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Powerhead vs Wavemaker – A Comparison

A neatly arranged aquarium, with beautiful fishes swimming around looks attractive for sure. It brings positive energy at home.

And, you will not mind just gazing at the beauty of these little creatures all day long.

Now you have arranged everything properly, the water is running and the fishes are happily swimming.

But do you know you have forgotten one important piece of equipment, something, that will replicate the movement of ocean water?

To replicate the natural water movement you can either opt for a powerhead or wavemaker.

We shall learn more about them through a powerhead vs wavemaker comparison. But before that let us learn why you need such equipment at all.

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Why Do You Need A Powerhead Or Wavemaker?

Video: “Aquarium Water Circulation: How Pumps & Powerheads Help Create Ideal Water Flow for a Reef Tank”

Water movement has a very important role to play in maintaining good fish health in marine as well as freshwater aquariums.

A healthy water movement is also required for live rock, corals, and aquatic plants.

You need to understand that even in the quietist harbors, inlets, and bays the water stays in motion almost always.

Ocean swells create a strong surge that reaches deep down and moves the water backward and forward. The wind waves that break on the reef flow into the quiet waters and keep on stirring up the sand.

Even during the quietest days, when the surface of the ocean appears like glass, there are at least two tide changes.

This is how natural water bodies are like. The plant and fishes living in such water bodies are used to the movement. If they do not get this water movement they are going to suffer for sure.

This is why you need a powerhead or a wavemaker. But what are these and which one should you opt for?

Such questions may be running in your mind, so continue reading and you will discover your answers.

What is A Powerhead?

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If you have proper filters in your aquarium but the water circulation is inadequate, your tank is not enjoying the benefits it deserves.

The water right in front of your filter is circulating through the pump many times but the water present in the corner gets no treatment.

Similarly, the corners get no heat either. To make sure the water circulates properly throughout the whole aquarium you need a powerhead.

A [amazon link=”B0036S70ZG” title=”powerhead” link_icon=”amazon” /] is basically an electric unit with sealed motors that allow them to be submerged. It is not a filter and does not work like one either.

It is a pump that you are placing underwater to make sure the water keeps running around.

This wonderful equipment helps prevent detritus and other things from settling at the bottom of the aquarium.

With the powerhead circulation, most of these particulates will be circulated or suspended. Then, they will be filtered out with the help of a mechanical filter.

Furthermore, as powerheads aid in proper water movement, they provide oxygen to the lives within and carry food to the stationary animals.

The current and water movement that the powerheads provide also serves as an exercise for your tank fishes, thus keeping them healthy always.

Pros and Cons of a Powerhead


  • They offer great water circulation.
  • This water circulation offers food to stationary animals.
  • It improves oxygenation in water.
  • It prevents settling of detritus and rather helps it get eliminated through mechanical filtration.


  • Too powerful a current produced by a powerhead can prove to be dangerous for little, fragile fishes.
  • It can use more watts thus leading to higher electric bills.

Check Price and Reviews on Amazon

Video: “Water Circulation in a Planted Tank – Hydor Koralia 240 nano”

What Is A Wavemaker?

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A wavemaker is a device that has been created to offer your tank the stimulating effect of wave motions. This is what your fishes are used to and feels like they are in the natural habitat.

The change in the water currents and movement is loved by fishes. They require exercise to get rid of the fatty buildup around the liver and heart.

The good current generated by a [amazon link=”B00XRDWKNC” title=”wavemaker” link_icon=”amazon” /] helps the fish stay active, get some exercise, and thus enjoy a longer life.

The current flow and movement that your aquarium enjoys will prevent dead pockets around the live rocks and corals where detritus may accumulate.

The detritus will be dislodged owing to the wave and eliminated through the mechanical filter.

Also, the water movement will bring food to your corals and keep them healthy. It even will be a perfect sight when you watch your corals sway softly with the movement of water.

Pros and Cons of a Wavemaker


  • Stimulates natural water movement thus replicating the natural habitat of fishes.
  • The water movement created offers exercise to your fishes and thus keeps them healthy.
  • It offers food to the corals keeping them healthy and active.
  • It helps prevent the accumulation of detritus.


  • May shorten the life of your pump.
  • Some wavemakers can be noisy.

Check Price and Reviews on Amazon

Video: “Jebao RW, PP, SW, OW Wavemaker Pump Complete Tutorial”

Powerhead vs Wavemaker

Now that you know what a powerhead and a wavemaker are let us draw a comparison to learn about their similarities and differences.

What do they share in common?

  • Both wavemaker and powerhead create movements in tank water.
  • Both of them help get rid of detritus.
  • The water movement created by both offer a little exercise to the fishes.
  • Owing to the water movement that both of these create the stationary animals get their food.

What are the differences?

  • A powerhead directs current in a single uniform direction whereas a wavemaker creates waves that are more spread out and offer more circulation.
  • A wavemaker consumes less energy compared to a powerhead and thus electric bills are also comparatively lower.

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To conclude this powerhead vs wavemaker comparison, it can be said that both of them are equally good.

Both of them help create the much-needed circulation in tank water and are highly beneficial for the lives within.

Yes, there are minor differences in the way they create circulation in water. And perhaps, this can help you decide which will be more suited to your tank type.

Aaron Boyd
Aaron Boyd

Hello, I’m Aaron Boyd, the proud owner and author behind Aqua Movement. I hope my article was able to answer your questions. If you want to learn more about me, click the home icon above.

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