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Should I use a powerhead for circulating my aquarium water?

Date Published - 1st October 2012 - Published by - iQuatics Ltd

This is a question we hear quite often, and in our opinion the answer is yes.
Some aquarists discourage the use of powerheads. They consider them to be an extra generating heat source, and may introduce unwanted stray voltage into an aquarium.
Powerheads are electrical units with motors that are sealed to allow them to be submerged.
They can be used for purposes such as driving an undergravel filter, or for basic aquarium water circulation, they are economical, fairly inexpensive, and can be beneficial to the health of your aquarium in many ways.

The Benefits of Using Powerheads
Powerheads provide important water circulation and oxygenation in the aquarium, far more efficiently then the bubbles from air stones do.
The more your tank water is circulated and filtered, the better the water quality is in the aquarium.
They help to keep detritus and other tank matter from settling on the bottom of the tank. Powerhead circulation permits the majority of these particulates to be circulated or suspended, allowing them to be filtered out by a mechanical filter.
They aid in the health of the tank inhabitants. Water moving over the animals helps to carry oxygen to them, brings food to stationary animals, and stimulates animal activity. Learn about the animals you are choosing for your aquarium. Many corals and anemones do not do well in high current areas, while others thrive on good strong current. Position them appropriately in your tank.
The water movement and current provided by powerheads are a source of exercise for fish.
Powerheads can help deter the growth of algae, as some types grow better in calmer, less turbulent water.
Help in chosing the right powerhead:
Pick a powerhead that can be taken apart and put back together easily. Unwanted matter at times can enter the impeller area and needs to be removed. Look for ease of cleaning to prevent restricted water flow, which in turn can lead to the unit burning out prematurely from overheating.
Choose a powerhead that you can order and replace the parts on. Periodically parts may need to be replaced after prolonged use of the unit. Once again, pick a powerhead that can be taken apart and put back together easily.
Be sure the powerhead has a strainer or screen of some type that covers the water intake hole to prevent unwary tank inhabitants from getting sucked into it. Check the size grid of the holes on the strainer and choose the larger sized one. Ones that are too small can slow the water intake. This can be further complicated by tank matter clinging to the strainer. This clogs the unit creating even more restricted water flow, and overheats it prematurely decreasing the life of the unit. Overheating units can also add an extra unwanted heat source in the aquarium.
Some powerheads have switches for adjusting the water rate up, down, or in a reverse flow. If you want less current in a particular area of your aquarium, you can option to turn down the water flow automatically.
A directional water flow diffuser attachment is useful. This allows you to direct the water flow where you want it to go.
Flow Rates
You want to aim at turning over the tank water at least 6-10 times per hour. Many aquarists feel that you cannot have too much water movement, and nowadays, striving for a 15-20 times per hour ratio is not unheard of. We feel this is not necessary for a fish-only tank, but is beneficial for a reef tank. You want to give the tank sufficient water movement and circulation, but not so much that the fish can’t move against the currents, or the other tank inhabitants are getting battered by it.
Powerhead Positioning
For small aquariums under 80 litres, you can use one larger sized powerhead. Better yet, use two smaller ones at opposite ends of the aquarium.
For medium and large sized aquariums you can use two, three, or more units at various and opposing positions around the aquarium.
For the extra large, show sized aquariums, you can use as many as you feel it takes to get the water circulation you need.
Many aquarists choose to use wavemakers accompanied by controlling devices to regulate the timing of the powerheads. Setting the powerheads to turn off and on at different times and intervals helps to create wave motion, as well as circulate the water. Oscillating units, such as Aqua 360 by iQuatics, create random water currents by continually rotating powerheads, and can help to create more current movement in the tank, bringing water from different levels of the tank and helping to prevent “dead” spots that are hard to circulate, making them more advantageous than most air-stone-driven filtration
Tip:
A healthy tank water turnover rate to strive for is 6-10 times per hour. Many aquarists feel that more is better, especially for a reef tank system.
Aeration is important to both fresh and marine tanks. Most aeration takes place at the surface of the aquarium and can be provided either by the flow from the rising bubbles of an air stone or the agitation adaptor from the iQuatics Aqua 360. Freshwater aquariums should be relatively placid, without strong currents because most tropical fishes come from calm waters.
However, marine coral reef fishes and invertebrates come mostly from strongly moving water with vigorous natural aeration. They prefer aquariums with high-flow water pumps providing strong water agitation in order to have sufficient oxygen.
You have just read another great aquarium blog post by iQuatics. If you would like us to blog about a specific subject or have your own aquarium blog content you would like published on our website, please get in touch. Together we can help grow the iQuatics aquarium blog into a vast resource full of combined industry knowledge.

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