8 Best Aquarium Powerheads in 2021 (Top Picks)

To have a healthy aquarium, it must have proper water circulation. This way, your fish, corals, live plants as well as beneficial bacteria will be able to thrive. To achieve this you will need the best aquarium powerhead available on the market. A powerhead will not only provide a healthy environment for your aquarium habitats but also has other numerous benefits for them.

If you are new to the world of aquatic life, it is true that you will only want to invest in devices that are worth your money. Likewise, you will need a powerhead that you can rely on and offer outstanding performance. In this article, I will review some of the best on the market along with some tips and recommendations to help you in your search.

Best Aquarium Powerhead Comparison Chart

Product NameBrandWeightAquariumsPrice
Hydor Koralia Evolution Aquarium Circulation PumpHydor1.2 poundsMarine, tropical and freshwater
Aquaneat 400/550/700/800 GPH PowerheadAquanea1.04 poundsFreshwater and saltwater
Fluval Hagen Sea Circulation Pump for AquariumFluval9.6 ouncesFreshwater and marine
Marineland Penguin Submersible Power Head Pump for AquariumsMarineland12 ouncesFreshwater and marine
SUNSUN JP Aquarium Power HeadSUNSUN1.5 poundsFreshwater and saltwater
Aquaclear 50 270 GPH UL listedAquaclear1.5 poundsFreshwater
Marineland Maxi-Jet Pro Pump for AquariumsMarineland1.5 poundsFreshwater and saltwater
Aqueon Aquarium Circulation PumpAqueon13 ouncesFreshwater and saltwater

To help you end up with the right powerhead for your aquarium, we have provided you with detailed reviews and guide. This will help you compare the features of various models and buy the right one.

Are you looking for one of the best-midsized reef planted tank overhead? Then you need to try the Hydor Koralia evolution circulation pump. Energy-efficient powerhead which can be used in Freshwater, tropical as well as marine aquariums. You can use this unit as a stand-alone or team it up with a smart pump controller to achieve better performance.

What I like

It is a versatile powerhead that can be used in freshwater, tropical and marine aquariums. It is compatible with a smart wave circulation pump controller to make operations simple. On top of that, it won’t power wash the plants or corals. The sturdy cage design that protects the spinning impeller from the damage I also liked that it is quiet, easy to set up, stays in its original place and to top it all it is budget-friendly.

What I don’t like

This powerhead, when turned on, makes some annoying clicking sound. Also, it has only two separate water movement programs. The pump sometimes has a voltage leak in case it is not installed correctly.

That’s not all it has a shaftless impeller which will perform effectively together with the energy-efficient motor. This model comes as a second-generation design and it was specially made to move lots of water easily without power washing the plants or even the corals. The impressive feature is the standard gauge that protects the impeller from plant leaves, debris, snails and anything else that can damage it. Furthermore, it has a magnetic mount which will hold the pump firmly to allow you to target the water flow in the direction you want it in the aquarium.

Pros
  • It is affordable and great value for money
  • Magnetic suction cups plus vibration-absorbing tech keep it in place
  • Quiet operations
  • Can be used with a smart controller
  • It is also versatile
Cons
  • Makes noise when used with the controller
  • Voltage leak due to poor installations

If you are looking to provide your fish with the best aeration and also Accelerate water circulation then you might need this Aquaneat powerhead series. They are reliable powerheads which come with a flow rate of 400, 550, 700 and 800 up. These models are submersible powerheads and they will require to be totally submerged in water for them to do their job. They are ideal for saltwater as well as freshwater aquariums.

What I like

You can choose the size suitable for your aquarium and still get the same performance. It comes equipped with a filter basket, suction cups, and an aeration tube. You can be able to use any of the powerhead sizes in a saltwater or freshwater aquarium. The powerheads are quiet during operations, very powerful and you will get them at an amazing price.

What I don’t like

One of the major downsides of these models is that they are not durable enough. Most users said they only lasted a few months. Also, the suction cups on these units are weak and cannot hold the power in place.

Pros
  • Ideal for freshwater and saltwater
  • Which powerhead is affordable regardless of the size
  • Quiet and Powerful operations
  • Effectively change and pump water for a healthy environment
  • Come included with accessories
Cons
  • Not very durable
  • Weak suction cups

Wouldn’t you like an outstanding, reliable powerhead that is also not too big but manageable? Well, the Fluval Hagen sea circulation pump might be what you need. The unit is space-saving and it features numerous perks with great benefits. It is capable of broadcasting an output to help your corals get a gentle in direct current. It is ideal for 25-gallon aquariums.

What I like

The powerhead is compact, efficient, and its hydraulic performance is exceptional. It’s also very quiet and you can safely use it together with a timer system. On top of that, it doesn’t consume lots of energy but will still have a great flow rate. It is also easy to set up and maintain compared to other models.

What I don’t like

The powerhead has got some suction cup issues. These cause a lot of vibrations during operations. It also has some durability issues as some users claim that some parts quit working.

Pros
  • Adjustable flow Direction
  • Easy maintenance
  • Safely works with a timer system
  • Even gentle flow of water
  • Quiet operations
Cons
  • Issues with the suction cups
  • Not very durable

If you need one of the most highly rated aquarium pumps that you can find on the market, then the Marineland penguin submersible pump might be what you need. It has a compact design and it is extremely reliable. The unit is quick and easy to set up as it will immediately get the flow going. On top of that, the unit comes at a reasonable price.

What I like

The flow diffuser that will allow direct water flow. Also, the adjustable aeration helps to increase oxygenation in Freshwater tanks. Moreover, it has got flexible mounting options as well as an adjustable outlet.

What I don’t like

This aquarium powerhead pump doesn’t have enough power. Aside from that its filter isn’t sponge-like meaning, it won’t be very effective in catching debris or other particles in the aquarium.

Pros
  • It doesn't make noise
  • Great value for money
  • Ideal for freshwater and marine water aquariums
  • Equipped with an air valve
Cons
  • The filter isn't effective as a sponge type filter
  • Doesn't have much power

This powerhead is one of those models that have got precise flow blowing in the desired Direction you point it to. It will meet your required water flow needs and you will get it at a reasonable price. It comes with a simple setup process thanks to the fact that it is a submersible powerhead.

What I like

The powerhead is priced well and it will deliver incredible performance. It can be used for many things such as air injector, filter and also a water pump. It will allow you to achieve more for less. The suction cups on this unit are like no other they are strong and reliable to keep the powerhead in place.

What I don’t like

It is made of sample quality plastic. This material can easily break apart or be damaged. Furthermore, the extension hose is hard to attach especially if you are new to power heads. It comes with a lifetime of 6 months to 1 year which is too small for a powerhead.

Pros
  • Affordable and great value for money
  • Ideal for freshwater and saltwater
  • It is versatile
  • Strong and reliable suction cups
  • Quiet operations
Cons
  • Lifetime is short
  • Low-quality plastic construction
  • Extension house is hard to attach

Another amazing powerhead on my list is the aquaclear 50 270 gph ul-listed pump. This is one of my favourite multifunctional powerheads with an impressive performance in all applications. It has got a maximum flow rate of up to 270 gph. It is ideal for raising oxygen levels in Freshwater aquariums with high Fish population, high water temperatures and during treatment of diseases.

What I like

It can provide clean water conditions which are ideal for baby fish Survival. Equipped with suction cups which allow easy and quick installations. On top of that, it has got an output hose adaptor which makes attachment to spray bars, protein skimmers as well as other accessories easy. Works well in the gravel substrate to accelerate and circulate water evenly in the aquarium.

What I don’t like

Although it has some high-quality features, this aquarium powerhead also has a few drawbacks that I did not like. First of all, its reverse flow tends to be unsatisfactory. Also, it doesn’t have a warranty that is fully guaranteed and honored by its manufacturers.

Pros
  • Steady output as well as powerful Currents
  • Easy and quick installations
  • Output hose adaptor for various accessory attachment
  • Maximized water flow in gravel substrate
  • Can rise oxygen levels in highly populated
Cons
  • Unhonoured warranty
  • Poor reverse flow

If you are looking for an aquarium powerhead for saltwater that you can use as a filter or pump then this morning might be what you need. It is versatile and will not consume much energy while performing to your expectations. It can easily be set up, cleaned, maintained and won’t be a problem storing after use. While it is great for saltwater tanks you can also use it for freshwater tanks.

What I like

It is economical, great value for money as it comes as a three-in-one pump. The motor is energy efficient and it will provide outstanding performance compared to some powerhead models. On top of that, it is easy to clean, set up and also maintain in the long run.

What I don’t like

As much as it is fully adaptable it doesn’t have a magnetic attachment. Also during operations, it will produce some irritating sounds which will make the environment unbearable.

Pros
  • Can be used for different applications
  • It has an efficient motor
  • Comes as a three-in-one powerhead
  • Provides even water flow in the tank
Cons
  • Irritating noise during operations
  • Doesn't have a magnetic attachment

The Aqueon aquarium circulation pump is specially made to replicate natural reef and river currents. This circulation pump will help in the acclimation process as new fish, as well as corals, are introduced in the aquarium. This powerhead is ideal for both saltwater and freshwater aquarium. You can also select from the five sizes of this particular model so you don’t have to worry about the size of your tank.

What I like

It’s wonderfully designed motor and impeller that increase water flow in the aquarium. Moreover, it’s capable of replicating Natural River and reef current in the tank by consistently supplying water circulation. The suction cup securely holds the pump in one spot as it operates.

What I don’t like

The minor drawback I saw on this unit is that it has a poorly built mounting ball. This can be damaged after a short time.

Pros
  • Provides natural reef and river Currents
  • Ideal for 75 to 125 gallon aquariums
  • Suitable for saltwater and freshwater aquariums
  • Easy lock suction cups
  • Equipped with an energy-efficient impeller and motor
Cons
  • Poorly designed mounting ball

Buying Guide

Before you purchase a powerhead for your aquarium, there are a few major factors that you need to consider. These will help you select the best for your aquarium habitats.

Noise levels

One of the most important things you have to consider is the noise level that the powerhead can make during operations. Powerheads are normally supposed to be submerged underwater to suppress the noise. However, some Powerheads will still make noises during operations.

Also, a good aquarium must have a filter or a heater to provide a healthier environment to the habitats. Therefore, when adding a powerhead to it, you must choose one that has got very minimal noise levels or one that does not make noise at all during operations. This way it will not scare your fish and you will also have a more peaceful environment.

Your aquarium size

If you have a smaller fish tank size, you can go for any standard powerhead for your tank. You don’t need one which is too powerful. However, if you own a larger size aquarium tank, then I highly recommend you go for a strong efficient powerhead. This way you’ll be able to remove fish waste from the corners and other hidden areas in the tank pushing them to the filter. Also, you can opt to go for more than one powerhead so that water current can be able to reach in all corners of your aquarium.

Aquarium type

This is very straight forward. In case you have a freshwater aquarium, saltwater aquarium or a reef planted aquarium, then the powerhead you select must be rated for such aquariums. These types of aquariums will not be able to use the same powerhead as the other especially reef planted aquariums. You can be able to find a powerhead that can work for both freshwater and saltwater aquariums but won’t work with reef planted aquariums.

Flow Rate

An aquarium powerhead normally comes rated by the number of times the water can be circulated in an hour. The measurement is in gallons per hour (GPH). The water flow rate of a powerhead you choose will depend on how fast you want it to circulate water in the aquarium, what the aquarium has and how many gallons your aquarium can take. The higher the flow rate of the overhead the more powerful and faster it will circulate water.

Easy setup and operation

As a beginner, you would want something that will not stress you as you install and operate it. Go for an aquarium powerhead that is not hard to assemble and has simple operations.

Price and warranty

I would recommend you set your budget first before you select a powerhead. This way you will be able to choose something that will not blow up a hole in your savings and will also be able to do what you want. Choose an affordable powerhead that is reliable, efficient and will not compromise on its quality. Also, consider the Warranty of the powerhead so that you don’t have to worry about quality issues in the future.

Types of powerheads

Aquarium powerheads come in different types. They all come with a specific goal to efficiently direct the flow of water and maintain the overall health of the aquarium. However, how they perform their duties and some of the features are what differentiates them. Let’s take a look at them below.

Propeller powerhead

This type of powerhead is one that uses a propeller to produce power and circulate water around the aquarium. It is also capable of producing natural water flow. A propeller powerhead will move large amounts of water while consuming less energy.

Jet stream powerhead

This type of powerhead comes at a lower price compared to the others. It is also extremely versatile and this makes it more popular among aquarium owners. How to deliver a very potent current by forming a specific course of water.

Cross-flow powerhead

This type of powerhead is quite unique from the two I have mentioned above. It will deliver various flow patterns which are different from the other powerheads. This powerhead will ensure that residues in the aquarium float throughout the aquarium in a more natural mode is not just a single course but in many different variations.

How does an aquarium powerhead work?

By now you know that an aquarium powerhead comes with a sealed motor to allow you safely submerge it in water. Once you fully submerge it in water, you can then turn it on for it to start its work. So the question is how does it work exactly?

Well, the answer is quite simple. A powerhead will work in a way that it will pull water on one side, and then have it forced out through an outflow opening. Remember a powerhead is mainly used for directed water flow, meaning wherever you place it on the aquarium it will give you total control over the direction of the current. It is the current that the powerhead produces that will eventually move the water in all corners of the aquarium.

When water is moving in each corner, it will also move the fish waste, debris or any other residues that might be hiding in those corners especially the substrate. These will go on to circulate in the water until they reach the filter and they are eventually removed. As long as the water keeps circulating, it will not allow any unwanted particles to remain in the aquarium as such there will be fewer algae growth. In the long run, the aquarium will be a healthy environment for the live plants, fish and corals. Furthermore, the moving water will also increase the oxygen, allow more movement in the aquarium and also provide food for the fish.

How to install an aquarium powerhead?

Installing a powerhead will depend on each model. Below I will show you how to install one.

Step 1. Thoroughly check the powerhead to ensure that there are no damages. This way you will be preventing any injuries a voltage leaks that can arise from a damaged or cracked powerhead. Also, make sure that no water will splash onto the plug.

Step 2. Submerged powerhead into the water completely. Once you are done then you can go ahead and plug it into the outlet.

Step 3. Turn on the power supply for the powerhead to begin operating. Remember to always keep the plug dry and the power cord away so that nobody trips over it. Once it begins working then you through with the installation process.

Where should you place the powerhead in an aquarium?

Positioning the powerhead on the aquarium will depend on a few things. One of the major things is the type of habitats that you have in the aquarium. Note that some habitats will require strong current while others will not for them to thrive. Also, if your aquarium has live plants you will have to position the powerhead in a way that it can replicate the natural environment in the ocean.

You will have to press the powerhead in a way that it stirs the surface so that it can produce oxygen to the water and then with the help of the current circulate it downwards to the plants. For a saltwater reef aquarium, they may seem challenging because they mimic the natural ocean environment. For such a setup you’ll have to find out the amount of oxygen that the fish and the plants require in order for you to set up the power accordingly. It may be challenging but with proper research, you can be able to find out the natural oxygen these habitats require so that you can adjust your powerhead to provide them with that exactly.

In case you have got a smaller aquarium, let’s say one of 20 gallons then a single large powerhead will be efficient enough. This one you can place it at a corner or on the wall so that you can easily control the flow as the current will have plenty of force behind it. For larger tanks, you need multiple powerheads so that the force from one powerhead will move water in one section of the tank as the others do the same to have even water flow in the aquarium.

Note that for you to get deeper Currents you will have to place the powerhead closer to the bottom. On the other hand, if you are looking to have more surface movement and oxygen you will have to place the powerhead closer to the surface.

FAQs

Q. What is the main purpose of a powerhead in the aquarium?

A. The main use of a powerhead in an aquarium is to create flow throughout the tank. Powerheads create a current which then allow water to circulate pushing residues, debris and other particles to the filter. This keeps the water healthy and clean at all times. A powerhead also helps to increase oxygen into the aquarium especially if it has a high population of fish.

Q. What size of powerhead do I need for my aquarium?

A. The best way to determine the right powerhead size for your aquarium is to know the flow rate per gallon. It is advisable to follow the thumb rule which is a powerhead having a flow rate of 5 gallons per hour for every gallon of water in your aquarium. For example, you will need a powerhead of at least 145 gallons per hour in case you have an aquarium of 29 gallons.

Q. Which aquarium powerhead brand should I go for?

A. Well, there are a number of powerhead brands on the market today. However, there are a few which are reliable, efficient and performing to meet and satisfy your expectations. Some of these brands include Marineland, Aquaclear, Hydor, SunSun, Aquaneat among others.

Conclusion

As I sum things up, I hope you have learned some of the best aquarium powerheads and are now ready to pick the right unit for your aquarium. It is really important to have the best powerhead if you want to maintain a healthy aquarium.

All of the powerheads I have reviewed are affordable, efficient, reliable and high performing. Some powerheads on my list can also be adapted to act as an additional filter in the aquarium. Keep in mind the few recommendations that can help you to select the best option. I hope you are now ready to go out there with Confidence and purchase the right powerheads for your aquarium.

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