Introduction: Non-moving-parts Water Pump

Picture of Non-moving-parts Water Pump

This is an easy, cheap, non-moving parts, DIY water pump.
Since it has no moving parts, it can hardly break down.
It is based on the air-lift effect.
It is a very old system, I just found a cheap and easy way to build it with a T junction.
No glue, no welding required.
I use it in hydroponic projects and water fountains.
Can also be used for irrigation, with a bicycle pump fitted with a non return valve.
All parts I use are aquarium parts, and can be found in aquarium or pet shops.
You can also use a compressor for a higher flow.

List of parts;
a 10mm T junction
an aquarium air pump (the stronger PSi you can buy, the better)
an air tube for the aquarium pump 4mm
a 10 mm tube

When i say 10mm T junction , it is the inner measurement of the tube.
A regular T from Hazelock 1/2" can be used, as Hazelock gives the outside measurements.
I use the inner measures, because i fit my tube inside the T junction.
See later why.

Step 1: Slip the Air Hose Into the T

Picture of Slip the Air Hose Into the T

Slip the 4mm air hose into the10mm T junction.
To do that, the easy way is to start inserting the air hose into the shorter end of the T.
Then use a pencil (but the blunt side) to help push it trough.
This is the toughest part of the project.
Then pull the air hose all the way, till you leave about 1 inch or 30mm sticking out of the
short side of the T.

Step 2: Diameter of the Water Hose

Picture of Diameter of the Water Hose

The diameter of the water hose is critical.
The system works by injecting air into the T.
Air bubbles will push the water upside, so do not use a too wide tube, otherwise it will not work.

Troubleshooting; these are possible causes;
T must be immersed in minimum 5 inches of water.
Airflow is not strong enough, not enough pressure.
Diameter of the hose is too big.

Step 3: Attach the Air Pump

No picture, i guess you know how to attach the air pump.

Step 4: Blurping Water Out

Picture of Blurping Water Out

On my hydroponic projects, i attach a timer to the air pump.
This is an amarillys in a colander and a bucket, but this is another instructable.
The pump will only work if there is enough water in the bucket.
This system has a slow but constant flow.
The only disadvantage of this system is a slight blurping noise.


niner14xs (author)2011-09-11

I have been using this principle for about 15 years with my hydroponic system. The system is reservoir-drip. The water is pumped up to the plant trays and flows back to the reservoir. The lift is over two feet. The pump consists of a 1/2 in hose for the water and the aquarium air pump is 1/4 in. The air hose is inserted into the water hose about 4 in, they are dropped into the reservoir, the air pump is turned on and I slide the air hose in or out until I get the flow required. The two are locked in place with a pin. Since both hoses are vinyl, it is easy to penetrate the pair.
I like the arrangement with the T tube and plan to replace on of my 5 pumps with it just to try it out as I am uncertain of how to get the proper 1/4 in hose properly inserted.

wiley coyote (author)2008-11-09

Great instructable. It was one of the first I saw when I first started learning about hydroponics. (I actually saw this before the commercially available units as luck would have it) I would really like to to thank you for the inspiration to move water this way and to research same. It showed me that water pumps were not a necessary component, and sooo last century if you ask me. You've provided me with many hours of frustration and banging my head against the wall as well as the need to go buy tubing and such, but most of all a place to start a reasonable, reliable, cost effective, homemade unit.

chefmichel (author)wiley coyote2008-11-10

Hello Wiley Coyote, You made my day with your comments-compliments. I am also a "frugal builder" , I like to recycle and hate to throw things away. We share many interests, and should collaborate on a project. Last summer I build a SIP container garden (earthbox clone) with soil, yes I left hydroponics for a while. This winter I plan to build a Soda Bottle Tree, with the idea of recycling the water and nutrients. It will be build with recycled soda bottles.

wiley coyote (author)chefmichel2008-11-10

I like the way you think and although I could purchase a system, I don't see the need. Then again, I could also invest my money for less than 5% return per annum with the off chance that the banks will close their doors and steal my money to bail out billionaires, but again I don't see the need. Personally, I also like building from junk because it stimulates my otherwise bored mind and frees me from other's design flaws which they will call "proprietary replacement parts"...I can live with my own. It also demands that I be somewhat creative with any designs since I limit myself, as much as possible, to COMMON recyclables so that I can screw up as much as I want. I actually started into hydroponics, trying to automate irrigation for my patio container garden and saw the benefits of hydroponics....much thanks to you. Each system comes with it's drawbacks of course. I love the idea of a tree, but you've got to spend money on a good enough pump to maintain any vertical height. Doesn't fit into my "balcony" budget unfortunately. This winter, I want to improve on my swarm of mosquitoes design to make it a little more viable for maintenance free operation as well as find as many uses for soda bottles as possible...just because. I also want to use air to power a small NFT system and a drip system similar to yours if I'm able. I was surprised by the volumes of water that actually be moved this way...virtually debris and algae proof. The possibilities are as limited as our motivation (and our budgets). Collaborating on a project sounds interesting. I'm a horrible team player, but the sharing of ideas is a completely different story altogether. This is a very interesting field with much room for improvement....indeed!

Haha well if you live in America banks don't close and run with your money. The amount of money you had in that bank would transfer to another. I believe thus problem was fixed around the time of the first stock market crash.

pilotguy251 (author)2011-05-24

quick question what kind of air pump single or double output

chefmichel (author)pilotguy2512011-05-25

it does not matter.
Both work fine.
More pressure will give you a better flow, if that is what you want.
Good luck with your construction , Chefmichel

jyrrasdagger (author)2011-03-14

actually theres is enough information to know how to get this to work the air hose is the yellow one and the green one is the water and the on without a hose is were the water will go because when the air blows through it it will create a vacum type deal so the air pressure will be less in that tube making the water pressure greater and so the water will travel up the green tube and when the air hits it it will get pushed out the other side and thats how this would work just have to know how certain things work. I learned about this in JRHS when my teacher put a tube into a box of cereal and put a vacuum the type that can blow air and had it blow air across the top of the tube and the cereal came up the tube and went flying everywhere.

Sankar Ram (author)2011-03-07

Hei author, can u avoid blowing to a " soda can" and "taking a shower " and tell exactly where to put air, water and where to get the water out?? A T has 3 holes rite. So what do we have in these 3 holes?

Sorry if I sound little rude.I have been reading the comments and only these things are popping up.

lwltcl (author)2008-01-16

Instructions to viag, not enough information.

chefmichel (author)lwltcl2008-02-10

Dear Iwltcl, here a schematic for you, so you maybe you'll understand. It is like blowing with a straw in a full bottle of soda. Did you ever try that ?

do you know the flow of the pump(Litter/minute) ?

My system worked well till 1 meter high, as I tried it. It comes out a gurgle, it works well for irrigation,but it is not like a faucet, you cannot take a shower . I guess it depends on the flow of the airpump. Every pump will give different results, but if your pump is too weak, it will not work. Have fun with experimentation !

Azurial (author)2010-05-20

I have to admit, while i understood it completly, the instructions could have been elaborated on.

bwpatton1 (author)2009-04-20

Ha, Ha About a week ago I thought this concept might work and I tried it in about an inch of water and water sputtered out. Wow I forgot about this instructable

Ben The Builder (author)2009-04-10

Maybe it's just me but I think the moving parts in the air pump count for the moving parts, and if you want a non moving parts you might be able to do it with siphons, but there's not a whole lot of timing, you may be able to use a solenoid valve for that

No moving parts touch the water. But you are right, technically, there are moving parts in the air supply pump. Find me a better & more catchy name . Ha ha see same comments Dec 7, 2006 and Feb 16, 2009.

junits15 (author)2009-03-24

does this deliver a steady stream of water?

chefmichel (author)junits152009-03-25

The flow is a steady gurgle, good enough for irrigating plants. A key factor is the pressure you'll get out of your air pump. Actually I'll have to measure the amount of Liter/Hour or Gal./Hour to answer you. You cannot expect to take a shower. Please keep all of us informed on the results of your experience. Good luck ! Chefmichel

junits15 (author)chefmichel2009-03-25

hmm i dont think that a gurgle will work, but it still a brilliantly simple and effective idea

hg341 (author)2009-02-15

you have moveing partsbut i like it

chefmichel (author)hg3412009-02-16

No moving parts touch the water. But you are right, technically, there are moving parts in the pump. Find me a better & more catchy name . Ha ha see same comments Dec 7, 2006

hg341 (author)chefmichel2009-02-16

haha i didnt read all of them sry ☺

chrisnotap (author)2009-02-04

Can you tell me how high this would lift water in a hose that dia. (the green one) I 've been looking for a cheap way to lift water about 15 feet with a wind powered air pump.

chefmichel (author)chrisnotap2009-02-05

Hi Chrisnotap, The green tube is from an aquarium shop, it has 10mm diameter. I found it very handy to work with, easy to cut,light and easy to fit into flexible hoses,tubes etc... You'll have to experiment as 15 feet (5meter) is quite high. I tested it , and it works till 2meters, but the flow is a mere gurgle. You cannot expect to take a shower. A key factor is the pressure you'll get out of your wind powered air pump. Please keep all of us informed on the results of your experience. Good luck ! Chefmichel

chisham (author)2008-11-15

Hey, thanks for the tips. I will let you know how it goes. I should have some beautiful blue cheese!!!!!

chisham (author)chisham2008-11-20

Yeah Ive done the culinary school and worked in the field for a whille. But im planning to open my own little kitchen one day. but gotta hustle this dank in order to make it happen. no bank in their right mind would ever give a loan!

chefmichel (author)chisham2008-11-19

Hi Chrisham, Please tell me how to make blue cheese with this pump. I'd like to know.

chisham (author)chefmichel2008-11-19

blue cheese is a strain of kush weed. its a hybrid between blueberry and big buhda cheese. not the edible kind unless u bake with cannabis. i take it u are a chef?

chefmichel (author)chisham2008-11-20

Yes, i like to cook , hence my name.... Chefmichel.

tabletopphoto (author)2008-10-31

The connector at the bottom of the hose really isn't necessary. I don't have a t for my intake and is working just fine. How many gallons is your air pump rated for? I'm using a 10 gallon at the moment, but I think that is too small (but will do for now) and would like a higher flow rate. Plus a larger pump would deliver water with a higher o2 concentration for the roots and will help the plants grow faster in the deep water culture. Just to clarify on the author's instructions, the depth of the reservoir, how full the reservoir is (water pressure), and the output of the air pump all contribute to flow rate of this kind of pump.

Mojo_JoJo (author)2007-11-04

This is great, I used this idea to make a pump to make a water filter for my fish tank. The drinking straws from which I made the pump sit discreetly at the corner of the tank and are hardly noticable, besides the fish tank already has an air pump. The water from the pump drips onto a small container with sand to form the filter element.

PixlGnome (author)2006-12-10

Just so you guys know, its called a <a href=> Venturi. </a> Read up its a great article. This is a nice use of it. Helps to Isolate Water Volitile Mechanics from the water source. Understanding the principle will also help to maximize the effect therein.

theadamlevy (author)PixlGnome2007-06-05

if you want to make a link you have to put "quotations" around the link it self after the = sign.

nice tip, i didn't know that...thx.

compatta (author)2006-12-08

can you possibly attach a small diagram of the flow of water and air? i am having a hard time visualising the concept of it (i'm trying to build something bigger)

chefmichel (author)compatta2006-12-08

Here a diagram. Did you ever tried to blow with a straw into your soda ? Same principle.

0.775volts (author)2006-12-07

this is a creative solution to a problem, but it does involve moving parts.

chefmichel (author)0.775volts2006-12-07

No moving parts touch the water. But you are right, technically, there are moving parts in an pump. Find me a better & more catchy name .

LasVegas (author)chefmichel2006-12-08

Pneumatic Unit For Fluid Dispersal or "PUFFD, the magic Dragon!" :)

0.775volts (author)chefmichel2006-12-07

The Uber-simple, Ultra-nifty, Air-powered Pump of Aquatic Awesomeness. (bacon optional)

Crash2108 (author)chefmichel2006-12-07

Water pump from an air pump.

trebuchet03 (author)chefmichel2006-12-07

Water Displacement Pump? But yes, these pumps are very reliable for small applications. Just be sue to use a check valve ;)

frank26080115 (author)2006-12-07

very clever, kinda like how you steal gas or help somebody loose weight!

carbon (author)2006-12-07

I remember using something like this to simulate rain, ice, and sleet falling onto different road surfaces. It worked great! Never thought to post it here though, I kinda figured people would know how to make a pump out of a pump :)

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