Is air stone needed?
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Old 10-11-2014, 08:17 PM   #1
nicuz
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Is air stone needed?


I plan on keeping a few beginner plants (cryptocorynes, java fern, java moss, anubias) with no CO2.

Is an air stone going to be beneficial to my plants/fish or not?
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Old 10-11-2014, 08:23 PM   #2
Jaseduck
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No its not need all air stones do is to circulate the water
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Old 10-12-2014, 01:36 AM   #3
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Needed, no. Beneficial, maybe.

Either surface agitation or airstones will aerate the water. If you have a lot of surface agitation, you are probably already well aerated and airstones will probably only help move water around.

I personally like to use them to avoid dead spots in corners behind ornamnets, etc. The extra aeration is probably more than I need, but it doesn't hurt. That said, I'm a bit old-school and airstones are certainly not in-style anymore. Circulation pumps are more the current style, as you can aim them anywhere.

Last edited by mattinmd; 10-12-2014 at 01:39 AM.. Reason: added note on circulation pumps.
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Old 10-12-2014, 10:47 AM   #4
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This can be a contentious question because it deals with carbon dioxide, a major nutrient (C) in the planted aquarium, surface gas exchange, and associated differences in CO2 in high tech and low tech aquaria. I still don't understand Dalton's Theory of Partial Pressures of Gas.

All I know is if we isolate the dissolved CO2 level and compare it to the atmospheric level of the gas, when the dissolved pressure is higher than the atmospheric pressure, like at night, the CO2 will try to get out through surface gas exchange - this we want to avoid, and retain the CO2. If, however, the dissolved level of CO2 is less than atmospheric, as during photosynthesis during the day, then atmospheric CO2 is trying to pass through the water surface and join their understaffed compadre molecules. This would happen faster with an airstone.

Water movement throughout the tank allows these processes to both happen faster. So does water surface agitation, as by airstone. But CO2 is only used up, by plants, during photosynthesis, and not during the night, when it accumulates in the water. If you use an airstone, you gain some CO2 during photosynthesis but lose some dissolved CO2 at night.

This applies to low tech tanks. In high tech tanks an airstone would lose some of the pressurized CO2 from the water, a specialized case of daytime CO2 gas exchange.
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Old 10-12-2014, 02:17 PM   #5
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I don't understand gas laws either. But I'm under the impression at no time will an airstone boost co2, only off gass it always making the aquarium concentration lower and never higher unless the room has an abnormally high level of co2

I wish we could get links to finalize this I don't have any. Thats just what I get from reading online posts.
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Old 10-12-2014, 02:56 PM   #6
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I googled around for links but all I found was about injected CO2. They do say that an airstone will degass their CO2, which sort of underlines my point.

I guess that people should forget about comparisons with the atmospheric concentration and accept that airstones will degass CO2, which is necessary for plants. For adequate oxygenation, move the water so it is exposed to the surface.
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Old 10-12-2014, 03:25 PM   #7
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Air stone increases water circulation.
The rising bubbles move the water upward, too.
At the surface the bubbles pop, causing agitation in the water.
This increases the water surface area.

Where water is in contact with the air it will exchange gases. All gases. We are mostly concerned with CO2 and O2. (minor note: the air is mostly nitrogen, and this gas also is being exchanged at the water surface, but neither fish nor plants use the N gas in the water)
Exchange means gases can go both ways.
Which ever (air or water) is higher in a particular gas will donate some of that gas to the other.
Which ever is lower in a particular gas will gain some of that gas from the other.

In an aquarium with just decomposing matter, CO2 rises, oxygen gets used up.
In an aquarium with decomposing matter and animals, (Fish only or just a few plants) CO2 rises, oxygen gets used up.
In an aquarium with plenty of plants the CO2 will follow a daily cycle, following the light. Plants can remove all the CO2 from the water through the day, but they add CO2 during the night. Some of this nighttime CO2 leaves the tank when it reaches the surface, but a lot of it lingers until the morning light starts the plants photosynthesizing, and the plants remove it. With plants, fish and microorganisms all using oxygen through the night the oxygen can get used up faster than water circulation can replace it.
A heavily planted tank with reasonable to low light and fertilizers can use all the CO2 that the fish and decomposing materials and gas exchange are adding to the water, but are not really deficient, they are growing slower because of the low light. This is the basis of the Walstad type of tank.
In a tank with high light the plants are very deficient in CO2 so people add pressurized CO2.

Now, back to the airstone.
An airstone can ADD CO2 to the tank, if the water is low in CO2. The increased circulation and surface area will help the water take in more CO2 from the air.

An airstone can REMOVE CO2 from the tank, if the tank has more CO2 than the air. The increased circulation and surface area will expose more CO2 to the air and it will leave.

So, to use or not to use an airstone:

1) If the fish are gasping in the morning RUN AN AIRSTONE. The fish are using up too much oxygen through the night, and the airstone, run through the night, will help add oxygen to the water because of the increased circulation and surface action. This will also drive off CO2, but since the plants are not using it in the dark this is not a problem. The air stone can be on a timer so it runs from lights out to perhaps an hour before lights on. In that last hour the tank will be accumulating CO2 to help the plants. Monitor it to make sure the fish are still OK.

2) If you are adding pressurized CO2 or CO2 from a DIY/yeast-sugar system you may run into situation 1) but do not run the airstone in the day. It can drive off the CO2 that you are adding from either system.

3) If the fish are not gasping then I would not waste the power running an air stone. I have enough circulation from filters and power heads that I do not need more circulation from an air pump.
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Old 10-12-2014, 03:43 PM   #8
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The value of an air stone is just water movement. It really doesn't add significant O2 to the water. Surface agitation and good circulation in the rank are what is needed. There are better devices to enhance agitation and circulation.

One drawback of air stones is that the bubbles burst and splash on a wide area. This will leave dried minerals and proteins on nearby parts of the tank, lights and components. A nuisance to clean.

If you need to augment, better to use a powerhead of some form
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Old 10-12-2014, 05:46 PM   #9
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Ok so we all pretty much agree the air stone moves water but a power head is a much better alternative. The problem is that my tank is only 10 gallons and I am concerned a power head is too big for my tank's size (it will ruin the aspect). Are there any power heads small enough for a 10G?
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Old 10-12-2014, 06:06 PM   #10
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We get hot summers where I live and I find an airstone very useful when the temps get so high that that the fish are struggling.
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Old 10-12-2014, 06:06 PM   #11
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In a 10g you could probably get sufficient agitation and circulation out of your filtration pump, particularly if you are using a HOB filter that ends up "dropping" the water a half-inch or so into the water.
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Old 10-12-2014, 06:08 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nicuz View Post
Ok so we all pretty much agree the air stone moves water but a power head is a much better alternative. The problem is that my tank is only 10 gallons and I am concerned a power head is too big for my tank's size (it will ruin the aspect). Are there any power heads small enough for a 10G?
Yes, there are. Search your favorite stores for nano, or pico pumps.


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Old 10-12-2014, 06:24 PM   #13
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You have not stated what kind of filter you intend to use in this tank.
The filter may provide enough O2 via circulation. You also have not stated if injected CO2(or DIY CO2) will be used.
Some filters can be placed on a tank so that they have very good circulation by simply putting it on the end instead of the back of the tank.
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Old 10-12-2014, 07:02 PM   #14
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About the smallest pumps I have found are the ones for table-top fountains. Less than 2" cube, can move about 60 gph. I use one in a 10 gallon to run a waterfall. LOTS of water movement!

If you get a filter such as the Aquaclear 20 that is highly likely enough water movement for a 10 gallon.
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Old 10-12-2014, 08:24 PM   #15
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For people who are running a filter and are getting enough circulation in the planted tank, I would recommend not running an airstone at night, unless, of course, you find the fish gasping. I want to hang on to every molecule of CO2 that I can so that it can help the plants the next day. There is so little CO2 in non-injected tanks to begin with.
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Last edited by Django; 10-12-2014 at 08:25 PM.. Reason: mod
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