How Do I Choose A Wavemaker For My Reef Tank?

A wavemaker is among the most important tools to maintain an aquarium in good condition. Creating sufficient water flow and current is essential for fish and corals to thrive. They require more than stable parameters but also needed quantities.

In a saltwater aquarium, water flow can be achieved in two ways. The return pump is utilized to move water through the filtering system, and powerheads, also known as “wavemakers” are used inside the display tank to create a natural-looking flow.

Although each of these flow pumps is equally important, they’re quite different in terms of appearance and function. When you’re trying to make the most appropriate choice for your tank, it is important to be aware of the differences and the features that matter most.

How Do I Choose A Wavemaker? There are a few aspects to keep in mind when you purchase the wavemaker including efficiency ratings, patterns, and budget.

Read on to learn all you must be aware of wavemakers from selecting the best option for your tank to the most appropriate models available that are available.

What is an Aquarium Wavemaker?

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  • Comes with a 15 degree adjustable mount for in tank directional water...

Last update on 2024-05-07 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

A wavemaker can also be referred to as a powerhead, but they differ slightly from one another. A wavemaker is a type of water pump. Utilizing an electric propeller or fan, it recreates the movement of waves within an aquarium.

Wavemakers are wavemaker is a particular kind of water pump designed to generate an internal flow within the display aquarium.

“Wavemaker” is the term used to describe them “Wavemaker” was coined because these submersible powerheads are controlled to produce wave-like water flow and varying flow rates, which is the main differentiator from a conventional water pump. It is most effective in creating an uninterrupted and concentrated stream of water.

Powerheads, on the other hand, direct massive concentrated water in a unidirectional fashion. They work best when used in conjunction with a wavemaker that causes an increase in turbulence to each other.

Based on the setup you have and the desired outcomes You can combine different wavemakers in combination to generate waves in every corner of your aquarium.

The benefits of utilizing the Wavemaker

Alongside creating circulation inside the tank in addition to generating circulation, it also helps to create circulation in the tank. A wavemaker or powerhead can also be helpful for facilitating gas exchange within the water. It works by providing a better environment for corals as well as other invertebrates.

You may be asking yourself, but my filter performs a similar purpose, so why should I require a wavemaker?

That’s right! Although your filter may appear reliable, its flow tends to be uneven and doesn’t cover all the parts of your tank. A wavemaker can assist in breaking this unidirectional flow. It will also allow circulation to all parts of the tank.

Powerheads and wavemakers can create a more pleasant aquatic environment. When properly used it can stop algae growth and help improve the overall well-being of corals and fish.

The Function of a Wavemaker

We are still learning about the importance of flow of water These are the primary reasons to provide flow inside an aquarium, above and over the flow that comes from the filtration system.

  1. Suspend Detritus
  2. Deliver Nutrients to Corals
  3. Create a Realistic Habitat

How Do I Choose A Wavemaker For My Reef Tank?

How Do I Choose A Wavemaker?

There are several aspects to consider when deciding to select the right powerhead.

In the end, you must transfer the entire amount of water in your display as quickly as possible, without damaging your corals with a continuous stream of strong flow.

The majority of wavemaker manufacturers provide tanks with tank sizes and flow rates in their products.

How do I choose a wavemaker? Here are some additional things to think about:

  1. Dimensions of the Tank: It is crucial since various flow patterns are suitable for various situations. Laminar and narrow flows of flow are ideal for large aquariums since they can move further. Conical and wide flow patterns are better suited for small aquariums or those where distance isn’t really a factor.
  2. Aquascape: Think about how the flow pattern would be a perfect fit for your aquascape. The rocks will definitely redirect water flow and alter the way that water flows within your display. Sometimes, rocks may require you to place your powerheads in various locations or even add additional powerheads in order to move water efficiently.
  3. Corals: The kind of coral you choose is crucial due to the fact that SPS corals require stronger currents than LPS as well as soft corals. There is a range of preferences, however for the most part they are classified as medium, high, or low-flow corals. This is the direct result of the habitat they naturally occur in. For instance, a lot of SPS corals are found on the tops of rocks, and in reefs that are shallow where currents are powerful and turbulent. The soft corals as well as the LPS are typically found in deeper areas or that have less turbulent currents. You must recreate the conditions of your aquarium in order to create the ideal habitat and to move corals around different zones of your aquascape based on the flow requirements.
  4. Pump Placement: In the end, the location of the pump is a major factor in the location where pumps can efficiently move water around your display. If you put pumps against a huge rock, it’s not very effective in moving water around the opposite aspect of your display or in the other corner. The placement of pumps at the end of the tank can push water from left to right but is that enough to move water behind the aquascape? Do you need to consider the use of a Gyre to push water up the upper part of your tank instead of one with a conical flow pattern, which will move water through the middle of the rockface? The flow pattern that the pump produces can often determine the most optimal location for water moving through your aquascape.
  5. What is the number of pumps: A majority of small reef tanks that are less than 40 gallons are able to survive on one powerhead. The larger tanks are more challenging and often require 4 pumps to get enough flow. For tanks that are up in the length of 48″, start with two powerheads which will likely suffice for the first 1-2 years. As corals grow, the flow dynamics will change and you can switch things up or add more pumps should you need them. In larger tanks, that are over 48″ in length, you’ll probably require four pumps to ensure that you get the flow you need it.
  6. What is the best material to make your substrate: If your material is sand that’s fine then you might want to consider a wavemaker that has a lower blowing power. This is so that the wavemaker will not cause damage to the substrate. If you’re more than just SPS corals that require an extremely high flow rate, then you should think about making use of glass in place of fine sand.

Flow Patterns

When selecting the right wavemaker the pump’s design is crucial due to the flow patterns it’s equipped to create. Knowing the various patterns of flow is crucial so you can pick the right pump that best suits the flow you want. The dimensions of your tank and the aquascape will be the primary determinants of the flow patterns you’ll need.

Conical Vs Laminar Flow

Conical flow patterns are elongated patterns in which the flow covers an extensive space, but does not travel over far distances. External propeller-type pumps produce cone-shaped flow patterns. Laminar flows are flat similar to a paper sheet that moves further in the aquarium. Gyre pumps are most well-known for their flat, laminar flow.

Wide Vs Narrow

As it’s sounded broad flow patterns are distributed over a greater space, but don’t generally go as far within the aquarium. A narrower, more concentrated flow is more efficient but isn’t spread out more.

What are the different kinds of wavemakers that are available?

There are two options:

  • AC wavemakers
  • DC wavemakers

Modern wavemakers are taking on distinct designs from the classic submersible pumps and new models are that are popping up every day. External propeller pumps with an open cover for the pump with an open propeller instead of an impeller, have proved to be much more efficient to create natural water movement throughout the entire display. Gyre-style pumps are distinct in design and generate an entirely different flow pattern.

No matter what their design regardless of design, regardless of design, wavemakers can be classified into two types.

AC wavemakers

AC wavemakers can be described as dated plug-and-play models. With no special features, you’ll have to manually connect them to the power source. While they may be inexpensive, however, they are usually quite loud.

DC wavemakers

They are the most modern versions of wavemakers featuring the latest technologies. They come with many modern features and advantages when compared to AC wavemakers. Apart from being silent when they work they also have more power.

Our Recommendation

Aqua Illumination Nero 5 Bluetooth Submersible Propeller Water Pump, 3000Gph
  • 3000GPH Submersible Pump
  • Has onboard Bluetooth control standard
  • Use the myAI app on any iOS or Android device to easily set up or...
  • Includes an integrated controller for simple speed adjustments
  • Comes with a 15 degree adjustable mount for in tank directional water...

Last update on 2024-05-07 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

EcoTech 43118822 Aqua Illumination (Nero 5 Submersible Bluetooth Propeller Water Pump, 3000Gph) has long time our top choice for a pump. This is due to the amazing control, the slim profile, and the unique magnetic design that allows it to be positioned in the exterior of your aquarium.

The EcoTech 43118822 Aqua Illumination wavemaker has an integrated Bluetooth control feature that is standard.

Fantastic product, possibly one of the most effective wave pumps I’ve ever used in the aquarium hobby. Bluetooth technology makes the use of these pumps a lot simpler! For my 60g reef, I’ve got the pumps at 35 percent with amazing flow.

Since you won’t be able to use an electrical cord or a big motor within your tank The pumps can be positioned nearly anywhere, and will not detract from the appeal of the tank.

This wavemaker includes an integrated controller to make easy speed adjustments.

It has an adjustable 15-degree mount that allows to allow for directional water flow in the tank.

They are quiet and provide the most flexible control of pumps available. They create a semi-wide circular flow design that is suitable for nearly every reef aquarium.

By using the myAI app for every iOS and Android device, you can quickly create or program one or more Nero 5 pumps, all of your EcoTech pumps can be linked to each other and controlled through your smartphone.


What size wave maker do I need?

The Turbelle NanoStreams are available in a variety of sizes, so it is recommended to try to find one that can change your tank’s volume of water between 10 and 50 times per hour. This means that if you’ve got 20 gallons of the tank, aim for a wavemaker that can handle a minimum of 200 however, it is recommended to go more than 1,000!

How many GPH does a wavemaker need?

It is common for large tanks to need larger wavemakers and smaller tanks need less. A 400-gallon tank, for instance, might require 4 to 5 1000+ GPH (gallons per hour) evaluated wavemakers to ensure the ideal turnover rate. In the same way, a smaller tank would only require one wavemaker, for instance, one that has 600GPH ratings.

What are the different types of wavemakers?

The majority of modern tanks employ two kinds of scientific wavemakers such as piston or flap. Flap generators are employed to create deep water waves, where the particle’s orbital motion decreases with depth, and there is no movement at the bottom.

What is the difference between a wavemaker and a powerhead?

A powerhead in a fish tank usually shoots a narrow stream of water that is directed in one direction, while a wave maker is designed to mimic the back-and-forth movement in ocean waves. For more information, refer to our entire piece on water circulation.

Dibyajyoti Bordoloi is the creator and author of, a third-generation experienced fish keeper and owner of a successful pet breeding farm. He is also a member of the Center for Wildlife Rehabilitation And Conservation (Assam), the Marine Aquarium Societies of North East India, and the Kaziranga Nature Conservancy of Assam.