I never liked the idea of having an aquarium with fish without a powerhead. I’ve been using powerhead in my aquarium for as long as I can remember, and they are one of the best things I’ve done for my aquarium and its habitats.
One of the most impressive benefits of using them is that they reduce clogging the filtration systems. And the other advantage is that the powerheads create wave-like circulation in water. This motion is healthy for fish and helps them thrive. Moreover, it is beneficial for Coral health too.
Today, I’ll be presenting the reviews of the best aquarium powerheads to help you choose one or more for your tank. And, along with the reviews, I’ll be sharing a buyer’s guide and much more information that you will find helpful.
What Is A Fish Tank Powerhead & What Does A Powerhead Do In An Aquarium?
A powerhead is water circulating device for your fish tank. It looks like a filter, but it isn’t.
It has a sealed motor which creates water flow when you install the powerheads underwater. Once you turn on the motor, it helps create movement in the water that looks like natural waves.
An aquarium powerhead helps keep the tank temperature at a balanced level. It gives the fish a more natural feeling by creating realistic wave movements. Moreover, these movements help distribute food around the tank, including the corals.
Types Of Powerheads
If you think all powerheads are the same or work in the same way, you are wrong. There are three types of powerheads. Each of them is different from the other one in the way they operate and create flow.
1) Jet Stream Powerheads
These powerheads are stylish and versatile. They work in a very different way. Instead of releasing streams all over, jet stream powerheads a single stream of water.
It does not distribute waves and food equally all the time. However, jet stream powerheads are comparatively low-priced.
2) Propeller Powerheads
You must be familiar with propellers. If you do, you know why these are called propeller powerheads.
These powerhead’s propellers generate power to create water movements. One of the advantages of this type of powerhead is that they are energy-efficient. They can also move a large volume of water.
3) Crossflow Powerheads
Crossflow powerheads do not use a single stream. They don’t have propellers either.
They release multiple streams, which can move a larger volume of water. Moreover, their power is so strong that they are capable of helping corals get their food. These powerheads are more energy-efficient than the rest.
6 Best Aquarium Powerhead Reviewed
The number of available powerheads in the market is endless. But not all of them are worth having or suitable enough for fish tanks. If you purchase a small aquarium powerhead, it will not be compatible with a large tank.
So, you need to learn the details for each powerhead you purchase. You can take a look at the following reviews I’ve prepared for some of my top picks.
1. AquaClear 50 Powerhead-270 Gallons per Hour (UL Listed)
The AquaClear 50 is known for being the best powerhead for 20 gallon tank. It is well-constructed, entirely submersible, and affordable.
- Submersible Design: This powerhead is entirely submersible. Thus it makes the powerhead easier to hide.
- Suction Cup Installation: Mounting the powerhead is very simple. You stick the powerhead to the aquarium using its suction cups, and it will be ready.
- Capacity: The AquaClear is a suitable model for small fish tanks. Its 270 GPH flow rate makes it a perfect powerhead for 10-20 gallon tanks.
- Flow Control: If this powerhead’s water flow seems too strong for your tank, you can adjust the flow.
- Easy to mount
- Affordable price
- Suitable for small fish tanks
- Adjustable flow
- Bulky design
- Makes rattling if an air hose is used
Verdict: Though the powerhead capacity says it is suitable for a 10-20 gallon tank, you can use it for a 40-gallon tank without an issue. If you want something simple and easy to maintain, you can find this powerhead on Amazon.
2. Hydor Koralia Nano Aquarium Circulation Pump, 240, 425, 565 GPH
Hydor Koralia Nano Aquarium Circulation Pump is among the more budget-friendly options. It is rotatable and comes in three different models for separate GPH ratings.
- Capacity: The Hydor Koralia Nano comes with the power for 240, 425, and 565 GPH levels. That means you can choose the circulation pump device for your 10- 65 gallons fish tanks.
- Rotatable Head: The pump head rotates 360°, making it convenient for creating flow in any direction. This feature also makes it easier to mount it in any direction you want.
- Anti-Vibration System: Its built-in anti-vibration system prevents any sort of disturbance. Besides, the magnetic mount keeps the risk of the powerhead coming loose at bay.
- Lightweight: The Hydor Koralia Nano is a lightweight powerhead. It does not add much extra weight to the tank or take up a lot of space.
- Does not cause any vibrating or rattling sound
- Adjustable flow and rotatable head
- The small size makes it more lightweight
- Flow isn’t strong enough for soft coral tanks
Verdict: Though this circulation pump isn’t built for large tanks or soft corals, you can still receive benefits if you have a small fish tank or add more than one. And to learn more about this circulation pump, check it on Amazon.
3. Marineland Maxi Jet Pro (best Aquarium Powerhead & Pump) 3 Pumps in 1
The Marineland Maxi-Jet Pro is a multipurpose pump. It is a three-in-one powered device that completes several tasks at once.
- Three-In-One: This isn’t just a circulation pump or a powerhead. It is a powerhead, a circulation pump, and a utility pump all at once. It completes all its tasks while still being completely energy-efficient.
- Different Tank Capacity: The powerhead comes with a 110-1300 GPH rating in four different sizes. You can use them for small to medium-sized aquariums.
- Adaptability: If you have any undergravel filter in your fish tank, you can use that with this powerhead. The conversation kit in the box can help you transform the powerhead into a circulation pump as well.
- Low price
- Multipurpose use
- Comes with a powerhead to circulation pump kit
- Adaptable to any undergravel tank filter
- Can be noisy sometimes
- Not for large aquariums
Verdict: If you want to use it for a display fish tank, the noise can be a drawback. But if you want something that provides maximum performance at an affordable price, you can purchase it from Amazon.
4. AQUANEAT Aquarium Circulation Pump
If you want your best aquarium powerhead to have robust performance, how about having two at the price of one? It is one of the popular circulation pumps among aquarists, and let’s find out why.
- Installation: It has a two-step suction mount for installation. Attach it to the fish tank and turn it on to get started.
- Tank Capacity: AQUANEAT 800 GPH is compatible with 100-gallon freshwater and 55-gallon saltwater tanks. And the 480 GPH model is for 60-gallon freshwater and 30-gallon saltwater tanks.
- Submersible: This powerhead needs to be entirely submersible for work. Unfortunately, it does not have a timer or flow controller.
- Rotatable head
- Compatible with small to medium aquariums
- Easy to mount
- No controller
- Less durable
Verdict: Not being able to control flow level is a drawback for any powerhead or circulation pump. Yet, if you are looking for something that has a medium-performing capacity, check out its latest update on Amazon.
5. Marineland PH0550 Penguin Powerhead Pump For Aquariums
Marineland has always been offering some of the powerful aquarium powerheads or wave makers. They are affordable, user-friendly, and energy-efficient.
- Reliability: For small aquariums, the Marineland PH0550 is a reliable model. It has a 145 GPH capacity. However, if you want a different model, you can choose between 170 GPH and 300 GPH ones.
- Oxygenation: The circulation pump system ensures continuous water flow. This process boosts the oxygenation of the tank environment.
- Noise And Dust Elimination: The air filter eliminates all noise and dust. The intake strainer prevents debris from troubling the impeller.
- Increases durability by eliminating dust and debris
- Not for tanks that require strong currents
Verdict: The Marineland Penguin powerhead will take up a bit of your tank space. But it is still worth having for a small aquarium. You can check out its latest update on Amazon.
6. Hygger Submersible Aquarium Powerhead 2000 GPH Wavemaker Circulation Pump
The last one on my best aquarium powerhead list is the Hygger 2000 GPH powerhead. This double-headed wave maker is rotatable and ensures the proper circulation of tank water.
- Dual Head: One wave maker head is good, but two heads make it better. Thus, the Hygger 2000 GPH powerhead works with the power of two and ensures natural water flow.
- Capacity: This 2000 GPH model is for freshwater tanks. And it is compatible with 75-130 gallons tanks.
- Stimulation: The powerheads with circulation pumps stimulate the water in a way that looks like natural waves. This stimulation helps the fish to thrive in tank water.
Verdict: With its power, performance, and design, the Hygger 2000 GPH is worthy of the best powerhead for 75 gallon freshwater tank. To check its latest update, you can find it on Amazon.
How Does An Aquarium Powerhead Work?
An aquarium powerhead is a motored device. Its job is to pull the water in and release it through the pump. Thus it circulates water and oxygenates the tank environment.
Powerheads can change directions and create movements in the water. It looks like a realistic ocean wave. It also helps remove the dead spots of the tank and prevent toxic bacterias from accumulating.
So, a powerhead is an electronic device that works via a motor and is similar to a tank filtration system. It is essential for keeping the fish happy and healthy, along with the coral life.
How To Choose The Right Powerhead Or Circulating Pump For Your Aquarium?
Sometimes, the aquarium powerhead reviews are not enough. Because the reviews will give you an explanation of how the features work or inform you of a powerhead’s capacity, however, there are more things to learn before you purchase the best aquarium powerhead.
The best powerheads come with some exceptional quality and features. The powerheads need to be a perfect fit for your reef tank. It has to be compatible with your tank size, must process durable material, and, most importantly, needs to meet your budget. Apart from these, there are a few more things to consider before buying the best reef powerhead.
Not all fish will thrive on the same flow rate. It requires variety based on the type of fish you have in the tank. That’s why you must purchase the one with the best flow pump.
Fish tank flow rate is calculated by the number of times the water gets circulated by the pump. If you have Large Polyp Stony corals or LPS in your fish tank, you will need a powerhead with moderate flow. On the other hand, if you have Small Polyp Stony corals or SPS, they will need higher water flow.
Does It Fit Your Budget?
So many customers ignore this part, yet it is one of the essential ones. There are a vast number of powerheads available, and they come in various price ranges.
The price depends on the material, way of installation, flow rate, and more. Nevertheless, the cost of the best powerheads for reef tank ranges from $20-$300, more or less. So, no matter what your budget is, there are always plenty of options for you.
Does It Have The Right Power?
The best wave maker or powerhead’s power has the same priority as the water flow. Because the power capacity controls the flow, and it affects the entire tank environment.
The level of power will depend on the size or capacity of your tank. If you have a large aquarium, you will need a high-power model. On the contrary, small aquariums require less power. You can read the product description or instructions to determine whether or not the wave maker’s ability is compatible with your fish tank.
Does It Work In Your Size And Type Of Tank?
Your fish tank size and type will determine what should be the capacity of your aquarium powerhead. The capacity of powerheads or wave makers is calculated by gallons per hour or GPH. It is estimated by the amount of water pumped or the number of times the powerhead pump can turnover each hour.
If you have a large tank with more water than the powerhead can pump, you will have to use more than one powerhead. But whatever you do, do not let the current be too strong for the fishes. It can cause mental disturbance and other issues for them.
Does It Ease To Installation And Use?
I remember one time, I almost threw away a powerhead I was installing. You can guess why. The setup was an absolute disaster. So make sure you don’t face the same.
The best way to avoid this type of disaster is to understand different installation processes. You can also download the instructions manual to know everything beforehand.
The powerhead must be compatible with three things: the tank type, tank size, and pump. Missing one of these things can lead you to buy the wrong powerhead. If that happens, there will be two issues.
Either the powerhead will not do its job accurately, or it will not work at all. These issues are not something to ignore, as the only reason to buy a powerhead is to let the fish be healthy and thrive in the tank.
Your aquarium powerhead may get away for a long time if it is in a freshwater tank. But did you know that a saltwater aquarium powerhead can be corrosion-prone?
To resist corrosion or to ensure a powerhead’s long-lasting durability, purchase the one that has high-quality material and is corrosion-resistant. Powerheads with stainless steel or ceramic bodies are more suitable in this regard.
When you put an electronic object inside your tank water, it has to be a hundred percent safe. You are putting your life at risk, along with the fish, if you end up buying an unsafe model.
Because low-quality powerheads or wave makers often lead to short circuits and fire incidents. I do not mean to scare you here. But taking precautions is mandatory.
To avoid the risk, you can use powerheads from well-known brands. They tend to be safer than others. Also, you can use magnet-mount powerheads as they have the system to keep the electronic part outside the fish tank.
As a customer, you are supposed to get service and other support from the seller or manufacturers. However, many customers would often complain about the authenticity of the products and poor customer service.
To make sure your product is authentic, purchase powerheads from well-known and popular brands. They tend to provide better customer support. If possible, check the manufacturer’s official website, product details, durability, and codes, if available, so that you won’t have to face anything unexpected.
The features mentioned above are the must-have features for the best aquarium powerhead. But that was not all. There are some features you need to keep an eye on when purchasing a wavemaker or powerhead. You need to take a closer look at below-
You need to pay attention to what is inside your fish tank. Then you need to consider the power and capacity of the powerhead you want to buy.
Do not purchase anything too powerful. It will make a mess inside the tank. Besides, they are not safe for the fish. And low-powered wave makers will fail to distribute food and other essential elements for the components.
Your entire tank water passes through the powerhead pump many times every hour. That number is referred to as turnovers and also known as the GPH rate.
Powerheads come with a particular turnover level for a specific amount of tank water. For SPS, the turnover needs to happen around 20-40 times. And for LPS, 10-20 times should be enough.
Is your aquarium powerhead energy-efficient? If not, stay prepared to have a sky-high electricity bill at the end of the month. Powerheads tend to be less energy-efficient than wave makers.
However, there are many energy-efficient models available. They require less power to run yet perform their best. They are not even that expensive. Thus, you save both money and energy by purchasing these.
Mounting a powerhead often depends on the size of the tank and the thickness of the glass or acrylic. The mounting system is of two types: a suction cup and a magnet mount.
Suction cup powerheads are installed inside the fish tank. Unfortunately, they often come loose and become useless. Magnet mounts are easy to install and hazard-free.
As I said earlier, if the flow is too high, it will create a mess and threaten the fish. So, the power often needs to be turned low.
That’s why the powerheads should have a control or flow adjustment system. It may take a few attempts to get the accurate flow level.
Aquarium powerheads often create mild to high buzzing and vibrating noise. You may ignore it if you are in a chaotic environment. But let’s face it, we all want some peace from time to time.
So, if your tank’s powerhead is noisy, it ruins the whole beauty of the aquarium. Always check the reviews to know which powerhead is more reliable when it comes to noise.
What Size Is Recommended For Your Tank?
The size of a powerhead depends on a few factors, such as how small or large your fish tank is, what type of corals or components you have in it, and the position you are installing the powerhead.
Let’s say you have a soft coral 50 gallons fish tank. Soft corals need high water flow. That means the turnover rating should be 30-40 times more than your tank capacity. It means you need a powerhead with a 1500-2000 GPH rating.
And if you have a large hard coral tank between 300-500 gallons, you need a 3000-10000 GPH powerhead. Hard corals require less water flow, which is 10-20 times an hour.
How To Choose The Proper Flow Rate For Your Aquarium?
The turnover calculates the flow rate. It is the number of times the flow pump will circulate the entire tank water every hour.
Usually, it would be best if you had a powerhead with a 10-20 times per hour GPH rate for small coral reef tanks. If the tank capacity is 50 gallons, the flow rate needs to be 500-1000 GPH.
The flow needs to be enough for the fish to swim without interruption or danger of getting stuck to the aquarium powerhead pump. Also, it shouldn’t be slow. Otherwise, the tank will end up with dead spots.
Why Do You Need A Powerhead For Your Fish Tank?
Having a powerhead for your aquarium may seem a little pointless at first. But you are not the only one to think that. Many people underestimate the benefits of this device. In reality, it turns out to be more beneficial than you think.
Familiar Environment For Fish
Fishes are more comfortable in moving water. When a powerhead is installed in the tank, it creates water movement that mimics the natural wave.
It brings a sense of familiarity to the fish and makes them feel more comfortable. Thus, it affects the mental and physical conditions of your tank fish.
Stimulate Water And Feed The Corals And Other Aquarium Invertebrates
Fishes are not the only thing in your fish tank that need food. The corals and other invertebrates also require food. And a powerhead makes sure they have it.
When the water moves, it helps move the food around the tank. Thus, the food reaches every corner, feeding both the fish and corals.
Removes Dead Spots
When tank water doesn’t move, they create dead zones. When there are dead zones in the tank, it will start accumulating toxic elements harmful to fish.
But once you have a powerhead set in your tank, it will ensure the waves reach everywhere in the tank. Thus, it will help remove all the dead spots.
It doesn’t matter whether you are a professional aquarist or a hobbyist. When you have a perfect setup aquarium, it increases the beauty of the place. And powerhead helps boost that beauty by creating realistic movements in the water.
In the end, it’s not just the fish that like the creation. It also catches the eyes of anyone who passes by.
Should You Use A Powerhead For Circulating Your Aquarium Water?
Using a powerhead in an aquarium may seem unnecessary. It may seem like an expensive addition to the fish tank that only raises the electricity bill to some people. Well, if you are using the wrong type of powerhead, that can be the case.
However, if you want your fish tank environment to be safe enough for the fish, you will need a powerhead to circulate the aquarium water. It is beneficial in many ways, including adding a realistic wave-like view to your fish tank.
How Do You Install Your Best Aquarium Powerhead?
The type of powerhead determines how you should install it. The instruction manual will give you a step-by-step explanation of it. But, here is basic installation info that can help you understand how you can install one.
- First of all, you need to check the powerhead to ensure it isn’t damaged because a damaged powerhead is hazardous.
- When installing a powerhead, the plug socket should not be splashed by the fish tank.
- To ensure the tank water gets adequately circulated, pick a place to install the powerhead from where the wave will be distributed equally.
- If you are using a suction cup mount powerhead, you only have to stick it to the glass or acrylic of the aquarium. If it is a magnet mount powerhead, you put the wet part on the interior of the tank and the dry part outside.
Q. Is A Powerhead A Circulation Pump?
A powerhead is not exactly a circulating pump. However, they work similarly. A circulating pump has a sump system. The tubes intake water from one way and release it through another.
The head may look similar to a powerhead, so it isn’t easy to distinguish them sometimes. Yet, a circulating pump cannot provide the same stream pressure as a powerhead.
Q. Is Powerhead Good For Aquariums?
Deciding to use powerheads in your fish tank is one of the best decisions you will make. A powerhead’s entire system works much like the filtration system.
First of all, it circulates your tank water and creates realistic wave-like movements. It makes the fish feel safe and creates a familiar territory. The waves created from a powerhead distribute food around the tank and prevent waste from gathering.
Q. Do You Need Powerhead For Saltwater And Freshwater Aquarium?
Here is a small getaway option for you. You can avoid using powerheads in freshwater tanks because freshwater tanks do not require high water flow. The regular movements of fish will keep the environment suitable enough for them.
On the contrary, saltwater does not come with that advantage. It makes the metal bits of the tank corrosion-prone and keeps accumulating toxic elements.
That’s why using a powerhead to keep the saltwater moving becomes essential. Nevertheless, I would suggest using powerheads regarding the type of aquarium you have.
Q. Should I Use A Powerhead For Circulating My Aquarium Water?
Yes, you should. For a safer and healthier tank environment, circulating water is essential. Because the entire process comes with a lot of benefits, it keeps the tank cleaner, boosts the filtration process, and prevents toxic bacteria from growing.
Q. What Is The Difference Between A Powerhead And A Circulating Pump?
The difference between a powerhead and a circulating pump is the pressure they require to work. A circulating pump works using a circulating fan that requires high power.
But it cannot produce strong water flow or current. A powerhead, however, works on high pressure and releases a narrow, strong water stream in the aquarium. Powerheads are more energy-efficient than a circulating pump and also less expensive.
Q. When Don’t I Need A Powerhead?
You don’t need a powerhead in three cases.
- Small Tank: Any tank under two feet does not require a powerhead.
- Sufficient Flow: If you have an internal filter that provides adequate water flow, you won’t need a powerhead.
- Substantial Current: If your tank filter can provide enough water flow to create substantial currents, there is no need to have a powerhead.
Q. How Many GPH Powerheads Do You Need For A 20/30/250/400/500 Gallon Tank?
You need a small aquarium wave maker for your 20/30 gallons tank, which is 100-300 GPH. For 250 gallons, a 2500-5000 GPH powerhead and an 8000-10,000 GPH powerhead for a 400/500-gallon tank will do.
Remember, the GPH rating should be 10-30 times more than your aquarium capacity. And it will vary depending on whether you have LPS or SPS.
Our Verdict And Final Recommendations
Here I’ve divided the powerheads into different categories. It will help you understand which powerhead or circulation pump will work better for your tank size and type.
For Nano Reef Aquariums:
You can purchase the AquaClear 50 Powerhead, Hydor Koralia Nano Aquarium Circulation Pump, and the Marineland Penguin Powerhead. Since small aquariums do not require strong water flow, they are the most suitable powerheads for the job.
For Mid-Size Reef Aquariums And Planted Tanks:
I would recommend the Hydor Koralia Nano Aquarium Circulation Pump as it is always among my saltwater powerhead recommendations. You can also buy the AQUANEAT Aquarium Circulation Pump as it ensures a toxic-free environment for fish and corals.
For Large Reef Aquariums:
I recommend the Marineland Maxi-Jet Pro Pump For Aquariums and the Hygger 2000 GPH Powerhead. Both of these powerheads are strong and versatile enough to handle large fish tanks without any problem.
Buying the best aquarium powerhead is challenging for sure. However, my team and I believe that it will not be complicated if you know what you are looking for. Hence, we decided to review the best ones for you guys.
There are hundreds of them out there. But the right one comes with all the essential features. Sometimes, the drawback for some powerheads can be the price. But, if you have gone through the reviews, you have noticed that there are still options for that.
The tip to buying the right powerhead is to figure out your fish tank. Only then you can figure out what powerhead or circulation pump you need to buy.