Reversing An Aquarium Air Pump

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I recently bought a small aquarium air pump, not really realizing that “pump” in this case meant blowing air, not sucking. A quick search turned up almost no information online, but converting it into a vacuum pump turned out to be quite easy.

Why might you need a vacuum pump? I’m using it for picking up swarf while cutting vinyl records, but this would also be useful for getting rid of bubbles in mold-making or casting!

I’m using this pump which I got for $13 on Amazon. It’s very small and fairly quiet. To convert it to a vacuum pump, remove the four screws on the back. Inside is a small transformer and two arms. These arms have a magnet at each end, which is pulled by the transformer to activate their rubber bellows. Fortunately, to switch the pump, we just have to reverse the air inlet/outlets: suck air in, push air out vs suck air out, push air out.

Pry up the plastic bellows assembly with a small screwdriver, like shown above.

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The inlet/outlet are above, sealed with a rubber O-ring. Pull the assembly out carefully and spin it 90º. Then just push it back into place. Be careful that the O-rings are seated properly, as they seem to want to pop out.

Close up the pump! You may need to seal it using caulk or hot glue if you’re not getting good suction, but mine seemed pretty good without.

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Finally, attach the tubes. For more suction, the two tubes can be combined using a T-connector (my pump came with one).

Nothing earth-shattering, but hopefully this helps someone with a similar need!

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20 Replies to “Reversing An Aquarium Air Pump”

  1. Cool. Did you tried with diamond and Shank blanks?
    Could you suck all the swarf?
    Got the 100 series. Is the same you got?

  2. Also how did you connected the inline switch? How do you know what cable to connect? It doesn’t matter?

    Thanks

  3. I haven’t used good cutters or blanks, I was cutting acetate with a cheap cutter, which doesn’t work great but is really cheap :) It sucks well with long, continuous swarf, but my tube got clogged very fast as the shavings compacted. Will have to do some more testing to see if this can be resolved. The pump I got was the Tetra 60, so the 100 will probably be even better.

  4. Thank you so much for this! I bought the same pump with the impression that Id be able to access both the inlet and the outlet… nope…. Im off to try your tips!

  5. Hello jeff. I bought same pump but with one hose outlet. The plastic that you pry open in my is almost seal. I could not get any screw driver in to pry it. I think it is glued in. Do did you do it

  6. @Kenneth — yeah, you kind of have to pry it open. I used a really small flathead screwdriver or maybe drill a hole to get it started. Hopefully they haven’t changed the design too much!

  7. Thanks for the response. When did you buy your pump. I just bought mine. Maybe there is a difference in design between the 100 that you have and the 40 that I have. May I send you a photo of mine.

  8. Sorry but am having some problem sending the photo. However I have a feeling that the plastic is sealed. I wonder of would damage something inside by cutting around it to get in.

  9. Hello jeff. Do you know of any othersuction pump with the same size as the one have or one that can easily reverse to a sucking pump? Thanks for the assistance and your response.

  10. @Kenneth – I think the insides are pretty sturdy. You could maybe try drilling a small hole in the seam then stick a screwdriver in there to pry it loose. I think once you get it started it should come apart pretty easily. For other pumps, I really don’t know. I got this one because it’s so quiet. I know people use airbrush compressors to create a vacuum for casting rubber and plastic, so that might be an option. Not sure where you’re located, but Harbor Freight sells them very cheap.

  11. Hello jeff. I had some friends of came over to help .We tried to get in but but in the process damaged something inside. It was too difficult to cut through the plastic . So we just gave up. I

    I needed the vacuume pump for an old japanese turntable I picked up while I was over there. It requires a suction pump to work. It is similar in size and specification to the one that you converted and the one that I have tried to convert, The turntable is totally useless without the suction pump. So if you ever find another one or no longer using your pump I will be most grateful if I could buy it from you. Thank you so much for all your assistance.

  12. Jeff,
    Interesting post. Is there anyway to access/channel/collect the air coming out? I need a pump similar to these that has an inlet and outlet port, but haven’t found one yet. Thanks,
    Brian

  13. @Brian – I took a look at the bottom and it appears there’s a filter and a big hole for the air to vent (or get pulled through in it’s original use). I suppose you could glue some kind of hose adapter on there but the air would be flowing through the body of the pump first.

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