HomeProduct ReviewsAquarium Circulation Pump Vs. Powerhead

Aquarium Circulation Pump Vs. Powerhead

The Aquarium Circulation pump is made to simulate Natural River and Reef currents that are established in natural aquatic environments. 

It can be stressful before adapting to their new surroundings whenever you want to introduce your new fish and corals to a new tank. Therefore, circulation pumps will help you, in this case, to make the new fish acclimatize and become active in their new environment.

On the other hand, Powerheads are some form of water pumps that come in various sizes with different capacities, which you can completely submerge in water. They are mainly used in saltwater aquariums to pump and move water around the tank as well as from the tank and other pieces of equipment like protein skimmers.

Aquarium Circulation Pump

Most freshwater fish kept in aquariums enjoy life in an environment with solid water current flow because they live in fast-flowing river surroundings. 

An Aquarium Circulation Pump will be significant for a tank to give your fish many health benefits because they ensure that there is stronger water movement in the tank which produces a high concentration of dissolved oxygen to give your fish an environment that resembles that of a natural river.

Therefore, the Aquarium Circulation Pump is necessary when you have reef aquariums. 

The marine invertebrates in your tank, such as coral, are used to surging ocean currents, which they rely on to remove the wastes and bring food and oxygen.

The pump consists of an electrically driven propeller that is tiny and pumps water around the tank, cleaning water in the process and forming microbiology that balances the water in the aquarium. 

The pump force air in by creating bubbles when water is in motion for the fish and animals in the tank to breathe.

Each type of circulation pump has a robust locking cup that functions well to minimize vibration

Therefore, it ensures that the tank is relatively not to affect the fish inside it. 

The sockets and ballpoint of connection allow for water flow in a given direction. 

You can choose a size that suits your tank, depending on the fish tank size that you have.

How Aquarium Circulation Pump functions

During the circulation pump operation, the flow of liquid drops at the center of the rotor, leading to fluid inflow in the suction port. 

Supposing there is a decrease of the excess pressure at some rotor ports, you can lower the pressure below that of the saturated pressure to correspond to the temperature in the pumped liquid. This will cause cavitation or liquid evaporation.



Powerhead resembles a petite internal filter, but it does not have any filter substantial in it. 

You may wonder how it works, but it is instrumental in some tanks. In others, you can’t do without it.

Powerhead functions in your fish tank

During the cold season, the temperatures typically drop, which may not be conducive for the tropical fish in your aquarium. No matter how high, you may set your heaters to warm water in your tanks. 

Even if your canisters filters are more extensive, the water flow will not create a significant current in the aquarium for your fish. Usually, water will move slowly.

So your heater, when switching on, will heat water instantly around them and then switch off. This will only create warmth within one side of the tank, leaving the other side frigid.

Powerhead will be helpful in this circumstance as it will create a tremendous underwater current in your fish tank and then keeps the water circulating within the tank. 

This will ensure that the heater heat all the water within the tank. Apart from that, the current generated in the tank will make the fish swim against it. 

The fish love this type of active water, mainly harvested from busy water bodies, and have been wondering why they are enclosed in a small tank.

Powerhead ensures that the water in the fish tank has a constant temperature throughout without becoming bizarre cold and other spots too hot that may affect your fish and potentially make them develop some sickness.

Why do you need a powerhead?

Supposing you have a tank with a lot of biological filtration, it would be best to get a Powerhead

This equipment will ensure a consistent water flow through all the available bacterial colonies found in the tank. Additionally, Powerhead will also be helpful in the oxygenation process of fraternizing any chemical treatment deposited in the tank and circulate them all over the tank.

Main types of Powerhead

All the primary type of Powerhead you will get in the market serves a similar function. 

The difference comes in the flow rates that a particular kind will produce and the buildup quality

When looking for a powerhead, ensure that you select a model that will offer you an appropriate flow rate for your fish tank.

Also Read: Why Do Aquarium Fish Eats Other Fish?

Consideration when choosing Powerhead

When you are looking for a Powerhead, getting a piece that will fit nicely into your aquascape would be beneficial. 

Supposing you want to hide it between your tank live rocks, it would be best to select a model that resembles the stones in color.

When Not To Use Powerhead In Your Tank

When your tank has a sufficient flow of water and is well oxygenated, you do not have to use a Powerhead in your tank, especially if your tank has an internal filter that creates sufficient flow. 

You can tell if your tank has adequate flow by testing the water using a thermometer in areas far away from the heater. If they have a similar temperature as those close to the heater, there is no need for a powerhead.

Besides sufficient flow, you don’t need a powerhead when you have a small tank

For instance, tanks that are less than two feet don’t require Powerhead.

Another reason to avoid powerhead is when your outside filter produces strong currents outflow, leading to substantial current.

Aquarium Circulation Pump Vs. Powerhead


There is no vital distinction between these two equipment used to pump water in the aquarium pumps. 

You can use them interchangeably. 

The Powerhead has balls with a propeller, whereas a circulation pump is what you get in a sump.

Another noticeable difference between the circulation pump and the powerhead is that the powerhead can be attached to a sponge filter

In contrast, a circulation pump is not made to be connected to anything; you need to stick it on the wall of your fish tank, creating the required current.

You can attach some plumbing to a powerhead at the end parts or use it over a sponge filter. 

On the other hand, a circulation pump is just a fan with a propeller that you can place somewhere like a cage, and you do not have to attach any plumbing to it to work. 

It simply has a wave-making feature inbuilt.

When you want to pump water above your filters, a Powerhead is the most suitable in this scenario. 

If you’re going to pump water at the bottom areas, a circulation pump will perform better.

A circulation head will create waves and spread them out in a wide area within the tank, therefore, offering your tank more circulation. In contrast, a Powerhead will generate a current in a particular direction where it is set.

Similarities In Aquarium Circulation Pump & Powerhead

You may use both the Circulation Pump and Powerhead for the sole purpose of increasing water movement within the aquarium. 

However, the circulation pump is economical because it can pump more water gallons using fewer electricity powers. 

You can also place the circulation pump at designated spots where the water is somehow calm, leading to debris accumulation or algae to grow.

Final Verdict

From the understanding of the Aquarium Circulation Pump and Powerhead, we can note that the powerhead is a jet of water. In contrast, the aquarium circulation pump creates more wave effects in the tank rather than causing direct water flow

Therefore you can use the circulation pump to gain water flow in all places within the tank, and the powerhead will serve you better in particular areas where you need to cause a stir, like areas where water is calm.

If you want a general increase within your fish tank, please go for circulation pumps. Spent your money on a piece that will give you better filtration for your fish to have good health

When you have a big fish tank, you can use both a Circulation Pump and Powerhead, one for recirculation purposes and the other in hidden areas, and they will perform different essential roles for you in your tank. 

It is also required to notify the positioning of these two pumps to avoid creating a dead spot somewhere in the tank. 

Good circulation is precisely what your fish need to get the nutrients and oxygen evenly distributed in the water column.

Fishkeeping Expert
Fishkeeping Expert
With years of collective fishkeeping knowledge, we are pleased to share the tank maintenance tips and fish care advice we've picked up along the way. Fishkeeping Expert is home to all fishkeeping tutorials and guides that will help you keep your fish healthy.


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