10-03-2007, 06:31 PM
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Just to agree with everyone here, it's totally optional put one in if you like the look, and there are some nice things you can do with them, from a fine curtain of little bubbles, to a few larger bubbles randomly emerging from a cluster of rocks. And lots of things in between.
I believe that you can also get little units that shine an LED light through the column of bubbles. Which, used right, can also look very nice (but can also look quite tacky if just plonked in...)
You can generally tell if your fish need more oxygen, as they will be "gasping" that is: not moving too much and moving their gills very rapidly and generally not looking happy at all. Some also gulp air from the surface. Also a tank with a large proportion of bottom dwellers will need more oxygen, to ensure a good supply even right at the bottom of the tank.
The way that the bubbler helps put oxygen into the water is that as the bubbles burst on the surface they cause ripples, which makes the surface area of the water bigger (think scrunched up sheet vs one pulled out flat) and since most oxygen gets into the water from the surface, bigger surface area means faster transfer of gasses, therefore more oxygen...
So anything that puts a good ripple on the surface will do the job, even your finger; if you wanted to stand by it all day and jiggle it about!
So to recap, if your fish are ok, you probably don't need more oxygen, but it won't harm them to have it if you want pretty bubbles, and if they do need it and you don't like the bubble look there are other ways to get it in there, including other surface ripplers, or some live plants which give off oxygen as they photosynthesize - Bubbles or not be up to you
Hope that helps, and i'm sure folks here will correct me if i've made any glaring ommisions!