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The Best Aquarium Pump in 2023: Our Top Picks + Expert Advice

By Erika

An aquarium pump is one of the most important pieces of equipment for any fish tank. Choosing the right pump for your aquarium is crucial to maintaining proper water flow, circulation, and filtration to keep your fish healthy. This comprehensive guide will walk you through everything you need to know to pick the perfect aquarium pump.


An aquarium pump is a device that moves water through the fish tank. It serves several key functions:

  • Aerating the water – Pumps add oxygen to the water, which fish need to breathe.
  • Creating water flow – The pump circulates and filters the water to prevent waste buildup.
  • Operating filtration systems – Most filters require an aquarium pump to function.
  • Providing water flow to features – Pumps allow you to power waterfalls, fountains, and bubblers.

With so many critical jobs, an aquarium pump is essential for any tank setup. Choosing the right one ensures your system gets adequate circulation and filtration. There are several types of aquarium pumps suitable for different needs:

  • Air pumps – For air-powered equipment like air stones and sponge filters.
  • Submersible pumps – Sit inside the tank to power water features or external canister filters.
  • Inline pumps – Hook up to tubing on external filters for extra circulation.
  • Circulation pumps – Create targeted water flows and simulate natural currents.

Consider factors like tank size, flow rate, type of filtration, and more to select the perfect aquarium pump. This guide covers everything you need to know.

Factors to Consider When Choosing an Aquarium Pump

Choosing the right aquarium pump requires taking several factors into account:

Tank Size

The pump must be appropriately sized for the aquarium. A pump that is too small will not adequately filter and circulate the water. One too large will create currents that stress fish.

Flow Rate

Flow rate measures the pump’s water pumping capacity in gallons per hour (GPH) or liters per hour (LPH). Match this to the tank size. For example, a 20 gallon tank needs a pump with 100-150 GPH flow rate.

Head Height

Head height is the vertical distance the pump has to push water. For example, from the filter down undergravel tubing and back up to the tank. A higher head height requires a more powerful pump.

Type of Filtration

Certain filtration systems like canister filters need specific pump types to function properly. Make sure to get a compatible pump.

Noise Level

Larger more powerful pumps make more noise. If the tank is in a living space, get a quieter model.

Energy Efficiency

More efficient pumps use less electricity. This saves on energy costs in the long run.


Aquarium pumps range widely in price from $10 to $200+. Set a budget and find a quality pump that fits the tank’s needs.

Best Aquarium Pumps for Different Tank Sizes

hygger 1060GPH Quiet Water Pump
hygger 1060GPH Quiet Water Pump

Small Aquariums (up to 20 gallons)

  • Hygger Submersible Aquarium Pump – Compact and ultra-quiet. Flows 80 GPH. Great for nano and desktop tanks.
  • Homasy Submersible Pump – Affordable option with adjustable 80-132 GPH flow rate. Has foam pre-filter.
  • EHEIM CompactON 100 Pump – Reliable 35W pump. Flows up to 159 GPH. Can hook up to small filters.

Medium Aquariums (20-55 gallons)

Large Aquariums (55 gallons+)

  • Fluval Sea SP Submersible Pump – Heavyweight performer pumps up to 1822 GPH at only 38W. Can drive canister filters.
  • Aqueon QuietFlow Pump – Hurricane-grade composite impeller for max flow up to 1260 GPH. Minimal noise.
  • KollerCraft TOM Internal Pump – Large capacity asynchronous motor pumps 1140 GPH while using only 20W power.

Best Aquarium Pumps for Different Types of Filtration

The pump you need depends on your filtration system:

Internal Filters

Small submersible pumps like the Hygger or Homasy work well for powering internal corner or box filters.

External Filters

Larger external canister filters require pumps with high flow and head height to push water through complex media trays. The Fluval Sea SP is a top choice.

Canister Filters

Canisters also need strong pumps. Try the Fluval Sea SP or the KollerCraft Tom if the filter will be below the tank.

Hang-on-Back Filters

Aqueon QuietFlow self-priming utility pumps integrate seamlessly with hang-on-back power filters.

Undergravel Filters

Submersible pumps like the VicTsing work perfectly for pushing water down through undergravel filter plates.

How to Install and Maintain an Aquarium Pump

Installing and performing routine pump maintenance keeps your system running flawlessly. Follow these tips:

Installing an Aquarium Pump

  • Place submersible and inline pumps according to manufacturer instructions.
  • Secure the pump safely in place with suction cups or mounting hardware.
  • Attach tubing securely with hose clamps to prevent leaks.
  • Ensure water flows in the proper direction through filtration systems.
  • Plug pump into GFCI protected outlet and make sure flow rate is adjusted properly.

Maintaining an Aquarium Pump

  • Clean pre-filter sponges monthly by rinsing in tank water. Replace if worn.
  • Remove and clean out impellers if flow seems restricted.
  • Lubricate o-rings and seals with aquarium-safe grease to prevent drying.
  • Check tubing for cracks and replace if needed. Consider replacing every 2-3 years.
  • Verify flow rate quarterly and adjust if necessary.

Following the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule prevents avoidable problems.

Troubleshooting Aquarium Pump Problems

Aquarium pumps are reliable but issues can arise. Here are solutions for common problems:

Common Aquarium Pump Problems

  • Weak or erratic flow
  • Leaking water
  • Loud humming or rattling
  • Not starting

How to Fix Common Aquarium Pump Problems

  • Weak flow – Clean impeller, check for clogs, replace worn parts.
  • Leaking – Tighten fittings, replace tubing, lubricate o-rings.
  • Noisy – Disassemble to clean and lubricate the impeller and shaft.
  • Won’t start – Check if clogged, take apart to clean, or replace pump.

For problems persisting after troubleshooting, it’s best to replace the pump.


Choosing the ideal aquarium pump need not be difficult. Determine the required flow rate, head height, energy use, and noise level for your tank size and filtration type. High quality submersible and inline pumps from reputable brands like Hydor, Fluval, and Aqueon offer reliable performance for years.

Aim for the appropriately powered pump with the necessary features for your setup. This ensures healthy water conditions and long-lasting operation. Visit your local pet shop or order online to get the perfect aquarium pump for your fish tank today!

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