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There are two interesting things about this pump. The case is transparent, so you can see what's inside - which is nice, and there's a switch on the side that lets you choose two power settings.
This is just a quick video taking the whole darn thing apart to see how they select the speeds and the general construction. (very classic aquarium pump design)
Not sure the actual air volume or pressure of this unit. The listings are always a bit generous in their ratings. At this point in time I've not been able to find the listing I got this from.
It could perhaps benefit from a few strategically placed blue neon lamps held securely in place to avoid vibration issues.
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An aquarium pump from ebay and there's two things that caught my attention about this one is the rather nice clear case. Let me just shine a light into this, so you can actually see the effect here that it is quite nice inside it looks very technical. It also has a little switch on the side that lets. You choose two settings and i wondered how they implemented.

That is it going to be a capacitor tap in the uh magnet, or is it going to be a capacitor in the series, as they sometimes do, so this unit is called an sb-990? I can't remember how much it cost it wasn't that expensive, but probably grossly exaggerated that here output as they do, let's plug it in so i've got the hoppy here and we'll plug it in now and we'll put down this little rubber feet, um about 3.8 watts. 17 milliamps 0.9 power factor. Let's change that little switch to the side, much quieter! It goes down to about half two watts: 10 milliamps and 0.7 power factor. Okay, let's take it apart, screwdriver.

My guess is that, just because uh, it's probably the cheapest way to do it, i'm not actually sure if that would affect it a diode. Maybe that would affect the way that magnets, spun i'll show you what that's like when it's open i'll run it when it's open, that's the best bet, assuming it doesn't all just completely fall into bits. That is just trim. Oh, it looks nicer without the trim.

Oh any hidden, fixings, oh, i have a sneaky feeling. This thing is going to stop it coming out right. Tell you what i'll just use brute force and ignorance? Oh there we go, does that? Oh, it does pop out right. Okay, that's useful to know here is: what's inside two connections going to the transformer and there's a diode across the switch.

So all it's doing is it's switching between direct power and going through the diode? So, let's see what it looks like when we switch it between the two, so that's currently in its diode setting and that little thing i'll zoom down this, it's uh showing you in slow motion, which is quite nice because uh the camera frame speed, is actually different To the main frequency, so it's uh, showing you a slow-motion effect. Let's turn this off so that i've got a wall up. Uh turn that on to the full setting. Oh blame me: let's just uh gingerly hold it like this.

It's uh! It doesn't really. If i thought it might affect the direction that thing swung um in the sense, what normally happens to these the trans, the transformer? Well, it's up, it is almost like a transform, but the magnet electromagnet here uh attracts repels this magnet and as it does so, it basically pushes the diaphragm the pump. Let's see if we can get this out and take a look in here, this is going to slide out. I think it's got a little rubber bung is that kind of secured in it it's kind of secured in it's going to come out.

Also, this is secured at the back here. Let's take it all to bits, that's what we do here. Oh actually, you know what it's uh, it's showing secrets already. That's quite interesting, but i'd say well.

I shall lift this up here. It comes so we've got a diaphragm at the back and a little chamber, and there is the one-way valve. There's two one-way valves: oh and they're little bungs. Now let me see if i can get you get you close to this.

I shall focus onto this and we'll zoom closer like this and i'll show you with a bit of light uh. Can you see the little flap there that they've, just bunged in they've, actually just jammed in with the rubber plate? And likewise, if you look at the other side there, you can see the uh the other side of that other flap, which is also just trapped in that is very, very simple way of making things. I feel the need to remove one of those little rubber, bungs and see what the construction is like. It is just a little rubber bone and is it a loose rubber flap? Yes, it is just a very simple super thin rubber flap uh placed in there like that, and then a rubber bung jammed in just to hold it in place like that.

If that was the right way around and squished down, that's reasonable enough and to seal the other side of it, just because it's just to make it as simple as possible. One side is that pumping diaphragm with the magnet swinging to actually pump it um and the other side is just pressed against this rubber plate here to seal it. That is very interesting. Let's put it back down there, and so that's it.

It's the little. It's the standard thing that you find in these i've noticed uh, there's another one somewhere i have misplaced and uh they seem to adjust. They seem to use a standard coil in some models that may even be universal for 120 volts, but then, in the same, the european ones, the 222 3240. They actually put a capacitor and sears the coil and that's how they use just one coil for them all.

That's also a technique used in some time switches where they put a resistance. Here's the coil - and it just means they can use a a cheaper coil, possibly a coarser round one, but that's quite interesting, nice construction. I do like the clear case that makes it kind of appealing when you can see stuff inside. So that's what these uh pumps are like inside.

Very simple construction and the air outlet adjustment is simply a diode in the sears of that, so that it only operates at about half power.

12 thoughts on “Teardown of a two speed aquarium pump”
  1. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars bbutc says:

    Nice simple design, but the pump mechanism looks like it would be very susceptible to clogging / malfunction due ingestion of contaminants and you would need to have your filtration section before the pump rather than after it. However my expertise is in pond filtration rather aquariums, so maybe this is the normal set up for them?

  2. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars James Kerns Jr. says:

    Crap that design is old! I had several of these in the 80's for aquariums and they were identical. I remember the rubber diaphragm would split. You could get a repair kit cheap.
    Mine was a dual with one pendulum but two Chambers and outlets.

  3. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Scott Thomas says:

    Aquarium pumps haven't really changed much in decades. In some older pumps, the little flapper valve was replaceable, and some had a little felt air filter.
    I guess aquarium pumps are just one of those things that really don't need much updating…

  4. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Barry Ford says:

    Seriously Clive, "Brute force and ignorance?". I think not! More like Brute force, experience and optimism. Also, I think this video was missing "One moment, please" (lol). Great to see elegant simplicity in a product.

  5. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Nick Dubbin says:

    These pumps will run 24 hours a day for years with little maintenance, I have a ehime air pump that's been in use for 5 years, all original parts, I have spare rubbers but a tad of Vaseline every couple of years is all it needs to be as good and quite as 5 years ago.
    Simple design that is reliable and easy to maintain and also very affordable. Perfect for the application.

  6. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars keith king says:

    that was nice.. built simply & not over designed like moist stuff these days (then they usually stop working or give you problem's) so nice il say it again . NICELY BUILT.. : )

  7. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars 73 Maverick says:

    Looks to me like a well made item to me, I'd buy one if I had a fish tank. In the U.S. we call those Reed valves. Perhaps you were using Layman's terms for other viewers, or you call it flaps in your part of the world. Thanks for showing us the construction . People will buy it now since it is well made, because you took the time. 🙂

  8. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Dean Cornell says:

    I think my dad did this with one of my mom's fish tank air pumps back in the day.
    All of hers were boring beige, but the one with the 2-speed modification had a double-wide electromagnet and 2 pumps in the same case.

  9. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Thomas Heidrich says:

    I've had the coil fail on me multiple times in a pump that looked identical on the inside. Never trust these cheap pumps when the life of aquarium inhabitants depends on it. I was fortunate to have it used in a non-critical application where fixing the burnt windings was just a massive inconvenience. I'm now using a pump from Schego and they even sell spare parts. 😉

  10. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars White Sapphire says:

    Well now, those pumps have not changed one hot in the last 60 years that I know of, other than that diode. Earlier versions often had nothing more than a rubber damper to control the magneto pendulum. That said, they could still develop a respectable amount of pressure, considering what they were made for.

  11. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Stephen Cook says:

    The actual pump construction has been used by many companies for at least the fifty forty years I have been keeping fish, the diode idea is new to me though and I like it.

  12. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Sootikins says:

    The internals, except for the switch & diode, are an almost exact copy of 1970s "Metaframe" branded pumps. The big black rubber bellows (aka diaphragm) cracks and tears after about a year of operation. At one time you could buy replacement bellows at any tropical fish store. Probably not anymore.

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