate in the aquarium, but not because of the air they contain. What promotes water oxygenation is the movement of the water at the surface and the ensuing gaseous exchange. Fish won’t be bothered by the bubbles or the water agitation when they try to sleep. However, they’ll swim away from powerheads, air stones, and decorations that emit bubbles. All the same, if the air lines or the pump itself are transmitting vibrations onto the tank, they may bother fish as they try to sleep.

Ensuring Your Fish Get Good Sleep

Most air pumps sit on rubber pieces that have a noise-dampening effect. If these pieces aren’t sufficient, try to rest the pump on rubber or on a towel. You should only turn off aquarium lights at night, but the pump must stay on at all times. If you keep territorial species such as Plecostomus or Oscars, make sure not to place air stones or bubbling devices near the spots they claim so they aren’t bothered when they rest.

From air pumps and aquarium monitors to protein skimmers and testing kits, Aquatic Warehouse has everything you need to properly care for your fish tank. Come to our store located in Kearny Mesa, order what you need from our website, or give us a call with any questions you have at 858-467-9297.


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    San Diego, CA 92123
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