The Best Budget Reef Tank Powerheads for 2023

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    In this article, we will cover the basics of a reef tank powerhead, followed by reviews of some of the best budget reef tank powerheads available in 2023.

    What is a Powerhead?

    A powerhead is basically an electric device that moves the water around a reef tank, essentially mimicking the effect of ocean waves that you would find on a real coral reef. Corals need the flowing water movement to allow them to feed on the nutrients within the water. In addition, the flow of water removes the build-up of any produced waste.

    Powerheads are typically placed in the tank submerged near the surface or up to half-way down the reef tank. They are typically attached to the tank by either suction cups which allows the powerhead to stick directly to the glass, or by a magnet. The powerhead is electrically powered, and so a power cable will be attached to it leading from the device to a nearby power outlet. A traditional powerhead will have an impeller and when powered it will rapidly spin drawing in water behind it and forcing outwards in front of it.

    Why Do I Need a Powerhead?

    By circulating the water around the tank, the build-up of detritus is prevented. While this process does not remove detritus, it can effectively move it into the path of the filtration system where it will be removed, and also prevent it from building up on corals and rocks. With the use of a powerhead, detritus may still build up in specific locations within the tank where the flow cannot reach. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as now the detritus can be easily removed as it’s in one spot rather than spread over the entire tank. The circulation will also prevent the build up of fish and coral waste in the same way it prevents build-up of detritus.

    A powerhead will also contribute to oxygenating the water by agitating the surface of the water allowing nitrogen and carbon dioxide to be released. This process allows much-needed oxygen to be absorbed back into the tank’s water. 

    The added flow that a powerhead brings to the reef tank will also be enjoyed by the fish. Many varieties of reef tank fish spend their time swimming against the flow of water. For many, it’s their natural behaviour, while for some it seems they actively enjoy it!

    Where to Position a Powerhead?

    The positioning of a powerhead is important in relation to corals. Some corals prefer high-flow, while some prefer low-flow. By carefully considering the positioning of the powerhead, it is possible to direct the flow to where each coral needs it. Most(if not all) coral will need at least “some” flow, and this is to prevent the build-up of detritus and waste if nothing else.

    Typically a powerhead will be positioned at one of the sides of the reef tank either half-way down or towards the middle. Most modern powerheads will allow adjustment of the angle which you can do after it has been attached to the glass. Common practice is to ensure the flow moves from the edge of the tank(where the powerhead is located) towards the front-center of the tank, this should provide a circular flow around the entire tank reaching as many areas as possible. In addition, by angling the flow slightly towards the water surface, it can provide additional agitation which is great for oxygenating the water.

    How Many Powerheads Do I Need?

    For small reef tanks(nanos) around the size of 10G to 20G, it is recommended that one powerhead is used. If you have a medium-sized tanks in the range 30G to 100G, two powerheads are recommended. For larger tanks, up to four are often used. However, the amount of powerheads in a reef tank is not the important thing, it is in fact the flow rate. As you will see in our recommended best reef tank powerheads for 2023 below, powerheads come with a huge range of flow ratings. This is measured in GPH(Gallons Per Hour) and should be a consideration when purchasing one as you don’t want to purchase a powerhead that is too powerful for your tank, and the same goes for buying one that is underpowered for the job.

    The best course of practice is to add one powerhead to the tank and see how things go with the fish and corals, you can always add an additional powerhead in the future if more flow is needed.

    Which are the Best Budget Reef Tank Powerheads?

    Powerheads can be expensive, but many reef tank owners simply do not have the budget to buy the best powerheads. However, fortunately, there is a good selection of cheap and medium-priced devices out there. The following budget reef tank powerheads have not only received good reviews, but also provide excellent value for money too.

    What should I look out for when choosing a Powerhead?

    An often overlooked consideration when looking for a new powerhead is the noise it makes. While any powerhead if incorrectly positioned, such as touching the edge of the tank or the back wall, can cause it to vibrate which can make excessive noise. Some reef tank powerheads are just poorly built and will be noisy however well you position it. The length of the power cord can also be an issue. It can be frustrating when you have to add an extension lead just to power the powerhead. It is also worth considering the size of the powerhead, if you have a small tank or are concerned about the aesthetics, make sure the powerhead is going to fit where you want it too and not look too out of place.

    Most of the considerations above can be researched by reading the specifications displayed on the manufacturer’s websites(if they have one). Many powerheads are sold by Amazon, so it is highly recommended that you read the product reviews, this will give you a great insight as to the quality of the product before purchasing.

    Best Budget

    Flexzion Reef Tank Powerhead

    Flow Output: 1100 – 2200 GPH
    8.5Score

    One of the key features of this powerhead is it’s virtual limitless positioning capabilities. It has 180 degrees vertical and 360 degree horizontal positioning. In addition, a manually configurable flow adjuster makes this powerhead great value. Available in 1100 / 1600 / 2200 GPH models.

    Our Verdict

    Not many budget powerheads have both excellent positioning and flow control, which makes this powerhead our overall favourite.

    Pros

    • Directional positioning
    • Magnetic mounting
    • Flow adjustment
    • Multiple models available

    Cons

    • Blue colour
    • Power cord is a little short
    • Can be noisy

    Best Power

    Hygger Submersible Powerhead

    Flow Output: 2000 GPH
    8.5Score

    Delivering a whopping 2000 GPH from its twin heads, the Hygger Submersible Powerhead is an excellent choice for medium-sized reef tanks. Great positioning abilities and low noise output make this a stand-out performer.

    Our Verdict

    Outstanding power on a budget price make this a top choice for medium-sized tanks.

    Pros

    • Directional positioning
    • Suction mounting
    • Dual heads

    Cons

    • Only comes in 2000 GPH

    Best Quality

    Fluval Sea Circulation Powerhead for Reef Tanks

    Flow Output: 265 – 1375 GPH
    8.5Score

    From one of the most popular brands in the world, Fluval has produced a high-quality range of reef tank powerheads to suit every reef tank. Being energy efficient is important today, and the Fluval Sea pump range (CP1, CP2, CP3, CP4) really excels here. Made from high-quality components, we make this our top choice for quality.

    Our Verdict

    The usual high-quality components we expect from Fluval have made this range of powerheads stand out from the rest of the crowd in the quality department.

    Pros

    • Directional positioning
    • Suction mounting
    • Energy efficient
    • Multiple models available

    Cons

    • Rotation is limited by cable
    • Can sometimes be noisy

    Best Nano

    Voyager Nano 1000 Reef Tank Powerhead

    Flow Output: 270 GPH
    8.5Score

    The compact design of this budget powerhead attaches via magnetics to your tank. Featuring a stainless steel shaft and self-cleaning impeller, this ultra-quiet powerhead that has great range of positioning provides outstanding value for money for any nano reef tank owner looking to add more flow to their reef tank.

    Our Verdict

    This great powerhead aimed at the nano tank market proves to be reliable and cost-effective and wins the best budget nano powerhead hands-down.

    Pros

    • Directional positioning
    • Magnetic mounting
    • Multiple models available

    Cons

    • Weak magnet on thick glass
    • Vibrates if not correctly positioned

    Best Premium

    Hygger Magnetic DC Powerhead

    Flow Output: 1600, 2600 GPH
    8.5Score

    This smart powerhead set comes with a high-quality powerhead that has excellent positioning flexibility, and a smart LED controller. The controller allows you to schedule day and night cycles and also a handy feeding mode. In addition to set a range of flow rates, the high quality and incredible flexibility thanks to the smart controller, makes this a winner in the premium category.

    Our Verdict

    Amazing flexibility thanks to a smart LED controller puts this quality reef tank powerhead really into a class of it’s own.

    Pros

    • Directional positioning
    • Magnetic mounting
    • Multiple models available
    • Smart LED controller

    Cons

    • Can sometimes be noisy
    • Error codes if not regularly cleaned

    Thanks for reading this Everything Reef article. Many more articles and guides are available at EverythingReef.com Visit our website today to view the LFS Finder, Coral Finder, Invert Guide, Reef Tank Community, Articles, Podcasts, Videos and much more. Happy reefing!

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