Water movement is one of the most important aspects of successfully maintaining a saltwater reef tank.
Providing the proper water flow in your tank can be expensive these days.
If you are not on a budget and want to have a high-quality powerhead or wavemaker in your tank, there are many different options to choose from.
But if you are on a budget and not looking to break the bank, don’t worry there are some great options available for you as well.
There are many different types of powerheads available on Amazon that are suitable for saltwater tanks. If you have a fish only or fully stocked reef tank, there are options to choose from.
The budget-friendly options will not provide the quality and features of some higher-end brands, but they will still do a great job and are quite a bit cheaper.
Here is a list of 5 best cheap reef powerheads on Amazon. I have used all of these products and will show you my personal reviews with the pros and cons of each.
- Hydor Koralia Evolution
- Tunze Turbelle Nanostream
- Sicce Voyager 3
- Jebao OW series
- Current USA eFlux
Hydor Koralia Evolution
The Hydor Koralia powerheads have been a staple in the hobby for many years. They are known for being reliable and easy to maintain.
The new Koralia Evolution models are even better than the previous models. There are some improvements built into the newer pumps.
These powerheads are available in many different sizes.
- 600 GPH
- 850 GPH
- 1150 GPH
- 1500 GPH
For smaller nano tanks, these pumps are available in 240 GPH, 425 GPH, and 565 GPH models.
The Koralia Evolution is an energy-efficient powerhead designed to create natural water movement in your tank.
Features and specs:
- Patented magnet suction cup base
- Energy-efficient design
- Enhanced cover with built-in fish guard
- The spherical joint allows you to position the pump in any direction
- Vibration absorbing silicone for silent operation
Customer reviews from Amazon
“Now THIS is more like it!!
I recently bought an all-inclusive adaptable power head/circulation pump by a well-known aquarium equipment company (you can see my other reviews for whom)…it was noisy & really a bust. Then I purchased the Hydor Koralia Evolution 750/850 circulation pump after seeing good reviews for it; I am really glad I did!”
“This is the second Hydor wave maker I have purchased, and I LOVE IT! The first was a smaller version of this one and makes a nice flow for the fish. THIS baby rocks the house!, lol, It moves water about halfway across my 6 foot, 125 gal aquarium with ease. The fish just love to play in the current. I alternate between the two. I don’t leave this one on at all times, but the fish sure do like it when it is on! Definitely recommend!!”
- Reliable and well-built
- Can be used with controller (sold separately)
- Many sizes available
- Over time it can make noise
- Larger than other powerheads
- New and improved vibration absorbing magnet and suction cup support. Can safely hold the Koralia Evolution 1150 positioned in tanks with glass (or acrylic) up to 1/2" thick.
- New shaft-less impeller technology with flow rate of 1500 gph, ideal for tanks from 90 to 175 gallons, fresh or marine water
- Power absorbed: 6 Watts. 50% less power consumption and up to 20% more water flow when compared to previous Koralia models
Tunze 6045 Turbelle Nanostream
The nano stream concept was designed by Tunze in 2006. This design incorporates a compact propeller pump for several different tank sizes.
It is a very simple organic ball-shaped design that works great and will provide a natural water current in your tank.
The 3D flow is adjustable in all directions, and you don’t need additional parts to point it anywhere you like.
The Tunze 6045 is perfect for small and large tanks. It is rated for tank sizes of 10 – 135 gallons.
Features and specs:
- Nano stream design
- Large intake strainer to prevent pollutants
- Energy-efficient – only uses 5 watts
- Strong magnet holder to attach to glass up to ¾”
- Controllable synchronous pumps
- Integrated protective thermostat
- Flow rate: 400-1175 GPH
- Power use: 5-7 watts
- Size: 2.7” x 3.7” x 1.5”
Customer review from Amazon
“Treadmill for fish. My fish instantly took to this and was non-stop swimming for hours and days. The unit is extremely quiet (actually can not tell if on or off based on sound alone). This doesn’t take up much space and is plug and play. Quality construction made to last. Considering adding another one for the other side of the aquarium.”
- Very quiet – includes silence clamps
- Quality and long-lasting design
- Great value
- Adjustable flow
- Over time the flow adjuster can stick
- 5 Year Warranty, Made in Germany
Sicce Voyager 3
The Sicce brand of wavemakers are designed for efficiency and affordability.
The Voyager 3 will provide natural ocean currents in your tank and the new HP or high-performance series is even better than the previous models.
The Voyager 3 is rated at 1200 GPH and suitable for tanks up to 125 gallons. There are other models available that have various flow rates for different sized tanks.
This pump has a unique magnetic mount, allowing the pump to be placed anywhere in the tank. Place it on the sides, corners, or back wall easily.
They can also be positioned at many different angles, from 180 degrees vertical and 360 degrees circulatory.
Features and specs:
- Includes a bidirectional rotor for 1 way starting without noise
- Flexible positioning in the tank
- Suitable for glass thickness up to 15 mm
- Adjustable flow rate by rotating the front plate
- Wide and gentle flow patterns
- For tanks up to 125 gallons
- Max flow rate: 1200 GPH
- Power use: 10 watts
- Dimensions: 4.75 x 4”
Customer review from Amazon
“The angles are pretty much limitless, and the controllable flow is a very nice touch. I mounted these on the back glass, with the heads at 90 degrees to the base to create flow across the back of the tank. This takes up less space, and allows them to be hidden behind rocks. There is NO noise on startup, and the only sound at all is a very, VERY light hum that’s only detectable when I’m inches from the tank.”
- Self-cleaning impeller
- Grid design prevents harm to fish and invertebrates.
- Flow rate reduces if not kept very clean.
- VOYAGER: This range of stream pumps has been designed for both marine and freshwater aquariums. Thanks to the exclusive magnetic support, these stream pumps can be positioned anywhere.
- FISH FIRST TECHNOLOGY: The Voyager range can be turned on and off quickly if combined with a timer without noise. The pump features a protection grid over the impeller that prevents harm to fish.
- PRODUCT DETAILS: The pump features a self-cleaning impeller and a stainless steel shaft. It uses a 360-degree movable rotor and features a flow adjuster to change the flow manually.
Jebao OW series
The Jebao OW series powerheads are another great option if you are looking to save some cash and still buy a great powerhead.
The OW powerheads are available in the following models:
- OW 10 – 132-1056 GPH
- OW 25 – 185-2245 GPH
- OW 40 – 317- 3962 GPH
- OW 50 – 449- 5283 GPH
As you can see, there are options for many different tank sizes. The Jebao OW series powerheads have controllable flow rates and different modes to suit your tank.
They are a very affordable option for a powerhead with so many features.
- External drive controller, no electronic devices inside of pump, longer life
- Three-dimensional big rotation angle to adjust the output water direction
- Four-pole super quiet motor, Flow rate:132-1056 GPH
Current USA eFlux
The next powerhead on the list is the Current USA eFlux.
These powerhead/wavemakers are designed to give you a wide range of options that are easily adaptable to the type of reef tank you have.
These pumps use the Loop system, which you can add and control accessory pumps in series together using the wave pump hub.
They include a remote control with a wireless connection. The various modes can be seen on the LED display which is included.
These pumps are small, energy-efficient, and powerful. They are available in the following sizes:
- 660 GPH
- 1050 GPH
- 2100 GPH
Regardless of your tank size, you can find a Current USA eFlux to suit your needs. They offer a ton of value for the price you pay.
- PREMIUM WAVE PUMP KIT- Efflux controllable wave pumps simulate water flow found in nature, providing tank wide circulation, improving water quality and promoting strong coral growth and fish health
- COMPLETE SYSTEM- Kits come with magnetic swivel bracket, foam cover, Wave Pump HUB (for up to 3 wave pumps), LED pump display with remote control, micro-USB & IR sensor cables, protective wire guard, HUB & LED display mounting clips, UL-Approved DC transformer and complete instructions
- ADJUSTABLE DIRECTION- The adjustable swivel bracket provides directional water flow precisely where you need it most. Whether you want to direct surging water current at an anemone or produce wave action on the water surface, simply pivot the pump in the direction you want water current and watch it flow.
How strong of a powerhead do I need?
Creating the right amount of water flow in your tank is crucial to the health of your livestock. It is possible to have either too much flow or not enough.
You should aim to have a 20-30x turnover rate for the water volume in your tank.
For example, if you have a 50-gallon saltwater tank, look for a powerhead that can provide 1000-1500 GPH. There are many different factors to consider, but this is a good rule to follow.
Read: What size aquarium wavemaker do I need?
Where should the powerheads be placed in a reef aquarium?
The great thing about most powerheads is they can be mounted anywhere you like. You might choose the side glass, rear glass, or corners.
The position of the powerheads should be based on the types of corals and fish you have in the tank and how much flow they require.
There is no right or wrong way to place them in your tank providing they meet the demands of your system. Certain corals will require more flow than others, so it’s important to find the best place in your tank that will keep them happy. The same with fish.
Not all fish like high water flow so positioning them either high on the glass or lower in the tank will depend on your tank livestock.