Best Powerheads of 2022

A powerhead is a special kind of water pump that moves the water inside your display aquarium in order to oxygenate the water, keep detritus suspended, deliver food and nutrients to your fish and corals, and help flush away harmful chemicals and waste that your corals expel.

Playing such a vital role in the health of your aquarium ecosystem, a reliable powerhead that performs well is going to be important to your tank's long-term success. We sifted through the data, listened to your reviews, and compared just about every powerhead on the market to bring you this year's list of the Top 5 Best Powerheads based on sales, performance, and value.

Tunze Nanostream

Best Nano Pump

Tunze Nanostream

Norbert Tunze, the founder of Tunze, was the original inventor of the "powerhead" as we know it today - a propeller-style pump designed to recirculate water efficiently inside an aquarium. To this day, Tunze remains one of the best choices for internal water flow with their Turbelle series powerheads. 

The Nanostream pumps specifically made the list this year because they are compact, versatile, energy-efficient, and engineered to withstand the rigors of saltwater aquariums. They offer a wide range of pumps to suit all nano tank owners including affordable fixed flow pumps like the 6015 and 6020 as well as high-tech controllable pumps like the popular 6040 and 6055.


Aqua Illumination Nero

Best In Show

Aqua Illumination Nero

The Nero pump from Aqua Illumination takes its own unique approach to internal water flow. AI developed these pumps to be extremely easy to operate and feature a single-button Bluetooth-capable controller that connects to their popular MyAI control app. This means you can control both your AI LED lights and Nero powerheads using just one app.

Don't let the extremely low profile and small footprint fool you either, the large propellers produce a wide and voluminous flow pattern inside your reef that is gentle yet powerful. The clever concave magnet mount allows for directional control meaning you can point and angle the flow exactly where you need it most. It's whisper-quiet too so you can relax and enjoy the serenity of your reef without an overwhelming hum. 


Sicce Xstream and SDC Xstream

Best Value

Sicce Xstream

Sicce is known for making high-quality, quiet-running submersible return pumps for saltwater aquariums and they execute that same level of performance and reliability with their Xstream series powerheads.  Between the fixed flow Xstream pumps and the controllable SDC Xstream, there is an option for most reef tanks up to +/-150 gallons. These powerheads are surprisingly small in size yet deliver an efficient flow pattern that rivals any propellar-style powerhead. 

Sicce pumps are made in Italy where they take pride in the craftsmanship and offer an industry-leading 5-year manufacturer warranty. Not only can you count on big flow and quiet operation, but you can also be confident that Sicce pumps will last through the rigors of owning a saltwater tank. 


EcoTech Marine Vortech

Best Control

EcoTech Marine Vortech

What more can we say about the EcoTech Marine Vortech pumps. These revolutionary powerheads really changed the way we produce flow in our reef aquariums. One of the first companies to provide tank owners with advanced flow control and the ability to change flow patterns throughout the day, much like what happens in the ocean.

We can't forget to mention the patented magnetically coupled motor and propeller that eliminates the need for a power cord in your display which really makes the Vortech series pumps special. They are the only powerhead on the market that provides a truly wireless experience inside the tank. 

With the recent introduction of Mobius, you can now control all of your EcoTech Marine pumps and lights from your smartphone or tablet without any additional modules or controllers. That means right out of the box you get a direct connection to your Vortech pump with all of the high-tech control options you could ever want without ever having to touch the wired controller.


Neptune Systems WAV

Best In Flow

Neptune Systems WAV

Neptune Systems WAV pumps really are the powerhouse pumps on our list providing the most powerful flow rates relative to similarly priced controllable powerheads. While they are best used on larger aquariums 48" long or more, they are completely controllable making it possible to customize and dial the flow exactly to your liking. 

When integrated with your Apex you gain access to some of the most advanced pump control and programming available to modern reef aquarists. This includes flow presets, the ability to create a schedule, data logs, and even alerts and overheat protection to save your pump in the event something unexpected should occur. 


Maxspect Jump Gyre

Best Flow Pattern

Maxspect Jump Gyre

The Maxspect Jump Gyre is a more affordable version of the original XF series Gyres that deliver to same innovative flow patterns. While they are not app-controlled, they do include a wired controller giving you all of the necessary mandates over the flow inside your reef. 

The Jump Gyres are available in two different sizes, the 2K model pushes a maximum of 2000 GPH and the larger 4K model can deliver up to 4000 GPH. The unique shape of these pumps allows for more creative mounting locations and the "Gyre" flow patterns help hobbyists to achieve more comprehensive flow, moving water through areas that would otherwise be difficult to reach.