Powerheads Dangerous to Aquarium Livestock

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Anemone Caught in Powerhead

Water pumps and powerheads are great tools to move water in our aquariums. Water flow itself is extremely crucial to aquarium health and stability, so the use of powerheads is almost unavoidable. Water moving devices come in multiple forms, with the most common of those being propeller-based powerheads and externally driven closed-loop systems. The powerheads remain inside the aquarium, sucking in water through an intake and expelling it out of the front. The intake usually has a strainer of some sort, and most newer powerheads draw in water over a large surface area to spread out their suction force. Despite spreading out that force, the pumps can still cause a lot of damage to aquarium inhabitants. Fish that pass too close to the pump can get sucked in, and wandering invertebrates can quickly turn into chopped up remnants of their former selves.

Continue reading below to find out what happened to the anemone pictured above, as well as how to prevent these events from happening.

Case in point, local aquarium hobbyists Tnconcept found out the hard way how deadly a powerhead can be. His rose bubble tip anemone (Entacmaea quadricolor) uprooted itself and wandered right into the intake of a Koralia powerhead. The tentacles of the anemone were sucked into the pump, which quickly shredded them to bits. The tiny anemone bits were floating around the aquarium, which could eventually lead to a tank crash if the proper actions aren’t taken. Fortunately, the hobbyist was able to perform an emergency water change, and chances are the anemone will recover from the injuries.

All this being said, I wouldn’t fear using powerheads in any of my aquariums. They are a cost effective way of moving water and creating turbulent flow. If you are concerned that your livestock might get caught in one of these pumps, you can place foam on the pump’s intake. This will help prevent livestock from getting sucked into the pump, but it will add a little bit of maintenance to your routine as they will need to be cleaned from time to time.

Special thanks to Tnconcept for letting me use this image and sharing this story.

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  • Laurie aka tidepool2

    Thanks Brandon. If you have a photo of how you attach foam to a Koralia I'd love to see it. Thanks again for all your excellent articles and happy holidays.

    • hey laurie, unfortunately i don't have a picture, but attaching foam is easy. you can use tie wraps to secure any thin foam material to a pump. also, ecotech marine makes foam covers for the vortechs that might fit other pumps.