How to choose the right base pump power for your marine aquarium?

Starting a marine aquarium is an exciting experience, but it also requires some knowledge and understanding of key aspects. One important element that allows biology and filtration to function effectively is the base pump. This pump ensures that water flows from the tank to the sump and back to the aquarium.

In this article, we will explain how to easily calculate the required pump power so that your marine aquarium functions optimally.

Table of Contents

Why pump power is important?

Pump power in a marine aquarium plays a crucial role because it ensures proper water circulation, which is essential for biological development and filtration processes. Water flows through the overflow, into the sump where it is filtered, and then back to the aquarium. Proper base pump capacity is fundamental to ensure effective water flow between the aquarium and the sump. This process is not only important for oxygenating the water but also for the development of bacteria that are key to many processes in the aquarium, including self-cleaning from pollutants. Efficient water flow to the sump allows effective filtration, including the removal of impurities from the main tank.

Simple rule for calculating base pump power

A general rule you can follow is that you need a base pump with a power equal to ten times the capacity of your aquarium. This means that if you have a 100-liter aquarium, you should install a base pump with a flow rate of at least 1000 liters per hour.

Calculation example:

  • Aquarium capacity: Let’s say you have a 200-liter aquarium.
  • Calculating required base pump power: According to the rule, the base pump power should be 200 liters x 10 = 2000 liters per hour.

Considering the height at which water enters the aquarium

The base pump power must also be adjusted to the height at which water is introduced into the aquarium. The pump needs enough power to overcome gravity and any resistance in the pipes. For example, if you have a 500-liter aquarium, simple calculations suggest that you need a base pump with a power of 5000 liters per hour. However, if the pump inlet is at a height of 1.5 meters, you need to check the pump’s power at that height. It may turn out that at this height, a base pump with a nominal power of 5000 liters per hour only achieves 4000 liters per hour, so you will need a model with higher power that ensures 5000 liters per hour at a height of 1.5 meters.

Tips for beginners

  1. Measure the capacity and dimensions of your aquarium accurately.
  2. Calculate the base pump power needed for your aquarium.
  3. Calculate the height at which you will introduce water into the aquarium: This usually means adding the height of the stand and the height of the aquarium itself.
  4. Check the base pump specifications: Find out the pump’s power at the height where you plan to introduce water into the aquarium.
  5. Remember, it is better to have a base pump with a little more power than just the minimum requirement: Most pumps have a regulation feature, so it’s better to run the pump at slightly less than its maximum power, which provides reserve power and reduces wear.
  6. Regularly check and clean the base pump: This will ensure it works efficiently for many years.

About the author

Picture of Marek Protasewicz

Marek Protasewicz

Reefkeeping has been my passion for over 10 years now. I love learning. The hobby has taught me many valuable lessons, patience being the best example. Combining work and passion is my path. I run Crazy Coral, a marine aquarium shop, for a number of years. Building this business from the scratch I learnt from my own mistakes at a heavy cost.
Later I managed a project aimed at development of methods for quick growth of Corals in non-natural conditions. The project was carried out by Get Sales, Poland. Presently, I am responsible for distribution strategy at Reef Factory, of which I am a co-founder. The company produces smart devices for marine aquaristics. The last projects I have been involved in are Social Reef and ReefPedia.

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