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. 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. 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. These options can be used to filter and clean the water as well as create 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. 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. If you need to add some flow to a corner of your tank that is stagnant, but have sufficient filtration, consider using an air pump with simple air stones. The bubbles from the air stone move water as they rise and create surface agitation when they pop.
If you have slow-moving fish or baby fry, a sponge filter can provide sufficient water circulation without stressing them out.
Water Circulation to Increase 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 is useful for speeding up water changes and DIY filtration. It can also boost your aquarium’s water circulation.
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. If the flow is too strong, you could try dispersing it by using a spraybar or directing the output towards a wall to reduce the kinetic energie.
How much power does a powerhead need? The Aquarium Co-Op powerhead produces 211 GPH, or 800 liters per 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. We also designed our powerhead pump to fit perfectly with the Aquarium Co-Op sponge filters. Normally, an air pump is used to run a sponge filter and gently draw water through the foam material. 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. The method can potentially clog the foam more quickly so that you have to frequently clean it, but Aquarium Co-Op sponge filters are made with coarse foam that does not become obstructed as easily.
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.
Where Should I Place My Powerheads?
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.
So that oil slicks are prevented and the water surface is agitated, we like to place our power heads near top of the aquarium. 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. A black background can be used to blend in with the back of your aquarium.
Ideally, place your power head in a location that targets stagnant areas while staying relatively out of 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.