Most people know the basic things you need to set up an aquarium, but many overlook the importance of water movement. Good water movement delivers many benefits to your aquarium, and the best way to achieve it is with a wavemaker.
Here are some of the main reasons why having a wavemaker in an aquarium is so important and where to place it to make the biggest difference.
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Do You Need a Wavemaker?
Water movement plays a significant role in keeping a freshwater aquarium healthy. Here are a few reasons why you should consider a wavemaker for your fish tank.
It makes your tank look more realistic
Most natural bodies of water have some kind of movement, whether it’s a lake, ocean, or river. If you’re going for a natural look, a wavemaker helps you make your tank as realistic as possible.
A wavemaker is necessary for larger tanks to make sure you get the water moving throughout the whole tank. Add live plants and good lighting and you can create a natural-looking environment that your fish will love.
In smaller tanks around ten gallons or less, you can often get enough movement with the filter return spout, but once you get up to tanks that are 20 gallons or more, a wavemaker becomes even more important. The movement will benefit the overall health and happiness of your tank.
It helps oxygenate the water
If you have a larger tank and do not have a wavemaker, water that collects in the corners and along the bottom and sides of the tank may not circulate properly. A wavemaker ensures that water in these areas gets circulated through the tank, increasing oxygenation and making sure it all cycles through the filter.
It helps keep the tank clean
Much as the wavemaker moves water from the far corners of your tank, it also prevents detritus from accumulating. Fish waste, uneaten food, and decaying plant leaves can collect in these areas, waste away, and affect the chemical balance of the water, harming your fish.
With a wavemaker, detritus circulates with the water, preventing it from collecting and making sure it gets to the filter.
Placing Wavemaker in Freshwater Aquarium
As we mentioned, in a freshwater aquarium with a lot of plants and decorations, your goals are to keep the water circulating and prevent detritus from accumulating. If you keep this in mind, it makes it much easier to figure out where to place a wavemaker.
For example, if you have a hang-on-the-back filter, it’s usually positioned in the rear of the aquarium on either corner. To ensure that the water circulates throughout the whole tank and toward the filter, place the wavemaker in the back of the tank so that it pushes water toward the front.
When you set the tank up this way, the water will hit the glass in the front of the tank, then circulate to the top of the tank and back toward the filter.
If you have a planted tank, you might want to consider a different setup. Aquarium plants do best when they have a gentle flow of water around them. They absorb carbon dioxide from the water and release oxygen, so the better the water flow, the healthier your plants and your tank.
That said, remember that aquarium plants don’t need a strong current, just gentle water flow to prevent algae from taking over and to gently expose them to as much water as you can. Too much motion and the plants can become stressed with stunted growth.
When placing a wavemaker in a planted tank, avoid causing too much turbulence at the surface as this will cause the carbon dioxide to leave the water. Plants need carbon dioxide to grow, and with less carbon dioxide, you’ll have less growth.
In planted tanks, you should place wavemakers far enough under the top of the tank so the water gently moves around the tank without causing turbulence at the surface.
What About a Powerhead?
Although they share many characteristics, a wavemaker and a powerhead are two different things.
Wavemakers are special pumps that use low pressure and high volumes to create gentle waves inside the tank. As their name suggests, they are designed to make waves. Some run on timers. Other high-end models can replicate the current changes throughout the day.
Powerheads provide a more constant concentrated stream of water. You have a lot of control over the direction the water flows in, but because the stream is so narrow and flows only one way, debris can get pushed into corners or other nooks and crannies and get stuck.
Powerheads are useful when creating an ocean current in a marine reef tank or when you have a very specific flow you’re trying to achieve. Generally, for freshwater tanks, a wavemaker is a more useful choice.
Adding a Wavemaker to a Freshwater Tank
Most people know they need a filter when setting up a freshwater aquarium, but wavemakers often go overlooked. Not every tank needs a wavemaker. If you have a small five or ten-gallon tank, you can probably get away without one.
Once you get up to tanks that are 20 gallons or bigger, a wavemaker becomes a necessity. It’s the only way to make sure that all the water in the tank is circulating, improving oxygenation and ensuring that all the debris in the bottom of the tank gets to the filter.
Wavemakers are great for plants, too. Not only do they make sure that plants are getting the carbon dioxide that they need, but the constant water movement prevents algae from growing in the tank and competing with the plants for nutrients.
If you’re having trouble getting your aquarium to thrive and you’re not sure what else to do, try adding a wavemaker. Although it varies depending on your setup, the best place to place a wavemaker is in the back of the tank so it pushes the water against the front of the glass and up toward the filter.