Best Aquarium Powerhead 2018

Tunze Turbelle Koralia Evolution Maxspect XF SunSun JVP Series
GPH 475-2100 600-1500 230-5300 530-6340*
Tank Size 10-265 25-175 25-800 20-200
Noise Level Near Silent Low Very Low Medium-low
Longevity 4-12+ Years 2-8 Years 2-6 Years 2 Months- 2 Years
Price Medium-High Medium High Low

Finding the right powerhead for your tank can be the difference between happy coral with clean sand beds and sandstorms/detritus build up. Additionally we want a powerhead to match our specific needs. New aquarists aren’t looking for wallet destroyers like the Vortech, while those who are building large tanks will need something they can depend on for years or even decades. Taking these various factors into account I’ve gathered up what I consider to be the best aquarium powerheads of 2016.

Tunze Turbelle

Size Dimensions Tank Size Noise Level Longevity Price
475 GPH
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2.9″ x 2.7″ x 2.7″ 10-55 Gallons Very Low 4-15+ Years Medium-High
660 GPH
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2.6″ x 2.4″ x 3.2″ 10-66 Gallons Very Low 4-15+ Years Medium-High
740 GPH
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3″ x 2.7″ x 2.7″ 15-75 Gallons Very Low 4-15+ Years Medium-High
53-1188 GPH
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2.5″ x 2.5″ x 2.5″ 5-132 Gallons Low 6-15+ Years High
400-1175 GPH
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3.1″ x 2.7″ x 2.7″ 10-135 Gallons Very Low 4-15+ Years Medium-High
1700 GPH
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4.5″ x 3.5″ x 3.5″ 65-210 Gallons Very Low 4-12+ Years High
2100 GPH
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4.5″ x 3.5″ x 3.5″ 105-265 Gallons Very Low 4-12+ Years High

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a Tunze fan, but these pumps easily earn their place as the best aquarium powerhead. They are powerful, reliable, nearly silent and fairly small. The price is a bit up there, but it is money well spent as the powerhead still runs like new over a decade later.

Set-up

Setting up all Tunze powerheads is a quick and easy process, provided you don’t get the magnets stuck together like I did. If you do no worries, I’ll have a section on that at the very end of the page.

First you will want to attach the four rubber connectors to the base of the powerhead, connecting the powerhead to the internal magnet afterwards. These little connectors dampen the vibrations, as do the rubber magnet mounts, creating the legend of Tunze’s silence. Refer to the magnetic mounting section for the next part.

The cord is a nice 2 meter cord, just over 6.5 feet, and both magnets are safe to submerge. The rotor makes a bit of noise during the first day, but after that it is dead silent.

Flow & Adjustments

The two adjustable models listed here are the 6045 and 6040. The 6045 has a simple slider located on the nozzle of the powerhead. The closer it is to the body the lower the flow is. The 6040 is sold with a controller, which can control speed, make pulses and adjust the pulse power, essentially making it a wave maker.

The direction of the flow can be adjusted in 360 degrees. The body can swivel up and down in the mounting bracket. To turn the powerhead to the sides you will need to turn both the interior and exterior magnets at the same time. Turning only one of the magnets will result in the magnet slowly turning back into place. Interesting to watch the first time but ultimately pointless.

Assembly

Tunze brand powerheads separate at the middle of the body, exposing the propeller. The propeller can then be removed to access the magnetic mount. These should both be cleaned using a soft material to avoid damaging the magnetic components. Any scratches can seriously shorten this powerheads lifetime. For Tunze that would be a huge issue.

The sides are covered with a small grate, preventing any fish from entering. The only fish you may need to worry about is the butterfly fish, as their long mouths are designed to reach into small cracks and crevices.

In addition to the four sound dampening rubber mounters, the magnets themselves come with rubber protectors to cut down on noise even further. The powerhead is so quiet I can hear my tank downstairs over this one!

Warranty & Lifetime

While almost no Tunze owner will need the warranty, which is 2 years long, they do provide amazing customer service to those in need. Additionally they will help you with any non major issues, give you extra instructions and look into model specific issues. Honestly it feels as though the customer service agents are the engineers themselves with how helpful they can be.

The lifetime of the Tunze Turbelle is just unreal. You can expect no less than four years out of this powerhead, and that is with complete neglect and zero maintenance. Owners who clean their powerhead every month or two can easily see over a decade of use before anything runs amiss. Even then the replacement parts are none too expensive and easy to replace.

All in all the Tunze runs silent, has amazing an lifetime and will cost you less per year than any other brand. It is my go to powerhead for any size tank, excluding Bettas of course.

Hydor Koralia Evolution


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Size Dimensions Tank Size Noise Level Longevity Price
600 GPH 5.5″ x 2.75″ x 2.75″ 25-80 Gallons Very Low 2-8 Years Medium
850 GPH 5.5″ x 2.75″ x 2.75″ 30-100 Gallons Very-Low 2-8 Years Medium-Low
1150 GPH 5.5″ x 2.75″ x 2.75″ 45-140 Gallons Very Low 2-8 Years Medium
1500 GPH 5.5″ x 2.75″ x 2.75″ 55-175 Gallons Very Low 2-8 Years Medium

If you’ve ever talked to another aquarist chances are you’ve heard this name a dozen times. Their price is not too high and they are fairly reliable. Koralias certainly aren’t as quiet as the Tunze, but they shouldn’t bother most owners unless they are located in the bedroom.

Set-up

Before installing the Hydor Koralia Evolution you will want to reinforce the interior pin. It is the main cause of failure in the model. Simply make a small layer of aquarium safe adhesive around the pin and it’s good to go.

The Koralia attaches just like the Tunze, minus the four rubber mounts. Additionally the magnet has a suction cup underneath it. This gives a bit more holding strength, which helps a low when using as a back up powerhead to large tanks with thick glass. This does not mean the magnets are weak and you still should never bring them near one another.

The cord is 6 feet long which gives you a good amount for free positioning while still creating a drip loop.

Note: The Koralia Evolution can start running in reverse, which is fixed when the propeller spins forward and strikes the flow checking pin. If you do not reinforce this pin the powerhead will often break it. If this happens your powerhead will run in reverse 50% of the time when started.

Assembly

Because the powerhead will often use the flow checker to correct reverse running, it is far from ideal to use this powerhead as a wave maker. The sound it makes is just too loud to ignore.

The powerhead separates at the middle of the body, bottom of the grate. Like the Tunze this will give you access to the propeller, but the propeller has a bulky protector around it. This prevents the propeller from striking the sides of the powerhead, so be sure to leave it in there after cleaning.

The grate is small all around, even the front is well covered. Only fry and long armed shrimp can be hurt via this powerhead. Additionally it features a wire protector, which can be wrapped around the submerged wire. Most owners will not need this but it does help a good deal when housing urchins, triggers and parrot fish, as they can easily damage wires over months of picking at it.

Flow & Adjustments

The flow is not adjustable without using a controller, however the powerhead comes in many sizes and can easily be diffused.

The flow is fairly focused, making it more suited to long tanks rather than tall ones.

The ball jointed mount allows for complete control over the water flows direction. If the water flow proves to be too great simple aim the powerhead towards large rocks or the aquarium glass to diffuse it.

Warranty & Lifetime

Hydor gives these powerheads a decent two year warranty, Which will catch most faulty products and broken pins. Their customer service is fairly friendly and quick to respond.

To ensure a longer lifetime you must clean the powerhead regularly and keep away macro algae/plants. The propeller is a little easier to break than other powerheads, hence the oval protector located on the inside of the powerhead. Macro algae and plants can slowly damage the powerheads propeller. Once their are a few chips in the powerhead it’s only a matter of time before it damages itself further.

When well cared for most owners see over 3 years of lifetime with the best cases being 6-8 years.

For the price it’s hard to complain about the Hydor Koralia. It’s essentially the middle ground of quality when it comes to powerheads. Not excessive but well above the cheap ones.

Maxspect Gyre XF


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Size Dimensions Tank Size Noise Level Longevity Price
230-2300 GPH
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10″ x 2.95″ x 1.57″ 25-100 Gallons Very Low 2-6 Years High
500-5300 GPH
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11.8″ x 2.9″ x 2.4″ 50-800 Gallons Very Low 2-6 Years High

The Maxspect Gyre is a beauty not many aquarists are familiar with. Its high price and semi short lifetime scare away a lot of people, but the flow patterns just cannot be argued with. It produces a sheet of water flow rather than a jet, ensuring absolutely no dead zones are found in the tank.

All Maxspects come with a highly customizable controller, allowing for more complex water flow than most people ever consider. If you are looking to impress this is your powerhead.

Set-up

Setting up the Maxspect is an easy task, but opening it up certainly isn’t simple. First you will need to attach the mounting bracket to the base of the Maxspect. This is done by sliding in the two sides into place underneath the powerhead.

Remember: you have four magnets to deal with. Keep an eye on them all and make sure none get attached to one another. Also ensure that the intake section of the grate is not next to the aquariums glass, as this will restrict the water flow.

Like most magnetic mounted powerheads you will want to hold one of the magnets in place while slowly brining the other into place just above the other magnet, on the opposite side of the glass. Slide it down into place and you’re done.

The Maxspect Gyre also comes with spare grates and propellers. These can be installed to reverse the direction of either side of the Gyre, allowing for even greater control on your water flow. When installing different propellers be sure to install A grates with A propellers, while using B grates with B propellers.

Assembly

To completely open up the Maxspect Gyre I would refer you to my more focused Maxspect Gyre review page, which holds a video demonstration. Additionally you can look to the official manual for more details.

For simple cleaning you will only need to remove a few parts. Keep something near by with multiple containers. I used an old tackle box. First remove the Maxspect from your tank, removing the exterior magnets too so that they do not fall. Next you will need to remove the brushings on the sides of the Gyre. After this you will be able to twist the grates and pull them off of the main rotors. Clean the grate and insides thoroughly before reassembling in reverse order.

Flow & Adjustments

Witnessing the flow of the Maxspect Gyre is unlike any other powerhead available. The even water distribution is like having 12 powerheads working in unison, creating a sheet of water flow that sweeps the tank clean.

The controller allows for control beyond most peoples knowledge. Seriously this pump can be used in so many different set-ups I feel like a public aquarium wouldn’t be able to use them all at once. Again for the details you’d want to read the detailed review linked above, but here’s a quick rundown on three main modes:

  • Constant Speed Mode

A simple, constant speed ideal for day time use.

  • Pulsing Mode

This mode creates consistent waves which will simulate a more natural environment. Unlike most powerhead, the large area of distribution makes these waves look and function like actual waves. Be wary of splashing water on the floor!

  • Alternating Gyre Mode

This mode is the signature flow that no other powerhead can produce. IN essence it will change between forward and reverse flow, creating the most realistic marine water flow possible. Without the Maxspect you will need at least 2 powerheads to mimic this effect.

Warranty & Lifetime

The warranty provided on the Maxspect is only 1 year after the date of purchase, which came as a huge shock to me considering the price of the Gyre.

The biggest offset to the warranty is how the lifetime plays out. Most owners can expect to use the Gyre for as long as they want. The big difference here is that individual parts will break rather than the whole powerhead becoming a dead unit. This means over 10 yeas you may have to replace between 3-10 parts. While some components may be cheap the cost does add up. This is one powerhead that doesn’t get cheaper as the lifetime goes on. The unique and unmatched flow however is more than enough to earn this is the best aquarium powerhead when price is no issue.

SunSun JVP Series

Size Dimensions Tank Size Noise Level Longevity Price
528 GPH
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1.5″ x 2.3″ x 2.75″ 10-45 Gallons Low-medium 3-12 months Very Low
793 GPH
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3.2″ x 2.6″ x 1.9″ 20-80 Gallons Low 8 Months-3 Years Medium
800 GPH
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6.3″ x 4.33″ x 4.57″ 20-80 Gallons Low-Medium 1-3 Years Low
1300 GPH
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5.5″ x 3″ x 3″ 30-100 low-Medium 1-2 Years Low
1585 GPH
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5″ x 5″ x 3″ 50-150 Gallons Medium 4 Months-2 Years Impossibly-Low
1585 GPH
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5″ x 4.5″ x 3″ 50-150 Gallons Medium 4 Months-2 Years Low
6340 GPH
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5″ x 9″ x 3″ 45-200 Gallons Low 4 Months-2 Years Medium

For those who are new to the aquarium hobby and aren’t ready to sink a lot of money into their tanks, SunSun produces cheap powerheads that move tons of water. Their lifetimes can be a real gamble, but the low price is often more than enough to justify it. Additionally many aquarists will move up in tank size after one year or abandon the hobby if they find it doesn’t suit them. For these reasons I’ve chosen the SunSun JVP series as the best entry level powerhead.

Set-up

The SunSun JVP series is the only powerhead here that uses suction cups as the only means of mounting on some models. In general they work well but can become warped and lose all effectiveness. To combat this you can use what I call the heat trick. Heat up the suction cup, I boil mine for a minute, to restore the original shape. You can then either allow the suction cup time to cool or attach it as soon as possible. Attaching a hot suction cup will give you a much stronger grip on the glass. Keep in mind this will make removing the suction cup somewhat difficult.

For some of the more pricey models full strength magnets are included. Do not think these are any weaker than high end powerheads. They can still cause serious damage when handled carelessly.

SunSun powerheads often come with shorter cords, meaning the powerhead will often be limited to the top half of your aquarium. To get a bit of extra space you can move your power strip closer to the tank. For my tanks the power strip is always taped upside down underneath the aquarium. This makes the power strip a few feet closer to the tank while also creating a drip loop for all attached equipment.

Assembly

SunSun powerheads come apart easily at the center of the body. For the larger, multi headed models the grates often come off in pairs. The propellers are none too durable, making cleaning essential. Additionally you will want to keep any long plants or macro algae away from the powerhead.

While not a problem for more high end powerheads, even coralline algae should be scrubbed off of the powerhead, as this can restrict the water flow.

Flow & Adjustments

All JVP model SunSun powerheads come with a ball mounted joint, allowing free rotation of the powerhead. The exception is the 6340 GPH model, which can only be rotated up and down.

Many of these powerheads feature multiple heads. This allows for exceptional control over the water flow, as each head can be directed individually.

Additionally if the powerhead is proving to be too strong for your tank you can simply remove one of the multiple propellers. This greatly reduces the speed while also giving you a replacement propeller. This is, however, the only way to control the flow on SunSun powerheads.

Warranty & Lifetime

This is SunSuns biggest draw back. They offer absolutely no warranty or customer service. It is entirely left to amazons 30 day warranty. Always inspect a SunSun powerhead 25 days after it arrives and look to replace any damaged powerheads.

The lifetime can vary wildly, but tends to be shorter than high end powerheads. The majority of models will live between 4 months and 2 years. Just like all powerheads you can get a much longer life with excessive maintenance.

The low price means that with only a year or two of life SunSun can still hold the lowest price per year on many powerhead sizes.

Using Magnetic Mounts


Remember that these magnets are not toys! They can seriously hurt careless users and pull metal objects from a good distance away. Do not play around with them.

Lower the powerhead into the water, holding it and its mounting magnet firmly against the glass. Next bring the external magnet Just above the internal magnet on the outside of the aquarium glass. Slide the external magnet down the glass until it is aligned with the interior magnet and you’re done.

The reason you do not want to bring the magnets directly to one another with the glass between them is simple. To hold through thicker aquarium glass the magnets need a lot of force. Should they pull themselves loose from your hand the magnets can easily slam into the side of the tank. While not common this can crack your aquariums glass.

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