Aquarium Fish That Don’t Require An Air Pump

Keeping fish in a bowl or aquarium can be a soothing hobby for many. However, as with any pet or animal, it comes with responsibility. In addition, depending on the size and magnitude of this hobby, it can be costly, and you might be looking to simplify your tank setup. This list of aquarium fish that don’t require an air pump, can help you streamline your tank design setup, and ensure that the fish you choose stay happy and healthy.

Types Of Aquarium Fish That Don’t Require An Air Pump

I am often asked why I must add an air pump, bubbler, or air stone to my aquarium, as many fish survive comfortably in a bowl. The short answer is that all fish need oxygen, just like us, and most species get dissolved oxygen from the water.

Typically, oxygen or air enters an aquarium through aeration, oxygenation, or agitation. Adding an air pump, air stone, bubbler, or sponge filter to a tank, is a commonly accepted way to increase the oxygen levels. Interestingly, it is not the bubbles that provide the oxygen to the water, but rather the disturbance of the water surface and water circulation that raise the oxygen concentration.

Most fish are much happier with oxygenated water, but it depends on the fish species. Certain fish species use low oxygen, and others can use atmospheric oxygen from the water surface. In addition, if your filter system produces enough water surface movement, you may not need an air pump. Let us look at the aquarium fish types that can live happily without an air pump.

Before we continue with more detail on the fish types, I want to reiterate that an aquarium, without an air pump, should still contain an optimum oxygen level. However, some fish species or types are more capable of surviving without the continuous oxygenation of their environment. Also, I found this exciting Video on Fish types that can survive without an air pump in their tank.

The Labyrinth Anabantoidei Fish Species 

Let’s start with the labyrinth fish species, which is part of the Anabantoidei family. They breathe through their labyrinth organ, which allows them to take in the atmospheric oxygen from the water surface. 

Remember, they also have gills to get oxygen from the water and can also draw it from the atmosphere. Therefore, although these species can gulp air from the water surface, it can be stressful if the water is dirty or shallow in oxygen levels. The solution is frequent, complete, or partial water changes to improve their environment and breathing comfort. 

The Anabantoidei fish species is an excellent example of how life on earth adapts to its habitat and surroundings. Some waters are naturally low in oxygen, and fish developed a labyrinth organ to ensure survival. Nevertheless, the focus moves to the water surface, which should be sufficiently open for them to breathe. 

There are almost a hundred different labyrinth fishes, and we listed some examples below.

Gouramis are the most common, and in addition, many gouramis types, like the Three Spot Gourami and the Dwarf Gourami, are specifically bred for aquariums. Below is a list of typical Gouramis that you would probably find in many air-pump-free fish tanks or aquariums worldwide.

Chocolate Gourami, Croaking Gourami, Dwarf Gourami, Giant Gourami, Honey Gourami, Kissing Gourami, Moonlight Gourami, Pearl Gourami, Powder-blue Gourami, Snakeskin Gourami, Sparkling Gourami, and the Three-spot Gourami

Paradise fish or Blue Paradise is a gouramis species and a natural rebel pet. However, they require a clean environment, are very territorial and aggressive, and don’t like the smaller inhabitants of their home. However, their beautiful rainbow colors attract many fish fans, adding to their popularity.

Betta Fish or Siamese Fighting Fish are considered among other low-maintenance fish species. Males typically have lovely long fins in contrast to the shorter fins of females. In addition, they have various beautiful colors, such as red, green, and blue. Betta fish are aggressive and should not mix with other fish types in one aquarium. 

The Happy To Be In A Bowl Fish Species 

The second part of the long answer revolves around fish that can survive in a bowl. A good example that everyone knows is Gold Fish. Although the labyrinths can use atmospheric oxygen, the typical Gold Fish is less dependent on high aeration levels in its home. In addition, as you might have guessed, many labyrinths will also happily survive in a bowl, and many bowl fish in an air-pump-free tank.

Common examples of these fish types are the betta fish, guppy, zebra danio, and tetras; however, let us list some of them in a bit more detail.

Typical Bowl-Type Fish examples are the Oscar Fish, the Blind Cave Tetras, the Salt and Pepper Corydoras, the Six-ray Corydoras, and the Pea Pufferfish. In addition, the labyrinth species such as the air-breathing Betta’s or Gouramis

The Scarlet Badis is a beautiful small freshwater fish most popular in the nano aquarium community. Probably because they are small and hardy, they could live in aquariums that do not have an air pump. However, they prefer a clean environment (that means replacing half the water on a weekly basis).

The Suckermouth Catfish is a small fish but can grow to a large size. So, only suitable for larger tanks.

The Molly Fish or Mollies come in various types, such as Black mollies, Sailfin mollies, Balloon mollies, Lyretail mollies, and Dalmatians mollies.

The Platy Fish are very similar to Mollies, and examples of their types are Mickey mouse, Sunburst, Red wag, Blue, Bumblebee, and Green Lantern.

The Zebra Danio is very small and identifiable by the white and black stripes. In addition, they come in beautiful colors, such as silver, gold, and white.

Aquarium Fish That Don’t Require An Air Pump

The Ember Tetras is one example of the Tetras breeds. Their almost transparent little bodies have lovely orange-red colors. Also, they are cheap and hardy; therefore perfect for beginners or an initial aquarium startup without too many gadgets like an air pump.

White Cloud Mountain Minnow, or the Chinese Danio, is a low-maintenance fish and ideal for a bowl or simple tank. Also, you can mix them with other breeds or species. They have a lovely neon-like color line with a red tail. Male are more colorful and slender than females. 

The Guppies are most common, hardy, happy-go-lucky, and come in various colors like blue, red, yellow, and green. Also, they are perfect for an entry-level fish tank and would survive most difficulties

The Goldfish is probably the best example of a traditional gill-only fish that can survive without an air pump. The main reason is that they draw oxygen from their tissues and need less oxygen compared to other fish species

Adding Oxygen To Your Aquarium Without An Air Pump 

Finally, there are other ways to ensure your aquarium’s oxygen levels are adequate without using an air pump. Using a filter is a good example, as it should agitate the water’s surface for additional oxygen. However, not all filter does agitation, so look for one that does. Typically, most power filters will be sufficient to agitate the water’s surface.

In addition, simply exchanging all or a large quantity of water should also replace the oxygen levels in the aquarium. Finally, ensure water quality with treated tap water, adequate water temperatures, and clean accessories. Be sure to do this regularly, as your fish relies on you for survival.


If you don’t want to add an air pump to your aquarium, then we recommend only filling your tank with fish that require lower levels of oxygen such as the Anabantoidei species, or fish that can thrive in a fish bowl.

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