There are so many options when it comes to wavemakers. And the term itself is quite misleading. When a beginner thinks of a wavemaker, they probably think of a large, public aquarium with some sort of huge wave action.
But in this hobby, a wavemaker is merely a controllable dc pump. It is a glorified powerhead, nothing more. 4/5 options below are truly controllable wavemakers. But #5 is just an inexpensive powerhead that will help increase flow in your tank.
I normally don’t recommend top-of-the-line items for beginners, primarily because of the price, but in this case I make an exception. My number one is truly top-of-the-line, and worth every penny!
5. Hydor Koralia EVO 850 ~35
Starting things off, the Hydor Koralia line of pumps have been around the hobby for years. They come in different sizes, but the one thing they all have in common is they aren’t the prettiest! They have a rather large profile inside your tank, not that slim, minimalist look a lot of us go for!
But, for the price, you can’t go wrong. Sure, this is not a true wavemaker. It just has one setting (make sure you buy the right size!). But you can purchase the Hydor Smart Wave Circulation Pump Controller, and viola, your inexpensive powerhead becomes a pulsing, wave making machine!
If the cost of this hobby is keeping your from getting started, then look no further! This Hydor Koralia pump will work great and get your first tank off and running.
That doesn’t mean you won’t want to upgrade in the future though!
4. Aqua Medic EcoDrift 4.1 ~ $170
Aqua Medic originally started off in Germany, but they opened a distribution center in the USA in the early 2000s. The popularity of this wavemaker has been increasing over the years, but it is still relatively unknown.
This DC pump comes with a magnetic mount and controller. A relatively low profile inside the tank, it can swivel up to 180 degrees. It comes in various sizes, so make sure you purchase the right one.
This wavemaker can be programmed at a constant speed, several different wave modes, as well as a random mode. The larger models also have an available optical eye which can be mounted near your lights to alter the pump’s intensity at night.
Overall a great pump, and it will save you $80 over my number one.
3. Reef Breeders RP-M ~ $130
I own two of these and use them on my 120 gallon reef tank. They have a low profile inside and outside of the tank, and have a unique flow pattern. Instead of a high directional and pointed flow, the RP-M has a much wider spread.
They are affordable options that look good in your tank. But they do have some downsides.
First is the controller. It works just fine, but it is confusing to program. There are some explanation videos out there though, so CLICK HERE to watch one of them.
The second drawback is the noise. One of my pumps operates almost silently, but the other pump was just slightly mis-engineered so you can hear a rubbing sound. It’s not terrible, but it could be better.
So why did I go with these pumps? Because they are low profile, programmable, high flow, and best of all, under $130!
2. Tunze Turbelle NanoStream 6055 ~ $189
Coming in at #2 are these Tunze wavemakers. They are the second most expensive on my list, and that is for a reason. These pumps, while quite similar to the others, are Apex Controller ready. This means that you can connect up to two of them to your Apex Controller and set a custom wave making program.
I don’t recommend that a beginner spend the $800 for the Apex Controller, but it is nice to know that if you upgrade in the future, your current powerheads are ready.
The Turbelle NanoStreams come in various sizes, so you should aim for a size that turns over your tank’s water volume from 10-50 times an hour. That means if you have a 20 gallon tank, shoot for a wavemaker that is capable of at least 200 gph, but preferably up to 1,000!
The controller does not come with as many features as my #1 option, but you can manually adjust the pulse length and intensity while saving $60.
1. Ecotech Marine Vortech MP10QD ~$250
I have owned my Vortech MP10 for well over five years now, and I have no complaints. In my opinion, it is truly the top-of-the-line option, only getting some recent competition from the Aqua Illumination Nero 5!
What makes this wavemaker so great? Virtually silent operation, tons of different modes, Apex Ready, low profile, aesthetically pleasing controller, and high flow in a small package!
The only hesitation I have about the Vortech pumps is their price tag. But with this wavemaker, you truly get what you pay for.
The Vortechs come in three different sizes, but for most smaller tanks, the MP10QD will be the right size for you!