Water circulation is important for a healthy reef aquarium. Corals, fish, and reef invertebrates need water movement in order to thrive; water movement mimics their natural environment in the ocean, where water is constantly moving. Aquarium wavemakers can help you achieve the required motion so using the best aquarium wave maker is an important part of setting up your tank.
In this guide, we’ll discuss why you need a wave maker and how to choose the best wave maker for your situation. We’ll also explore individual product reviews so you can find the best aquarium wave maker for your tank.
Best Aquarium Wave Maker Options:
What is the Best Aquarium Wave Maker?
Our favorite wavemaker is the Hydor Koralia Evolution 1400/1500 Aquarium Circulation Pump, 1400-1500 GPH. Hydor has a strong reputation in the fishkeeping industry, which means you’re going to get a quality product. The Evolution has been around for a long time so thousands upon thousands of aquarists have used this model successfully before you. It doesn’t have all of the bells and whistles of some of the newer models, but we value its reliability, especially for such a crucial piece of equipment as a wavemaker.
Why do you Need an Aquarium Wavemaker?
In the ocean, water is constantly moving and circulating. Aquarium wavemakers are designed for marine and reef aquariums to simulate ocean conditions and create a natural environment for your corals, fish, and invertebrates.
An aquarium wave maker is a small machine that simulates water surges. They create small waves in your saltwater aquarium, creating more natural conditions for your tank inhabitants.
In addition to creating a more natural ecosystem for your marine tank, wavemakers also circulate potentially toxic substances in your water. The movement of these substances helps reduce concentrated pockets, making it more likely your fish, coral, and invertebrates will remain healthy.
Another benefit of wavemakers is that they help deliver food to corals and other invertebrates that cannot search for food without some assistance. Nobody is going hungry when a wavemaker is around!
Depending on the model, some wave makers allow you to choose from rolling, smooth, or turbulent waves. Some also allow for a feed mode for specifically targeting the proper spreading of food for your invertebrates and corals.
Because of these reasons, wave makers are a critical piece of equipment for a healthy, functioning saltwater tank.
Types of Aquarium Wave Makers and Pumps
If you are new to aquariums, there are a lot of different pieces of equipment to learn. There are multiple types of pumps with different functions that we break down below. Not all are suited to wavemakers so it is important to understand before making a purchase. The three types of aquarium pumps are:
Not surprisingly, these are pumps used for filters. They are designed to create a high water pressure stream and have an impeller to resist back pressure. As a stand-alone pump, it is not suited for wave-making. Filter pumps stick with filters.
The purpose of a circulation pump is to pump water from one area to another. They are also known as return pumps. Typically, their ideal placement is the bottom of a sump or an external placement. While extremely important, they are not suitable for wavemaking.
Powerheads are powerful. They produce a narrow, high-pressure water flow. They can be paired with diffusers to soften the water flow. They are notorious for sucking up small fish (sorry Tetras!) because of their design. They can be used with wavemakers but must be paired carefully to make sure they’re compatible.
AC vs DC Wavemakers
Another factor to consider with wavemakers is the difference between AC and DC Wavemakers.
AC wavemakers are the older models of wavemakers. They’re plug-and-play and less customizable. Because they’ve been around forever, they have proven parts and engineering, meaning they’re reliable and less prone to failure. They also tend to be cheaper than DC wavemakers. The downside of AC wavemakers is that they’re usually louder and consume more energy to run, making them more expensive long-term.
DC Wavemakers are the newest technology. They can be programmed with controllers so if you want max control on your tank, DC is the way to go. They use less energy than AC wavemakers, produce more gallons per hour, and are typically quieter. They’re typically more expensive. Given their ability to customize, they’re also less reliable, especially on the budget end of the scale.
How to Find the Best Aquarium Wave Maker for your Tank (Factors to Consider when Buying a Wavemaker)
Tank Size and Tank Inhabitants
Tank size matters. Think through the size of your tank and the type of corals you keep (or plan to keep) when selecting a wavemaker system.
Tank size and coral type will determine GPH (gallons per hour) tank turnover. Tank turnover is how many times the water in your aquarium is circulated every hour.
- For Soft Corals and LPS: look for a tank turnover of 10-20 times per hour.
- For SPS corals, look for a tank turnover of 20-40 times per hour.
Here’s an example:
If you have a 55 gallon tank that’s predominantly LPS coral, you should aim to have an internal flow rate of 550-1,100 GPH.
Pump placement is an important part of figuring out the best aquarium wave maker for your tank.
The ideal state is eliminating all dead zones in your aquarium; for best results, you want water to freely circulate.
Depending on the shape of your aquarium, we typically recommend purchasing multiple smaller powerheads with your wave maker over a single large one. This allows you to position each pump for maximum water circulation. This is especially important if you have an aquascape with extensive hardscaping where dead zones are more common.
Another factor to consider is coral growth. What works for positioning when you’re first getting started won’t likely work when your tank matures and coral grows.
Using multiple powerheads preserves your ability to be creative and adapt to your living, changing ecosystem.
Aquarium equipment can be noisy. Depending on the size of your set-up and the requirements, it can become very noisy, especially in communal areas.
Whenever possible, prioritize quiet operations. Your filter, pumps, and wavemakers will add up, so best to choose the quietest equipment when you can.
Different wave makers have different mount styles, ranging from suction cups to magnets. You’ll also want to know the thickness of your aquarium glass. If it is too thick, some mounts might not work. If it is too thin, you might crack your glass, especially with a powerful magnet.
Overall, we recommend magnetic mounts versus suction cups.
Adjustability is an important element for your wavemaker. Your tank will grow and mature over time so you’re going to need equipment that can adapt. Or else plan to spend a lot of extra money on equipment.
Getting the right flow in your aquarium can take a few attempts in adjusting both flow rates and placement. Also, if multiple pumps can be synced to your controller, you will have a better chance at creating good water circulation.
Aquarium wave makers commonly come with two parts: the pump (powerhead) and controller.
They can be purchased separately. It feels like it goes with saying, but If you purchase them separately, make sure the controller is compatible with the pump.
Benefits of an Aquarium Wavemaker
Simulates Natural Waterflow
The purpose of an aquarium wavemaker is to produce waves like fish, coral, and invertebrates would experience in the ocean. However, a traditional powerhead alone can only provide a directed stream of flow that can be disruptive, as it doesn’t stimulate natural waves. Wavemakers diffuse this directed flow, making it more natural.
Ideal for Corals and Invertebrates In Your Tank
Corals in a reef tank need different types of water flow; some prefer variable flow and some prefer consistent water flow. A lot of corals need both types. In order to achieve this range of water flows, wavemakers with multiple possible settings are your best option. Wavemakers also help to disperse food and nutrients for your corals and invertebrates.
Eliminates Dead Zones
Wavemakers are helpful for removing dead zones (areas that lack water circulation). In freshwater tanks, this is important for oxygen distribution. In saltwater tanks, eliminating dead zones helps prevent cyanobacteria from growing. If left unchecked, cyanobacteria can destroy the stable ecosystem of your saltwater tank.
How To Install An Aquarium Wavemaker
Wavemakers are easy to install. Suction cup mount and magnetic mount models will differ slightly. With suction cups, simply stick them to the aquarium wall. That’s it. Super simple.
Magnet mounts are similarly easy. Stick the dry side magnet on the outside of the aquarium and put the wet side magnet on the inside of the aquarium. They’re attracted to each other so once they line up, your wavemaker will have sticking power.
Where Should I Place my Aquarium Wave Maker?
Installation is the easy part. Positioning wavemakers is more complex and driven by the needs of particular corals. We recommend diving into this coral guide for more details. The details are too extensive for the purposes of this guide.
Best Aquarium Wave Maker Options:
- Best Aquarium Wave Maker for Nano Tanks: Hydor Koralia Nano 565 Circulation Pump for Aquariums, 565 GPH
- Hydor Koralia Evolution 1400/1500 Aquarium Circulation Pump, 1400-1500 GPH
- Hygger Submersible Aquarium Powerhead 2000GPH Fish Tank Wavemaker Circulation Pump for Freshwater Saltwater
- Jebao OW-40 Wavemaker 317-3963 GPH with Controller and Magnet Mount
- IceCap Powerhead 2K Gyre Pond Pump, Cross Flow Submersible Water Pump for Aquariums, WiFi controllable
- Current USA eFlux Accessory Wave Pump, 660 GPH | Ultra Quiet, Compact Size
- Tunze Nano Stream with Controller
- Hydor Koralia Nano 565 Circulation Pump for Aquariums, 565 GPH
Best Aquarium Wave Maker for Nano Tanks: Hydor Koralia Nano 565 Circulation Pump for Aquariums, 565 GPH
The Hydor Koralia Wavemaker is a popular model. Hydor is a long-established brand with a great reputation so you know you’re buying quality if you go this route. However, Hydors have become less popular over time with the increased popularity of DC-powered wavemakers’ controllable features.
This model is specifically built for nano tanks so this will not be an appropriate choice for a larger tank. Expect a GPH (Gallons per Hour) volume of 240 to 565, depending on the model.
- Patented Magnet-Suction cup support for free positioning in aquariums. Works on glass and acrylic.
- Low-energy consumption
- Established technology and brand
- Specifically designed with small tanks in mind
- Not controllable on its own, requires separate controller purchase
- Louder than some DC pumps
This is our favorite wavemaker and powerhead combo. It is essentially the same offering as above but meant for larger tanks. It comes in four different sizes, too so you can choose the right one for your aquarium.
This is an AC wavemaker, meaning it brings tested technology that is easy to use and reliable.
You can also adjust this model 180 degrees, which means it is ideal for corner placements in your aquarium.
There are different versions of this wavemaker so make sure you order the most recent for the most up-to-date technology.
- 180 degree adjust-ability
- Reputable brand
- Different sizes available to suit your tank
- Attractive price
- Proven AC technology
- Because it comes in four sizes, make sure you carefully select the right choice
- Not as adjustable as other options
Hygger Submersible Aquarium Powerhead 2000GPH Fish Tank Wavemaker Circulation Pump for Freshwater Saltwater
Hygger is a trusted brand in the fishkeeping world. They have a reputation for high-quality make and materials, and this option represents the brand very well.
The dual heads provide more flexibility around directionality and flow, which is useful for keeping high flow rates to simulate environments like fast-flowing rivers.
This option has 360-degree rotation capabilities, giving you maximum flexibility inside your tank. This is a fully submersible powerhead that cycles 2000 GPH, making it ideal for aquariums ranging from 75 to 130 gallons. It is suitable for marine, tropical and freshwater setups.
- Dual heads available
- Up to 2000 GPH
- Easy to install and maintain
- Dual heads provide flow flexibility
- Suction cups can slip over time, making less reliable set-up. Requires re-adjustment
- Can be too strong for small tanks
- Large size
This Jebao wavemaker has a solid reputation with customers and reviewers. We love this option because it has more settings and options than nearly every other model on the market. This particular model has 8 potential flow rates.
It is easy to install via the magnet mount. Users report this is a very powerful and small wavemaker (about the size of a golf ball) so it is not suited for nano or small tanks.
This model uses a 4-pole impeller design for the best energy efficiency and water flow rate.
- 8 different flow rates available for customized flow
- Includes a wired controller and magnet mount
- Tiny yet powerful – about the size of a golf ball
- Versatile pump settings
- Some issues with reliability over time
IceCap Powerhead 2K Gyre Pond Pump, Cross Flow Submersible Water Pump for Aquariums, WiFi controllable
This IceCap kit is highly customizable and includes a controller that can connect to Wi-Fi so you can program and monitor your pumps through an app on your mobile device. This is an excellent option for someone who wants to keep tabs on what is happening with their tank.
This kit is easy to configure. You can also upload your settings to the cloud in case of power outages or human error. That means when the power comes back online, your pump will automatically start working correctly.
For additional flexibility, the controller can also power a second pump if you purchase one. Additionally, this pump can be mounted either vertically or horizontally.
- 1000 GPH flow rate
- One pump included
- Ideal for tanks sized 20-50 gallons
- Easy to customize
- Good value for price
- Some users report issues using the phone app
This is the quietest wavemaker on the list. This kit includes a complete system with a pump, controller (capable of running two additional pumps), and remote control.
The quiet output of this kit comes from thick silicone pads on the magnetic mounting brackets which help absorb sound. Don’t be fooled – some people equate quiet operations with a lack of power. That is absolutely not the case with this option.
These pumps are small and quiet, but they are powerful. You can choose from three different pump strengths of 660, 1050 or 2100 GPH.
Additionally, this kit is easily customizable with several different modes so you can customize flow throughout the day.
- Flow Rate options: 660, 1050 or 2100 GPH
- Multiple flow modes including Wave Pulse, Surge Flow, Steady Stream, and Feed Mode
- Extremely quiet
- Moves a lot of water
- Some users report product durability issues
If you have a big tank – 100+ gallons – this is probably your best bet. It is powerful and can move significant volumes of water while also staying silent when on full power.
The motor automatically adapts its speed to maintain efficiency, which means it uses approximately 50% less power than conventional pump motors.
The powerhead has 360-degree adjustability which provides flexibility in your water flow set-up. This is helpful long term as your corals grow and mature.
- Intelligent motor automatically adjusts for maximum efficiency
- 360 degree adjustability
- Quiet operation
- Smart motor uses 50% less electricity
- Considered pound for pound the best pump you can buy
- More expensive than other options
Aquarium Wavemaker FAQs
Where should I place my aquarium wave maker?
The ideal wave pump and wave maker placement is in the middle to upper portions of your aquarium. If you place it too low, you risk disturbing the substrate.
Also, avoid mounting too close to the water surface. If the wavemaker is too close to the water surface, you could create waves that are too big.
Additionally, you will want to think about aesthetics when placing your pump and wavemaker. If your lights create shadows in certain areas of your tank, those could be good places to place your wave pumps as they will be naturally disguised. Black backgrounds in your tank are also helpful for hiding pumps.
Lastly, keep your pump cables organized. Hanging cables are distracting and not aesthetically pleasing.
Do Arowanas need wave makers?
Wave makers are not a necessity for arowanas. Aquarists typically use wavemakers for water circulation. Some even get creative and use a two-part system – one wavemaker to move debris and waste from the bottom of the tank and a wavemaker at the top to move water towards surface skimmers. This helps naturally move and remove waste from the tank, which helps keep water conditions more stable.
Also, the waves can help keep your arowanas busy with swimming so they’re less likely to be aggressive.
Do guppies like current?
No, guppies don’t like a strong current. In nature, their natural environment is ponds, lakes, and rivers with slow-moving waters that have a mild current. Therefore, if you add a wavemaker to your guppy tank, you’re likely to stress them out.
Do cichlids like wavemakers?
Yes, cichlids generally seem to like wavemakers. It is not a necessity in a cichlid tank but they do have a number of benefits. They help circulate heat and food so all fish have equal access to warmth and food. It also helps to move waste around the tank, which makes it easier for your filter intakes to grab it.
That being said, too many waves that are too strong can be stressful for your fish so make sure to select a wavemaker that is properly sized for your fish. Also, make sure there are plenty of current breaks in your tank with rocks, driftwood, and decor so the fish can escape the current if they’d like.
Conclusion – Best Aquarium Wave Maker
Wavemakers are essential for keeping your corals, invertebrates, and fish happy and healthy, especially in marine tanks. Wavemakers have a range of functionality, so it is important to know the pros and cons of your choice. Additionally, you will need to factor in your aquarium specifics such as size and wavemaker positioning in order to make the best aquarium wave maker selection for your situation.
The best aquarium wavemaker (in our opinion) is the Hydor Koralia Evolution 1400/1500 Aquarium Circulation Pump, 1400-1500 GPH. It might not have all of the bells and whistles of some of the newer models, but we value its reliability, especially for such a crucial piece of equipment as a wavemaker.
Do you have a favorite aquarium wavemaker? How has using a wave maker changed the health of your aquatic plants, corals, and animals? We’d love to hear about your experiences!