HOW TO: Install an airstone without damaging your pump

SludgeMunkey

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Johnny O. Farnen
Most aquarium air pumps are diaphragm pumps, meaning that a switching transformer is used to move a flexible part on a valve to slightly compress air and give it positive pressure relative to the atmosphere.

The transformer works by using electricity (115V North America, 220V everywhere else) to rapidly turn an electromagnet off and on. When the electromagnet is on a permanent magnet (or in some cases just a block of ferrous metal) to quickly move to the northern magnetic pole of the transformer. When the magnet is off the block moves quickly back to its home position. This block is mounted on an arm with a fixed pivot point (or in some designs a flexible arm). The diaphragm is attached to this arm and is alternately stretched or compressed. The diaphragm is attached to a one way automatic pressure release valve. This allows air to enter the pump from any direction, but only allows it to exit out of one specific point.



This is a relatively simple and efficient design for aquarium use, however it has a major fault that can cause it to wear out quickly if not installed properly. All diaphragm pumps are meant to function with positive pressure on the exit end. That is, you should not run the pump without the air line being under water. The pump will break in a very short time if "run dry" because the diaphragm is being stretched and flex more than it would with a system under pressure, resulting in holes that prevent air from being pumped. Likewise if too much back pressure is present the pump will not be able to over come the water pressure and move air and the diaphragm will also rupture.

With Caudates, we often need an air stone present in our tanks, but do not want the excessive water current created by an airstone directly off the pump line. There are many ways to deal with this excessive current and still provide proper airation, howvere many of them are quick fixes and can cause damage to the pump.

The safest way to regulate air stones with the least risk of damage to your pump, your tank, and your home's electrical system is inexpensive and easy to do. You will need a "T" junction, a regulator valve, some extra airline, a pump and an air stone. The following picture shows the valves and junctions from a few manufacturers.



A reed type check valve only permits flow in one direction and prevents water from siphoning back to you pump in the event of power failure. Most have a directional arrow molded on them to ensure proper installation. "T" junctions are just a three way connector. A valve is usually a plastic needle type, but there are miniature ball and gate valves also.

Here is the proper installation of each piece. Please note that the tubing pictured can be any length anywhere in the circuit, it's just short here for clarity.



Notice where the water is visable in the red check valve? I added the water to clearly show the proper way to install these. If installed backwards, it can damage your pump. The regulating valve is installed in the "T" before the air stone to provide pressure control without causing too much back pressure on the check valve or the pump. Once you have this set up installed in your tank (only the airstone goes in the tank I should note!) Make sure your regulating valve is closed, and turn on your pump. Slowly open the regulating valve untill you have the amount of bubbles you want in your tank. The excess pressure will bleed off at the regulating valve, thus preventing damaging back pressure to your pump diaphragm.

Another advantage to this set up is that as the pump ages and the diaphragm stretches slightly, you can adjust the system at the valve to maintain proper flow. This circuit will greatly exted the operating life of your pumps!
 
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  • Lonewolf:
    Ok I’m new so I have a pink Axolotl and it’s a baby like two three max inches and it eats from the top and it has now been floating a while now should I be worried ?? The other one is at the bottom of the tank and the tail isint hoocked or the gills aren’t curved flowerd they seem relaxed
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  • Lonewolf:
    ?? I’m new owner to the type of fish
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  • Lanalotl:
    Hi I recently rescued a lotl (i did weeks of research before rescuing) Hes mabey 5 or 6 years of age..the previous owner could not remember the exact age of him. I got him from her as he was or had been picked on by his tank mate another lotl who was bough with him from every younger age, I noticed one of his gills, a middle one at the end had split in two? And is slightly more floppy? He also appears or mabey I'm just over worried to mabey have lost some feathers, is that normal to lose some?...all levels in the tank are fine, but wondered if theres and advice anyone could give me as an experienced owner to a new one.
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  • Axolotl Queen:
    @Lanalotl Sounds like the gills may have been nipped by the tank mate. If he is in his own tank and the parameters etc are all good, then he should grow them back and they should go back to full health and strength. However, depending on how old the injury is they may not fully grow back if they have been constantly nipped at.
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  • Smknmom421:
    Can anyone tell me why this is happening? We just did a water change and after freaking out and whipping around the tank, an hour later they look like this. It won't let me send a pic. The edges of their gills are white and it looks like they have skin shedding off
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  • Murk:
    That sounds like severe skin damage. If you post a thread on the forum, you can attach pictures.
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  • Murk:
    It sounds like something went wrong with the water change, so this could be very dangerous. Did you use a dechlorinator? Could it be there are traces of chlorine or soap in the water? (Or for example, in the bucket you used?)
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  • Murk:
    Normally, I would recommend taking them out of the tank asap and putting them in a tub with fresh water, but if there's something wrong with your tap water or dechlorinator, that might not help either. Do you have acces to bottled water or rain water?
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  • Sal22:
    I think my axie is dying, he’s never had any issues before, I’ve had him 3 years, today I noticed some fluffy looking stuff coming from his genital area so I took him out of his tank and did a full tank clean to make sure the water wasn’t infected as I thought it was fungus and then I noticed he had a cut on his belly which was only small about 5 hours ago and now it’s spread to all of his belly, what do I do I’m freaking out
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  • Sal22:
    Update about my axie, unfortunately he has died over night, he looked as if he was bruised allover his belly, his mucus layer had also started to come off.
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  • Ganaa:
    Anyone here from DMV?
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  • AlexisJG:
    Hi I have 2 4in juveniles (I’ve had them about 2 weeks and they are doing well I think they’ve grown a little already honestly) but I am supposed to go on a 5-6 day vacation in October about 3-4 months from now. I am wondering how I should go about their care when I am gone. I thought about putting them in separate (fairly big) containers with live plants and/or bubblers with a fan in the dark and either fridging them (my last plan) but I am hoping to to either have someone I trust come feed them and turkey baste waste out or just leave them out and clean the containers before we leave and have someone come check on them once or twice. Does any of this sound like a good or bad idea? I want the best for them. All help appreciated :)
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  • Ganaa:
    @patrickstar116, do you still have your fire salamanders?
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  • patrickstar116:
    @Ganaa, I do you may message me if you wish
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  • HalfDrunkToast:
    hi.....
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  • JDeslippe21:
    Hi, so I have 2 male axolotls and about an hour ago they were both perfectly fine and now only one of them has his tail curling up and his gills are slightly curled?? But other than that they’re both acting normally
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  • Murk:
    Could be he's just excited, spooked or temporarily stressed, which could pass in a few hours. It could also be an indicator of other problems. Do you have any recent water parameters?
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  • AlexisJG:
    Does anyone have any idea how to help with high ammonia levels? I have the API freshwater master kit and everything else’s test results were great besides ammonia. I did a 50% water change and I use API products including ammonia lock.
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  • MuggleMiChu:
    Help! I got my first axolotl two days ago and they have stopped eating. They ate a few frozen blood worms the first day and haven’t eaten or been interested in food since. I feed them frozen blood worms and the tank is around 64 degrees. I do have a filter that moves sometimes and I noticed them swimming up to it, I have a new filter and a fan coming today or tomorrow. I leave the worms in the tank or a little bit before taking them out so I don’t know if they ate when I wasn’t looking. I know it takes a while for them to digest. Does anyone have any tips or knowledge they can share? The pet store I bought them from didn’t have gravel or sand in the tank so I’m not sure if theres an issue or if I’m just impatient. Thank you!
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  • HalfDrunkToast:
    @MuggleMiChu, how big they are? also for substrate, i would not do gravel at all I would either do sand or none at all!
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  • MuggleMiChu:
    They are about 2-3 inches long and I have them in a bare bottom tank
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  • HalfDrunkToast:
    @MuggleMiChu I would say try live black/blood worms untell they are full or just turn there head away ( that's what mine do) if that does not work try to get some live brine shrimp and see if they eat that. baby axolotl prefer live food over frozen food as the frozen food is too cold for them or they can't eat it in one go( that's if you do the blocks) mine eat chopped up frozen thawed shrimp. as for them not eating from what I have experienced with my second axolotl, I got her when she was about an inch long and she ate every day, when they start getting 3-4 inches long they will gradually slow down there eating. and if you really want to do substrate I would do sand because if they do ingest a little bit it won't hurt them.
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    HalfDrunkToast: @MuggleMiChu I would say try live black/blood worms untell they are full or just turn there head... +1
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