Mini Air Tanks for Snorkeling – What You Should Know

what is scuba diving

There’s more to snorkeling than just passively floating at the surface and observing from a distance. If you see something interesting but it’s a few meters below you, haven’t you ever wanted to dive down to get a closer look? The problem is that when you do, you can’t breathe through your snorkel anymore and perhaps you don’t have the lung capacity to enjoy the view up close for very long. However, with a mini air tank for snorkeling you can continue to breathe underwater like a scuba diver.

A refillable air tank for snorkeling can help you maximize your snorkeling experience. Maybe you tried to dive down in the past, only to surface seconds later because you ran out of oxygen or got too anxious. Using a mini air tank, you can bring along an extra 3-5 minutes of oxygen and you don’t have to use it all at once. Think about how much more marine life you could see in short bursts without the impending feeling of needing to surface. How much more enjoyable would your snorkeling experience be?

Today, we will be looking at small air tanks for snorkeling. Specifically, we will be reviewing the best ones and also discussing the objections people have against using a mini air tank. We will look at the pros and cons objectively and let you decide if you still want one or not. Let’s get into it.

Our Top Pick:

SMACO Scuba Tank Diving Gear for Diver 1L Mini Scuba Tank with 15-20 Minutes Small Emergency Backup...
135 Reviews
SMACO Scuba Tank Diving Gear for Diver 1L Mini Scuba Tank with 15-20 Minutes Small Emergency Backup...
  • 🏊【UNIQUE DESIGN】:S400 pro mini scuba tank uses an extension tube to connect to the pressure gauge, which is more convenient for us to check the...
  • 🏊【LARGER CAPACITY BUT PORTABLE】: SMACO mini diving tank has a capacity of 1L and can breathe underwater for 15-20 minutes. At the same time,...
  • 🏊【BOARD THE PLANE】:After you disassemble the scuba tank, you can take it on the plane and go diving anywhere. It has safe depth limit of about...

What are Mini Air Tanks for Snorkeling?

Mini air tanks are smaller versions of scuba tanks that are designed to be lightweight and compact so that you can dive underwater without the bulk of a full scuba set. They provide approximately 0.5-1L of air, which is enough to enjoy the marine life underwater in short bursts. They were originally designed to be a redundant air source for scuba divers in case something goes wrong with their main tank.

Nowadays, people have realized that mini air tanks have more practical uses outside of scuba diving. One such way is to use mini air tanks for snorkeling. Since they are so small and lightweight, you can bring it with your snorkeling gear without much hassle. When you see something that catches your eye a few meters below, you can switch from your snorkel mouthpiece to the mini air tank mouthpiece and dive down to get a closer look without cutting off your air supply.

Depending on the size of the tank, you may be able to get 3-5 minutes of air or more. You can use it in 15 second bursts, a minute at a time, all in one go, or however long you want each interval to be. This allows you to dive a few times before you need to refill your air tank. This allows snorkelers to bridge the gap between snorkeling and diving. Furthermore, snorkelers don’t need to undergo breath-holding training if they use a mini air tank instead.

Mini Air Tank Safety Concerns – Read Before Buying

The concept of a mini air tank seems good on paper. After all, the air capacity is too small to allow for deep diving, and snorkelers are supposed to stay by the surface anyways, so what’s the issue? Unfortunately, there are quite a few.

First, if you have little to no experience with breath-holding or swimming in general, you should not use a mini air tank. Ideally, you should be a confident swimmer and have some diving experience already. If this does not describe you, then please just stick to a traditional snorkel set or a full-face mask, wear some kind of flotation device, and don’t even think about diving until you get more experience.

Second, read and more importantly, follow the safety guidelines to a T. You know how you usually toss away the manuals without reading it? Well, read that manual fully. Your life depends on it. Do not even think about deviating from it. If it tells you not to dive more than 6m underwater, then don’t. If it tells you to not hold your breath while ascending then don’t. The moment you decide to ignore these warnings is the moment your safety is in serious jeopardy.

Third, understand that the deeper you dive, the higher the risk of injury to you. The further you dive, the less effective air you have. If your mini air tank doesn’t have a pressure gauge, then you should be mentally keeping track of how much air you might have left. You don’t want to be caught off-guard with no air, so it’s better to err on the side of caution.

Let’s talk about each of these risks in more detail.

Loss of Air Supply

Depending on which mini air tank you purchase, this may or may not be a problem. The refillable air tanks we recommend come with their own carrying bags so that they will remain on your person at all times. Furthermore, they also come with a mouthpiece connected to a long hose to make breathing from the tank easier.

Some mini air tanks have the mouthpiece attached to the tank itself. This means that you are literally holding the entire mini tank in your mouth. What happens if your mouth fatigues? Or if you lose your grip on the mouthpiece for any reason? Then you’ve just lost your portable air supply, and if this happens a few meters underwater, it may be quite dangerous.

Not Following/Forgetting the Safety Guidelines

How many people actually read the instruction manuals that come with their products? And even if they do, do they follow it exactly as printed? If a manual is too boring to read through, then at least watch the video below. Note: the following instructions only apply to the SCORKL product.

Lack of Gauges

After reading the instructions, you will notice that the mini air tank can only be used at a water temperature above 15°C, and that it can only handle 3,000 psi (200 bar) of pressure. However, even if you know this information, there’s not much you can do with it if you don’t have a temperature gauge or pressure gauge to inform you of the current situation.

Without these gauges, the best you can do is make an educated guess. A higher quality mini air tank will come with its own pressure gauge. This will let you know how much air is remaining and when you should head back to refill it. When refilling, the pressure gauge will be useful to know when you should stop.

Pulmonary Barotrauma (Lung Expansion; Extremely Deadly)

If you hold your breath while ascending, you are at serious risk of experiencing pulmonary barotrauma, more commonly known as lung expansion. It is exactly what it sounds like; if your lungs are full of air as you ascend, the change in pressure can cause your lungs to expand beyond capacity and this can lead to death.

Even just small changes in pressure, such as at depths over 1m (3 ft) can cause lung expansion. There are even documented cases where people in swimming pools have suffered from it. We can generalize this by saying all divers at any depth are at risk of pulmonary barotrauma.

The main causes of lung expansion are: breath-holding during ascent, rapid ascents, and pre-existing lung conditions. To minimize the risk of lung expansion, never hold your breath. Always be breathing continuously, or exhaling throughout the ascent. Do not ascend rapidly; scuba divers ascend at a rate of 10m (33ft) per minute, for reference. If you have a history of lung problems, consult a medical professional first before diving.

Any sort of diving is inherently risky. Even by following the above advice, you still experience other symptoms such as decompression sickness (the bends) and nitrogen narcosis, in addition to pulmonary barotrauma. For this reason, always dive with a buddy so you can watch each other’s backs.


While it’s true that there are many risks involved with using a mini air tank, keep in mind that any and all water sports activities are inherently risky. Scuba diving and freediving, for instance, are way riskier than anything described in this article. Yet does that deter people? No! That’s why there is something called the Open Water course, and why divers get certified. Rather than cower in fear, get educated and learn how to perform these activities safely.

As such, the consensus is that mini air tanks can be good if you know how to use them and how to avoid the risks. If you are staying within the guidelines and using it properly, then you should be relatively safe for the most part. There is nothing wrong with using a mini air tank as a redundant air source for scuba diving, for instance. If you are not an experienced snorkeler or diver, and have no idea how air behaves in tanks underwater, then stay far away from portable air tanks.

SMACO S400 – Best Mini Air Tank for Snorkeling

SMACO Scuba Tank Diving Gear for Diver 1L Mini Scuba Tank with 15-20 Minutes Small Emergency Backup...
135 Reviews
SMACO Scuba Tank Diving Gear for Diver 1L Mini Scuba Tank with 15-20 Minutes Small Emergency Backup...
  • 🏊【UNIQUE DESIGN】:S400 pro mini scuba tank uses an extension tube to connect to the pressure gauge, which is more convenient for us to check the...
  • 🏊【LARGER CAPACITY BUT PORTABLE】: SMACO mini diving tank has a capacity of 1L and can breathe underwater for 15-20 minutes. At the same time,...
  • 🏊【BOARD THE PLANE】:After you disassemble the scuba tank, you can take it on the plane and go diving anywhere. It has safe depth limit of about...

The SMACO S400 is a mini air tank with 1L of air capacity which can provide 340 underwater breaths, or approximately 10-15 minutes of diving time. With a weight of 5.07 pounds along with its portable bag, the S400 is lightweight and easy to carry around while snorkeling and diving. This frees up your hands to swim freely, without the bulk of a scuba set.

First off, the S400 avoids a lot of the design flaws that much of the competition has. The portable bag means it’s convenient to carry on your person without experiencing jaw fatigue or occupying your hand. It comes with its own regulator and hose so that you don’t have to hold the entire tank in your mouth like a lot of the other tanks expect you to. When you want to dive, simply switch from your snorkel mouthpiece to the S400’s and start diving.

Next, the SMACO S400 is compatible with all kinds of pumps, be it a hand pump, a high-pressure inflator, or another scuba tank. This gives you the option to fill this device how you want, whatever is the most convenient for you. The built-in pressure gauge will let you know when you need to refill it and when it’s full. You can snorkel with peace of mind with this vital information.

Furthermore, the S400 is very durable thanks to the aluminum alloys it is constructed from. This small air tank resists internal corrosion and can take a beating. Of course, it’s strong enough to hold large volumes of compress gas up to 3,000 psi (200 bar). Keep in mind this product does NOT come with an inflator; you will need to purchase one separately. Overall, the quality of the S400 is very high and it is perhaps the best mini air tank for snorkeling on the market.

How Effective are Mini Air Tanks?

How long can you breathe underwater with a mini air tank? How long does it take to refill? The average capacity of a mini air tank is 0.5L, and larger ones have a capacity of 1L. Assuming the half liter tank has been pressurized to 3,000 psi (200 bar), that means you have around 75 litres of air before the pressure drops below 50 bar.

It’s difficult to measure how long it takes for this to occur because air consumption is variable. We have to consider whether you are floating calmly by the surface or if you’ve been swimming and increasing your heart rate. At rest, the average adult has a breathing rate of 12-20 cycles (inhale and exhale) per minute. If a normal breath contains approximately 0.5L of air, then it would theoretically be possible to have close to 10 minutes worth of oxygen in a mini air tank. However, that doesn’t tell the whole story.

What happens if you are not a healthy adult? Perhaps you have a lung condition. Furthermore, if you’ve been swimming, the exertion could cause you to take deeper breaths (say, 1.5L per). At 20 times a minute, you can burn through your oxygen supply in 2 minutes or less. Once again, there’s more to this story.

If you are, say, 10m underwater, the volume of air in your body decreases by half. This translates to about a little over a minute before your air supply runs out. In other words, you cannot assume the conditions to be absolutely perfect. Whatever a product says on its sales page in regards to how long you can dive for, expect it to be half as effective just to be safe.

How to Refill the Mini Air Tank

There are three ways to refill your mini air tank. The first is to use a hand pump. Your air tank may have an air pump included, or you may have to purchase it separately. This method of refilling the air is the most labor intensive because you will literally have to pump 300-400 times to fill a 0.5L tank. Double that number for a 1L tank. This process is not only tiring, but time-consuming.

The next two options are hands-off, but require a significant investment. One is to invest in an electric air pump. It should refill your air tank in about 15-20 minutes or so. Double that number if you’re filling up a 1L tank. At least you don’t have to pump the air yourself.

Finally, the fastest and most effective way to fill your tank is to use another scuba tank. This can fill your mini air tank in mere seconds. The issue is that you would need to own a scuba tank and be able to fill that. And if you own a regular scuba tank, why don’t you just scuba dive?

Closing Thoughts

Mini air tanks for snorkeling are an interesting idea, however their purpose in the market is often called into question. They have considerable risks involved with them since they are marketed to the layperson that may not have enough training to safely use them. A selling point for them is that the user can experience what it’s like to scuba dive without the training, which is concerning. Nevertheless, if the user has some diving experience and knows how to use them properly, then they can be fun and useful.

If you still want to try out a mini air tank for snorkeling, then make sure you are fit for diving and are following the instructions perfectly. Remember that you are using this device at your own risk. Be aware of your (and the product’s) limitations, dive with a buddy, and you should be able to improve your snorkeling sessions tremendously.

Last update on 2024-07-11 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API