How To Install A Pond Aerator

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Written By Mark Washburn

Mark has 20 years of experience as a professional pond management consultant.

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Pond aeration is one of those things that any pond can benefit from. It provides protection for fish and can help with a variety of water quality problems. It’s important to get the right sized aeration system for your pond for the best results.

Installing a pond aerator is a simple and straightforward process. It’s best done with at least two people. And it involves just a few steps.

  • First, select a suitable location, ideally near a power source, to place the aeration pump and protective cabinet.
  • If using a ground based cabinet, make sure to provide a level area for placement.
  • If using a post mount cabinet, secure the post or pole in the ground and mount the cabinet.
  • Assemble the diffusers using the manufacturers instructions.
  • Attach the airline to the heat resistant lead hose coming out of the cabinet.
  • Attach the diffuser to the weighted airline.
  • Using a boat, take the diffuser out to the location in the pond where you want to deploy it.
  • A second person on land can feed the weighted airline out into the pond.
  • Using a light tie-line, lower the diffuser to the bottom of the pond.
  • Remove the lowering line or leave attached and tie off the top with a small buoy.
  • Test the aeration system by plugging in the compressor.
  • Follow the manufacturers suggested start up procedures if you have fish in the pond.
  • Run the pond aerator 24/7 for the best results.

The video below shows the standard installation process for any sub-surface pond aerator. This example uses an Airmax aeration system, but regardless of the brand, the steps are pretty similar for all them.


Do Large Ponds Need Aeration?

Let’s get into this fundamental question before we talk about the installation of an aerator in a pond. Why would you want to do it? What are the main benefits?

Adding aeration into a pond is often extremely helpful to the entire under water ecosystem. Fish are supported greatly with increased oxygen throughout the pond, from top to bottom, and temperate layers are reduced or eliminated. Fish will often use more of the pond because of this. Many unwanted issues like algae or odors, are reduced as well with the addition of aeration. The pond’s inherent cleaning processes via naturally occurring beneficial microbes is also supported and enhanced.

In relative terms, the cost to operate a large sub-surface pond aerator, when compared to other forms of aeration such as surface fountains and aerators, is very affordable, particularly for the overall pond area it will positively affect. Extremely efficient air pumps are used, some costing just pennies a day to run, and they are designed to run full time, for several years, before any maintenance would be required, apart from changing an intake air filter as required. I’ll discuss the specific maintenance that’s commonly involved with an aerator pump a bit later on in this article.

With all that out of the way, let’s cover how to install a pond aerator, step by step.

Find A Suitable Location For The Pump And Cabinet

Pond aerators that use a land based pump, will normally require some protection for the pump itself. Most are not waterproof or weather proof. If you have an existing structure, a shed or pump house, with power, you could put the pump inside that and forgo any cabinet. The key to placement of the pump and cabinet though is putting it near a power source. Aerators can run off 115v or 230v, and most are just simple plug and run set ups. There is nothing electrical that actually goes in the water but it’s still a good idea to use a GFI receptacle when possible.

Mount The Weatherproof Cabinet

If you require a protective cabinet for the pump, there are two common versions available. The first is a ground based housing that is best placed on a clean, level surface. Compacted pea gravel would work here, and many people actually pour a small concrete slab for something to place the cabinet on.

A Kasco Ground Cabinet And RA1 System

The other type of cabinet used is a post or pole mount housing. As the name implies this one is meant to be mounted on a 4×4 inch treated post that’s anchored into the ground. Or it can be mounted on a dock, power pole, or even the side of a building. It’s a very versatile housing and provides great protection for the pump, usually at a more affordable cost.

In my work with aerators over the years, I have made it a point to install aerators that have cooling fans mounted in the cabinet. Rocking piston pumps which are commonly used in these aerators will heat up a lot while running. This is completely normal, and the pumps can run all day, everyday for several years. But they do get hot to the touch when running for awhile, so it’s a good idea to use this fan to help evacuate the heat build up out of the cabinet. This helps to insure a long reliable life for the compressor.

The most important thing to remember here though, regardless of what cabinet you may choose, is to keep the pump level, and to keep the area around, and inside the cabinet, as clean as possible.

Assemble The Diffuser

Pond aeration diffusers come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and configurations. Regardless of how they look, they all produce a very fine bubble pattern once air is pushed through them. All of them that I’ve dealt with over the years, has required a bit of assembly. They all have been quick and easy to put together. Most diffusers these days come with metal, self-weighted bases so there’s no filling a hollow shell with pea gravel or sand for ballast.

Easy Pro Sentinel Two-Plate Diffuser

Attach The Airline To Connect The Pump And Diffuser

Coming out of the cabinet, you’ll find a foot long, heat resistant lead airline, and to this you’ll connect either the weighted tubing, which can go into the pond, or some kind of burial tubing, that can be trenched in ground. The latter is a great option if you have some distance between your power source and the pond. This burial tubing could be a lightweight and less expensive poly line, irrigation tubing, or even pvc. Every manufacturer will provide fittings for the burial tubing they suggest to use. One common size is 3/4″ ID poly or pvc.

At the pond edge, the weighted tubing will be connected to the burial line, or if the distance is close to the pond it can also be buried and run a few feet in ground before it goes into the water. This weighted tubing is very stout and won’t kink, plus it stays in place at the bottom of the pond without any additional weighting.

Before you place the diffuser in the pond you’ll want to connect the tubing to it. All professionally designed diffusers have a check valve built in to stop any back-flow of water should the pump be turned off.

How To Deploy The Aeration Diffuser

The task of placing the diffuser into the pond is usually a two person job. One person can remain on land, feeding the weighted airline out, while the other person is in a boat with the diffuser. Once the spot is reached where you want to place the diffuser, it’s a good idea to tie or loop a very light line to the diffuser stem and lower it down using both the line and weighted airline to guide it. Since the base of the diffuser is weighted, they will typically stay right-side-up as they reach the bottom. Try to place them on a fairly level spot in the pond if you can for the best bubble pattern.

And here’s one other tip. I often suggest to leave this tie-line on the diffuser for awhile in case you may want to move it or relocate to a more preferred position after running the aerator for a time. Keeping this line attached and tying a small float, decoy, or buoy to the top end will make this task very easy.

The Recommended Start Up Process

Its important to follow the specific installation and start up suggestions found in the aerator manual. Most, if not all of them will mention a specific way to introduce the aeration to your pond, especially if you have fish.

Keep in mind that. the purpose of this aerator is to end stagnation and in doing so it will circulate the entire body of water, from top to bottom, on a continuous basis. In older ponds that have some degree of muck or sludge build up on the bottom, you’ll want to go very slowly as you begin to aerate. There are gases trapped in this muck which will get released, and while that’s a good thing long term, it could be a problem for fish if it happens too fast early on.

Therefore, a general start up guideline might go something like this. For the first day, you would run the aerator for 20 to 30 minutes and then shut it down for the rest of the day. On day two you can try doubling this run time up to about an hour and see how things go. If all seems well, meaning there appears to be no fish stress, or the water is getting very dark and murky, then on day 3 you can double this run time again. You’ll increase this operational time in this way until you reach 24/7 operation.

At any point in this process, if you find that fish are struggling or the water quality isn’t looking very good, it’s fine to slow down and take more time. The goal however is to get up to full time operation if possible.

How Long Should A Pond Aerator Run?

A common question that comes up is how long should I run the aerator on a daily basis? For the best results I’ve found that it’s best to run it continuously. Especially when the water temperature goes above 78 degrees, it cannot retain dissolved oxygen very well. So supplementing this in warm and hot weather is important.

A ponds daily cycle of dissolved oxygen levels will rise and fall and it’s never truly static. If you have any plants in the pond at all, during the day they will produce oxygen, but at night when photosynthesis stops, they begin to pull oxygen from the water.

Most fish kills that happen in hot weather will actually occur overnight,. So with that in mind, if you had to run an aerator part time, it would be best to operate it no less than 12 hours per day and ideally starting in the evening and running it overnight.

Fortunately the pumps used in these aeration systems are very efficient and affordable to operate full time considering how much pond area they can cover.

How To Maintain A Pond Aeration System

There are only two primary points of maintenance with a rocking piston compressor. The first and most common thing, involves the air intake filter. The intake filter protects the pump from dust, dirt, and debris that could damage it should anything get inside the piston chamber. In operation, the quality of the air output will be greatly determined by the quality and quantity of the air input so it’s best to keep this filter in good shape.

Most aeration systems come with cartridge filters that can be replaced as needed. I find that in most cases you can expect six months or more out of them. In very dusty or dirty areas you’ll want to check this filter every month or so and replace it when it’s dirty.

The second point of maintenance involves the seals and gaskets on the piston and piston chamber. As the pump runs for some time, eventually the rubber seals on the piston will begin wear down. Eventually you will start to see some compression loss from this. One tell-tale sign is to find the pump running normally but no air is coming out of the diffuser, or output is greatly reduced. On multiple diffuser systems you’ll commonly see one diffuser working fine and the other not bubbling at all.

A Typical Rocking Piston Rebuild Kit

With most aerators that I’ve worked with, you can expect to see this happen after 3 to 5 years of continuous operation. In some cases, with very deep ponds, where back pressure might be higher on the pump, you may experience this from 2 years on up. And on the other end of the spectrum, some pumps have run for 7 years, and a few up to 10 years with the original seals.

All manufacturers provide rebuild kits for their pumps which will normally bring the compression back up and provide more years of reliable service.

In my experience it’s not been necessary to remove and clean the diffusers very often if at all. Keep in mind we are pushing air out of them and in some respects this helps to self-clean them a bit. I generally don’t bother with them unless I see some change in the bubble output, and most often when that’s been noted, it’s involved the pump and not the diffuser.

Finally, for the best longevity and reliability of the aeration system, you’ll want to make sure to place the pump is as clean of an environment as possible. This is especially true of those that are not housed in factory cabinets. It’s fine to keep them in a shed or outbuilding and as long as they are kept dry and as cool as possible (with the help of a small fan), but placing them on bare ground or anywhere that’s quite dusty or dirty is only going to shorten the life of the pump as dust and debris can build up inside the motor housing.

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