The Best 9 Powerheads for Saltwater Aquariums

Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.

Powerheads are water pumps of various sizes and capacities which can be completely submerged in water. Powerheads are used in saltwater aquariums to move water around in the tank as well as between the tank and a number of pieces of equipment (i.e. protein skimmers). Powerheads are primarily used to duplicate the water movement (surface waves and surge or swell) in the oceans.

Not all aquarium powerheads are created equal. Although there are only a few units suitable for running wavemakers, there are many that have a lot of lifting power that are suited for use with protein skimmers or as a water pump, while others work best for UGF enhancement, if attachments are included. Most all can be used for generating water movement and circulation in aquariums, but taking the time to compare maintenance requirements, cost, features, and GPH rates will help you make a wise choice.​

  • 01 of 07

    AquaClear Powerheads

    AquaClear Powerheads
    Amazon.com

    Hagen's AquaClear Powerheads are true workhorses. These are very well constructed, epoxy filled units which seem to last forever. Two of the models offer a reverse flow feature.

  • 02 of 07

    Hydor Koralia Powerheads

    Hydor Koralia Powerhead
    PriceGrabber

    These fully submersible water pumps revitalize hard-to-access "dead spots" in your aquarium. Magnetic base with articulating ball joint allows a full, 360-degree range of convenient pump positions. Directs water movement to areas of your aquarium never possible with conventional powerheads. Patented propeller design generates water flow that is both powerful and delicate. Suction cup and magnet mounting system measures 2-3/4" diameter and is suitable for aquarium glass up to 1/2" thick. Available in flow rates from 240 gph to 3,250 gph.

  • 03 of 07

    Hydor Pico Evo-Mag Circulation Pump

    Hydor Pico Evo-Mag Circulation Pump
    Photo by PriceGrabber

    The Hydor Pico Evo-Mag Circulation Pump was specifically designed for small nano aquarium systems. This powerhead installs inside the tank and is secured in place with an outside-the-glass magnet. The magnet-suction cup base with articulating ball joint allows directional flow anywhere along a 360-degree axis.

  • 04 of 07

    Maxi-Jet Powerheads

    Maxi-Jet Powerheads
    Amazon.com

    Users have found that the Maxi-Jet Powerheads are not only excellent units for any aquarium job, but they are one of the few powerhead pumps that can withstand the constant on/off strain of being used with wave-making devices.

    Continue to 5 of 7 below.
  • 05 of 07

    Penguin Powerheads

    Penguin Powerheads
    Amazon.com

    With the addition of the optional reverse flow feature, these units will drive a UGF system, allowing only filtered water to enter the gravel.

  • 06 of 07

    Rio Aqua Pumps/Powerheads

    Rio Aqua Pumps/Powerheads
    Amazon.com

    From Taam, Inc., Rio Aqua Pumps/Powerheads are well constructed, delivering high pressure water for most tank functions. Though often used with protein skimmers, they should not be used for constant on/off functions, such as for operating wavemakers or oscillating devices.

  • 07 of 07

    Turbelle Powerheads & Pumps

    Turbelle Powerheads & Pumps
    Amazon.com

    Tunze has an amazing line of powerheads, circulation pumps, electronic controllers and other devices to meet an aquarist's needs. Primarily designed with high efficiency and aquarium care in mind, Tunze's Turbelle brand pumps have various features, but all are quiet and easy to maintain, equipped with low heat emission and power consumption motors, and one of the most appealing features is they can be mounted on an aquarium with Tunze's patented magnetic holder. With too many other great functions to list here, visit Tunze.com to learn more about these and the many other aquarium products this company makes.