Powerheads are essential for the reef tanks to ensure a good and healthy water movement inside the tank. Placing the powerheads at the right place can be a real dilemma if you are a new reef aquarist. If you are one of them, you must know where to place powerheads in reef tanks to let the fishes, plants, and corals thrive.

The powerhead needs to be placed in the middle or upper portions of the reef tank. Avoid placing the powerhead at a very lower part as that will blow the substrates. Also, do not let the strong current from the powerhead hit the corals directly.

However, the right place to position a powerhead can vary from tank to tank. You might also need to place more than one powerhead if you have got a big tank.

In this article, I am going to talk about the benefits of powerheads as well as where to place powerheads in reef tanks along with other tips.

Let’s dive in.

What Is A Powerhead?

Powerheads are fully submersible electrical units run by a sealed motor. They are available in various sizes and flow rate frequency. They pump water throughout the tank creating a narrow and high-pressure blast as you might see in a power washer.

When it comes to cost, powerheads are incredibly inexpensive. You can easily mount them on the side walls or back of your reef tank.

However, keep in mind that powerheads are not water filters and you should not expect that they will treat the water in any possible way. The only purpose of a powerhead is to keep the water moving around by staying underwater.

Where to Place Powerheads in a Reef Tank?

Where To Place Powerheads In Reef TankPlacing the powerheads accurately in the right place should be one of the most essential priorities after buying a good-quality powerhead. No matter how much you spend on a powerhead, if you do not know how to position the powerhead in a reef tank, that’s just a waste of money.

So, where to place powerheads in reef tanks?

The answer to this question depends on the type of corals you are accommodating at your tank, the background color of the tank, how many powerheads you are using to cover the tank, etc.

Seems confusing? Okay, let me explain the whole thing with some points.

  • If your reef tank is dominated largely by LPS corals or any invertebrates that feature long tentacles, it is a no-no to place the powerheads in a way so that the water flow strikes them directly. Too strong direct water flow damages the soft tissues.Moreover, make sure that you do not position your powerhead in a certain location from where the long tentacles do not get sucked up inside and leave the powerhead damaged.
  • Make the best use of the glass panels and the aquaspace to let the corals get the indirect but strong water flow. Those will help deflect the water around the whole aquarium.Large soft corals need constant water flow to keep them standing up. Place the powerhead in a place that lets them enjoy indirect and pulsing water currents to keep them upright as they love to stay like this naturally in the ocean.
  • Corals with tentacles and stinging sweep (torch corals, for example), you have to place your wave pumps in a location that gives them indirect water flow. Make sure that the tentacles do not sting other corals.
  • SPS corals can bear direct water flow towards them. So, you can place the SPS corals in the upward or middle position of your reef tank so that they receive strong direct water flow along with a good amount of light.
  • Your ultimate goal should be leaving adequate space for the corals to thrive besides letting the water flow circulate throughout the aquarium. Keep enough room behind the rock wall so that strong water currents can flow. Placing your wave pumps in the back will let you use both the rock work and the glass wall for better circulation.
  • Do not position the powerheads in a way where the strong water current is directed towards the rock work. It is because most of the corals are going to grow at that portion of the aquarium.
  • There are certain points in the reef tank where the water flow is very little. Those points are heaven for cleanup crews. However, ensuring some current flow at those areas will help you to siphon and clean the debris and the leftover food pretty easily.
  • You should mount the powerheads either at the upper or middle portion of the aquarium. Avoid placing the powerheads at a low portion as that will blow the substrate around.
  • Mounting the powerheads too close to the water surface might create too big waves or suck in air.
  • It is not the powerheads that should be at the center of your focus. Instead, you should focus on fish and corals. It is best to place the powerheads in darker or shadowed areas of the tank created by the absence of powerful lights so that they get less attention.
  • In case there is a black background on your aquarium, it will be a good idea to mount the black powerheads on the back wall. You can swivel the powerheads to change the water flow direction. Black powerheads blend marvelously well with the similar background of the tank.
  • Anchoring the gorgonians and soft corals in a place that helps to hide the powerheads is another great idea you can implement on your reef tank.
  • If you are using a pre-filter in front of the powerheads, make sure that you keep that clean.
  • Last but not least, keep no hanging cables on the side of the tank. Nothing can be more distracting than this. Keeping the cables organized is a healthy practice every aquarist should maintain.

How to Install Powerhead In Reef Tank?

The complete installation process of a powerhead in the reef tank might vary slightly from model to model. However, the basic installation is pretty much the same. Here’s how to install a powerhead in your reef aquarium:

  • Before installing a new powerhead, it is essential to go through some safety checks.
    1. Check for any cracks and damage in the powerhead very meticulously.
    2. Keep the cord of the powerhead away from the tank water.
    3. Make sure that the plug is away from any splash of the water.
    4. Never use an extension cord to run a powerhead.
  • Now that you are ready, let’s try to install the powerhead. First of all, place the powerhead in the tank. Make sure that it is submerged completely under the tank water.
  • When it comes to placement, choose to place the powerhead near the surface of the water. If you plan to set two powerheads, place them at the opposing ends. Keep the powerhead somewhat away from the filter’s area.
  • Now it is time to plug. Keep the plug dry while you insert it into the wall. Keep the power cord away from the walking path so that none tramples it.
  • Voila! You have successfully installed your powerhead in the reef tank.

What Are The Benefits Of Using A Powerhead?

If you install a powerhead to your reef tank, you’ll soon realize how useful it is to keep up the water chemistry and marine organisms thrive. Let’s see some of the benefits you will get from a powerhead in your reef tank:

  • Powerheads ensure constant water flow and oxygenation in the tank. These are more effective than bubbles that appear from air stones.
  • The water quality of the aquarium improves due to the better circulation and flow of the water.
  • Powerheads are easy to combine with other flow tools like wave generators. You can choose to create and control the flow you require to let the tank inhabitants thrive.
  • Powerheads do not let the detritus, fish waste, and other unnecessary elements settle at the bottom of the aquarium. These elements get circulated, suspended, and easily filtered out by the help of a mechanical filter.
  • The circulation of water is good for the tank inhabitants. It helps them get adequate oxygen along with bringing food to the stationary creatures. It also encourages activity in the tank.
  • The current or the water movement in the tank works as the source of exercise for the fishes.
  • Powerheads can deter those algae that thrive in calm, steady, and less turbulent water.

Why Do We Use Powerheads in Reef Tank?

The fishes, corals, plants, and useful bacteria need the appropriate amount of water movement to thrive.

If you think that placing only a good filter is enough, you are probably not right. Filters without adequate water circulation cannot do much good for your reef tank.

While the filters can only move the water that is in front of it, and heaters work best for the water near it, the powerheads help to circulate the water throughout the tank. All you need to make sure is that you have chosen the right powerheads as per your tank size.

How Many Powerheads Do You Need For Your Reef Tank Aquarium?

Tank size is an important aspect to consider when it comes to the number of powerheads you should install. Here is how many powerheads you need to set in your reef tank as per the size of the tank:

  • One large powerhead is fine for a small aquarium under 20 gallons. However, it is better if you can manage to set two powerheads at the opposite ends of the tank.
  • You can set about two, three, or more powerheads at various points around the aquarium for medium and large tanks of 20 gallons to 55 gallons.
  • If you own an extra-large reef tank, you should set as many powerheads as required to make sure that the water flows through according to the demand of the tank inhabitants.

You can also make use of wavemakers with controlling devices so that you have full control over the timing of the powerheads. Turning on and off the powerheads with planned intervals helps the tank to circulate the water and create wave motion.

What Is The Right Flow In A Reef Tank?

Your reef tank requires water that cycles around inside the aquarium. You need circulation pumps or powerheads to maintain the appropriate flow of water. So, what is the appropriate amount of water flow in the reef tank?

If your reef tank is dominated by LPS corals and softies, ensuring a 20x flow of the volume of the tank will work fine. On the other hand, if your reef tank comes with a lot of SPS corals, the 40x flow of the tank volume is the ideal choice.

Why Does Your Reef Tank Need Flow?

A proper flow of water is essential for live rocks. Good bacteria and other useful organisms live in the live rocks. Good bacteria contribute to the reef tank by breaking down the fish waste and uneaten foods of the tank. The process goes on by turning the ammonia into nitrite, nitrite into nitrate, and at last nitrate into nitrogen gas that gets out of the tank in the form of harmless bubbles.

If your tank is dominated by SPS corals, you have to ensure higher water flow. On the contrary, LPS dominated corals require lower water flow as they have delicate structures.

What Type Of Flow Is Ideal For A Reef Tank?

Do you know the best type of flow for your reef tank? What do you think about the flow that lets the corals and fishes thrive the most? Is it the constant flow?

To be frank, constant flow is not the ideal type of flow for any reef tank. It is rather the varied flow that works best here.

When you supply a strong current continuously towards the corals directly, they get stressed out easily. LPS corals are more sensitive to constant flow than SPS corals. If you keep the constant flow towards certain corals for hours, you endanger their growth and even existence.

Varied flow is the best because it lets the corals take a break. A varied flow also contributes to stirring the waste up for easy cycling through to the sump. The debris on the corals will also get dislodged by the varied flow.

So, for all the reasons I recommend you to place the powerheads in a way so that your tank gets a varied flow of water that reaches at all the four corners of the tank.

Final Thoughts

The importance of choosing the right place for positioning the powerhead comes next to selecting the appropriate powerhead. You have to consider a lot of aspects as mentioned above to find the exact place for the powerheads in your tank that lets the fish and corals thrive.

We hope that our comprehensive guide on where to place powerheads in the reef tank has helped you learn more about how powerheads work and why their correct placement is necessary.

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