A powerhead is a useful addition to any freshwater aquarium, but many people aren’t sure how to add them into their tank setup. Once you understand exactly what a powerhead is for, it’s easy to know where to place it.
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What is a Powerhead for?
The main job of a powerhead is to keep the water in your aquarium moving. Now, you might be thinking, doesn’t the filter cause enough movement? But if you have a large tank or your aquarium is stocked with fish that like a lot of movement, the minimal movement from the filter isn’t going to be enough.
A powerhead creates an underwater current that keeps the water moving throughout your whole tank. It makes sure all of the tank water circulates through the filter and helps maintain an even temperature. It also gives your fish a current to swim against.
Another great thing about powerheads is that they keep the water moving around all your plants and decor. This movement prevents debris from building up and hiding in your tank. Ultimately, this keeps your tank cleaner and your water balanced.
Does Everyone Need a Powerhead?
No. If your tank is small, you probably don’t need a powerhead. A general rule of thumb is that if your tank is less than two feet long, you probably don’t need a powerhead. If your filter provides enough flow, you probably don’t need a powerhead either.
The only way to know for sure if you need a powerhead is to test the water temperature. If the temp at the end of the tank that farthest away from your heater matches the temperature by the filter, it’s a good indication that your tank has enough flow without a powerhead. If they differ, especially if they differ significantly, a powerhead is a good idea.
Where to Place a Powerhead in Freshwater Tank
When deciding where to place your powerhead, keep in mind what it’s supposed to do: circulate an underwater current. The goal is to make sure the current sweeps through the entire tank to even out the temperature and move debris toward the filter.
If you have a fresh water tank, one way to make sure you get your powerhead positioned just right is to consider the placement of the filter. If your filter is on the back right-hand side, place your powerhead so that it directs water toward the front of the tank.
This setup causes the water to hit the front glass and circulate back toward the filter. It ensures that the water current goes around all of the rocks and other decor and keeps the temperature even throughout.
Things are a little different if you have a planted tank. The positioning and the idea behind the powerhead are the same. It’s there to move water around the tank to maintain an even temperature and prevent debris from accumulating.
The difference in a planted tank, though, is that plants don’t always like a strong current. Water movement is still very important to plants. Their leaves absorb carbon dioxide and nutrients and a gentle current ensures that they come in contact with more of the water in the tank.
Remember, plants absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen, so water movement is important to make sure this gas exchange is even throughout the tank.
When placing a powerhead in a planted tank, your plants shouldn’t move back and forth or bend. The powerhead should produce a gentle movement that brushes over and through the plants without disturbing them too much.
Placing your powerhead at the bottom of the tank is important for planted tanks, too. Why? Because having too much turbulence on the water’s surface will remove carbon dioxide from the water. Carbon dioxide is something that your plants need to thrive, so you don’t want to inadvertently remove it from the water.
Understanding what a powerhead is for is the best way to figure out where to place it in your tank. Ultimately, you want to create a current that’s strong enough to circulate the water without damaging your plants or overwhelming your fish.
You may not need a powerhead if you have a small tank or a powerful enough filter, but do the temperature test we mentioned earlier just to be sure.