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7 Best Saltwater Powerheads for Awesome Flow in Your Reef Tank

The ocean is always moving. Waves, tides, and currents mean that most of the ocean never really experiences stagnant water. Depending on the species, most saltwater fish and corals have evolved to thrive in water with at least some circulation.

One of the tools that you can utilize to simulate circulation in your reef tank is a saltwater aquarium powerhead or wave maker. Aquarium powerheads rests under the surface and circulate the water around the tank.  They do not have any filtration capabilities, but steady water circulation is absolutely necessary for a heathy saltwater aquarium.

In our detailed article, we will discuss the benefits of using an aquarium powerhead and how to set them up around your tank for optimal results. In addition, we will walk through detailed reviews of some of the best aquarium powerheads on the market.

Nano Saltwater Aquarium
Nano reef tank with powerhead in upper right hand corner

Best Powerheads For Saltwater Tanks

Here are a few of the best saltwater powerheads based on price, reliability, and functions:

1. Hydor Koralia Evolution

Hydor Koralia Evolution 1050/1150 Aquarium Circulation Pump, 1050-1150 GPH
  • New and improved mount featuring vibration...
  • Safe for use with wave-timers
  • Higher flow rates and lower energy consumption...

Hydor is an Italian company that has been producing aquatic accessories and equipment for many years.  You may have seen their name in other blog posts that we have written. Powerheads & wavemakers are just another piece of equipment that this company makes.

Hydor has 4 options in their Koralia Evolution line.  The options correspond to their Gallons Per Hour (GPH) that the units put out.  The base unit puts out between 550 and 600 GPH, the next unit up 750 to 850 GPH, the next 1050 to 1150 GPH, and the highest grade unit 1400 to 1500 GPH.

This means that the Hydor Koralia is capable of handling reef tanks from 30 gallons all the way up to 175 gallons depending on the model you choose. If you own a nano tank, Hydor also makes a Nano Aquarium Model that is perfect for tanks upder 30 gallons.

One of the features that users like the most about this unit is it uses a dual magnet and suction cup mounting system that helps to eliminate noise from vibration.  It is also a low energy use design so that it will not suck up all of the power on your bill.

Overall, the Hydor Koralia circulation pump is a tried and tested product that tons of reef-keepers trust with their tanks. In our opinion, you can’t really go wrong with this one.

2. Jebao WP-25 Wave Maker with Controller

No products found.

Jebao has been selling water garden and aquarium equipment since 1998.  From pond to aquarium, they have equipment to help you meet your needs.  As a company, Jebao believes that innovation and passion are required to produce the best products.

Jebao offers a selection of powerheads at different sizes and space.  The options that they offer on Amazon are the WP-10, WP-25, WP-40, and WP-60.  With these models, the larger the number, the bigger the fan is and the more water you can push around.  The higher number powerheads shouldn’t be used in smaller tanks unless you have fish that specifically require it.

The WP series of powerheads come with several different power settings.  There is a high option puts out a high flow of water with a constant push.  With low you can set it to put out only a low flow.  For the WP1 option, the pump puts out a pulsing flow that allows the creation of a back and forth motion.  WP2 and WP3 create flow patterns by speeding the powerheads up and down as it runs.

3. Aquaneat Circulation Pump

AQUANEAT Circulation Pump, Aquarium Wave Maker, Fish Tank Powerhead Submersible Water Pump with...
  • Flow Rate: 480GPH (1850L/H), ideal for 60 gal...
  • Enhance Filtration: 360° rotation flow directions...
  • Circulation: Mimic natural current to create water...

The Aquaneat circulation pump is a relatively new player to the game and definitely a budget friendly pick. Aquaneat produces several sizes, from a 480GPH (best for 30-60 gallon reef tanks) all the way up to 2100GPH (up to 150 gallon aquariums.

Considering the price, I wouldn’t expect anything too impressive, such as controllers / programming, from these models – but they will definitely get the job done if you’re just looking to add some circulation to your reef tank.

4. Tunze USA Nano Stream

Tunze 6045.000 Nano Stream Propeller Pump for Aquariums, Up to 135-Gallon
  • Quiet Operation
  • 3D Adjustability
  • Strong Magnet Mount with Silence Clamp

Trunze is a German company that produces aquarium accessories to help aquatic aficionados enjoy their fish tanks.  They have been providing equipment for fish tanks since 1960.  As a company, they promise to surprise their customers with continuing innovation and design.  Their company website also has instructions and videos for those that need assistance in the setup of their powerhead.

This powerhead comes in one size but is a variable speed unit that is able to handle tanks that are up to 135 gallons.  Despite being small, the unit is very versatile.  It is capable of putting out between 400 and 1,175 GPH.

Like some of the other units on this list, this powerhead functions with a magnetic hold.  It also uses a cup to reduce the noise of the unit.  The mount can also be adjusted to point in a variety of different directions.  That way you have pretty much unlimited options for the direction that the pump can put out water.

5. Uniclife Controllable Wave Maker

Uniclife 2100 GPH Controllable Wavemaker with W-25 Controller and Magnet Mount for Marine Freshwater...
  • Adjustable flow speed(press the “speed”...
  • Quiet operation, Ideal for marine, freshwater or...
  • Adjustable flow: from 1180 to 2100 GPH;Power...

Uniclife is a company that develops products for multiple different industries.  While we were unable to find a website for their company, they have a variety of highly rated products on Amazon and other online retailers.  A good amount of their products are for aquariums.

The Uniclife UL210 water pump is capable of a max flow rate of 2100 GPH.  This equates to tanks of between 20 and 60 gallons.  It consumes 23 W of power.  Utilizing a magnet, the UL210 can be placed anywhere in a fish tank.

Overall the UL210 can be used for a variety of purposes.  That includes controlling the flow speed from fast to slow.  With a 360-degree rotation, you can cover any part of the fish tank and be able to pump water wherever in the tank that you desire.  It also features quiet operation so as to be optimal for all types of fish.  Controls for the UL210 are easy but have more advanced features if you need them.

6. SUN 2 Piece Circulation Pump

SunSun 2 X 1300 GPH Circulation Pump Wave Maker Aquarium Reef Powerhead with Suction Cup Mount
  • Fully submersible water pumps generate a wide and...
  • Wide-spread range just like a wishy-washy ocean...
  • 360 degree rotation to adjust flow in any...

Since 1985 SUNSUN has been creating aquariums and aquarium accessories.  Despite the fact that they make aquarium equipment, and focus heavily on innovating their products.  With subsidiaries and plenty of staff members, they have the power to follow through on that.  With all of that power they have crafted a well rated powerhead.

The JVP Series comes in three power options, 530 GPH, 800 GPH, and 1,300 GPH.  While the 1,300 GPH unit only comes in a pack of 4, you have options for the other two.  You can get a single powerhead of the 530 or 800 but you can also get a double package.  All of these options provide you the power you need to provide pumps to any size tank.

You can direct flow on the JVP Series powerhead with the 360-degree rotation.  The unit utilizes a suction cup to connect to the glass on a tank and as such can mitigate some of the noise that is generated by the fan.

Most importantly about this unit is that it is oil free.  That translates to being safe for your fish.  No pollution or muckiness added to the water.

7. Maxspect Gyre

In 2009 a group of friends and aquarium enthusiasts started Maxspect.  They wanted to create a company that brought some life to the aquarium world and was run by hobbyists for hobbyists.  They succeeded, their products are now sold around the internet and in retail stores.

The Maxspect is actually a wavemaker but functions in the same way that a powerhead does and is able to create a current flow in your tank.  It is also able to put out as much, or more than leading powerheads. 

Utilizing a strong magnetic mount this unit holds onto a tank and is able to pump water.  One of the specialties of this pump is the controller that comes with it.  You can connect multiple XF250s together and control them from one controller.  You can also set up batteries and use advanced options.

Main Factors to Look For When Choosing a Powerhead

Here is a summary of the main considerations that you should look at when choosing a powerhead for your reef tank.

Flow Rate

Flow rate is the amount of gallons per hour (GPH) that your powerhead outputs. Deciding of the optimal flow rate depends on the type of coral that you plan on keeping.

If you’re mainly keeping soft corals and LPS corals, you should aim for a turnover rate of 10 to 20 times per hour. You can calculate turnover by dividing your the GPH rating of your powerhead by your total tank volume. For example, a 30 gallon reef tank running a 600GPH power would have a turnover of 20x (600 / 30 = 20).

SPS corals usually prefer stronger circulation, so try to aim for a turnover of 20 to 40 times per hour. As a result, SPS tanks will require a stronger powerhead compared to soft coral tanks.

Size

Powerheads can be pretty bulky inside reef tanks and they’re extremely difficult to hide. Because you often have to point them in a very specific direction, you often don’t really get to decide exactly where you want it placed. For this reason, I think it is worth the money to spend a little more for a powerhead with a smaller profile to help keep the aesthetic of your tank clean. Who wants a giant black pump in the middle of their expensive reef tank?

Brands

As a general rule, I don’t like to be overly picky with price when it comes to mixing electricity and water. This goes for filters, heaters, protein skimmers, pumps, etc. While you may be able to save a few dollars going with an off-brand powerhead, you may be risking your entire aquarium if something goes wrong.

Why Should I Use A Powerhead In My Aquarium?

Powerheads are used in aquariums to get water flowing. This is extremely beneficial for a variety of reasons.  Most importantly, powerheads help simulate a natural current.  Currents help aerate water, transport food for corals, and keep consistency throughout the tank.

Powerheads also help to prevent water from becoming stagnant.  If water is constantly moving, at no point is the water a different temperature or allowing debris to settle down.  This is especially important for larger tanks where a lot of water is sitting still.  You can use a powerhead to circulate water from a heater to help disperse it too.  This way, the water will stay at a constant temperature instead of just warming up right next to the heater.

Some low-quality powerheads are missing essential safety components and that leads some experts to not recommend them.  You want to purchase quality powerheads that are in a sealed container and have a grounding wire so that your fish are kept safe from stray electricity.  Also, it is important to use a powerhead that doesn’t produce too much heat.

How Should I Position The Powerhead?

For a small aquarium, you can use one powerhead at an end of the aquarium to create a current like a river.  A lot of experts recommend that you create a flow of at least 6 tank rotations per hour.  10 rotations of the water in the tank per hour used to be standard but experts are starting to say that a rotation of up to 20 times per hour is even better.  Alternatively, you can also use two powerheads in a tank, one at either end that create a wave like pattern of water flow in the tank.

Medium tanks should use a powerhead at various points of the tank to help encourage the flow.  Two or more powerheads should be used in medium tanks.  For two heads, position them at opposite ends.  At three, position them in opposing positions.  For four, you can place one in each corner.

For tanks that are larger you want to use enough powerheads to get water flowing around the tank.  Also, watching fish behavior is one way to discover what the proper amount of powerheads is.

What Are The Benefits Of Using A Powerhead?

Powerheads bring with them a lot of benefits.  We have already mentioned a few of them but we are going to break down more of them for you here:

  • Constant water flow
  • Equalizing temperature across the tank
  • Many fish like flowing water, especially saltwater fish and corals
  • Oxygen is carried around the tank more efficiently
  • Deters bacteria and algae growth in tank
  • Adjustable flow to meet your needs
  • Can be combined with other flow tools such as a wave generator

Final Thoughts

A powerhead can make a real difference in your aquarium, plus it never hurts to keep your fish happy.  These are a selection of the top 6 units we could find based on experience, reviews, and technical specifications. 

Have you used one of these aquarium powerheads or another one?  Let everyone know in the comments down below!

1 thought on “7 Best Saltwater Powerheads for Awesome Flow in Your Reef Tank”

  1. Hi there! Thanks for sharing a great article!
    Could you tell me aquarium circulation pump vs. powerhead: What is the difference? Thanks in advance!

    Reply

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