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Top Five Beginner Return Pumps

Updated 2023

When it comes to return pumps, you’ll find two main categories: AC and DC pumps.

AC pumps, or alternating current pumps, are the standard fixed flow pumps. They operate at one speed, tend to run warm, and consume a significant amount of energy. For smaller tanks, AC pumps are sufficient, and I personally use them to power all of my tanks.

On the other hand, DC pumps, or direct current pumps, are controllable pumps with variable flow rates. They are more energy-efficient and run almost silently. However, DC pumps are generally more expensive, which is why some hobbyists opt not to use them.

The list below features a combination of AC and DC pumps, with prices ranging from $40 to $300. Take a look at the options below to find the pump that best suits your needs!

The Reef Octopus VarioS-2 Controllable DC Circulation Pump is a high-performance and customizable return pump designed for aquarium enthusiasts. With its quiet operation and adjustable speed settings, it provides efficient water circulation without disrupting the tranquility of your aquarium. The inclusion of safety features like the float switch ensures the pump’s reliability and prevents any potential accidents. Overall, the exceptional quality and performance of the Reef Octopus VarioS-2 make it a highly recommended choice for anyone in need of a reliable and efficient return pump.
  • Great Performance – Users have praised the Reef Octopus VarioS-2 for its super quiet operation and straightforward controller. It offers five different speed settings, although some users wish for more granular speed options.
  • Quiet Reliability – The pump is highly reliable and operates quietly. Users have reported not being able to hear it running even when sitting 8 feet away. The adjustable power settings are also appreciated, along with the run dry prevention feature.
  • Safety Features – Users appreciate the safety devices of the Reef Octopus VarioS-2. It has an overflow switch that shuts down the pump in case of water overflow, providing peace of mind and preventing potential damage.
  • Quality Issues – One user reported a negative experience with the pump, stating that it stopped working after only two months. The warranty process was cumbersome, and the user had to contact Amazon for a return.
  • Limited Speed Options – Some users mentioned that they would prefer more precise speed settings for the pump. While it offers five different speeds, a more granular control would be desirable for certain setups.
  • Lack of Availability – Another user complained about the availability of replacement parts. They had difficulties obtaining a replacement impeller and volute from the manufacturer, causing frustration.
The SICCE Syncra Silent 1.5 Multifunction Pump is a versatile and high-performing return pump that lives up to its promises. Its silent operation makes it ideal for any setup, ensuring a peaceful environment for your aquatic creatures. With its powerful performance and multifunctionality, it exceeds expectations by delivering consistent and reliable water flow. Despite its slightly higher price, the quality and durability of the SICCE Syncra Silent 1.5 make it a worthwhile investment for any aquarium enthusiast.
  • The SICCE Syncra Silent 1.5 pump is made with high-quality materials, ensuring durability and long-term use.
  • This pump operates at an ultra-quiet level, providing constant movement in a completely silent environment.
  • The SICCE Syncra Silent 1.5 pump is versatile and can be used for various applications such as aquariums, indoor fountains, and hydroponics.
  • Some customers have mentioned that the suction cups of the pump attach more strongly to surfaces than to the pump itself, making it difficult to move between different locations.
  • While the pump is advertised as “silent,” some customers have found that it is not completely silent, especially when used inline.
  • There have been a few cases where the pump has experienced rattling noises, which can be disruptive and bothersome.
The Innovative Marine Mighty Jet DC Return Pump is a top-notch choice for aquarists seeking a reliable and efficient return pump. Its adjustable settings allow for customizable water flow, ensuring optimal performance in any aquarium setup. The pump’s quiet operation and durable construction make it stand out among other options in its price range. Whether you have a small or medium-sized tank, the Innovative Marine Mighty Jet DC Return Pump is sure to enhance the performance and aesthetic appeal of your aquarium.
  • The Innovative Marine Mighty Jet DC Return Pump is designed to fit in virtually all AIO aquariums, making it versatile and compatible with various tank setups.
  • The pump features ultra-quiet DC technology, ensuring a peaceful and noise-free environment for your aquarium.
  • With a maximum flow rate of 266 GPH and run-dry protection, this pump delivers optimal water flow and circulation while protecting itself from damage.
  • The pump is not intended for external use, limiting its application to internal aquarium setups.
  • Some users have reported that the pump, while quiet, is not completely silent and produces a wooshing sound at higher speeds.
  • The midsize pump does not have a power button to shut the pump off completely, requiring alternative methods to turn it off.
The Orlushy DC-5000 Silent Swirl Controllable DC Aquarium Pump is a remarkable return pump that goes above and beyond expectations. With its ultra-silent operation, it provides a peaceful environment for both you and your aquatic creatures. The controllable speed options allow for versatile water flow adjustments, catering to the specific needs of your aquarium. Additionally, the inclusion of important safety features ensures the pump’s reliability and prevents any potential mishaps. Priced reasonably and highly rated by satisfied customers, the Orlushy DC-5000 is a reliable and efficient choice for any aquarium enthusiast.
  • The Orlushy DC-5000 pump features sine wave technology, making it ultra silent during operation. This is great for aquarium owners who want a peaceful and quiet environment for their fish.
  • The pump offers variable speed control with up to 20 different speed settings. This allows for precise adjustment of water flow, ensuring optimum performance for your saltwater or freshwater tank.
  • The DC-5000 pump has different modes such as steady flow mode, wave mode, and feed mode. These modes provide versatility and flexibility in creating different water flow patterns, enhancing the overall aesthetics of your aquarium.
  • Some users have reported issues with the pump’s low mode control. This may cause the pump to stop working or have difficulty adjusting the flow rate. It is important to carefully test and monitor the pump’s performance when using the lower speed settings.
  • The pump’s remote control has limited functionality, with only a 10-minute “feed” shutoff option. Some users have found it necessary to purchase additional accessories to turn the pump on and off, which can be an inconvenience.
  • There have been reports of minor design flaws, such as plugs that are not securely fastened, leading to potential pump failure. It is important to ensure that all connections are properly secured to prevent any issues.
The SICCE Syncra SDC 6.0 Water Pump is a highly regarded return pump known for its quiet operation, controllability, and availability of replacement parts. The wifi controller and app add convenience to the user experience, allowing for easy adjustments and monitoring of the pump’s performance. While some customers have reported noise issues and occasional speed changes, the overall quality and versatility of the SICCE Syncra SDC 6.0 make it a recommended option for those seeking a reliable and efficient return pump for their aquarium setup.
  • The Sicce Syncra SDC 6.0 Water Pump has a wifi controller and app that allows for easy control and monitoring of the pump.
  • The pump is built on a proven platform with readily available replacement parts, making maintenance and repairs easier.
  • The pump comes with all the necessary parts to hook up to your plumbing, saving you the hassle of buying additional components.
  • Some users have reported that the pump can be slightly noisy, especially when running at higher speeds.
  • There have been complaints about the customer support provided by Sicce, with delays in response and lack of resolution to issues.
  • The pump fittings and threads may not be compatible with standard PVC threaded fittings, causing difficulties in plumbing configurations.