The Perfect Central Air Pump for Fish Rooms With 10+ Aquariums
The majority of my aquariums run on sponge filters. A central air driven sponge filter system becomes a necessity when you start keeping double digit numbers of aquariums. Sponge filters require less maintenance than other forms of filtration, and a linear piston central air pump uses less electricity than running a hang on back filter on 10+ tanks. I went through several air pump setups before finding one that I think is perfect for any fish room with 10+ tanks.
(I do not make any commission from Jehmco for recommending their products - I genuinely believe they are the best source for your central air system. Their website isn't very good by modern standards, but you can call and speak to a real human person right away.)
Linear piston air pumps are pricey - they start at almost $200 - but they're one of the best investments you can make in your fish room. Compare the cost of a central air pump and several sponge filters to buying the same number of hang on back filters. For 10 aquariums around 20 gallons each you would spend well over $300 on Aquaclear filters. The more aquariums you have, the more efficient a central air system becomes.
Super Quiet Air Pump
Before I got the LPH26, I bought a cheaper ($70) generic brand diaphragm air pump. It put out enough air for my needs, but it ran very loud and very hot. Over time it got louder and the output was less consistent. After about 6 months the noise coming from this cheap pump got so loud it was unbearable to stand near it. I never wanted to hang out in my fish room because of the constant noise.
My Jehmco LPH26 runs SILENT. Even standing with your head a couple feet away from it, you can barely tell its running. The sound of the bubbles hitting the surface in the aquariums is actually louder than the pump itself. My fish room is so much quieter, which makes it so much more enjoyable to spend time in there.
Planning a Central Fish Room Air System
I highly recommend calling Jehmco and talking to them about what you need to setup your air system. I went with one of their pre-assembled air manifolds so that I wouldn't have to spend any time drilling PVC and leak-testing valves. They sent me a pre-cut length of braided tubing with all of the fittings included to connect the pump to the manifold. I didn't have to make any trips to the hardware store to get this system installed.
I used a label maker to label each output valve on my manifold. This isn't a necessary step but it makes adjusting the flow to each aquarium much easier.
Right now I'm using 11 out of 12 outputs on the manifold. The LPH26 is rated for around 20 outputs, depending on water depth, how you set your valves, etc. A bleed valve with a silencer lets me bleed off the extra air output to avoid burning up the pump. This leaves extra capacity to potentially add another rack of tanks to the same air system at a later date.
If you need your air outlets spaced further apart, you can simply run a PVC loop around the perimeter of the room. You can then drill holes in the PVC and press in an air valve wherever you need one.
In addition to a central air pump and manifold, you'll probably want to have a few other supplies in bulk. Obviously this project will require a good size roll of airline tubing. And it doesn't hurt to have some air valves mounted closer to the output of each line for fine adjustments. It might make sense to buy a bulk pack of air stones and/or sponge filters as well.
Placement for a Central Fish Room Air Pump
The air pump and manifold should be mounted above the water level of your aquariums. I've seen some people build a small shelf up in a corner for their linear piston pump. I was able to place mine in a space above the ceiling of an adjoining room's storage area. The manifold is mounted to the floor joist above my middle rack of tanks.
With the whole air system mounted above the highest water level, there is no need for airline check valves. Even if the pump dies or power goes out, water can't siphon higher than the level of the aquariums.
If you are planning a fish room build or already run 10 or more aquariums, the investment in a Jehmco linear piston central air pump is well worth the cost.