Best Affordable Wavemakers For Saltwater Aquariums

Wavemakers That Are Affordable For Saltwater Tanks

If there is one thing that a saltwater tank needs to thrive, it would be water movement. And lots of it. It’s safe to say that water movement is important for any aquarium, but even more important for reef tanks. Water flow will provide many benefits to livestock in your tank. It promotes gas exchange, which increases oxygen and decreases carbon dioxide. Corals will appreciate water flow to keep their tissues healthy allowing them to grow and maintain vibrant colors.

How much water flow is required? Well, that will depend on what you have in your tank. Certain corals like softies will only require low flow, LPS corals prefer low-medium flow, and SPS corals will do better with high water flow rates. A general rule of thumb is to aim for 20-50x turnover rate for the water volume in your tank. For example, if you have a 50-gallon reef aquarium with LPS corals, aim to have your water turnover at least 1000-1500GPH.

In order to create that important water flow in your tank, you will need some sort of wavemaker or powerhead. Wavemakers today are very affordable and efficient to operate. There are some very expensive brands available as well, but for most reef hobbyists, we are always trying to find a great product for a great price.

In this article, I will show you my picks for the best wavemakers for saltwater aquariums if you are on a budget.

Types of aquarium wavemakers

There are many different types of wavemakers you can buy for your aquarium. These include constant flow pumps and adjustable or controllable flow pumps. You can choose either one depending on what type of water movement you are trying to achieve. I prefer to use the controllable pumps as it gives you more options for flow rates and wave types that you want to create.

Constant flow pumps work great as well, but just keep in mind that the flow rate is the same all the time. The nice thing about most of these wavemakers is the fact they can be pointed in many different directions in the tank. If you find the flow is too high, you can aim it in a direction so that a certain spot in your tank doesn’t get a constant blast of water.

Positioning your wavemaker in the tank

Deciding where to mount and position your wavemaker can be a bit of a challenge at first. You may need to move it several times until you find that “sweet spot” in your tank. I recommend you position them high on the glass of the aquarium, this will give you lots of water surface agitation. If you choose to use multiple wavemakers, you may opt to put one down low and one up high on the glass. Larger tanks may require multiple units to create the necessary water movement you need. So strategically positioning them will be important.

As far as mounting goes, you will have a few different options. The most popular wavemakers today use powerful magnets to hold the unit on the glass. It’s important to choose the right sized wavemaker for your tank as the glass thickness will play a role in ensuring the magnets will hold. You will need to match the magnet to its manufacturer’s glass thickness recommendation.

Some powerheads will use suction cups to hold it in place. Some of the more expensive brands will have better quality suction cups. The problem with these is that over time the cups will let go causing the powerhead to fall in your tank. This could be a problem depending on what you use for substrate and your coral’s positioning. It can cause a huge mess and be a disaster for established reef aquariums. If you have the option, I would recommend avoiding suction cup mounts.

Other types of powerheads may include an option to mount them on the trim of the tank using a hanging bracket. Most of these types are smaller units like the Cobalt or Marineland Maxi-Jet. They also have suction cups but the hanging bracket will prevent it from releasing from the glass.

1. Sicce Voyager

The Sicce Voyager power stream pumps are known for their quality and reliability. The Voyager pumps offer a strong magnetic hold which allows you to position it anywhere on the glass of your tank. Available in a variety of sizes up to 4000 GPH, you are sure to find the right one for your tank. The supports allow them to have numerous position angles up to 180 degrees vertically and 360 degrees circulatory.

A couple of things I really like with the Sicce Voyager pumps is they are very quiet and have a uniquely gentle and wide range flow pattern.

Some aquarium wavemakers have a problem with the propeller starting up and spinning in the wrong way. You won’t have that issue with any of the Sicce models. They are all designed to have the propeller spin correctly every time. No clicking noise on startup!
The Voyager 2,3,4 models allow for flow regulation by rotating the front. Models 7-10 incorporate an extra water diffuser. All models have a self-cleaning impeller design and a grid to prevent harm to fish. For me, the biggest bonus of the Sicce pumps is the cost. You get great quality and reliability for a really good price on all their different models.

Sicce Voyager features and benefits:

  • Strong magnet
  • Very quiet
  • Ability to be controlled through the Sicce Wave Surfer Controller
  • Energy efficient
  • Voyager 2 – 800 GPH
  • Voyager 3 – 1200 GPH
  • Voyager 4 – 1600 GPH

The Sicce Voyager wavemakers are available on Amazon.

2. Hydor Koralia

The Hydor Koralia powerheads have been trusted by hobbyists for many years. They are affordable and come in a variety of sizes. Hydor has done a few upgrades to these pumps and seems to have fixed a few of the kinks that were causing some problems.

The new Evolution series has a new and improved mount with incorporates vibration absorbing technology. They also have improved flow rates and consume less energy than older models. The Koralia attaches to the aquarium glass using 2 support magnets. Dual magnet support system (DMSS). 1 is to hold the pump and the other is to couple allowing the pump to be positioned any way you want. This design takes up less space in the tank giving you endless pivot points and aiming positions.

It is a constant flow powerhead that is not controllable unless you purchase the wave controller separate. The controller is a nice feature to have, although it is limited in functionality. You can control more than 1 pump either alternating or synchronized ranging in time from 5 seconds to 6 hours. It also has a shaftless impeller design and caging that prevents fish and other livestock from entering.

Koralia powerheads had a problem years ago with the impellers spinning in the opposite direction. I had many of them that would spin in reverse every time the power went out or was unplugged and restarted. That issue seems to be resolved with the new Evolution models. The one thing that still bothers me about these, would be the clicking sound on startup. Although it’s a minor concern, some people may not like it. I still believe the Koralia Evolution powerheads provide great value at a great price.

Hydor Koralia features and benefits

  • Strong magnet hold
  • Great pricing
  • Can be controlled using the Smart Wave controller
  • Evolution 1350- 1350GPH + uses 5.5w power
  • Evolution 1950 – 1950 GPH + uses 6.3w power
  • Evolution 2450- 2450GPH + uses 8.5w power

The Koralia powerheads are available on Amazon.

3. Coral Box QP Series

The latest wavemaker on the market that has impressed me the most is the Coral Box QP Series. The Coral Box QP+ is the latest pump from Coral Box. These wavemakers are a huge improvement over the Jebao pumps. Many people in the hobby use Jebao and I am one of them. But they are on the lower end of the spectrum when it comes to quality. Motor failure is common with Jebao pumps. The new Coral Box pumps use the controller for power management instead of the motor which eliminates motor failures. The controllers are designed to protect the motor from damage and failure.

The QP series pumps are compact and don’t take up a lot of space in your tank. They are energy efficient and look great. The slim profile allows for a dispersed flow pattern and you can point the wavemaker in any direction you like.  The magnets are strong and you won’t have to worry about them falling off the glass. The controllers are included with the pump and have a built-in timer, reverse mode, master/slave linking, wave modes, pulse modes, and feed modes.

The most impressive feature of the Coral Box QP wavemakers is that they are completely silent. They are the quietest aquarium pump I have ever used. Even on pulse or wave modes, you can’t hear the pump operate. This is great if you have your aquarium in a living room or a bedroom. You won’t have to worry about that annoying hum or pulsing noise that many wavemakers have.

Coral Box QP Series features and benefits 

  • Quiet operation
  • Fully controllable (controller included)
  • Affordable
  • QP 5 – max flow 1320GPH
  • QP 9 – max flow 2375GPH
  • QP 16 – max flow 4225GPH

The Coral Box QP Series wavemakers are available on Amazon.

4. Jebao OW Series

The Jebao wavemakers have been around for a while and have been called the “best affordable pump on the market”. I beg to differ. Although they have been proven to work great for many people, and they are not expensive, they have a short lifespan. The PP, RW models seem to have more of the problems. The newer OW models have been improved and seem to last longer with fewer hassles than Jebao’s older models. They claim to have improved the motor to withstand damages and longer life.

So if you plan on buying a Jebao wavemaker, I would look at the OW 10-25 models. I have used both and they work good. For the price you pay, I guess you can’t complain too much about them. But I do have one important point. Knowing how important water movement is for your saltwater tank, do you really want to rely on an average and cheaper wavemaker when there are others available? Many people stand by the Jebao brand and trust them.

The OW models come with a controller that has many different modes and is fully controllable. The magnet is also very strong and you won’t have to worry about it releasing and falling in your tank. It does a great job. They are also compact in size and don’t take up much space in your tank. They are also fairly quiet and don’t rattle on startup.

Jebao OW Series features and benefits

  • Great pricing
  • Includes controller
  • Newer OW model is improved
  • Jebao OW 10 – max 1057 GPH
  • Jebao OW 25- max 2245 GPH

The Jebao OW Series wavemakers are available on Amazon.

So as you can see, if you are looking for an affordable wavemaker, there are some good options for you. Of course, if you want to spend more money for better quality and options, there are plenty of wavemakers on the market to choose from. But keeping a tight budget in mind, I would recommend you consider either the Coral Box or Sicce brands. They have been reliable and great options for me and I know you will see the value in them as well!

Thanks for reading!

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