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I have been working with air lifts in Aquaponics and wondering if anyone else is trying them. 

We first tried the air lifts to deal with a problem of theft at school locations. Submersible pumps were being stolen regularly. So we put the air pump in the class room, a super quiet model, and ran the air line out the upper window to the fish tank. We had to invent our own pump because we could not find a commercial model.

If anyone is interested I will email them our manual for building several models.

Some of the advantages are....much less electricity. 

The piping does not clog, like the filters on submersible pumps or external leaf filters.

The air lift picks up the fish solids and pumps them to the cinder bed were the Indian Blue worms eat the fish waste.

There is NO electricity in the water.

Since the air pump is located inside the building or a dry location, no GFI outlet is required.

The air pump super aerates the fish water on its way to the cinder. Most of our systems have no additional air pumps or air stones. 

We have never cleaned or had to clear a air lift pump. No clogs. 

The air lift is not bothered by sand or corrosive salt water or gritty water. Since we use volcanic cinder that gets sanded, this is a big deal.

We are pumping 150 gallons of water with 24 watt air pump, 24 inches high.

with a 38 watt, I can pump 300 gallons per hour at 24 inches head, and at 36 inches head only drop down to 200 gallons per hour. 

I will post some pictures ASAP.


Glenn Martinez

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Comment by David on April 9, 2014 at 7:20pm


Did you get the answers you needed to get more flow from your pump?  If not e-mail me a picture or pictures and I would be happy to help.


Comment by David on April 6, 2014 at 4:18pm


I just went through what you are going through.  I started at 128gph and with Glenn's help I am up to 209gph.  Check out my Youtube videos as I went through this process.

Comment by Glenn Martinez on February 2, 2014 at 12:08am

Go to our web page or email Natalie at

The Patent papers have complete drawing and parts lists with all sizes.....get it if you need it.

Comment by d. salvatore on February 1, 2014 at 7:32pm
I'd like the manual for building the lift pumps
Comment by David on February 1, 2014 at 3:00pm


Would you be willing to e-mail me the manual on airlift pumps?  I'm in the middle of a build and just discovered the concept and would like to implement it.


Comment by Dan Dimitri on December 30, 2013 at 8:40am

Hi Glen or anyone...question on this airlift you have to put some kind of blocking mesh on the out valve from the bottom of the ICB Tote?  Basically to keep the fish from ending up airlifted out from the bottom?  Or is it not needed and the valve is small enough that the fish don't try to get through it?


Great system...and thanks in advance for your or anyone's reply who has tried to build your system.



Comment by Leo White Bear on August 22, 2013 at 5:46am

I just found this group and I am interested in the airlift manual you have developed.  Could you please send me a copy at sha_man_1  I would like to check it out for fesability in my systems.


Comment by Brian White on August 17, 2013 at 12:10am is airlift in a bucket. I need to change the name but it works great.   I did limit tests by letting it go until the water in the bucket went as low as possible when I was pumping the water to about 5 ft high (about 1.5 meters). Water in the bucket stayed pumping (slowly of course) until it went down to less than 10 cm deep. Less than 4 inches! So, of course that is a limit condition and not of much use but lift to submergence was over 20 to 1.  Far better than I ever thought possible.  I now use the air from 2 little aquarium bubble pumps something like 7 watts total, I think to run 2 vertical pallet planters  and 5 "pallet gardens" a titanic planter (shaped like a boat with water in the hold) and a fish pond all at once.  The pressure in the system is about 18 inches of water.  (less than 1 psi).   I have youtube videos about it in a playlist at and it has been going for a year.  The airlift in a bucket has been tried in the windowfarms community in Usa, Denmark, France and Cambodia and probably more places too.  I started airlift in a bucket  in January 2013 and prior to that I used "t-joint" airlift pumps. T-joint has better performance but  not so useful because you need to make a deep hole for it  to prevent backflow of water. Brian

Comment by Le Sellers on July 24, 2013 at 12:52pm

Well, that sucks (no pun intended, really).

Well, it looks like we'll have to get a water pump. Any suggestions?

Comment by Jon Parr on July 23, 2013 at 11:26pm
Le Sellers, air lifts are finicky. Personally, I think I would abandon the thought of an airlift for 14' of head. I am fairly familiar with Glenn's pumps (he and Nat stayed a few days with us after Denver last year), and 14' is a reach from 2 1/2' of depth. Without a flapper valve, the rule for airlifts is 1/2 the depth. With a valve, I haven't had any results I would consider acceptable higher than the depth of water. So...without a valve you can expect get 15" of head, with a valve perhaps 30". A "geyser" pump, with check valve, will get close to 14' of head, but nowhere near as efficient or reliable as an electric pump.
Now, Glenn used an air assisted pump in the Philippines. Originally, they used a 5 HP pump to store water in a head tank (because they needed to ensure flow during frequent power outages), and Glenn was able to get more flow using a 1 HP electric water pump and an air pump. Air is a great tool to drastically extend the rated head of any water pump, but keep in mind that 14' of head will require a high pressure air pump (maybe 5 psi), and will cost a pretty penny. Is air better than buying the right water pump designed for your flow and head? Probably not. Sorry for the bubble breaker.

I just built a pump that will airlift water 42" from 10" of raft depth. To do it, I had to post-hole dig a well down 7' to get a decent flow at that head. That's pretty fhep and easy, but now the problem is getting an airpump that will pump that deep, amd don't forget the danger of high dissolved nitrogen from pumping air into water at depth. It can be very dangerous to fish, though I don't know off-hand what the safe depth is. I'll have to dig up that answer.

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