The Best Aquarium Wave Maker for Marine, Reef, and Freshwater Aquariums | Ratings and Reviews for Fish Tanks

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One of the most important things we can do for our beloved aquarium dwellers is to simulate as natural an environment as possible through the use of various products and devices.

The right reef salt, for example, provides corals and fish with nutrients that are healthy and help to keep the fish tank water in balance.

The right filter removes nutrients and debris to avoid making our fish ill.

And the best wave makers – well, they’re good for all sorts of things in an aquarium, especially with helping to give natural water movement for the health of the aquarium environment.

Best Aquarium Wave Maker Quick-Find Table

Image Product
  • Many, many settings
  • Comes with the controller
  • Perfectly suited to varied needs in reef tanks
  • Many, many settings
  • Comes with the controller
  • Perfectly suited to varied needs in reef tanks
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  • Works in any aquarium type – marine tank, freshwater, reef tank
  • Powerful magnetic suction for precision placement
  • Powerful enough for most aquariums but not overwhelming for smaller tanks
  • Works in any aquarium type – marine tank, freshwater, reef tank
  • Powerful magnetic suction for precision placement
  • Powerful enough for most aquariums but not overwhelming for smaller tanks
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  • Best option for your nano and mini reef and marine tanks
  • Easy to set up and use
  • Tiny and noninvasive
  • Best option for your nano and mini reef and marine tanks
  • Easy to set up and use
  • Tiny and noninvasive
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  • Dual-head for multi-directional flow
  • Easy to mount and use
  • Does a great job at helping keep water clean and healthy for your fish and plants
  • Dual-head for multi-directional flow
  • Easy to mount and use
  • Does a great job at helping keep water clean and healthy for your fish and plants
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What Is an Aquarium Wave Maker and What Does it Do?

Wave makers are devices designed for marine and reef aquariums to help create a more natural environment for your corals, fish, and invertebrates.

Basically, a wave maker is a small machine that simulates water surges in your aquarium. In other words, these little things actually create waves within the micro-ecosystem of your saltwater aquarium.

best aquarium wave maker

The waves from the wave makers help to stimulate the water and circulate it naturally, while giving your fish and other aquatic life a more natural feel to the environment.

The wave makers make a huge difference in the health of your aquarium, as well, especially in reef and marine tanks, as they help to circulate the potent substances that are created within the mini environment. Many of these substances are toxic to your aquatic life, so the movement is vital for the health and safety of the fish.

Wave makers also help to deliver food to corals and other invertebrates that cannot search for food without some assistance.

Wave makers allow you to connect powerheads and aquarium pumps to the control unit. These control units provide you with options on control for the speed and height of the wave inside the aquarium.

The right wave makers – i.e. high-quality ones – have features that prevent damage to powerheads and pumps and allow you to simulate night mode versus daytime waves for a natural environment for the life in the aquarium.

Some wave makers allow you to choose from rolling, smooth, or turbulent waves for mixing things up, and some even allow for a feed mode for specifically targeting the proper spreading of food for your invertebrates and corals.

That’s Cool, But Why Use an Aquarium Wave Maker?

There are actually several reasons to use a wave maker, especially in your marine or reef tanks.

Wave Makers Improve Health of Aquarium Life

When fish have the natural currents and waves they’re instinctually expecting, they have a healthier physical life – thanks to the exercise they get – and mental life – waves simply feel natural to them and therefore safer.

With certain freshwater fish and invertebrates, a wave maker can also improve their mental and physical health for the same reasons.

Wave Makers Circulate the Water More Naturally for Improved Water Quality

Wave makers naturally circulate the aquarium water around, oxygenating everything, which can help to improve the overall water quality. Stagnant water is natural for goldfish but most species require flowing – even if lightly flowing – water to prevent buildup of unhealthy bacteria and other problematic spores.

This means that a wave maker not only makes the fish tank healthier, but it makes your maintenance of the tank easier.

Wave Makers Help Your Corals and Invertebrates

Corals are living animals made up of small polyps. But these critters cannot move much, and that means they cannot hunt for food. Other invertebrates have a similar issue. And wave makers can help with this because the movement in water makes the necessary food supplies available to them through the currents.

Some wave makers even have a specific “feeding” mode to increase this feeding power all the more.

Southeast Asia shrimp in aquarium best fish tank wave maker

Wave Makers Reduce Accumulation of Detritus

Between cleanings, detritus can build up and cause issues in your aquarium. Food particles, fish waste, coral excrement, and other things build up and develop into ammonia and other toxic detritus that can actually kill your fish. 

Wave makers, however, can help prevent an accumulation of these nasty particles. This means you won’t have to clean as often and won’t have to use as many treatment methods to reduce the dangerous materials.

Wave Makers Give Some Nice Aesthetics to Your Aquarium

Finally, and admittedly least important, wave makers can add some nice visual appeal to the environment of your saltwater or freshwater fish tanks. 

Wave makers stimulate fish to swim more, help décor and plants sway, and generally just add a lot to create a more natural looking environment for your aquarium.

Wavemaker Vs Powerhead: What’s the Difference?

As you go shopping online for the best nano wave maker or fish tank wave maker for saltwater tanks, you’ll find a lot of jargon tossed around.

If you know your way around an aquarium already, you won’t even bat an eye at the terms, but if you’re new to this hobby, you’re likely to see the words “pump,” “wavemaker,” and “powerhead” used synonymously as if they’re all the same thing.

But you might be asking: Are they the same thing?

They’re similar, but they are not the same thing.

Just quickly, so you have a better handle on this:

Wave makers work in conjunction with other devices to, in essence, create a specialized water pump setup that can create a low-pressure/high-volume water flow action. This is what creates the waves. This is most similar to oceans, bays, and reefs, where you find saltwater fish and corals.

Powerheads, on the other hand, provide the aquarium water with a consistent narrow stream of water movement that is more consistent with the natural environment of freshwater fish and invertebrates.

How To Choose the Best Aquarium Wave Maker for Your Marine or Freshwater Aquarium

There are several things to keep in mind as you look for the best fish tank wave maker for your setup. Each element can impact the effectiveness and efficiency of the product you choose, so compare and contrast carefully to ensure you’re getting the right one for your aquarium.

Size of Tank

One of the first and easiest things to consider as you shop for the right wave maker is how many gallons your tank holds. 

Wave makers have a certain capacity of the number of gallons they can move – GPH or gallons per hour will tell you this figure – and this is a huge part of the consideration in your decision-making process. The wrong wave maker won’t be large enough to do much, and you’ll be wasting your money. The wrong wave maker can be too big and cause too much motion for your small gallon tank.

So, as you shop, look carefully at the recommended number of gallons and GPH each wave maker can work through to decide which may work for your setup.

The Fish, Live Plants, and Invertebrates You Stock

Second, and equally important to your decision is what you stock in your aquarium. The aquatic life is critical to the decision because they have different needs when it comes to the height and power of waves and currents in which they live.

Soft corals and LPS need a total tank turnover of 10-20 times per hour. SPS corals need more like 20-40 times per hour.

That means if you have 30-gallon reef tank that’s mostly LPS, you need to have an internal flow rate of 300 to 600 GPH. SPS in the same size tanks needs more like 600 to 1200 GPH.

firefish needing the best aquarium wave maker

Tank Placement

Another thing to consider as you dive into this product search, is where you place the wave maker inside your aquarium.

Since you want water movement throughout the aquarium and no “dead spots” (i.e. stagnant spots where water doesn’t move at all), you need to make sure that the aquarium wave maker will work within your aquarium shape and aquascape to prevent that.

You’re often best to purchase two or more smaller wave makers to place in multiple spots around the tank, rather than a single larger one. This depends, however, on what may “get in the way” of the movements of the wave maker.

A fish-only tank would probably be the best for a single option, while tanks with many corals and plants, decoration items, et cetera, are likely to need multiple wave makers.

Multiple wave makers can allow for more precise water movement, as well, I’ll note. You can create multiple “zones” in your aquarium with slightly different movement patterns that also provide more of that natural environment for the best result possible. This will be especially important as your corals mature.

Adjustability and Control

An important quality to look for in a wave maker is the ability to adjust and control the output of the waves in the tank. Achieving the right flow can take several attempts, but if your wave maker doesn’t adjust much, you might find that it won’t work in your environment at all.

You’ll want to be able to adjust the placement, the flow rate, wave height, and other things to create the ultimate environment for your aquatic pets.

The Number of Pumps

It’s also a good idea to see how many pumps can be linked to the wave maker, since you may have multiple that need to work with it.

Sound Levels

Aquariums are beautiful, but the wrong pieces of equipment can knock out some of that aesthetic with loud, clunky, running noises. Even if all of your other equipment is quiet, adding another device adds a bit more to the muddled hum.

Be sure to find a wave maker that’s quiet enough that it won’t raise that volume level too high. The best way to do this is to check recent reviews from real-life users to verify that recent batches aren’t noisier than others.

Which Fish Need Wave Makers?

As you can assess from the information above, not all aquariums need or do well with wave makers. Some are better off with powerheads and pumps only, while others definitely are better off with an ocean simulating wave maker.

The critters and fish that will do best with a wave maker are those who live in a naturally turbulent environment. Specifically, these are going to be invertebrates that do not move, like corals and sponges, and high energy saltwater fish, like clownfish and angelfish.

To know if your specific species will do well with a wave maker, be sure to do a little research. Look up the natural environments for them and see if they live in slow-moving or fast moving water environments.

coral best wavemaker

Best Aquarium Wave Maker Reviews

Via our research, personal experience, and reviews, we used the qualities below to determine which wave makers to recommend:

  • Quiet
  • Easy to adjust/highly adjustable
  • A smattering of sizes to cover everything we could
  • High-quality materials
  • Well-trusted manufacturers (EcoTech, Tetra, Hygger, Hydor, to name a few)
  • High customer ratings overall
EDITOR’S CHOICE

#1. Jebao OW Wave Maker

Jebao OW Wave Maker Flow Pump with Controller for Marine Reef Aquarium

This recent generation of the Jebao wave makers is one of the best I’ve ever seen.

They have a very solid reputation with customers and reviewers alike and provide you with more settings and options than nearly every other model available.

Plus, the motor is built specifically to handle natural damage that may occur within a reef tank environment.

This new design uses a newly improved 4-pole impeller design for the best energy efficiency and flow of water rate possible.

  • Best suited to: Reef tanks and saltwater tanks
  • GPH: 132-5283, depending on model
  • Mounting type: Magnetic
  • Compatibility: With varied options in timers and controllers
  • Volume: Very quiet – practically silent

What We Loved

The big thing we love about this wavemaker and pump is the fact that it has so many different flow rates and modes you can use to create the perfect environment for your fish, corals, and other critters and live plants.

There are eight different modes, including a one-touch feeding mode – perfect for corals and invertebrates you can’t move around with a slow pump for a 10-minute period.

The device comes with a wired and wireless remote control and magnetic mount for ease of use. You can set things up and click a button from practically anywhere within a reasonable distance and know that everything will work well.

The model also comes in a variety of sizes so that you can get the right one for your tank. The only thing we didn’t see was a model for nano reef tanks, so everything else should be covered.

The whole thing is nearly silent. So not only is the best reef wave making device but it’s also the quietest around. Use it in an aquarium in your bedroom, office, or any place else where you need a low volume aquarium.

What We Didn’t Love

The only potential negative we can see on this is simply that it hasn’t been around as long as other models, so we’re not yet sure how truly long it will last. The previous versions are reasonably durable, though, so we’ve got high hopes for this one, as well.

Our Verdict On Jebao OW Wave Pump with Controller

Overall, the Jebao OW is the best choice you can make for your reef tank over 25 gallons in size.

It’s powerful, extremely versatile, reasonably priced for the amount of modes and options you have available, and really does the trick for giving you a range of control and options for creating the best wave patterns in your reef tank possible.

>> Tap Here to Read More Reviews and See Today’s Price on Amazon.com <<

BEST BASIC WAVEMAKER AND POWERHEAD

#2. Hydor Koralia Evolution

Hydor Koralia Evolution Aquarium Circulation Pump

For the best wave maker and powerhead combo, you’re looking at the Hydor Koralia Evolution Aquarium Circulation Pump.

It’s a well-trusted maker offering a great crossflow technology product with great reviews all around. Most people recommend it for anything but nano reefs, so it’s great for practically any kind of fish tank you’ve got.

  • Best suited for: Anything but nano and micro tanks
  • GPH: 500-1500, depending on model
  • Mountain type: Magnetic suction cups
  • Compatibility: Works well with various controllers
  • Volume: Quiet

What We Loved

The Hydor circulation pump – i.e. wave maker – is a powerful model that works as both a powerhead and wave maker for the most versatility in your aquariums. This makes it great for practically any tank size, save the smallest – nano reefs and micro fish tanks below 25 gallons.

It comes in four different sizes, too, so you can choose the right one for your aquarium size.

We love that it’s reasonably priced and therefore almost anyone can afford it. And since it’s super high-quality, it’s worth the price and then some.

We love that it’s compatible with wave timers and other controllers that let you create the perfect wave effect in your aquarium. Add these on to create an even easier to maintain natural environment for your aquarium every day.

The pump is really compact, so it doesn’t take up a lot of space and can easily be placed in multiple locations throughout the tank to create the varied water flow effects mentioned above, for a more natural environment. That also makes it great for the aesthetics in your aquarium.

The Hydor Koralia Evolution is also really energy efficient, which also means you save money there. Win-win.

This particular version is improved on older models, so be sure to only order the most updated version.

What We Didn’t Love

The only real negative we found on this not really an issue, unless you’re not paying attention. Since it comes in four sizes for varied aquarium sizes and types, you do have to carefully select the right choice.

We saw a lot of complaints that seem to go back to the fact that people chose the wrong ones. They provide a chart to help you decide, and we’d recommend using it.

Our Verdict on the Hydor Koralia Evolution Aquarium Circulation Pump

Overall, this Hydor Koralia Evolution circulation pump is hands-down the best option you’ve got for your aquariums over 25 gallons.

It provides you with varying water flow rates, comes in varying model sizes to fit you needs, and works in reef, marine, and freshwater aquariums at an affordable price. Not to mention, it’s quiet and compact so less invasive all around.

>> Tap Here to Read More Reviews and See Today’s Price on Amazon.com <<

BEST NANO TANK WAVE MAKER

#3. Hydor Koralia Nano

Hydor Koralia Nano Aquarium Circulation Pump

The Hydor Koralia Nano Aquarium Circulation Pump is your best bet for a high-powered – but not too high-powered – option for making waves in your nano or mini reef and marine tanks.

It comes from a well-trusted brand, is made of high-quality materials, and is super easy to set up and use for years to come.

Basically, this is the small version of the one we just talked about above, and it delivers the same quality.

  • Best suited to: Nano and mini reef and marine tanks
  • GPH: 240 to 565, depending on model
  • Mounting type: Magnetic suction cups
  • Compatibility: Most timers and controllers
  • Volume: Moderate

What We Loved

The improved Hydor Koralia Nano wavemaker is more powerful than the previous models, which we love. For specific corals and fish, this strong power is perfect for improving their health and happiness through a more natural water currents and water flow rate in the aquarium.

We also love that it’s compatible with most of the timers, skimmers, and controllers – like Smart Wave – available to help you create the perfect flow patterns and water movements.

The wavemaker is very compact, so it doesn’t distract from the aesthetics of the tank. Plus, if you want multiple wavemakers for a given tank, the size means you can easily have a few without disrupting things.

The wavemaker is also energy efficient, which means you save in the long run, too. Can’t beat that!

What We Didn’t Love

The only potential issue is that there are some less than favorable vibrations going on with the pump. It’s not too bad, but for uber sensitive environments, it could be a little bit of a problem.

Our Verdict On the Hydor Koralia Nano Circulation Pump

All-in-all, Hydor delivers another great product in the Koralia Nano Circulation Pump.

It’s great for mini reefs and nano tanks, and packs enough power to provide a natural flow and ebb for your fish tank and all its inhabitants.

It’s easy to use, small, and mounts easily with the magnetic suction cups for easy maintenance. It’s a great basic option for your nano tank.

>> Tap Here to Read More Reviews and See Today’s Price on Amazon.com <<

GREAT FOR FRESHWATER WITH A POWERHEAD

#4. Hygger

Hygger Submersible Aquarium Powerhead 2000GPH Fish Tank Wavemaker Circulation Pump for Freshwater Saltwater

Hygger is one of the most well-trusted brands in the fishkeeping world. And their submersible aquarium powerhead and wavemaker is no exception to their high standards of quality make and materials.

It’s a super high-quality option with great functions and features, including a dual head for ultra-powered flow and directionality inside the aquarium.

  • Best suited to: Reef tanks, marine tanks, large aquariums
  • GPH: Up to 2000
  • Mounting type: Suction cups
  • Compatibility: Most timers and controllers
  • Volume: Quiet

What We Loved

The Hygger Wavemaker and powerhead is a fantastic two-in-one option for your freshwater or saltwater aquarium, though we especially recommend it for freshwater tanks.

It’s perfect for tanks simulating a natural river environment like many South American freshwater tropical fish call home naturally.

The dual heads give a broader option for directionality and flow, which is fantastic for emulating that natural environment and keeping up a high water flow rate that feels like a natural fast river current.

We especially love that the dual heads have a 360-degree rotation to help you get just the right angle and direction going on the current.

It’s super easy to install and maintain, as well, which is always a winner for us.

What We Didn’t Love

The only real issue I’ve noticed is the suction cup. Some brands use magnetic suction cups, but unfortunately Hygger didn’t for some reason, so some folks have had an issue with the wavemaker slipping a bit.

I recommend trying to find a better way to affix the wavemaker to the tank to avoid having to readjust semi-consistently.

Our Verdict on the Hygger Submersible Aquarium Powerhead and Wavemaker

The Hygger wavemaker and powerhead is a great two-in-one option for your freshwater aquarium.

It’s uber powerful for a natural fast flowing river feel and keeps things going easily. It’s easy to use and install, but I would recommend finding a better way to attach than the provided suction cup, which leaves a bit to be desired.

>> Tap Here to Read More Reviews and See Today’s Price on Amazon.com <<

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