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Planted aquariums don’t have to be strict aquascapes. They can also feature a few fish and invertebrates that balance the ecosystem. Fish, shrimp, snails, plants, and even the Nitrobacter colonies that consume nitrates all need oxygen to survive. Respiration is a process all these species share, and this means they need to extract dissolved O2 particles from the water. A planted aquarium can be oxygenated by mechanical and biochemical means. Plants handle the latter process, and the former is achieved by agitation of the water column. Bubbling devices aren’t mandatory in planted tanks, but you still need some sort of mechanical process to oxygenate the water.
What Aquarium Bubbling Devices Accomplish
Air stones are some of the most common aquarium elements that produce bubbles. There are also decorations that move and generate bubbles as long as they’re connected to air pumps. Power heads also generate bubbles even though you may not see them, and the same can be said about the spray bars that have become popular in recent years. It’s easy to think bubbles inject air into the water, but this isn’t the case. Circulation is what actually takes place, and this could be accomplished by anything that simulates a current. Without circulation, dissolved oxygen levels will deplete in a few hours.
How Plants Generate Dissolved Oxygen
If you turn off the air pump or water circulation device in a freshwater aquarium that’s densely planted, you’ll notice tiny bubbles forming on the surface of the plants after a couple of daytime hours. What you’re seeing is the photosynthesis process in action, and those beady bubbles will contribute to the water oxygenation process. This is just one of the reasons live plants will always be preferred to plastic ones in freshwater tanks. However, this won’t be enough to support an enclosed ecosystem, which means you still need to agitate the water column.
How to Keep Planted Tanks without Bubbling Devices
In theory, a planted tank doesn’t need bubbles or even an air pump. Anything that creates a current in the water will promote aeration and mechanical oxygenation. You can frequently scoop water in and out of the tank as a means of circulation. In fact, this is pretty much what happens when you turn off the air pump to do partial water changes. Naturally, manually circulating the water in a planted aquarium isn’t practical because you would have to do it around the clock.
Turning Off the Air Pump at Night
Aquascaping tanks without fish or invertebrates still require water circulation at night, even more so because you don’t have the natural photosynthesis “oxygen pearling” that takes place in the daytime (with moderate-to-heavy planting). At night, the bacteria still consume a massive amount of O2 that can starve the oxygen levels in the aquarium toward the early hours of morning. Bacteria doesn’t know if it’s day or night, so they’re consuming O2 at 100 percent all the time. If you feel the air pump is too loud and doesn’t let you sleep, either buy a quiet one or wrap the air pump in a towel. Many advanced planted tank aquarists know to turn the air pump on when the lights go off at night to keep the natural (or injected) CO2 in the water column where photosynthesis can benefit from it in the daytime.
Whether you need a bubbler or any other supply for your freshwater tank, you can find everything you need at Aquatic Warehouse, a trusted aquarium supplier located in Kearny Mesa. You can also order from our website and have your supplies shipped directly to you. Have any questions? Don’t hesitate to give us a call today at 858-467-9297.