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

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

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

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.



    • 1 Hour Challenge

      1 Hour Challenge
    • Colors of the Rainbow Contest

      Colors of the Rainbow Contest
    • Fandom Contest

      Fandom Contest

    45 Discussions


    7 years ago on Introduction

    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

    10 years ago on Introduction

    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.

    3 replies
    chefmichelwiley coyote

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    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 coyotechefmichel

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    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.


    Reply 8 years ago on Step 4

    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


    8 years ago on Introduction

    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

    8 years ago on Introduction

    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.


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    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 ?


    Reply 8 years ago on Step 4

    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 !


    9 years ago on Step 4

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


    10 years ago on Introduction

    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


    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

    1 reply

    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.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    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


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

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