Nearly every aquarium will require proper circulation to maintain a thriving environment.
Unless you have a small Betta bowl, you will need some essential equipment to maintain a good amount of current and flow inside of your tank.
One of the best ways to achieve the proper current inside of your aquarium is to use a powerhead pump. The best aquarium powerheads will help prevent potential dead zones in your ecosystem and help your filter do its job.
To help you find the best powerhead for your aquarium, we're going to break down some of the most common, along with various pros and cons to each.
What Are The Best Aquarium Powerheads?
Below is a small handful of various aquarium powerhead pumps. The best aquarium pump for you depends on your requirements, the size of your tank, what you have living inside of the tank, and a few other criteria.
While building our list, we have weighed each of the criteria and attempted to make general recommendations that fit most people's needs. Yours may be different, but each of the aquarium powerheads below is highly recommended by both us, and customers that have used them.
These are the best aquarium powerhead reviews available in 2019.
1. Sicce Voyager 4 Power Pump - Good Solid
If you're looking for the best powerhead for freshwater aquariums, the Sicce Voyager 4 is one of the best you're going to find. It has become incredibly popular among a wide range of aquarists, both freshwater and saltwater.
The Sicce Voyager 4 is also considered a "budget" type of pump. Even though it's at the lower end of the price spectrum, this is still a fantastic powerhead. Each Voyager 4 is rated to a maximum of 1,200 gallons-per-hour. If you need larger, there are other models available.
The Voyager 4 is one of the few pumps that can be installed on the back of your tank. Where most pumps will be positioned at either end of your tank, the Voyager 4 can be installed on the back pane to provide a different style of flow.
- You can adjust the Voyager 4 a full 180 to 360 degrees, depending on the position.
- You can install the Voyager 4 on the back pane of your tank.
- The front ring is removable so you can control the flow and amount of current.
- The 1,200 gallon-per-hour pump is suitable for tanks up to 125 gallons in size.
- This pump may not flow enough water when it's located on the back of your tank.
2. Hydor Koralia Evolution Aquarium Pump - Compact design
When it comes to saltwater powerhead recommendations, we would be remiss if we didn't recommend the Hydor Koralia Evolution as our #1 saltwater recommendation. While the Sicce Voyager 4 is a fantastic freshwater pump, the Hydor Koralia is a great saltwater pump.
One of the most significant selling points of the Hydor Koralia is the price tag. This is one of the most affordable saltwater powerheads currently available. It's also one of the most versatile.
Depending on the size of your tank, you can choose from a 600, 850, 1150, and a 1500 gallon-per-hour design. The included suction cups make it easy to install and position the powerhead wherever you need it.
It's also designed to function with other external equipment like automated timers and wavemaker pumps.
- You can choose from four different sizes to match the pump to your aquarium.
- The included suction cups are sturdy and durable, allowing multiple mounting options.
- Each Hydor Koralia supports external devices like timers and wavemakers.
- These are primarily designed for saltwater but work great in freshwater and reef tanks.
Larger pump options mean you may overpower smaller tanks if you aren't careful.
3. Maxspect Gyre XF-230 Aquarium Pump & Controller - Awesome Pump
Another one of the best aquarium wavemaker pumps is the Maxspect Gyre XF-230 aquarium pump and controller. We highly recommend this model if you want a pump that comes with a controller specifically designed to function with the pump itself.
Many times, you may be able to find a controller that works with your pump, but you'll find that some features aren't designed to operate together. This creates potential problems where you're not getting the most use out of the pump and controller like you would with a setup explicitly designed to work together.
With the Maxspect Gyre XF-230, you can control the flat, horizontal current by adjusting the head and the controller. There are dual directional cages that help determine where the water being expelled will move.
- The Maxspect Gyre XF-230 is one of the newest wavemakers available.
- The design is easy to install and easy to use.
- The included controller makes dialling in the perfect flow simple to do.
- The design of the Maxspect Gyre XF-230 makes it easy to maintain.
- This is considered a "pricey" aquarium pump because it includes a controller.
4. Aqua Clear 50 Powerhead - Silent operation
While we do not feature many wireless aquarium powerheads, the Aqua Clear 50 Powerhead gives you the same functionality. Each Aqua Clear 50 is designed to push 270 gallons-per-hour, making it fantastic for small tanks that do not require a large amount of current.
The Aqua Clear 50 is also high for tanks that utilize under-substrate filter systems. The amount of flow produced by the Aqua Clear 50 helps oxygenate the water and keep it moving over your filtration system, eliminating dead zones.
The Aqua Clear 50 is also one of the most compact pumps that we have featured. It is incredibly energy-efficient and manufactured from high-quality materials to help it withstand punishment and abuse.
- The Aqua Clear 50 is one of the best submersible aquarium powerheads available.
- The included suction cups are sturdy and give you plenty of mounting options.
- The design of the Aqua Clear 50 helps you oxygenate your tank's water.
- Some customers have reported humming and buzzing with the Aqua Clear 50.
- You may face compatibility issues when pairing this with other equipment.
5. Tunze Turbelle Powerheads - Small But Powerful
Sometimes, a one-size-fits-all aquarium powerhead setup doesn't fit all. Instead, you're going to need a custom setup that is based around your specific needs. That's where the Tunze Turbelle line of aquarium powerheads comes in.
The Tunze Turbelle brand is widely regarded as one of the best manufacturers of aquarium equipment today. They have a wide range of sizes and options to help you get exactly what your tank requires.
Rather than recommend a specific pump from Turbelle, we're going to link to all of the pumps available and let you pick based on your unique aquascape. These are some of the most durable, highest-quality pumps you'll find.
- With Tunze Turbelle, you have a wide range of options to choose from.
- The pumps are some of the highest quality being manufactured today.
- Professionals around the world use Tunze Turbelle pumps.
- They are not as cheaply priced as other, more budget-focused options.
6. Aqueon Aquarium Circulation Pump - Energy-efficient motor
Another one of the best aquarium powerheads for sale is the Aqueon Aquarium Circulation Pump. It is considered a "budget" line pump but doesn't mistake the price tag for the pump being low-quality or shoddy equipment.
With the Aqueon line, you can choose from six different sized pumps ranging from 600 gallons-per-hour to 700 GPH, 950 GPH, 1250 GPH, and 1650 gallons-per-hour. Each pump is designed to be energy-efficient and operate in near silence.
The pumps are built to closely mimic the underwater current that flows through rivers and over natural reef systems. It doesn't matter if you're running a freshwater setup or a saltwater setup, the Aqueon Aquarium pumps work great in both conditions.
- The energy-efficient pumps consume very little power.
- These pumps are easy to install and place throughout your tank.
- Maintaining the pumps requires only a few seconds of cleaning.
- The Aqueon pumps are slightly higher priced than many other models.
7. KEDSUM 2642GPH Aquarium Powerhead - ideal for fresh-water or salt-water
While building our list of recommendations, we found it incredibly easy to disregard quite a few different pumps. For various reasons, the pumps just weren't up to what we considered par for what most people need from their equipment.
The KEDSUM 2642GPH pump, however, definitely made it past our scrutiny. This is a powerful pump that works great for larger aquariums. In smaller tanks, however, the pump could be far too powerful and create an environment where your fish and corals are overpowered.
While some customers have reported using the pump with a controller, we haven't verified the functionality for ourselves. That means you'll want to research an excellent controller to use before you purchase the KEDSUM if you're going to dial the power back.
- The KEDSUM is an incredibly powerful pump, designed for large tanks.
- The KEDSUM comes with a built-in wavemaker, saving you money.
- The KEDSUM is a smaller-sized pump that makes installation easy to do.
- This pump is far too powerful for smaller tanks.
- This is one of the most potent, energy-consuming pumps we've featured.
- You may need to maintain this pump more often than others, because of noise.
8. Rio Plus Aquarium Powerhead Pumps - Fully submersible
Rio is a company that has established a secure spot for themselves inside of the aquarium industry. They are known for manufacturing high-quality equipment that's priced affordably, making their pumps accessible to the masses.
Because there are so many different Rio pumps available, we're helping you choose the one that's right for your tank. You can choose from a wide variety of power options based on the size of your tank.
Since you have so many options, we recommend matching the size of your pump to the number of gallons of water inside of your tank. This is an excellent general baseline to ensure you do not overpower your aquatic system with a pump that moves too much water.
- Rio pumps are known to outperform most of their competitors.
- You can find a Rio pump for nearly every price range and tank size.
- If you're not familiar with pumps, choosing one may be challenging to do.
9. Marineland Penguin Submersible Powerheads -Silent, Safe, Reliable
Marineland is another company that has developed a reputation for manufacturing high-quality, energy-efficient submersible powerheads for aquariums. The Penguin is one of their best-selling, highest-rated models to date.
As of this writing, you can choose from three different models. Marineland offers a 145 gallon-per-hour, a 170 gallon-per-hour and a 300 gallon-per-hour pump, based on the size of your tank and how much water you need to flow.
Each pump runs ultra-quiet and saves energy. The pumps are also small enough to position throughout your tank without interfering with your aquascape easily. Even though they are ranked #9 on our list, it doesn't mean they're not worth looking at and checking into.
- These pumps are some of the most affordable pumps we've featured.
- These pumps are designed to minimize the dust produced in your tank.
- Marineland pumps are some of the quietest pumps we've featured, as well.
- These are not the most powerful pumps that you can get.
10. Marineland Maxi-Jet Pro Powerhead Pump - fully adaptable pump
Another pump from Marineland that's worth looking at is the Maxi-Jet Pro powerhead. As we've previously mentioned, Marineland is one of the most reputable companies that are currently manufacturing powerheads and wavemakers.
The Maxi-Jet Pro is designed to work underneath your gravel without disturbing the substrate. It is compatible with multiple different controllers and automatic timers to help cut down on the time you spend messing with your tank.
One of the most significant selling points of the Maxi-Jet Pro is the fact that it can operate as a few different types of pumps. You can use it as a standard powerhead, as a wavemaker, as a circulation pump, or as a utility pump, depending on what you need.
- The Maxi-Jet Pro powerhead pumps can be used as three different pump-types.
- You can convert your powerhead into a wavemaker or a circulation pump.
- Each Maxi-Jet Pro pump is customizable to your specific needs.
- These pumps may not be big enough for larger fish tanks.
What Is The Best Powerhead For My Reef Tank?
If you're looking to provide current for your reef tank, we have found the best powerhead you can get is the Hydor Koralia Nano circulation pump. This circulation pump was explicitly designed with reef tanks in mind.
The compact size, combined with the magnetic suction cups makes it easy to install and place in your tank. The pump operates quietly, so you do not have to worry about a constant hum or buzz like you do with many other pumps.
One of the most significant selling points of the Hydor Koralia Nano is that you can easily adjust it a full 360 degrees. Changing the flow to create the perfect undercurrent in your tank is as simple as moving the outlet nozzle.
As your reef begins to grow and move around your tank, you will want to adjust the current to ensure there are no dead zones in the tank. These dead zones allow bacteria and algae to grow, which can stifle the oxygen your reef is receiving.
How Do Aquarium Powerheads Operate?
Powerheads are, mostly, sealed motors that allow you to completely submerge them into your tank to provide current in and around your aquascape. The primary purpose behind a powerhead is to help keep water circulating over your plants, fish, reef, rocks, and substrate.
They're a relatively simple piece of equipment. The pump brings water into one side of the powerhead and expels it through the other. The powerheads give you control over the current and flow of the water in your tank.
As the water begins to flow through your aquarium, you are ensuring that the entire ecosystem can be pulled through your filter and processed back out. This ensures that you are not allowing excess waste to build up and that there are no areas where algae can begin to grow.
By keeping the current moving, your reef, corals, fish, and plants are also going to receive the much-needed oxygen that isn't ordinarily available with stagnant water. The current also helps deliver food to them, since most are stationary and can't actively track their food down.
Many organisms and livestock in your tank also require moving water to remain healthy. Anemones, for instance, prefer the remain reasonably stationary while corals will enjoy having water moving across them. A good powerhead will let you pick and choose where the current happens, so you are keeping everything in your tank happy.
How Do I Install My Aquarium Powerhead?
Most manufacturers are going to include instructions with your new powerhead that tell you how to install it into your tank. However, if you want to ensure you are purchasing the right size or model powerhead for your existing aquascape, here's how you will install it when you receive it.
First, you're going to need to perform a few necessary safety checks. You want to ensure that the powerhead is not cracked or damaged in any way. Remember, you are installing an electrical device in water which can create a life-threatening hazard if you are not careful.
While some powerheads are designed to be submerged completely, others are not. You need to be aware of your model's instructions before sinking it into the water. To be on the safe side, keep your power cord out of the water while you are installing it.
You also want to ensure that water cannot be splashed directly onto your plug, power strip, or outlet. Water should not be able to run down the power cord and drip into the socket, either. To avoid complications, you do not want to use an extension cord with your powerhead. Plugging it directly into your power source is the safest way to install it.
After receiving your powerhead, you can begin installation by placing the powerhead down into your tank. You need to ensure that the powerhead is entirely submerged by water so that it will properly function. Once you have secured the powerhead in place, you can plug it into your power source.
Again, you need to ensure that your plug is dry and that water cannot reach your power source when you are plugging it in. It's also worth noting to make sure that your power cord is not in the way where people could potentially trip over it and damage your tank or the powerhead, itself.
Once the powerhead is successfully installed, your next step is to position it so that the flow reaches throughout your entire ecosystem.
Where To Place My Aquarium Powerhead In A Freshwater Aquarium?
Deciding where to place the powerhead inside of your tank is where you are going to be required to get creative.
The first order of business is figuring out what the living organisms inside of your tank require. As mentioned before, some plants prefer moving water while others won't be pleased with water continually flowing over them.
If your tank has live plants inside of it, you will want to place the powerhead, so it mimics your plant's natural environment. Are they accustomed to having water flow over them? Move the outlet so that you create a current around the plants.
Do your plants tend to thrive in stagnant water? Avoid placing your powerhead directly over them because you could begin to weaken them over time.
Depending on the other types of equipment you're using, you can either place the powerhead near the bottom to create an undercurrent or near the top to create waves. Creating waves at the surface will help oxygenate your water if you're not supplementing oxygen in other ways.
For reef tanks and tanks with coral, you will need to create an even flow over the tops of them. Coral is pickier when it comes to current than plants, so it requires you to spend some time dialling in the powerhead, so it delivers a smooth flow.
You will also need to consider the size and shape of your tank, as well. Smaller tanks (under 20 gallons) can usually get by with a single powerhead. However, larger tanks may require multiple powerheads.
If your tank has corners that are hard to reach, you may need to position the powerhead, so it bounces current off these corners, to keep water flowing. Not contacting the edges can create those pesky dead zones that allow harmful bacteria to grow.
If you want the powerhead to help oxygenate your water, placing it closer to the surface can help you achieve your goals. If you want to ensure you are creating a current near the substrate, positioning the powerhead, so it is angled downwards can achieve your goals.
Other Factors To Consider
The equipment that you couple together with your powerhead, makes a significant difference in the health of your tank. Because water will be flowing more freely, having an adequate filtration system in place will ensure that you are not merely moving bacteria and waste around.
Filters are only able to clean water that is flowing past them and water that gets pulled into the filter's inlet. If you have dead zones or your powerhead isn't circulating water past your screen, you aren't effectively filtering all of the bad stuff out of the tank.
One of the best ways to help combat this potential problem is by ensuring that your powerhead moves water from one side of your tank to the other, where the filter is located. You do want to keep in mind, though, that larger tanks require more circulation to ensure that the water is being moved from one side to the other.
Properly planning the placement of all the equipment you're using can make a huge difference when it comes to maintaining your tank. Proper circulation helps deliver nutrients where you need them and filter out the waste and byproducts that you do not want in the water.
This is a delicate balance that requires you to identify what each organism in your tank needs, and then creating a plan that helps deliver on those requirements. Based on the equipment you're using, this could be a lengthy process, but it pays off once you perfect it.
What Is The Best Aquarium Powerhead In 2019?
After thorough research, we have found the best aquarium powerhead to be the Sicce Voyager 4. It’s a well-rounded, well-manufactured powerhead that has received rave reviews from customers that have used it in their own tanks.
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