For inspiration, here is a beautiful 93-gallon cube tank belonging to @vetteguy53081.

Photo is from the Reef2Reef archives, courtesy of @vetteguy53081, ©2019, All Rights Reserved.

And now we come to Part 3, Powerhead Placement.

Everyone is waiting anxiously to hear about powerhead placement; and I hate to disappoint you, but I don't have any magic answers. Everyone's tank has different dimensions and a different aquascape, so it's impossible to make too many generalizations.

Here are the guidelines.

1. Most people don't want to see a lot of equipment on the front viewing glass of the display tank. So, that means that powerheads are generally placed on the sides and on the back of the tank.

2. Since we're trying to avoid laminar flow or flow always in one direction, that means most people put a powerhead on each of two opposite tank sides. And if you don't want pumps in the front, that means you would start with one pump on each side.

3. Most people aim powerheads across the tank or up. Aiming up causes more ripple on the surface which is good for gas exchange but bad for salt creep. Aiming down can cause a sandstorm if you have a sandy substrate. You can also aim powerheads at the wall of the aquarium. You will have to experiment with your own aquarium to see what works for you and your livestock.

4. Similarly, powerheads should be mounted toward the top of the aquarium, but not so close to the water surface that they will be sucking in air instead of water.

5. Then depending on what kinds of powerheads you choose, you can have them flow more or less or off and on to vary the flow.

6. Another possibility is to add one or more powerheads on the back wall that flow more or less or off and on to add to and vary flow patterns. If you have a black rear wall or a rock wall, then you won't see the powerheads.

7. Chaotic flow is good. Surge is great, but the only way to get that is with some kind of surge device. We had a good article about making one a while back written by @garbled.

8. Consider where your overflow is. If you have an overflow, you may want to direct water to circulate such that junk is picked up off the bottom of the tank and flows back towards and up to the overflow.

9. Consider what you plan to house in your tank. If you're aiming for SPS coral, then you may want to get powerheads that are more powerful than you need at the beginning, but that can be dialed down and then up when you need the extra flow.

If you want to watch some videos on this topic, here's one by Bulk Reef Supply:

And another by Current USA on powerhead placement:

Buying a bunch of powerheads isn't cheap, so think about all this carefully before you start buying. However, until your tank is set up and the aquascape is done, it's impossible to know exactly what you will need or how the water will flow.

For inspiration, here is a 10-month-old, 80-gallon mixed reef belonging to @MulletBoy . Notice the Maxspect Gyre on the back wall of the tank.

Photo is from the Reef2Reef archives, courtesy of @MulletBoy ©2019, All Rights Reserved.


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Author Profile: Cynthia White

Cynthia received her BA in English from NYU a long long time ago. She has been a freelance writer and editor for over 20 years. In 2018, she won the President's Award from the Professional Writers Association of Canada. Now she is a writer and editor on staff at R2R, where her forum nickname is @Seawitch.