Finding the perfect return pump for your reef tank or saltwater aquarium can be difficult.
There are lots of different things you need to take into consideration before deciding on one return pump.
The amount of water you need pumped, the type of fish you have, and your budget all play a role in choosing an aquarium return pump.
If this sounds a bit overwhelming, don’t worry!
Here are a few excellent options you should consider for your return pump.
Table of Contents
The 10 Best Return Pumps for Your Aquariums
The market is flooded with many return pumps. Different types of pumps give different services to your aquarium. Each of these products has something unique to offer to your fish in their homes. You just have to decide on which one works best for your aquarium.
|Pictures||Return Pumps||Flow Rates||Links|
|Jebao DCP Sine Wave Water Return Pump||660, 845, 925, 1056, 1450, 1710, 2110, 2640, 3645, 3962, 4755, 5283 GPH|
|Hygger Quiet Submersible and External DC Water Pump||800, 1060, 1350, 1720, 2120, 2650 GPH|
|Current USA eFlux DC Flow Pump||1050, 1900, 3170 GPH|
|AqueonQuietflow Submersible Utility Pump||50, 159, 317, 335, 515, 530, 695 GPH|
|Uniclife DEP-4000 Controllable DC Water Pump||1052 GPH|
|Jebao DCT Marine Controllable Water Pump||1056, 1585, 2113, 3170, 3962 GPH|
|Fluval Hagen Sea Sump Pump for Aquarium||950, 1822, 3434 GPH|
|Reef Octopus VarioS-2 Controllable DC Circulation Pump||792 GPH|
|Orlushy Silent Swirl Controllable Aquarium Return Pump||1056, 1320, 2377, 3100 GPH|
|Jebao New DC Return Pump for a Coral Reef Tank||528 GPH|
Aquarium Return Pump Reviews
1. Jebao DCP Sine Wave Water Return Pump
For the first aquarium pump, we have the Jebao DCP Sine return pump. This pump is a great option for those people who value a quiet machine. It’s a small design and very quiet functions make it a perfect addition to any tank.
With the Jebao DCP Sine pump, you get a powerful pump in a small package. This pump has a flow rate of 1710 GPH, making it a very strong contender when compared to other pumps for a similar price.
Plus, because it’s the latest model by this brand, the high-performance motor, and energy-saving design make it almost 50% more effective than previous models.
The only negative thing that comes out of buying the Jebao DCP Sine water pump is the price. There are lots of good pumps out there that are available for less than this one.
It’s not extremely expensive, but it’s definitely borderline pricy. If you’re looking for pumps that are very low in cost, this one might not be for you.
- Quiet design
- Powerful pump
- More effective than previous models
- More expensive
- Other pumps have similar features at lower prices
2. Hygger Quiet Submersible and External DC Water Pump
The Hygger brand is well-known for having powerful and quiet water pumps. This one can be used externally and in the water, making it very versatile. It also features a six-foot cord, so it can easily be used anywhere.
All you have to do is plug it in and unplug it to make it work. There are no confusing controls to have to worry about. You’ve also got an automatic shut-off feature if there’s no water.
This product has two removable water intake screens. The first is for normal water levels with the other focused on lower levels (over 0.8 inches).
You’ve also got an LED display on the outside of the controller. With over 70 flow speed settings, you can go from 30 to 100 percent of flow. Plus, there are only three buttons, making it easy and quick to use.
With a wear-resistant shaft and magnetic drive, this device is going to work for a long time. There is no copper element included. Therefore, you can use it in saltwater and freshwater applications.
- Two Water Intake Screens
- Submersible/External Use
- Quiet Motor
- Pulsating controller
- Turns off automatically when it shouldn’t
- May need extra parts (not included)
3. Current USA eFlux DC Flow Pump
While traditional water pumps are AC, eFlux from Current USA is powered by DC and more controllable. Just turn the dial and adjust the flow until you get the right rate. You can use this pump in or out of the water.
Plus, it is safe to use in freshwater and saltwater systems. The quick coupling hose fittings are included. This makes servicing and installation easier.
These pumps are quite small, so they can fit into tight spaces and small sumps. Still, you get high pressure and high flow. This makes them the best choice for your return pump application needs.
Since you get the stronger flow and high pressure, you may worry about energy efficiency. This product comes with a magnetic drive design and sealed DC motor. Therefore, it uses up to 65 percent less energy than traditional pumps.
It features 1900 GPH and rubber pump mounts. You also get a MicroUSB cable and an intake screen.
- Quiet operation
- Compatible with LOOP
- IC electronic detection
- Easy to use
- Could leak (discharge nozzle)
- Quite large compared to other pumps
4. AqueonQuietflow Submersible Utility Pump
When it comes to choosing the right pump for your aquarium, there are many factors. The Aqueon brand is well-known for offering many choices. This submersible utility pump is versatile.
You can use it in a variety of applications and can completely put it in the water. They’re also quiet and low-maintenance. Therefore, you can use it in aquarium sumps or household fountains.
These pumps can also be used to provide extra filtration for your aquariums. With size AQ2500, you get 200 GPH with five feet of head pressure, so it is quite powerful.
The best part is that you get all of the tubing and PVC adapters you need to operate the pump. This includes two ½-inch PCV and two 5/8-inch tubing adapters. You can choose the ones that you need for the application or aquarium that you have.
Of course, this product comes in a variety of sizes, from 400 to 4,000W. Therefore, you can pick the one you need.
- Suction mounts included
- Low maintenance
- Silent operation
- Needs a break-in period for noise levels
- Unsteady flow rate
- Not as powerful as one might think
5. Uniclife DEP-4000 Controllable DC Water Pump
If you’re looking for a reliable water pump, Uniclife has what you need. There is no PCB inside this product. Therefore, it is more stable and can last longer than the DCT series.
The high performance you get is based on the six poles and three-phase motor. Plus, the ceramic shaft is wear-resistant. Therefore, it’s going to last a long time and not fail.
You also get a smart controller. There are 99 different speeds and a 10-minute pause mode for feeding.
Plus, you get a memory function. This helps you keep the same settings after a restart. Restarts may be necessary for many reasons, such as getting an error code or turning it off for a particular need.
There are multiple safety mechanisms included, as well. It turns off if there is no water, or it feels that something is stuck inside of it. You also get the true soft startup to make it very quiet at all times.
- Quiet and strong operation
- Alarm available
- Adjustable flow feature
- Trial and error needed for setup
- May need to be reset for no apparent reason
- Hard to install
6. Jebao DCT Marine Controllable Water Pump
The Jebao brand of water pump features many sizes. While this gives you a variety of options to choose, it also makes it harder to know which one is best.
For example, the DCT-4000 features a max flow of 1056GPH with a max head of 9.8 feet and 30 watts of power. The DCT-6000 has a max flow rate of 1585GPH, a max head of 12.5 feet, and 42 watts of power.
You are going to find the DCT-8000 has a max head of 14.8 feet with a max flow of 2113GPH and 68 watts of power.
There is also the DCT-12000, which features a max head of 16.4 feet, a max flow of 3170GPH, and 85 watts of power. Last, you have the DCT-15000, featuring a max head of 16.4 feet, max flow of 3962GPH, and 105 watts of power.
Regardless of the size you choose, you are going to get a controller with 10 speeds. Plus, there are no copper components used here. Therefore, it is safer for your tank.
- High-performance motor
- Quiet operation
- Must be kept clean with a vinegar/water dip
- Flow not as strong as advertised
- Hard to pick the right size
7. Fluval Hagen Sea Sump Pump for Aquarium
Fluval Sea Sump Pumps are designed and engineered with precision. Therefore, you are going to get the most powerful flow rates. Still, this depends on the head height of your tank and the pump. If you have a sump equipped marine system, you’re sure to get excellent water flow.
The product is high-quality and energy-efficient. Plus, the magnetic drive units can be external or submersible, allowing you to choose the best option. It is certified for marine use and quite rugged.
Therefore, it is going to withstand time and last a while. With the pump being robust, you’re going to see great energy efficiency here.
Plus, the pump is designed to run at a cool temperature. This is not going to change the tank water’s temperature, even if it is put in the tank. Of course, there is a low heat transfer here, which also means lower energy consumption, making it ideal for many aquariums.
- Low heat transfers (less energy consumption)
- Includes fittings
- Easy to install
- Plug not grounded
- A bit larger than other models
- No strainer/filter cap on intake
8. Reef Octopus VarioS-2 Controllable DC Circulation Pump
If you want an efficient and safe pump, then VariosS-2 is your answer. It features a 24V operation with five controllable power settings. These make it more energy-efficient for your home and budget.
You also get two different modes (pause and feed) that shut off the pump for 60 or 15 minutes, depending on your needs. Of course, it is designed to run quietly so that it can be used anywhere in the home. If that weren’t enough, you can use it externally or submerge it into the water.
This product has a detachable controller and a mount. It also has a ceramic shaft and propeller bearings. This helps to reduce wear and tear on the product, allowing it to work for longer periods.
With the variable speed flow technology, you have more control and better performance. Plus, this uses AC power and works differently than traditional ones. There is a lower voltage utilized, making it safer and reduces the heat transferred to the tank.
- Many safety features
- Runs quietly
- Creates a decent flow
- Does not come with fittings
- Is quite small
- Not suitable as a skimmer
9. Orlushy Silent Swirl Controllable Aquarium Return Pump
The Aquastation aquarium return pump is another excellent return water pump you can try out. This water pump has an impressive max flow of 3100 GPH (DC12000) and has the most to offer as far as customization for your tank and fish’s needs.
There are 20 different water flow levels you can choose from using the Smart Controller. There is also a Wave Mode in which you can decide the intensity of the waves in your tank. Along with that, there’s a Feed Mode that turns the pump off for 10 minutes when you’re feeding your fish.
The only thing going against this water pump is the fact that there are no adapters included for adjusting the size. While this pump is likely to fit with any tank, if you have a particularly large or small tank, you may have to separately purchase an adapter to connect it with.
This pump is available at an affordable price, but the added cost of the adapters may not be worthwhile.
- Strong water flow
- More customization for tank
- Feed mode, turns off pump during feeding time
- No adapters
- Possible extra parts for attachment
10. Jebao New DC Return Pump for a Coral Reef Tank
Last but not least, there’s the Jebao New DC return pump. This pump has a great max rate of 528 GPH. It’s a powerful pump that’s suitable for all kinds of tanks because it has copper-free components, making it perfect for using around sensitive fish.
It also has 10 different water flow rates you can choose from depending on your fish’s preferences. Other great features include that it runs on low voltage power and has a function of automatically powering off if there’s not a sufficient amount of water to avoid overworking. Finally, there’s also a wear-resistant ceramic shaft that makes for a longer-lasting life and more efficient power.
The downside of the Jebao New DC return pump is that it’s a bit larger than the other pumps mentioned. It can still fit into most tanks, but it probably won’t be conspicuous or hidden easily. Fish owners that have smaller aquariums or tanks should consider looking at different options before this one because of its larger size.
- Automatic power down function when low water
- Customization for wave flow
- Larger design than other pumps
How to Choose the Right Return Pump for Your Reef Tank
Choosing a pump for your reef tank involves careful planning and understanding of the needs your fish have. Some fish require stronger waves in the water they live in, while others are more sensitive to the motions.
An important thing to consider when buying a pump is the amount of water in your aquarium. You want to use a pump that can very easily filter through all of the water in your tank several times within the hour. So, a good rule of thumb is that if you have a 10-gallon aquarium, your pump should have a rate of 50 GPH or gallons per hour.
You should also ask yourself if you want to use a pump that goes inside or outside the water. Pumps that are made for functioning inside the water are often quieter and easier to install as you usually just have to attach them via suction cups to any part of the tank in the water.
However, submersible water pumps tend to overwork themselves if you don’t have enough water to cover them. This can lead to overheating of the device and your water and can be harmful to the fish.
On the other hand, inline or external pumps require a little more time for installation and setup than submersible ones do, but don’t have any problems with overheating while they pump. These types of pumps are also a bit more expensive than the submersible ones.
Before you can choose a return pump, you should research and fully understand what environment your fish thrive in so you can recreate that environment as best as possible. This can help guide your decision on which pump you buy.
While it may seem like it’s overwhelming to decide from all of the different return pumps, the good news is that there are many different experts who can help you make that decision. Knowing what kind of needs your fish have and setting a budget is a good start.
You can find specific pumps that work best in your situation by speaking to an aquarium expert or by researching online. A little effort on your part goes a long way in ensuring your tank and fish look great and feel greater.