Technology has gone a long way since I started in aquariums. Before, there were standard powerheads that would distribute a fixed flow and stream in your water column. Now you have these items called wavemakers that provide a wider and more powerful stream of water flow in your aquarium. There are even DC powered wavemakers that offer lots of control features and less power consumption. A lot of manufacturers have entered the fray by releasing their own wavemakers, but what is the best aquarium wavemaker?
There are so many wavemakers. Which one is the right one for you? Today’s post hopefully will clear that all up for you in deciding what wavemaker work best for your aquarium.
Why A Wavemaker (Benefits of an Aquarium Wavemaker)
You may have seen traditional powerheads at your local fish store or pet chain store, so let’s talk about why you should consider a wavemaker over a powerhead.
An aquarium wavemaker produces a more natural looking flow pattern that replicates nature. A traditional powerhead is a sharper and fixed stream of flow that can be disruptive to fish or corals. It’s easier to get good water movement at the waterline with a wavemaker, which will work to eliminate surface scum that can accumulate at the top of the waterline.
Ideal for Corals and Invertebrates In Your Tank
Corals in a reef tank demand variable as well as consistent flow. Some of them demand a rather high amount of flow that you are only going to get with a wavemaker. You can easily purchase wavemakers that can produce over 2,500 gallons per hour of flow with various settings. These settings are made to replicate nature and make your corals thrive. Invertebrates such as anemones will also benefit from the flow from these wavemakers.
Eliminates Dead Spots
Wavemakers like Gyres are ideal for removing dead spots due to their design of covering all levels of the aquarium. You can also achieve this with multiple wavemakers. In freshwater, this ensure that oxygen is evenly distributed in the tank. In saltwater, this ensure constant flow and prevents detritus and cyanobacteria from growing in dead spots
Ideal Power Outage Solutions for Larger Tanks
We do not like talking about it, but being prepared for a power outage is a big deal as it is one of the major reasons for a tank crash. In larger tanks, battery powered air pumps will not get the job done completely. This is where a DC powered wavemaker comes into play. Because they use so little power, they can be hooked to uninterrupted power supplies (UPS) and run for several hours. Some manufacturers actually make their power outage solutions, allowing the unit to run for several days!
Types of Aquarium Pumps (What Makes a Wavemaker Different)
If you are new to the hobby, you may be confused what are the different types of pumps and why they so different. There are actually 4 types of aquarium pumps in the hobby and not all are suited for wavemaking:
- Filtration Pumps – These are the pumps you will usually see on power filters. They are designed to create a high water pressure stream and have an impeller to resist back pressure. It has a higher energy demand. As a stand alone pump, it is not suited for wavemaking
- Circulation Pumps – Also known as return pumps. These pumps are made to pump water from one area to another. For example, from a sump to a main display tank. They are made to be placed on the bottom of a sump or externally depending on the model. They are not might for wavemaking
- Powerheads – These are the traditional powerheads of old. These are what us old timers used to use. They produce a narrow, high pressure water flow. They sometimes come with diffusers to soften the water blast and they are not suited to be controlled with a wavemaker controller that would turn it on and off. They are also notorious for sucking up small fish because of their design. Some powerheads like the MJ1200 are extremely reliable units.
AC vs DC Wavemakers – Knowing the Differences
Before we go over all the wavemakers, I should explain the differences between AC and DC Wavemakers. AC wavemakers are based on old technology and are really plug and play. The big name brands like Fluval and Hydor, built their AC wavemakers on high quality and proven parts and engineering. This means AC wavemakers are extremely reliable and less prone to failure. On the budget side of things, AC wavemakers are going to be cheaper than DC wavemakers. For large tanks, they will be louder and they will consume more energy. They may not be ideal as a power outage solution because of the power needed to run them.
DC Wavemakers are the new technology on the block. They offer decreased energy consumption, which is a big deal for larger aquariums and reef tanks that require a ton of flow. They can produce more gallons per hour than most AC wavemakers and for the most part they can be more silent – to the point of being dead quiet. They have the ability to be programmed with controllers and many come with their own. These controllers provide a ton of customizable options for aquarists.
However, with all this new tech comes reliability issues. Many DC wavemakers unfortunately are made and built in China. This can provide several quality control issues, especially with budget DC wavemakers. DC Wavemakers have three failure points vs. one for an AC wavemaker. With DC wavemakers you have the controller, powersupply, and motor all as failure points. With AC wavemakers, all you have to worry about is the motor giving out.
Factors to Consider when Buying a Wavemaker
- Price – some wavemakers are extremely cheap while others are very expensive.
- Warranty – a manufacturer that makes a reliable wavemaker backs up their wavemakers with a solid warranty
- Durability – what are the field tested stories of these units. Have they been running for years or do they break every 6 months. If they break easily, are they cheap enough for you to consider disposable?
- Safety – This is not so much of a concern with AC powered wavemakers, but DC powered wavemakers have their own power supply. You will want to make sure the power supply has a water tight seal at the connect point and that the unit has either a ETL or UL rated. ETL or UL rating ensures that your insurance covers an accident that may occur.
Top-rated Aquarium Wave Maker Reviews
Alright, here is the moment you have been waiting for :). I wanted to provide some background information so you understand my criteria in reviewing these wavemakers. All these wavemakers meet several of the factors listed above, but not all (as a wavemaker that does meet these all would be expensive!). I’ll go through each wavemaker listed below and provide you my recommendation at the end.
Just so you know, Aquarium Store Depot may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page (learn more). With that quick disclosure, let’s get started with our list!
1. Current USA EFlux Wavemakers – Integrates With Loop LED and Dead Silent!
We start off this list with a great entry by Current USA and their EFlux Wavemakers. They come in several options from 660 GPH all the way up to 2100 GPH. The main feature here is that they are part of Current’s Loop system, which are integrated with each other. It works seamlessly with the Current USA’s Best Reef LED offering – the Loop LEDs. I have personally used this system and can attest to their extremely quiet operation. My experience with Current USA has also been top notch with them going out of their way on warranty claims. The price isn’t that bad either!
So what is there not to like? Well, the wavemaker options are pretty limited. It only comes with 3 wavemaker modes, stream, pulse, and gyre. Gyre can only be used if you pair it with another EFlux wavemaker and the manifold will only support 3 wavemakers so this can be a problem for larger tanks or high flow setups. Overall, this is a great first entry into the list!
- Integrates with Current USA Loop LED for an all in one controller
- Current USA’s customer service is top notch
- VERY Quiet
- Limited wavemaker options
- Gyre mode only works with 2 pumps synced together
- Manifold only supports 3 wavemakers
Best For: Saltwater Aquariums
2. Fluval Sea CP Wavemakers – Hagen Finally Gets Serious About The Marine Hobby
Hagen, the parent company of Fluval has been a big name brand in the freshwater industry for decades. When they got serious about saltwater aquarium keeping with their new Fluval Sea brand, the industry started listening. The Fluval Sea CP Wavemakers are Fluval’s first serious dive into a competent wavemaker that works for saltwater tanks. It has the trusted European engineering that we all know and love from Hagen and the great prices that go with Hagen’s extremely vast network of distribution.
This is also the first AC powered wavemaker on the list. AC powered wavemakers in general can be more reliable than DC powered wavemakers because the technology has been well established and there are less failure points to consider when you just plug a wavemaker in without a power supply or controller.
The main thing I will shame Hagen for is using a sunction cup. A magnet would be have well appreciated. As with most AC wavemakers, there is no adjustable functions or modes, so you will have to purchase a separate wavemaker accessory to get adjust-ability with it.
- Hagen brand name
- Great price
- AC powered = proven reliable technology
- Uses a suction instead of a magnet
- Not adjustable or controllable (unless you purchase a wavemaker controller)
Best For: Freshwater/Saltwater Aquariums
3. EcoTech MP – The Wavemaker Of Choice For Professional Installers
If you are looking to do a professional looking aquarium setup whether fresh or saltwater, the EcoTech MP Series Wavemakers are the wavemakers to look for. EcoTech’s patented mag drive technology supplies power to the wavemaker outside of the aquarium. This means that this is the ONLY wavemaker on the market that has the wire outside of the aquarium. This is an amazing feature for someone looking to have an extremely clean and professional looking aquarium with no wires in the aquarium.
It’s not just the wire, but the features of the MP Wavemaker that makes this a great buy. The wavemaker is loaded with various wavemaking settings and pairs easily with a controller or the Reef Link wifi controller. EcoTech also sells their own power outage supply solution that will power the MP Series for several days in the event of a power outage. That’s one comprehensive package!
You can have all this for one hefty price. Next to the MaxSpect Gyre, this is one of the most expensive wavemakers on the list. EcoTech also snubs you with a 1 year warranty. Really something this expensive should have a 2 to 3 year warranty.
Given it’s unique features however, it not hard to see what many professional installers and custom aquarium makers turn to this when it comes to making a showstopping tank.
- Wire is outside of the aquarium – ideal for professional level setups
- Lots of control with Reef Link or Aquarium Controller
- Has it’s own power outage solution available
- Very expensive!
- Only a 1 year warranty – bad for an expensive wavemaker
- You need Reef Link or an aquarium controller to get full functionality
Best For: Saltwater Aquariums and high end freshwater systems
4. Hydro Koralia Wavemakers – Great Choice For Reliable and Cheap AC Powered Wavemakers
The Hydro Koralia Wavemaker was and still is a very popular wavemaker. It was the original wavemaker on the market that brought about many of these other units. It is a trusted wavemaker by many old school reefkeepers. It has only become less popular with the explosion of DC powered wavemakers and all their controllable features.
The Hydro Koralia wavemaker uses proven AC technology. It’s really a plug and forget system with how long the model has been around. It has the ability to adjust 180 degrees, which beats out many competitor wavemakers that can only adjust up and down. This is a great option if you are planning to place a wavemaker in the corner of an aquarium.
Because it’s not a DC wavemaker, it lacks a lot of the controllable features of them. However, Hydor also had one of the first wavemaker controller accessories. If you purchase their wavemaker controller, you will have the control you want with the AC reliability. My only complaint if you purchase the wavemaker and the controller is that is louder than some DC wavemakers like the Current USA. I usually deal with noise levels being a major factor for installs. It’s the main reason I do not use them for residential installs.
- Attractive price
- Proven AC technology
- 180 degree adjust-ability
- Not controllable on its own
- Louder than some DC pumps
Best For: Freshwater/Saltwater Aquariums
5. IceCap Gyre – Affordable Gyre That Eliminates Deadspots
The IceCap Gyre is the first gyre pump on the list. What is a gyre you say? A gyre is a water pump that is based on crossflow technology. Compared to traditional powerheads or wavemakers, a gyre pump provides superior wave generating performance.
The result of a gyre is that there are virtually no dead spots, evenly distributed flow in the aquarium, and water moves back and forth to create full circulation or a “gyre.”
The Ice Cap gyre is an entry level model. It starts off at a pretty reasonable price given that the 1K model and easily handle a 36″ tank. It comes with a controller and there is an IceCap battery backup system that works well with it so you have a ready made solution for a power outage ready to go.
The main disadvantage of a gyre over a wavemaker is they require more maintenance to keep in optimal running shape. They are pretty big as well compared to a tiny wavemaker. They are louder than some of the wavemaker on the list. If noise isn’t an issue, this is a value water circulation system that is worth a look.
- Great innovative technology that eliminates dead spots
- Great value as even a 1K gyre can handle a 36″ long tank
- Readily available power back up solution available
- Big and bulky
- Requires more maintenance
- Louder than other wavemakers on this list
Best For: Saltwater Aquariums
6. Jabeo SOW Series Wavemakers – Value Price Silent DC Wavemakers
The Jabeo SOW wavemaker is the newest model of DC wavemakers from Jabeo. There are various other models from Jabeo so I have listed the most recent edition. The main feature of SOW is the Sine Wave technology. What is the Sine Wave technology? Sine wave makes the dc converter more stable and as a result the pump generates less noise. This new model from Jabeo truly competes with the name brand wavemakers on the list with a nearly unbeatable price and dead silent operation.
The controller has a lot of wavemaker options and a feed mode. Jabeo also sells a ready made battery backup so you are good to go with a complete battery backup solution.
The main disadvantage with these Jabeo pumps is their reputation. The past models are not the most reliable with pumps burning out early and the controllers often failing. If you can purchase the unit with an extended warranty, it’s highly recommended that you do that. The silver lining is these wavemakers are fairly cheap for a DC wavemaker so some hobbyist do consider these disposable.
- Sine Wave tech makes these VERY quiet
- Lots of features on the controller
- Great price
- Jabeo reputation
Best For: Saltwater Aquariums
7. Maxspect Gyre XF Series – The Advanced Gyre for Advanced Reefers
The Maxspect Gyre XF Series is the newest 3rd generation Gyre. This new generation gyre has been re-engineered so there are less parts and more intuitive assembly for easier maintenance. The most noticeable upgrade to these new gyres have detachable flow directors that allow you to place the pump closer to the surface of the aquarium.These gyes still work with the CV6 controller from CoralVue so if you are looking to upgrade your previous version you don’t have to purchase another controller.
This is a gyre loaded with features, which is expected from a premium level product. It commands a premium level price tag. It’s worth the money if you are building a high end system.
- Great features
- Can be mounted higher than other gyres
- The quietest gyre on the market
- Still large and bulky compared to wavemakers
Best For: Saltwater Aquariums
8. Sicce Voyager Wavemakers- Italian Made Reliability
Sicce is best known for their protein skimmer pumps. Their skimmer pumps are the gold industry in the saltwater aquarium community. These Sicce Voyager Wavemakers are made of the same engineering quality of they famous skimmer pumps.
The Italian made pump results is an extremely reliable pump that will last years in your aquarium. It also has the added advantage of being AC powered pump, which makes it will lack the failure points of a controller or power supply. Sicce also sells a Wave Surfer accessory, which will give you the added control-ability that you would get with a DC wavemaker.
Because you are working with a high quality Italian maker, there is an added cost for this pump. It is the most expensive AC wavemaker on the list, but you can assure yourself that you will get years of reliable service with his wavemaker. Outside of that, I personally think they look a little ugly and bulky but I believe most people will see past that.
- Italian made quality and engineer
- AC powered = more reliability
- Sicce makes their own wavemaker accessory for extra control-ability
- Bulky and ugly looking
- Expensive for an AC wavemaker
Best For: Freshwater/Saltwater Aquariums
9. SunSun JVP Wavemakers – Cheap, cheap, and CHEAP! The cheapest wavemaker for those on a budget!
If you are looking for wavemaker that is dirt cheap, the SunSun JVP Wavemakers are what you are looking for. Easily the cheapest aquarium wavemaker on the list. It’s so cheap, I have no clue how the manufacturer even makes money no these when you add in shipping costs. Regardless, these are powerful and cheap wavemakers and well suited for those on tight budgets.
These are offered in lot of gallon per hour (GPH) options, and several packages you will see online will actually come with 2 units, which is great knowing that you should expect these units not to last. The pumps are so cheap, you can nearly disregard the durability concerns. I still wouldn’t personally use them on my display tanks, but I do use them for my mixing stations and when making water changes. Their value really can’t be beat
- Insanely cheap
- Powerful with lots of GPH options
- Chinese quality = expect them not to last
- Loud compared to other wavemakers on this list
- Suction instead of magnet
Best For: Mixing stations and budget aquariums
10. Tunze Nanostreams – The Most Reliabile Wavemaker On The Market.
Would you like to purchase an aquarium wavemaker and never worry about it for the next 10 years? That is how anything Tunze designed is made and these Tunze Nanostreams are no exception. With the explosion of cheap Chinese made pumps flooding our aquarium industry, Tunze has quietly designed the most reliable and functional wavemaker on the market. The design is so well made, they haven’t even bothered to release a new generation model in ages!
Tunze is simply the Eheim of the saltwater industry. Well known for creating products that last the test of time. They just do not market a lot, but anyone with years in the industry can attest to their name brand quality.
This particular model comes equipped with it’s own controller that provides a good amount of functionality. The wavemaker itself can rotate a full 180 degrees just like the Hydor. If you want to go with DC power, Tunze sells a DC Nanostream Version as well that is even more powerful and feature rich. It’s really too bad that EcoTech has that patent on their mag drive tech because Tunze’s reliability is way better.
That really is my only gripe with these pumps. They look old because they haven’t been updated in ages and the wire is inside the aquarium. They are big and bulky and easily show in your aquarium. Tunze does sell a rock mount accessory, but it’ doesn’t mean much as you still have to figure out what to do with the wire inside the tank.
This is the most reliable pump maker period. If you want a pump to last forever, get a Tunze. You will thank me later.
- Incredible reliability
- Highly adjustable control
- 360 adjustability
- AC or DC powered versions available
- Big and bulky looking
Best For: Saltwater Aquariums
How To Install An Aquarium Wavemaker (Positioning Your Wavemaker)
Wavemakers are extremely easy to install. Depending on whether you have a suction cup model or a magnetically attached model the install with differ slightly. With suction cups, you simple stick them to the aquarium glass/acrylic. They may have a knob or tab you can use to add in additional suction power, but that is really all there is to it. For magnets, it’s even easier as you stick the dry side magnet on the outside of the aquarium and put the wet side magnet on the inside of the aquarium. Once the wet and dry end do their thing, all you need to do to adjust the height of the wavemaker is to hold the dry and wet side as you move the wavemaker to the position you desire.
Now choosing the best location for your aquarium wavemakers is a bit of a complex topic. I’m going to focus on saltwater aquariums since flow matters so much for corals. Here is a wonderful video from Current USA explaining the best position and flow to use with corals:
The Best Aquarium Wavemakers (Our Recommendation)
I have listed a lot of wavemaker choices that fit multiple budgets and needs, but you may be wondering what we suggest. Since everyone needs are different, we have the following recommendations based on the criteria below:
- Best Wavemaker For Budgets – Hydor Koralia
- Best Wavemaker For Aesthetics – EcoTech MP Series
- Best Wavemaker For Overall Flow – IceCap Gyre
- Most Reliable Wavemaker – Tunze Nanostreams
- Quietest Wavemaker – Current USA EFlux
What Do You Feel Are the Best Aquarium Wavemakers?
I hope after this article you are able to see why wavemakers are superior to powerheads and what are the best wavemakers available. There is a wavemaker for everyone depending on your wants and budget. All of these can work for freshwater aquariums all the way up to reef tanks. Please let us know in the comments your thoughts about what wavemakers have worked for you. Thanks for reading.