Aquarium Pumps: The Complete Review Of The Best Aquarium Pumps

It’s hard to imagine a modern aquarium without something as useful as an aquarium pump.

This handy piece of equipment allows you to create a healthy environment for all your tank inhabitants.

There is a great variety of pumps available, and you will definitely be able to find a model that suits your needs as well as your wallet.

Being able to choose a good fish tank pump yourself is just as important as knowing how to properly decorate, set up and look after your tank. It’s a skill that is beneficial to everyone, regardless of the previous experience.

Keep reading to learn about the different types, what makes a good aquarium pump and also, our reviews of the best aquarium pumps.

Aquarium Pump Overview (101)

What is an Aquarium Pump?

An aquarium pump is a piece of equipment used in almost every aquarium these days. It provides a constant supply of aerated water for your fish.

These pumps also stabilize water pressure inside the tank to ensure that certain external/internal filters function properly.

They can also be used to help certain pieces of equipment function, such as undergravel filters, air stones and ornaments.

There are three main types of pump: external, internal and universal. Each one has its own pros and cons (more on this later), but they all function pretty much the same. Thankfully, the type of pump isn’t the first thing that decides the price. The main factors are going to be the power and size of the pump.

Although pumps from well-known manufacturers might seem expensive at first, it is well worth it because cheaper pumps tend to vibrate, which can be very irritating for aquarium inhabitants.

Fish tank pumps are one of the most important bits of equipment alongside heaters. They assist in creating a healthy environment for the fish and other living creatures that you might want to keep.

Aquarium Pump

Do You Need An Aquarium Pump?

Aquarium pumps can be an extremely useful piece of equipment for every aquarist, but is it necessary? Here are some facts to help you make up your mind.

The first case when you will need an aquarium pump is when you have a filter that operates thanks to the current created by the pump. Without any assistance, your filter simply wouldn’t work.

In most cases they are used in large tanks to make sure there is sufficient mixing and oxygenation. It can sometimes be very hard to reach all the parts of the tank just by using a single filter – this is where the aquarium pump comes in.

It will create enough water movement to carry nutrients and distribute them evenly throughout the tank – this raises the overall water quality and prevents diseases.

A powerful pump combined with a good filter can do wonders in the aquarium.

Also, aquarium pumps become a handy tool when you have a number of plants or decorations. The flow created by the pump will make your tank look more dynamic and interesting.

Different Aquarium Pumps

Aquarium Air Pump

The Quietest Aquarium Air Pump - Tetra Whisper
The Quietest Aquarium Air Pump – Tetra Whisper

This air pump comes in 5 different sizes to suit nano tanks, all the way up to large 100 gallon setups.

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An air pump is used to circulate air through the tank more efficiently – in larger tanks this becomes even more important.

The whole operation is revolved around a small membrane, usually made up of plastic or rubber that is rapidly moved to create a flow of air.

As you can imagine, this also means that there will inevitably be some amount of noise created. Generally the more expensive the pump the quieter it will be.

Aquarium Water Pump

Homasy Submersible Pump
Homasy Submersible Pump

This quiet submersible water pump has an adjustable flow rate, comes with two nozzles and a 12 month warranty.

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In-Line Water Pump

Great Quality In-Line Water Pump
Great Quality In-Line Water Pump

This is the only pump to feature integrated 5/8” hose barbs and locking rings and can be installed to push or pull water through your tank.

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In-line pumps are mainly driven by a small rotor inside a case, just like a small filter.

These pumps are mostly external, however there are some internal ones. They are usually small and can be installed just above the water surface which makes them easier to clean.

Aquarium Sump Pump

A Powerful Sump – The Fluval Hagen Sump Pump
A Powerful Sump – The Fluval Hagen Sump Pump

This sump delivers a powerful flow rate at different head heights and is ideal for marine setups.

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Aquarium Filter Pump

The Affordable Filter Pump – Aqueon QuietFlow Filter
The Affordable Filter Pump – Aqueon QuietFlow Filter

This filter comes in six different sizes; it is self-priming and will start up automatically after cleaning or power failures.

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The filter pump helps to assist the primary filtration system.

Once again, larger tanks are more likely to need it to help maintain a good chemical balance.

Aquarium Dosing Pump

The Best Aquarium Dosing Pump
The Best Aquarium Dosing Pump

This programmable dosing pump can automatically dose liquid chemicals and supplements into your tank.

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The aquarium dosing pump is the best tool for aquarium enthusiasts dedicated to the tank environment. You might have heard of automated aquarium feeders. This pump functions pretty much in the same way.

It helps you regulate water chemistry as precisely as possible by adding required compounds or other constituents to the aquarium. This is a great and innovative way to deal with everyday problems of aquaculture.

Aquarium Powerhead

Aquarium Circulation Pump: The Sun Powerhead
Aquarium Circulation Pump: The Sun Powerhead

Coming in a number of different sizes, this powerhead is totally submersible and ideal for freshwater and marine aquariums.

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A powerhead is similar to a pump, in that it creates a current under the water.

Powerheads are perfect for aquariums with fish that prefer a fast water flow, and whose natural habitat is a river or fast flowing stream.

How to Choose the Best Aquarium Air Pump for Your Aquarium

Fish Tank

Choosing the right type of aquarium pump is the key to making sure it will serve your tank for a long time.

Filtration Type

To start off, you first need to decide what filtration type your aquarium requires. If you are planning to use the pump for flow creation, then a relatively low-powered pump should be fine.

As we mentioned earlier, if you are going to use a filter that is operated by air, then you will have to get an air pump.

If in doubt, just read our brief introduction to pump types above.

Flow Rate

After filtration type is figured out, you need to think about the flow rate.

It all comes down to the volume of your tank and how much you have inside. Generally you should aim for 4 times your tank volume per hour. So a 20 gallon tank needs a flow rate of 80 gallons per hour.

You might also want to create some additional current for aesthetic reasons, for example if you have a good amount of plants or decorations with moving parts.

Plumbing Considerations

Aquarium pumps are not the smallest pieces of equipment and will require lots of other connecting pieces. This is important to consider if you don’t have much space.

Larger aquariums will need all sorts of output and supply pathways, especially with pumps.

It’s also really important to decide before how much free time you have to maintain the whole system. Besides, assembling and routing everything can take quite some time.

How Many Devices Will it Power

You would be surprised by the amount of other equipment a pump can power.

The type of pump also dictates how much equipment is going to be powered by it. Understand your priorities to make sure that you get the best possible fit.

Also be sure to check whether the pump is suitable for your tank, its volume and setup.

How to Install and Maintain and Aquarium Pump?

Aquarium Air Pump

The installation process of the aquarium pump depends on the type chosen.

Most pumps are universal and can be installed either inside or outside the tank using different suckers or special tools to fix them in place. Submersible pumps, on the other hand, should be fully underwater in order to properly function.

It is also worth paying attention to the case of the pump. Models on the cheaper end of the price range are often made using plastic and are less reliable.

The main aspect of maintaining an aquarium pump is looking after the filtrating material, which in most cases is a sponge. The sponge requires thorough cleaning (bi-weekly) and replacement (bi-monthly)

Unfortunately, cleaning out all the nasty stuff after feeding your fish can be a real nightmare. You can slightly ease your pain by switching off the pump during feeding. Turn it back on after 1-1.5 hours after your pets have finished eating.

Aquarium Pump FAQs

Where Should I Place My Aquarium Pump?

Where you place the pump will be determined by the installation type of the pump as well as its function.

If not carefully thought through, this can ruin all your plans and leave you without enough space.

How Loud Are Aquarium Pumps?

Loud sounds are one the biggest problems associated with fish tank pumps and many manufacturers have been working to tackle this problem. The sound might not only be irritating for the owner but also harmful to the aquarium inhabitants.

The noise an aquarium pump makes again depends on its function, size and installation type.

However, on average expensive pumps tend to make less noise and overall prove to be eco-friendlier in terms of disturbance.

Summary

The aquarium pump is a piece of fishkeeping equipment that will be useful to any hobbyist who wants to improve the living conditions in the tank. Its ease of installation and maintenance made it one of the most popular tools in the world of aquaculture.

There is a wide range of pumps available. They can help you transport the water, filter, improve water quality, aerate the tank or aid with dosing of chemicals.

The aquarium pump is a great find and will be beneficial to almost any setup. If you have never thought about getting one, now is the time to reconsider!

Do you use an aquarium pump? Let us know in the comments section below…

Robert Woods Portrait
Robert Woods is the creator of FishKeeping World, a third generation fish keeper and a graduate in animal welfare and behavior. He is also a proud member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the Marine Aquarium Societies of North America and the Nature Conservancy.

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