Best Aquarium Powerheads Of 2021

All aquariums require the right filtration system to maintain the quality of water. Whether you have a saltwater, freshwater or a reef tank, a filtration system is a must.

But even after installing one, your tank is not thriving, it might be because your tank is missing something.

For this purpose, you may install a powerhead in your aquarium to make sure that it has the perfect environment for the marine life.

What is the use of an Aquarium Powerhead?

It is important in an aquarium that the water keeps moving. Continuously moving water helps the corals, plants, beneficial bacteria, and all the marine animals to thrive well.

For this purpose, a powerhead comes to the rescue. It is a type of pump that is placed underwater in your aquarium to create a nice current, by keeping the water moving around the tank and causing the heater to heat the water.

There are some dead spots in an aquarium, where the water does not move. The spots directly in front of the filter circulates multiple times while the water in the corners does not get any treatment.

The best way to make sure that the water circulates through the entire tank, is to use an aquarium powerhead.

Review of the top 6 Powerheads for your Aquarium

AquaClear 50 Powerhead

AquaClear 50 Powerhead, 270 Gallons per Hour, UL Listed
  • Increases water flow through a gravel substrate and improves its filtering efficiency
  • Provides stronger currents and consistent output over time
  • Maximum flow rate of 270 gph
  • Silent operation; Powerhead lifts water as well as moves it
  • Provides additional safe mechanical filtration

Last update on 2024-05-18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

This versatile powerhead from AquaClear can be used for undergravel filters, to oxygenate the water, and to add filtration accessories.

It has a compact design and is fully submersible, which means that it serves its purpose while being completely hidden.

It is insulated in epoxy resin, which makes it highly durable and keeps the unit protected against harsh conditions.

You can even control the flow of current with this model. It has a flow rate of 270 GPH and is silent while operating, so your pets need not worry.

It is also very easy to install, all you have to do is use the suction cups to place it anywhere.

Cobalt Aquatics MJ Multipurpose Powerhead Pump

Cobalt Aquatics MJ Water Pump Multi-Purpose Powerhead (5W/7.5W/8.5W/20W)
  • Uniquely durable impeller system. The mj’s impeller uses a high-strength nylon infused fin-system that flexes to prevent sand, dirt, pebbles, etc. From damaging the fins and pump.
  • Extremely quiet and reliable. Made in Italy (same as original maxi-jet) and the quality of manufacturing is evident from the moment you turn it on. Cobalt’s MJ is one of the most reliable and quietest pumps on the market. 3-Year warranty.
  • Secure mounting and fully sealed intake. Triple Suction Cup mount ensures the MJ stays in place while it delivers strong power and high lift. Fully sealed intake for allows for internal and external use.
  • Fully rotational and customizable for many uses. See product images for all the many MJ power head/pump Accessories and uses. Includes 6 foot power cord and cord guide.
  • Selection guide. See the product images to determine the best MJ size for your tank.

Last update on 2024-05-18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

This multi-purpose powerhead from Cobalt Aquatics is fully submersible and can tolerate even the harshest water conditions. It has a universal intake tube and an adjustable venturi that comes with a silencer so as to maintain the silence.

You may put one or two of these inside your aquarium, to give the debris a direction to the filter, thus keeping water clearer and cleaner.

The best thing about this powerhead is that it is fully rotational, so you can keep the current flowing exactly how you want. It also uses a triple suction cup mount and a power cord for easy positioning.

SUNSUN JVP Series Submersible Circulation Powerhead Pump

Sun JVP-101A Submersible Circulation Powerhead Pump, 800 GPH, Black
  • High waterproof performance ensures safety and reliability
  • 800 GPH flux and wide-spread range just like an wishy-washy ocean wave, which is ideal for marine aquarium
  • 360 degree rotation to allow full flow directions, Suction cups with articulating ball joints for versatile directions
  • Easy to install - just suck the cupule to anywhere of the in wall, plug in the power and it works
  • Included Components: Pump, Suction Cup

Last update on 2024-05-18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

This fully submersible powerhead from SUNSUN that cycles 800 GPH, is designed to rotate a whole 360 degrees.

Its motor runs oil-free so you do not need to worry about introducing any contaminants inside the aquarium.

This powerhead is very easy to use and setup. All you have to do is to rotate it on the articulating ball joint and create the perfect current.

Installing it is also very easy, just use the suction cups to attach it to the aquarium wall then plug it in and keep the current going. 

Hydor Koralia Nano Aquarium Circulation Pump

Hydor Koralia Nano Aquarium Circulation Pump, Includes Built-In Cable Protector, 565 GPH, Measures 2.4-Inches & is Ideal for Fresh or Salt Water Use
  • New and improved patented vibration absorbing magnet and suction cup support; Can safely hold the Koralia Nano 565 positioned in tanks with glass (or acrylic) up to 1/2" thick.
  • Flow rate of 565 gph; Ideal for fresh water aquariums from 40 to 65 gallons; Salt water acquariums 20-40 gallons
  • Power absorbed: 3.5 Watts. 50% less power consumption and up to 20% more water flow when compared to previous Koralia models
  • Sphere joint & compact design; Adjustable flow direction; Koralia measures 2.4-inches
  • Smaller design than older style Koralia pumps with similar flow rates; Includes cable protector and is ideal to use in tanks with urchins, puffers, parrot fish and triggers

Last update on 2024-05-18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

This powerhead is a great pick as it is energy-efficient and compact. You can use it in any kind of aquatic environment, be it a marine, freshwater or saltwater setup.

With this model, adjusting the flow-direction of current is as easy as turning the simple ball joint. As it can rotate a full 360 degrees, you can create a natural water motion inside your tank.

It has a built-in anti-vibration system that helps in keeping the noise down and thus not bothering the marine animals. You can also attach it very easily by using the magnetic suction cups.

Odyssea EX Powerhead Water Pump Submersible

Last update on 2024-05-18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

With a flow rate of 350 GPH, this powerhead is a perfect pick for tanks sizing between 40 to 60 gallons.

It is easy to install and suitable for both saltwater and freshwater aquarium setups. Plus, it has an airline and strainer to keep debris from collecting in the pump.

It has a compact design and a strong built. The best thing about this powerhead is that it easily snaps into place and does not come apart even during high water pressure.

Also, it provides uninterrupted circulation, and you can add optional accessories to use it as another filter.

MarineLand Penguin Submersible Powerhead Pump for Aquariums

Last update on 2024-05-18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

This powerhead comes with a compact design and is fully submersible. It has an internal air filter that eliminates noise and takes care of dust and debris that could get into the system.

It is also very easy to install. If you want to increase the oxygenation, all you have to do is to place it close to the surface to increase agitation. It also has a custom air valve to adjust the flow of the current.

Points to consider before choosing an Aquarium Powerhead

Before picking the right powerhead for your aquarium, here are some points that should be considered:


For large-sized aquariums, a powerhead is a must. It keeps the fish waste away from collecting in the corners and into the filter.

If you have an aquarium more than 100 gallons, you must consider getting more than one powerhead so as to make sure that the current reaches all the four corners.


Powerheads are rated by how many times the tank water is circulated every hour.

Flow rate is measured in gallons per hour or GPH. Remember that you will need to re-evaluate the tank flow rate as it will grow and expand.


If your tank has a heater and a filter, you might not want to add a powerhead to it. But keep in mind that since powerheads are designed to be installed underwater, the noise is usually muffled. So you need not worry!

Just read the reviews of the model online before purchasing.


Brand reputation matters when it comes to powerheads. Some of the best brands are: Hydor, SUNSUN, Cobalt, Penguin, and AquaClear.


If you have a freshwater or saltwater tank, the kind of powerhead you need will depend on it. They won’t use the same powerhead which will fit a reef tank. So the type of setup your aquarium has, will affect the choice.

What is the Best Powerhead for a Reef tank?

For small reef tanks, Hydor Koralia Nano Aquarium Circulation Pump is the best pick. It is very easy to install because of the suction cups. Plus, you can place it anywhere inside the tank due to its compact size.

The best thing is that it runs very quietly, so that the marine life is not disturbed.

You may also adjust its flow rate with a simple ball joint, which rotates a full 360 degrees. It means that the water flows in all directions, to give your tank a natural, ocean-like current.

This powerhead comes really handy as your reef tank continues to grow overtime, as it is very easy to make adjustments.

How does an Aquarium Powerhead works?

Powerheads can be used for different purposes apart from the basic one which is to circulate water inside the aquarium. They have sealed motors which keeps them safe when submerged underwater.

How a particular powerheads works, is very simple yet interesting. It pulls the water on one side and force it to the other side through an outflow spout. 

To get control over the movement of current inside your tank, you need to notice the position where you place it.

The current created by a powerhead moves the water in all directions, which are out of reach of the filter. It thus helps in losing the debris that is settled at the corners and makes its way towards the filter for removal.

The more the water circulates, the cleaner it will be and there will be less chance of algae growth. It will also help the fish, coral, and plants to stay healthy, as moving water will bring them oxygen and food.

A powerhead is an effective and economical way to make all of the above happen.

How to Install an Aquarium Powerhead?

The basic installation process of an Aquarium Powerhead goes like this:

  1. Place the powerhead inside the tank.
  2. Now plug it into the outlet.
  3. Keep the plug dry and plug it directly into the wall.
  4. Make sure the power cord is out of the way, so that no one can trip over it.


  • Examine the powerhead to make sure there is no crack or damage.
  • Make sure to keep the power cord away from the water.
  • Make sure that the water does not splash the plug.
  • Never use a powerhead with an extension cord.

Where to Place the Powerhead inside an Aquarium?

There are a few factors to be considered before placing the powerhead inside the aquarium:

  1. Consider the kind of organisms you are keeping in your tank, as some will thrive well with strong current while some won’t.
  2. For tanks with live, growing water plants, try mimicking the natural environment of the bottom of a lake or ocean.
  3. For saltwater reef tanks, it is important to mimic the natural environment using powerheads. Since corals are far less forgiving than planted tanks, it is important to get it right.
  4. Consider the tank size before buying a powerhead: For tanks less than 20 gallons, one powerhead will do, while those more than 20 gallons, will require multiple pumps because the force from one powerhead will be able to more the water in only a small section of the tank.
  5. If you want to oxygenate the tank and create some surface movement, place the pump closer to the surface, not underwater.
  6. If you want to create a deeper current, place the powerhead at the bottom.


Even the right filter media is not enough to keep the aquarium environment healthy. This is so because filters can only clean the water right in front of them, which encourages the same water cycling through the entire tank, while stagnant water sitting at the bottom or in the corners.

An easy and affordable way to tackle this is using an aquarium powerhead. While powerheads are usually misguided as a second filter, their main purpose is to create current inside the aquarium, to let the water cycle more efficiently.

Getting the flow rate inside an aquarium right, has a lot of benefits like, delivering food, vitamins and minerals effectively and encouraging the fish to stay active.

It is also important to research the living organisms inside your tank, as some plants do not like strong current while some thrive well in it. This is particularly important for corals as they are really sensitive.


[Revised and Updated for July, 2019]
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Written by Debra Hutchinson, founder of FishXperts

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One Comment

  1. Great article! I bought Cobalt Powerhead through the Amazon warehouse that sells returns but this is a very quality powerhead, the mounting system is very good and it runs nice and quiet. I’ve owned a lot of powerheads over the 5 years I’ve had aquariums and this is the best buy one I’ve had.

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