How to Build an Air Lift Pump

Written by donna armstrong
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How to Build an Air Lift Pump
Circulating air through water keeps the water fresh. (bubbles in aquarium image by sasha from

Air lift pumps are most commonly used in aquariums and hydroponic systems. Air lift pumps push air through a tube, mixing the water and nutrients. The air keeps the roots of the plants in good health. The most common problems associated with air lift pumps are diaphragm failure and loss of pressure. Repair kits and diaphragms are available at most pet stores. These systems are easily installed and inexpensive.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Aquarium air pump
  • 1/2 inch thick tube
  • ¼ inch barbed elbow joint
  • Drill
  • Towel
  • X-acto knife or scissors
  • Plumber's glue or epoxy

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  1. 1

    Cut the ½-inch tube so that it is about ½ inch to 1 inch below the water level. This will make sure the air is forced to the top of the water. The water level in the tank or tray needs to stay the same level. You should check the water level daily and add water as needed.

  2. 2

    Cut a 45-degree angle in the top of the tube so that the air will flow for a while even if the water is evaporating.

  3. 3

    Drill a ¼-inch hole through on side of the tube 1 ½ inches from the bottom of the tube. Insert the barbed elbow into the ¼-inch hole in the side of the tube.

  4. 4

    Dry the aquarium or tank where the air lift pump will be installed. It is vital that the area around the tube is dry so the adhesive will seal the hose.

  5. 5

    Apply glue or epoxy to the bottom of the tube and press it down on the bottom of the tank. Make sure the side with the hole faces away from the side of the tank. The drying time for the plumber's glue varies by brand. Read the label to determine the right amount of drying time needed. Tape can be used to hold the tube in place until the epoxy sets. If the tank is tall, epoxy can be added to the back side of the tube to adhere it to the wall of the tank.

  6. 6

    Connect the hose that came with the pump to the barbed elbow joint and to the output on the air pump. Make sure the connection is tight. Plumber's glue can be used around the joint for a water tight seal.

  7. 7

    Refill the tank and turn the pump on. Check the hose, tube and connection for leaks. If you see air bubbles coming from the bottom of the tube, your lift pump is losing air. Drain the tank and check for leaks.

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