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The Best Aquarium Sump Pumps for 2021

 

best aquarium sump pump

If you have an aquarium, then you must buy the best aquarium sump pump that you can afford. The reason is that it is the literal heart of your aquarium. Just like the heart of any living creature, the sump pump is responsible for circulating the water in the tank.

It should be strong enough to push the water back up to the tank from the sump placed underneath. However, it should not be to the point that it will blast away the substrate and stress the fish.

Many different brands offer their take on the aquarium sump pump, but not all of them deliver on their promises. Some may even be considered overpriced. This article will show you the features and qualities you need to keep an eye out for when you are out shopping for the best aquarium return pump.

Best Aquarium Sump Pump Reivews

1. Hygger Submersible Aquarium Pump

hygger submersible aquarium pump

This small submersible quiet sump pump aquarium has quite a lot of uses. I primarily use it as a return pump for my sump and it moves quite a decent amount of water for its size. Other times, I use it for partial water changes or cleaning the gravel. I put a plastic mesh in front of the intake to catch the larger bits of debris.

This pump will start working when the water level is around an inch high. It will also automatically turn off when the motor gets a bit too hot. However, since this pump does not have an automatic shutoff feature, it will start running again once the motor cools down enough.

For something that is this small, I was surprised that it could move that much water. This pump is rated for 660 gallons per hour, which is more than enough even for a 100-gallon tank. This little pump can effectively circulate the water to provide a clean and healthy environment for the fish.

This pump runs on a silent, yet powerful magnetic motor. I positioned my 100-gallon tank in our living room and you can hardly hear the pump working. It would be hard to hear the sump over the regular noises coming from the street outside.

The only real thing that I could complain about is that the pump did not come with its own tubing. I had to run out to the hardware store to buy a rubber hose after opening the package. I ended up having to buy twice the amount of rubber tubing because that is the minimum amount I am allowed to buy.

Pros
  • Has multiple uses
  • Features an overheat protection switch
  • Has a decent flow rate and max lift height
  • Works quietly
  • Can be used in sumps, ponds, and more
Cons
  • The pump does not come with tubing

The nice thing about this product is that it is more than just a sump pump. You can also use it for partial water changes or draining the entire tank completely. However, it is sort of like a jack-of-all-trades in that it does not excel in just one particular area.

2. VIVOSUN Submersible Pump

vivosun submersible pump

I have a small 20-gallon sump, which means that there is not much room in the return compartment for a larger pump. However, I had no trouble fitting this pump into that cramped space. In fact, it still had a bit of wiggle room, which is great.

There might have been a typo in the Amazon listing because it is physically impossible for such a small pump to have an 800 gallons per hour rate. The actual number is anywhere between 250 and 280 gallons per hour, which is still an impressive value for something this small.

Another neat thing about this submersible return pump for sump is that it is easy to disassemble and clean. The plastic shell is easy to remove, promoting ease in cleaning the plastic impeller. Putting the parts back together is almost as easy as taking them apart, and you also do not need to lubricate anything.

This pump is also quiet. I almost thought I got a defective product when I first used it. I could not hear the pump through the cabinet door, so I thought it was not working at all then I noticed the water was moving. I highly recommend this pump if you are very particular about noise.

This would have been much better if only the power cord was a little bit longer. The Amazon listing said that it had a five-foot power cord, which is already short, but the actual length is just four feet. You will surely need an extension cord. It is also important to provide some sort of waterproof cover for it.

Pros
  • Small and compact
  • Has decent flow rate for a pump its size
  • Easy to clean and maintain
  • Silent when working
  • Has a wide range of applications
Cons
  • The power cord is too short

This is an affordable submersible sump pump for a freshwater aquarium that has plenty of power to spare. Although the details on the Amazon listing are erroneous, you will be getting a pump that will live up to your expectations for the price.

3. Aquastation Silent Swirl DC aquarium Pump

aquastation silent swirl dc aquarium pump

For such a compact device, this pump sure does move a lot of water. This can pump water at a rate of 1,320 gallons per hour and it has a maximum lift head of more than 13 feet high. I use it on my 150-gallon tank and it does a good job of circulating the water between the tank and the sump.

Another thing I liked about this submersible saltwater aquarium sump pump is that it has a variable speed controller. It also has a sine wave mode, which is ideal for reef tanks as it simulates the movements of the current. I use this setting for my live rock growing tank and it has done wonders for the inhabitants.

Although I use this pump as a submersible, it is also useful as an inline or external pump. You can remove the inlet grill and you will find a threaded pipe where you can connect the inlet pipe. I haven’t tried using this configuration before, but I have heard a couple of stories about how this pump leaks a bit when used this way.

You do not have to worry about the pump motor burning out when the pump gets clogged. This pump has an automatic cutoff switch that turns on when the motor reaches a certain temperature. Moreover, the inlet has a removable mesh cover that prevents large pieces of debris from getting inside the pump.

For something so powerful, this pump is surprisingly quiet. If your sump is in a cabinet under the aquarium, then you probably will not even hear it working when you close the cabinet doors. I can hardly hear the one I am using over the light traffic noises outside my window.

As mentioned earlier, this pump leaks quite a bit when used as an inline pump. This means that it would not be a good idea to use it for your aquarium sump or else your floor will permanently be wet.

Pros
  • High pumping rate and lift head
  • Controllable speed
  • Ideal for use as a submersible or an inline external pump
  • Ultra-quiet and smooth operation
  • Auto-shutoff when clogged
Cons
  • Leaks when used as an external pump

It is a shame that the inline pump feature is not as good as I hoped it would be, but then again, using it as a submersible tank makes the sump a bit more compact and efficient. It also means less cleanup.

4. PROSTORMER Submersible Sump Pump

prostormer submersible sump pump

This handheld pump is ideal for emptying pools, flooded basements, and small-scale crop irrigation. This pump has a maximum pump rate of 3,700 gallons per hour and a delivery head of 26 feet, which means it is much too powerful for regular aquarium sumps. If you have an outdoor pump, though, then this might be an ideal choice.

This pump also comes with an automatic float switch. The pump will automatically shut off when the float is lower than the pump, which will leave you with about a foot of water. By then, you can switch over to always-on, so you can finish the job.

This pump comes with three different adapters so you can use different-sized hoses for it. You can use 1-inch diameter hoses or go bigger and use 1-1/2-inch diameter hoses. Using the 1-1/2-inch hose will provide you with a maximum rate of 3,700 GPH. If you need to dial down the rate a bit, use the smaller hose sizes.

This pump felt solid when I held it. Even though it has mostly plastic construction, it is put together well. There is no rattling and the seams are all watertight, as any high-quality submersible pump should be. This pump can handle a significant amount of abuse.

The reason why I do not use this in my sump pump for aquariums is that it is too big for it. There is also no option to use it as an inline pump. In addition, this pump is simply too powerful for regular household aquariums. If I were to use it in my aquarium, the current would be too strong for the fish and live plants.

Pros
  • Extremely powerful
  • Comes with an automatic float switch
  • Can accommodate different sizes of hoses
  • Top-notch build quality
  • Can remove water until around 2.5 inches deep
Cons
  • Much too powerful for aquarium sumps

This pump is much too powerful for regular household aquariums. However, if you have a substantially-sized pond that has a sump, then it would be a good choice for a return pump.

5. Boxtech Submersible Water Pump

boxtech submersible water pump

When I opened the box that this pump came in, I was pleasantly surprised at how small it was. It was barely four inches high and four inches wide, so it easily fits inside my DIY aquarium sump with a lot of room to spare. The 360-degree suction base also meant I do not need to position the pump in any specific way.

Because this aquarium sump pump is so affordable, I bought three of them. One of the pumps I use for emptying tanks and making partial water changes. I also do not doubt that you can use this pump if you want to make a small waterfall grotto in your garden. It has enough power and it is easy to hide.

This pump, despite its size and looks, boasts of a solid built. It uses a resin to seal its housing completely, so you can be sure that there will not be any water getting into the electric motor. The shaft and impeller are both made of corrosion-resistant ceramic, which means they will not rust or corrode in any way.

The thing that surprised me the most is the amount of power packed into such a small pump. The 35-watt model has a maximum flow rate of 528 gallons per hour, which is more than respectable for a pump this size. It also has a maximum delivery height of almost six feet, so it is more than enough as an aquarium sump pump.

The only issue that I found is that it is kind of difficult to clean the impeller due to the base cover. There is no discernible way that you can remove the protective cover without disassembling the entire thing, which is a challenge in itself. This will not be much of a problem if used as a return sump pump, though.

Pros
  • Small and compact design
  • Has multiple uses
  • Solid and high-quality construction
  • Has a surprisingly high flow rate and delivery head
  • Silent and does not vibrate too much
Cons
  • Does not have a way to clean the impeller without forcing the grate off

This product is one of the most cost-effective submersible sump pumps that you can buy. This sump pump marine tank is so compact that you can easily fit even small aquarium sumps. If you want to try using a sump filtration system for your aquarium but you do not have a sizable budget, then this pump is perfect for you.

6. Current USA eFlux DC Flow Pump

current usa eflux dc flow pump

Aside from the power of this pump, I am glad that it has its own flow controller. Many other sump pumps are as powerful, if not more powerful than this product, but that is not the only important quality of a sump pump. A good quality sump pump should allow you to control the flow rate so it will not disturb or stress the fish in the aquarium.

Although I used the one I had as a submersible pump, I do appreciate that I can also use it as an external, inline water pump. Having this option opens up a lot of possible uses for this pump. For instance, you can use it to irrigate a small vegetable garden or for the filtration system of a small above-ground pool.

For something this powerful (1,050 GPH), this submersible pump runs quietly. This is thanks to it having a ceramic shaft and impeller. Even without lubrication, these parts can spin fast without stressing the motor. Even at full power, you will hardly hear this pump when it is working.

Another thing that I liked about this pump is how easy it is to clean and maintain. You will need to clean the pump once every eight months, more frequent when used in a saltwater setup. It is nice that you can easily disassemble it, so you can clean the shaft, impeller, and pump cavity.

I do have an issue with the length of the power cord. You will need to use an extension cord (and have the connection waterproofed) if you have to position the return sump pump at the far corner of the sump.

Pros
  • Comes with a flow controller
  • Ideal for use as an inline or submersible pump
  • The ceramic impeller and shaft ensure quiet operation
  • Highly efficient and powerful
  • Easy to clean and maintain
Cons
  • The power cord is not that long

Although this pump is a bit on the expensive side, you will be getting your money’s worth. It is small and compact, making it easy to fit into any aquarium sump. It is also deceptively powerful for its size. The flow controller is a nice touch, too, as it removes the need for flow-controlling fixtures.

7. KEDSUM Submersible Pump

kedsum submersible pump

This tank is barely two cubic inches in size, so finding space for it in any aquarium sump setup will not be a problem. I am using a rather small sump and the return tank is a bit narrower than average to raise the water level. This pump easily fits inside that confined space.

Even though this was such a small submersible pump, it can achieve a maximum flow rate of 100 gallons per hour. It has the perfect flow rate for 30-gallon to around 60-gallon tanks. It is also an ideal return sump pump because it has a maximum delivery head of up to 4 feet.

A neat feature that I liked about this minuscule pump is the manual flow rate adjustment. You just need to turn the “faceplate” of the inlet to lower or raise the flow rate as you deem fit. There are no markings that will tell you how much the flow rate is. You just need to wing it until you get the flow rate you desired.

This is also easy to clean and maintain. The entire pump is easy to disassemble for easier and more thorough cleaning, and putting them back together is a cinch as well. This is a great feature because you do need to give this pump a good cleaning every couple of months or so to keep it running smoothly.

Now, what I think the manufacturer could have added to make this even better is an automatic emergency shutoff switch, which trips when the water level is too low. Also, it would have been even more convenient if there is an inline manual switch so you do not have to pull the plug.

Pros
  • Small and compact design
  • Respectable flow rate and delivery head
  • Adjustable flow rate
  • Easy to clean and maintain
  • Budget-friendly
Cons
  • Does not have an automatic shutoff

This is one of the most budget-friendly yet reliable sump pumps that I have tested so far. For such a small pump, it is quite a workhorse. It can move a decent amount of water and you would barely hear a whine from the motor. If this is your first time using an aquarium sump, this product is highly recommended.

8. Superior Pump Thermoplastic Utility Pump

superior pump thermoplastic utility pump

Despite its size, this sump pump for a fish tank can produce up to ¼ horsepower. A powerful copper-winded motor, coupled with an impeller designed for efficiency, allows this pump to move water at a maximum rate of 1,800 gallons per hour and a maximum delivery head of 25 feet.

A feature this pump has that I wish was in other pumps is the split capacitor. This system essentially works like a gearbox for an electric motor. The 1st gear, which uses a higher wattage, is for starting the pump. Once the water starts flowing, it switches gears to use just enough power to keep the flow going.

The full copper-winded motor is encased in thick and durable thermoplastic, and the engine plate has double O-ring seals that will prevent water from getting into the motor. I have used this pump maybe once or twice to remove floodwater from my basement, and it did a fine job. It emptied around two feet of water in just around two hours.

This pump is also easy to clean. After using it to get rid of floodwater, I only had to remove the intake mesh screen and I had easy access to the impeller, which I proceeded to clean. Unlike other submersible pumps that I have used in the past, this one was much easier to maintain.

Do I recommend that you use this for an aquarium sump? No. First, it is much too large at almost a foot high and 7-inches wide. It is also too powerful for that purpose. Unless you have a tremendously large reef tank, you do not need to use a ¼ horsepower sump pump.

Pros
  • Very strong pump
  • Has split capacitors for more efficiency
  • Double seals for improved waterproofing
  • Easy to clean and maintain
  • Multiple fittings for different sized hoses
Cons
  • Way too strong for a regular aquarium sump pump

The main use of this submersible pump is for moving large volumes of water quickly, so using it as an aquarium sump pump will be overkill. On the other hand, if you have an outdoor pond that also uses a sump to clean the water, then you should check out this product.

9. Uniclife Submersible Water Pump

uniclife submersible water pump

This pump is barely 2 cubic inches in size, so positioning and hiding it inside an aquarium will not be that difficult. I use this minuscule pump in one of my smaller aquariums (a 15-gallon), specifically for circulating water through a box filter and it does an excellent job.

This tiny pump is rated for up to 20,000 hours of continuous use with proper cleaning and maintenance, of course. Fortunately, Uniclife made it so that it is easy to disassemble this pump without the need for any tools. With that, you can deep clean the internal parts using soap and warm water.

This pump is also quiet that you will not even notice it when it is working. The motor barely creates any vibrations, which is why there are only three suction cups at the bottom for mounting the pump.

I mounted my pump at around 4 inches below the surface of the water. With that, I can guarantee that the suction cups can hold on tightly to the glass surface.

As I mentioned earlier, I use this pump for circulating water through a box filter, and I liked how you can dial down the flow rate of the pump. I needed to weaken the flow so that the box filter can more efficiently take out the dirt and debris from the water.

This pump manages to provide a respectable 80 gallons per hour flow rate and around 2.5 feet of delivery head. However, it is much too weak to be of any use as a sump pump. Aquarium sumps are usually placed underneath the main aquarium tank, meaning this pump does not have enough power to push the water that high.

Pros
  • Small and compact design
  • Easy to disassemble and maintain
  • Can be mounted anywhere using suction cups
  • Ideal for small aquarium setups
  • Adjustable flow rate
Cons
  • Too weak to use as an aquarium sump pump

Although this pump is not strong enough for use as a sump pump, it is ideal for doing partial water changes or maintaining a mild current inside the tank.

10. AQQA Submersible Aquarium Water Pump

aqqa submersible aquarium water pump

I use this tiny pump to push water through an overhead box filter for my betta tank, and this had more than enough power for the task. What is even better is that this pump has an adjustable flow rate, which allows me to slow the flow so the box filter will not overflow.

This pump is also quite small and compact, which made it the perfect size for my 15-gallon betta tank. It is roughly just the size of my hand, so it was easy to hide behind some of the tank decorations. A couple of suction cups also holds it in place.

Since this pump is inexpensive, I bought two. The other one I use for cleaning the gravel substrate and for partial/complete water changes. Using this pump makes transferring water to and from my aquarium a lot easier and gentler for the fish.

The Aqqa submersible pump is also quiet and does not vibrate that much. If it weren’t for the sound of the water trickling in my aquarium, I would not even believe that the pump is not working at all. This makes it ideal for betta fish as they are quite jittery and easily stressed.

Would this be ideal as an aquarium sump pump? Running at full capacity, this little pump might do the trick for small sump setups, like a 10- to 15-gallon tank. However, it is necessary to position the sump somewhat close to the aquarium as the delivery head of this pump is not that high.

Pros
  • Adjustable water flow rate
  • Compact and space-saving design
  • Has an automatic shutoff switch
  • Multiple uses
  • Energy-efficient and quiet
Cons
  • Has barely enough power to push water back into the main tank

This product is ideal for smaller aquarium sumps for 10-to-15-gallon tanks. This might not have enough power for use as a return pump for bigger aquariums (this pump only has a maximum head of supposedly 6-feet), but for smaller setups, this should be powerful enough.

What to Look For When Buying a Aquarium Sump Pump

best aquarium return pump

When you are shopping for an aquarium sump pump, there are a couple of important factors that you need to consider before making your purchase. Here are some of them:

Flow Rate

The flow rate of pumps is typically measured in gallons per hour (GPH), and this is the rate at which a pump can move water. The ideal flow rate will depend on the size of your aquarium and sump.

It should not be so strong that it lowers the water level of the sump too much. However, it should not also be so weak that the water in the aquarium is hardly moving. It is better if you get a sump pump that has a high enough flow rate but also provides you with the ability to control the flow of water in case it is a bit too strong.

Delivery Head

The delivery head is the maximum height that sump pumps for saltwater aquariums can push water through a pipe. It would depend on the power of the pump and the diameter of the pipe you will be using.

To figure out if a pump provides enough delivery head for your sump, measure the distance between the bottom of the sump and the top of the aquarium. The delivery head of the pump should at least be the same height.

Size

The size of the pump you should get will depend on the size of the return compartment of the sump if you are getting a submersible model. If you want an external inline pump, then it will depend on the amount of space in the storage space with the sump tank.

If you have a relatively small tank, like a 30-gallon or so, and your sump capacity is 10-gallons, then you should probably get a small submersible pump.

Ease of Use and Maintenance

You will need to clean the pump at least once a month, so you should get a pump that is not a hassle to clean and maintain. Get one that is easy to disassemble so that you can deeply clean the impeller, the impeller shaft, and the pump cavity. It assures you that it can last for as long as the manufacturer intended.

Durability

When it comes to submersible pumps, you will often get what you paid for. Although some brands of pumps are both affordable and reliable, they are few and far in between. However, it does not mean that you need to buy the most expensive pump that you can find.

You need to find the happy medium between price and build quality. However, without testing the products yourself, the best way to somewhat ensure that you get a pump that is worth the price is to check customer reviews.

Safety

This is the most important quality that you need to consider. Make sure that the pump you will be getting is properly sealed and completely waterproof. The motor housing should be watertight and if possible, sealed using a resin.

The cord should also be thick enough that it can handle the amount of current that will be passing through it. There is nothing worse than having a submersible pump short circuit while submerged in water.

Frequently Asked Questions

quiet sump pump aquarium

What Size Aquarium Sump Pump do I need?

When it comes to physical size, the pump should be small enough to fit inside the return compartment of the sump if it is submersible. If you will be using an external or inline pump, the size does not matter much if you have room for it in the compartment under the tank.

The important thing that you need to keep in mind when shopping for sump pumps for fish tanks is if it is strong enough to push the water back into the aquarium. Check if the maximum delivery head indicated on the pump is greater than the height between the bottom of the sump to the top of the aquarium.

How to Install a Sump Pump for an Aquarium?

The simplest way to install a sump pump is to use a submersible pump. With this, you just need to drop the pump into the return compartment of the sump and plug it into the nearest power outlet.

Installing an external inline will be a bit more complicated. First, there should be plumbing coming from the sump, which will then connect to the inlet of the pump, and another pipe coming from the outlet and into the aquarium.

Conclusion

If you have an aquarium sump, then you will also need a good pump to make the water circulate properly. You can now use the things that you learned about shopping for the best aquarium sump pump so you can get a product that is worth your money. It should be one that will work flawlessly and reliably.

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