close up product shot of aquaillumination nero wavemaker. It has a black case body, and green propellers. It's on a white background, with swirling water around it to simulate water movement

Top Five Beginner Wavemakers

Updated 2024

When it comes to wavemakers, there is a wide array of options available, and the term itself can be misleading. Beginners might envision a massive wave action in a public aquarium when thinking of wavemakers. However, in this hobby, a wavemaker simply refers to a controllable DC pump – essentially a glorified powerhead with controllable features.

I’m not going to think about the price for this list.  Rather, here are five wavemakers that I have used and that I like.  Many of these lines come in various sizes, so be sure you choose the right size for your tank, which may not necessarily be the one in the link.

1. Ecotech Marine Vortech MP10 QD

Probably considered the top of the line wavemaker, expect to pay a top of the line price. What is unique about the Vortech, is there are no electronics actually in the water.  The DC motor is on the outside, and magnetically couples to the pump inside the tank.  Less wires in your tank is always a nice thing!

The MP10 is the smallest, but don’t be fooled because it can pack a punch.  It’s a circular pump which will work in most instances, but if you want a wider flow, consider a laminar pump like the next one on the list. 

2. AI Orbit 2 Cross-Flow Pump

A relatively new pump to the market, it’s not actually what it seems.  AI has teamed up with Maxspect, and taken their famous gyre pump, and upgraded it by linking it through the mobius app.  That means you can control all of your Ecotech and AI products in the same place, including Radion lights, Blade lights, wavemakers, and return pumps. And if you ever decide to upgrade to a Neptune System controller, all of these are compatible.

What I love about laminar flow pumps, is that they put out a strong sheet of water flow across a wide area.  These aren’t meant for smaller tanks, but I would consider using one starting at about 40 gallons.  You can place them near the water level and their design means they won’t constantly suck in air.  You can also mount it vertically near the rear of your aquarium, to get a circular flow throughout.

3. AI Nero Wavemaker

For beginners, and really for anybody, if I had to recommend one pump, it would be the Nero.  It just hits the sweet spot of power, value, and aesthetics.  If you check out the reviews, you’ll see quite a few negative ones that talk about the noise or build quality, but I’ve been told those issues have been fixed.  I own a Nero and use it in my HelloReef tank, and it runs silently and flawlessly.

These little beauties pack a punch, and are completely controllable. What I especially like about these is their middle of the road flow angle.  Not super narrow like the Ecotech Vortechs, but not crazy wide either.  Great for smaller tanks for sure.

And the other thing I really love about the Nero is the mobius app.  Sometimes glitchy, the app is definitely getting better.  But regardless, I have my Nero programmed to have a strong and random flow during daylight hours, and a much more calm flow at night.  I love how the app can help mimic the actual reef.

4. Sicce XStream SDC Powerhead

Alright, this pump ain’t pretty to look at, but it’s made by a great company, has a fantastic 5 year warranty, can be controlled via an app, and has a swivel head meaning you can point it wherever you want.

I have used this pump in the past, and it is what you would expect from Sicce… A high quality pump.  Another cool thing about this SDC wavemaker, is it includes a temperature sensor so the pump itself can act as a temperature controller, and send you alerts if it detects your water is too hot or cold.

The only thing I don’t like about this pump is how it looks.  It’s bulky and industrial looking.  But that being said, it’s still a great pump!

5. Reef Octopus OctoPulse 2+ Wavemaker

Even though this pump is completely different, in my mind I place it in a similar category as the Vortech.  Except instead of a fixed wavemaker, the head is moveable and can be pointed in various directions.  I love that feature, and I currently use this pump in my IM 40 gallon tank.

I’m a big fan of ReefOctopus in general.  They make my favorite protein skimmer, and I love their VarioS DC pump.  I can get a bit sick of WiFi interfaces, and sometimes just want an old fashioned controller with buttons I can push to make adjustments.  Okay, yes this pump comes with an app… but you don’t have to use it if you don’t want because it also comes with a physical controller as well!

These little pumps pack a punch, and this smaller one is almost overpowered for my 40 gallon tank.

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