How to Increase Water Circulation in Your Aquarium

How to Increase Water Circulation in Your Aquarium

Saltwater aquarium hobbyists often discuss water circulation to mimic waves. However, freshwater setups can have a lack of flow which can lead to problems. Fish tanks (especially large ones) with lots of decorations or hardscape can develop dead zones where lots of debris collects and algae starts to grow. Increasing water circulation can help (a) stir up waste particles so they get collected by the filter, (b) evenly distribute nutrients for aquarium plants to consume, and (c) improve surface agitation so that fish have enough oxygen to breathe. Plus, some species like rainbow shiners and hillstream loaches are used to living in fast flowing rivers and may appreciate greater current in their environment. In this article, let’s talk about different ways to get better water circulation in your aquarium.

Water Circulation to Gentle Flow

If you have a smaller fish tank and/or only need slow to normal amounts of flow, then a regular aquarium filter can provide sufficient current for your needs. You can read our guide to fish tank filters about the many types of filtration – such as sponge, hang-on-back (HOB), and canister filters. Each of these options is good for filtering the water and creating surface and current agitation. Moving water at the top of the aquarium is important because it prevents oily biofilm from developing on the surface and encourages good gas exchange, where carbon dioxide (exhaled by your fish) is released into the air and new oxygen (for the fish to breathe) enters the tank.

If you have baby fry or a betta fish with long flow fins, sponge filters are one of the gentlest filters on the market. Canister and HOB filters are stronger options. They use motors to move water and have an adjustable flow valve that can increase or decrease output speed. In cases where you have adequate filtration but need a little extra flow in a stagnant corner of the tank, consider adding a simple air stone with an air pump. The bubbles created by the air stones move water as they rise, and cause surface agitation when their bubbles pop.

If you have slow-moving fish or baby fry, a sponge filter can provide sufficient water circulation without stressing them out.

Water Circulation for Faster Flow

For larger aquariums or fish tanks that need faster flow, a power head is great option because of its versatility in multiple applications. A powerhead is a submersible pump that takes in water and then sprays out powerful water from its output. This device can be used for water changes, DIY filtration, or to boost the circulation of your aquarium.

The Aquarium Co-Op power head circulates over 200 gallons per hour and has an extra-long, 11.8-foot power cord to reach almost any outlet.

How big of a power head do I need? Some websites say that water should circulate around a tank at least four times an hour, so if you have a 100-gallon tank, then you need a filter and/or powerhead that can move 400 gallons per hour (GPH). In our experience, the ideal flow rate depends on the plants and animals in your aquarium because some species can’t handle strong current and may become sick from all the stress. If you see that your fish and foliage are being whipped around the tank, choose a less powerful filter or power head. You can also try dispersing the flow by adding a spray bar or directing the output into a wall to decrease the kinetic energy.

How many watts does a powerhead use? Each model is different, but the Aquarium Co-Op power head uses 10 W of power to produce 211 GPH or 800 liters per hour (LPH).

A power head can be used to filter water. Many people use them to transfer water from their aquarium sump filter (which is a type of custom filtration) back into the fish tank. We also designed our powerhead pump to fit perfectly with the Aquarium Co-Op sponge filters. An air pump is typically used to run a sponge filters and draw water through it. By attaching a power head to the sponge filter instead, water is pulled through the foam at higher speeds, resulting in greater mechanical filtration and clearer water. Although this can clog foam faster so it is more difficult to clean, Aquarium Co-Op sponge filter are made from coarse foam that is not as easy to block.

Attach a powerhead to the uplift tube at the sponge filter to remove water particles faster.

What’s the difference between a powerhead and a wave maker? A fish tank powerhead typically shoots a narrow jet of water in one direction, whereas a wave maker is meant to imitate the back-and-forth motion of ocean waves.

My Powerheads Where Do I Place Them?

You can identify dead areas in your aquarium by looking for debris or blue-green algae growth in particular places. Using a power head can help disperse the decaying organics in those stagnant regions so that they get sucked up by the filter, thus making your water clearer overall.

If your heater has a “low flow” indicator that constantly goes off, consider putting the power head near it so that the heated water can spread throughout the rest of the fish tank and eliminate any hot or cold spots.

Our power heads are best placed near the aquarium’s top to prevent oil slicks from forming and to agitate the water. When the pump is placed near the ground, it may stir up the substrate and cause cloudy water. If you want to hide the power head, try blocking it with a fish tank decoration or tall plants. You can also use a black background so that blends in better with the back of the aquarium.

Ideally, position your powerhead in an area that targets stagnant locations while remaining relatively far from sight.

It could have become clogged with time and reduced the output of your powerhead pump or aquarium filter. Follow the instructions on the manual to clean it. The performance will return to normal. To keep your aquarium ecosystem healthy and ensure proper water circulation, you can check out the Aquarium Co-Op powerhead.