The 7 Best Powerheads for Saltwater Aquariums

Powerheads are used in marine aquariums to simulate the water movement of oceans

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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.​

Aqua Clear 50 Powerhead

AquaClear Powerheads

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

Hydor Koralia Evolution Aquarium Circulation Pump

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. The 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.

Hydor Pico Evo-Mag 180 Circulation Pump with Magnet Mount

Hydor Pico Evo-Mag Circulation Pump

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.

Marineland Maxi-Jet Pro Pump for Aquariums

Maxi-Jet Powerheads

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.

MarineLand Penguin Submersible Power Head Pump for Aquariums

Penguin Powerheads

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

RIO Plus 1700 Aqua Pump

Rio Aqua Pumps/Powerheads

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.

Tunze Turbelle Stream 2 Controllable Pump

Turbelle Powerheads & Pumps

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 their website to learn more about these and the many other aquarium products this company makes.

Final Verdict

If you're looking for an aquarium powerhead that will work well for any job, we recommend the Marineland Maxi-Jet Pro Pump for Aquariums (view at Amazon). It's submersible and works well with wavemakers, skimmers, and more. The Hydor Koralia Evolution Aquarium Circulation Pump (view at Amazon) is another great option that also boasts compatibility with other aquarium devices.

What to Look for in an Aquarium Powerhead

Flow Rates

On average, you'll want the water in your aquarium to turn over 6 to 10 times per hour. To ensure that your powerhead will do this, calculate the flow rate of your aquarium. Once you have your flow rate, you can look for a powerhead that will generate enough flow to keep your aquarium running smoothly.

Size and Placement

Size isn't as important to powerheads as placement is. You'll want to position your powerhead to move the water towards the front of the aquarium. This will allow the debris circulated by the water to flow into your aquarium's filter. Many aquarists also prefer to buy a couple of smaller powerheads to mount on opposite ends of their tank rather than just one. This helps to prevent stagnant water and dead spots from forming. However, if you have a small aquarium you may not need to buy multiple powerheads.

Compatibility

Some powerheads don't have the capability to work well with other devices found in an aquarium, such as a protein skimmer or wavemaker. The on/off function of a wavemaker can put excess strain on a powerhead and it won't work as it should. Make sure to find a powerhead that will function properly with any additional devices.

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