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Q11108 - INFO: 6 Ways to Improve Aquarium Water Flow by Keith MacNeil, Reef Squad
Lack of water circulation in an aquarium, especially a reef tank, can lead to many problems. One of the problems is the reason so many aquarists decide to leave the hobby: nuisance algae growths. Poor circulation can also lead to low oxygen levels, uneven water temperatures (warmer and colder areas within the tank), reduced coral growth and even death in corals since they rely on water flow to bring food to them as well as whisk away waste.

This short article will teach you how you can improve water flow in your tank today. It will also give you a strong foundation for how to properly set up your next tank.
Hydor Koralia

  1. Powerheads. These are the staple of water circulation in our aquariums and luckily there are many choices available. From "standard" nozzle output powerheads, like Hagen AquaClear or Rio Powerheads, to the "stream" or "propeller" style powerheads, like the Tunze Stream or NanoStream, Hydor Koralia and EcoTech Marine VorTech pumps. For an overview of some of the more popular powerheads, have a look at this article.
Pentair Aquatics Customflo
  1. Closed Loop Systems. Closed Loop Systems allow the aquarist to create water flow throughout the tank without having to use powerheads within the system. Most of these systems require you to drill your tank. If you already have an aquarium set up, this may not be your best option. Items needed for a closed loop system include a hole saw (glass tanks require a diamond-coated hole saw), bulkheads & strainers (to prevent anything from getting sucked in), a Loc-line Modular Hose System (to aim the return water), PVC (rigid or flex) and an external pump. Pentair Aquatics Customflo system is a great alternative if you want to set up a closed loop system without having to drill your tank. If you would like more information about closed loop systems, please visit our forums to post a question or send us an email for specific product recommendations for your system.
SCWD Wavemaker
  1. Maximize your return pump's flow. If you are using a sump system or wet/dry system, your return pump is a vital part of that system. How you plumb the return line can be just as important. The use of a "wavemaking" device such as a SCWD (pronounced squid) or Sea Swirl can take a unidirectional return and allow for a more random or chaotic flow within the tank (reducing the need for extra powerheads).
Flow Accelerator
  1. Flow accelerators. These are another way to maximize your return pump's flow. They work best with pressure-rated pumps as they do increase the head pressure put on the pump. They will help increase the pressure of the flow within the tank but the actual gallons per hour will decrease somewhat.
  1. Aquascaping your aquarium. The way we arrange the live rock and coral within our tank can have a dramatic effect on the flow achieved within the tank. By keeping a more open look and/or the addition of caves/tunnels within the rockwork permits better water flow throughout the tank and may reduce the need for extra powerheads to prevent "dead spots" or areas of no flow.
Tunze Wavemaker
  1. Wavemakers like the Tunze Wavebox. There are many types of wavemakers available. Some control powerheads and others oscillate the flow of the return pump. But the Tunze Wavebox is a little different. The wavebox produces "oscillating waves which produce water movement almost identical to reef zones." EcoTech Marine Vortech powerheads can also be programmed to produce a similar result.
Have you utilized other methods to improve the water flow in your aquarium? Please leave details below in the comment section to share your experiences with us and other aquarium hobbyists. Thanks for reading!

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Approved Comments...
a pleasant reminder of how important water flow is Approved: 3/6/2011
i agree with needs to be more specific Approved: 3/6/2011
Good overview in my amateurs opinion. My preference and encouragement is to seriously consider utilizing a tandem of EcoTech Vortech pumps to create optimal water movement distribution. This is the best way to export nutrients into the water column, resulting in filtration systems to be more efficient. Approved: 3/5/2011
You dont match the different conditions around water flow issues to the different equipment that can be used to optimize water flow. Approved: 3/5/2011
Thank you...this is a very good overview of the items available. Approved: 3/5/2011
Some explanation of the resource it self would be poignant here. For example speaking to the topics of: turbulent and laminar flows, how to mimic these using the said items above would have been nice. Approved: 3/5/2011
The article lacks any discussion or pointers on how to use these devices to improve water flow and or reduce deadspots. Naming the devices does little to nothing to help anyone but the newest of persons getting involved in the hobby. Approved: 3/4/2011
good info Approved: 3/4/2011
Need more specific info in details Approved: 3/4/2011
Article Details
Created on 3/2/2011.
Last Modified on 7/8/2011.
Last Modified by Administrator.
Article has been viewed 29886 times.
Rated 6 out of 10 based on 75 votes.
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