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Do Betta Fish Need a Bubbler? Benefits & FAQs

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By Lindsey Stanton

A large finned blue betta in a tank with black background and a trail of bubbles rising

If you are planning on getting a beautiful and mysterious betta fish, you are probably in the process of gathering the tank and all of the essentials. Something you might be tempted to get is a bubbler or an air pump. After all, fish need to breathe too, right?

So, do betta fish need a bubbler? No, betta fish do not require bubblers or air pumps. They have a special labyrinth organ that allows them to breathe air at the surface, plus if you have a good filter the water should be oxygenated enough anyway.

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Do Bettas Need Oxygenated Water?

A betta fish will appreciate if the water is properly oxygenated. Yes, they do have gills through which they pull water, and then pull oxygen out of the water. So yes, they do need the water to have some amount of oxygen in it. However, betta fish can survive with far less oxygen in the water than most other fish.

This is the reason why if you have a good filter and a couple of plants, these should be enough to oxygenate the water to the point where it should be comfortable for betta fish. The biggest reason why bettas do not need air pumps or bubblers is due to that unique labyrinth organ.

double tail betta fish
Image Credit: Buddy BIGPhotographer, Shutterstock

The Labyrinth Organ

Fish that contain the labyrinth organ in their bodies are known as labyrinth fish, and yes, the betta fish is a labyrinth fish. The labyrinth organ is more or less like a small lung, not unlike human lungs. This allows betta fish to breathe gaseous air from the surface of the water.

You will often see betta fish going to the surface to open their mouths and breathe fresh air. Most other fish can only absorb oxygen out of the water, but labyrinth fish like bettas can also absorb it out of the air. This is why betta fish really don’t need a bubbler or an air pump, as they don’t really have a need for it, although that said, it will still make their lives more comfortable.

How Does a Bubbler Work?

Bubblers are quite simple and there is not much to them. Bubblers are often made of porous stone, limewood, or specially engineered glass or plastic. These are first connected to an air pump. The air pump feeds oxygen into the bubbler. The super porous nature of bubblers takes that oxygen and separates it into very tiny bubbles.

Sure, an air pump is fine, but the bubbles are so large that most of the oxygen simply rises to the surface and escapes out into the air above the water. Moreover, these huge bubbles can be unsightly and disturbing to the fish. However, when a bubbler is connected to the front of the air pump, these air bubbles become much smaller, thus allowing them to dissolve into the water much easier.

Simply put, bubblers take the air supplied by air pumps and create bubbles small enough to easily diffuse the oxygen into the water, thus allowing fish to breathe easier.

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Benefits of Using a Bubbler in Your Fish Tank

under water bubbles
Image Credit: Tracey Jones Photography, Shutterstock

There are a few different benefits that you should think about when it comes to using a bubbler in your fish tank, and here we aren’t talking just about betta fish.

Water Oxygenation, Bacteria, & Waste

One reason why having a bubbler in an aquarium is a good idea is due to water quality. Aquariums need to be filtered, and the main way toxins such as ammonia get broken down is through bacteria. Bacteria break down ammonia and nitrates, thus rendering them harmless to fish. However, these bacteria consume oxygen.

So, the dirtier the tank, the more bacteria there are needed to break these compounds down, and the more oxygen they use. A bubbler can help prevent this oxygen deficit from occurring.


Another reason why having a bubbler in an aquarium is a good idea is due to aeration, and no, aeration and oxygenation are not the same things. Aeration refers to how well the oxygen is dispersed in the water. A tank that only has oxygen near the top is not well-aerated.

A bubbler can help to spread that oxygen around into all corners of the tank, thus making all parts of the tank much easier to breathe in.

betta slendens in aquarium
Image Credit: panpilai paipa, Shutterstock

A Cool Look

The other reason why many people choose to install bubblers in their aquariums is simply that it looks cool. These things create walls of miniature bubbles, and some people think that it’s quite a neat addition to any aquarium.

Betta Happiness

Betta fish, due to their labyrinth organ, can breathe air right from the source. However, they do prefer to pull the oxygen out of the water instead. It’s like having a life preserver. Sure, you can swim fine without it, and you prefer to swim without it. The life preserver, which in this analogy is the labyrinth organ, is only used when absolutely necessary.

Simply put, a betta fish will be much happier in well-oxygenated water, especially if it doesn’t have to surface every couple of minutes just to breathe.

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The Verdict

The bottom line is that while you don’t really need a bubbler for a betta fish tank, there are a variety of benefits of having one that you should consider.

They aren’t too expensive and have numerous advantages for aquariums.

Featured Image Credit: leisuretime70, Shutterstock

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