How to Increase Water Circulation in Your Aquarium
Water circulation is commonly discussed in the saltwater aquarium hobby in order to imitate the movement of waves, but not having enough flow can also be a problem in freshwater setups. 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. Some species, such as rainbow shiners or hillstream loaches, are used to living near rivers and may be more comfortable with higher currents. This article will discuss how to increase water circulation in your aquarium.
Water Circulation for 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. All of these options are good for not only filtering and cleaning the water, but also creating current and surface 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. If you’re looking for something a little stronger, canister and HOB filters use motors to move the water and often have an adjustable flow valve to increase or decrease the 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 in the air stone create surface agitation by rising water and moving it as they do.
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 simply refers to a submersible water pump. It takes water from the input, and pumps out a strong stream of water from it. This device can be used to speed up water changes, create your own DIY filtration, and of course boost water circulation in 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 large a powerhead should I get? Websites state that water should be circulated around a tank at a minimum of four times an hour. This means that if your tank is 100 gallons, you need a filter/or powerhead that can move 400 GPH (gallons per hour). Our experience shows that aquariums have different flow rates depending on their species. Some species are unable to handle strong current and can become sick. 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.
What wattage does a powerhead consume? Every model is different but the Aquarium Co-Op powerhead uses 10W to produce 211 GPH (or 800 liters an 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. The powerhead pump is designed to be compatible with Aquarium Co-Op sponge filter. An air pump is typically used to run a sponge filters and draw water through it. Attaching a powerhead to the sponge filter will allow water to be pulled through the foam at higher speeds. This results in better mechanical filtration and clearer waters. 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 power head to the uplift tube of the sponge filter to strain particles from the water at a faster rate.
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 find dead spots in your aquarium’s water by looking at where the algae is growing or debris is accumulating the most. A power head can be used to disperse any decaying organics that have remained stagnant. The filter will then absorb them, making your water cleaner 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.
Place your power head where it targets stagnant areas, but keep it out of sight.
If you notice that the output of your aquarium filter or powerhead pump has decreased in strength, it may have gotten clogged over time. You can clean the filter by following the manual’s instructions. The performance should return back to normal. To keep your aquarium ecosystem healthy and ensure proper water circulation, you can check out the Aquarium Co-Op powerhead.