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Aquaponics Water Pump Guide

22 Oct, 2023 197
Aquaponics Water Pump Used To Aerate Water Unimother

Water Pumps are the Heart of the Aquaponics System. Choosing the Right Pump is Essential for Fish and Plants

Five Facts About Best Aquaponics Water Pumps:

  • ✅ Selecting the right water pump is crucial for efficient system performance in aquaponics.
  • ✅ An inadequate water pump can cause low oxygen levels for fish and plants, nutrient deficiencies, and stagnant water. 
  • ✅ The right water pump promotes optimal water flow, leading to healthy fish and plants, efficient nutrient cycling, and overall system productivity in aquaponics. 
  • ✅ Calculating the required flow rate is essential in selecting the best aquaponics water pump as a beginner for adequate water and nutrient distribution in your aquaponics system.
  • ✅ Energy-efficient pumps reduce environmental footprint and save on energy costs, making them a preferred choice for aquaponics systems.


Submersible Water Pump Options for Aquaponics

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GPH(Gallon Per Hour)

LPH(Liter Per Hour)

291 GPH

1100 LPH

529 GPH

2000 LPH

1110 GPH

4198 LPH

1700 GPH

6435 LPH

2900 GPH

11000 LPH

4900 GPH

18550 LPH

8600 GPH

32555 LPH

9800 GPH

37100 LPH


45424 LPH

14000 GPH

53000 LPH

Power Consumption

16 Watts 33 Watts 80 Watts 120 Watts 155 Watts 250 Watts 520 Watts 620 Watts 850 Watts 1100 Watts

Recommended Tank Size

70 - 140 Gallon

275 - 550 Liter

125 - 250 Gallon

500 - 1000 Liter

250 - 500 Gallon

1000 - 2000 Liter

425 - 850 Gallon

1608 - 3216 Liter

725 - 1450 Gallon

2744 - 5488 Liter

1225 - 2450 Gallon 

4637 - 9274 Liter

2150 - 4300 Gallon

8140 - 16280 Liter

2450 - 4900 Gallon

9274 - 18548 Liter

3000 - 6000 Gallon

11356 - 22712 Liter

3500 - 7000 Gallon

13250 - 26500 Liter


External Water Pump Options for Aquaponics


GPH(Gallon Per Hour)

LPH(Liter Per Hour)

1080 GPH

4088 LPH

1209 GPH

4576 LPH

4800 GPH

18169 LPH

Power Consumption

367 Watts 882 Watts 1103 Watts

Recommended Tank Size

250 - 500 Gallon

950 - 1900 Liter

300 - 600 Gallon

1135 - 1270 Liter

1200 - 2400 Gallon

4540 - 9080 Liter


Useful Accessories

Timer and Prefilter:

This article explores the use of water pumps in aquaponics systems, which play a crucial role in circulating water and ensuring optimal conditions for both plants and fish. By selecting the best water pump for aquaponics, farmers can enhance the efficiency and productivity of their systems, ultimately leading to healthier crops and fish while at the same time reducing maintenance frequency. Aquaponics is an innovative system that combines aquaculture and hydroponics, allowing for the sustainable cultivation of plants and fish in a symbiotic environment. In this article, we will delve into the various factors to consider when choosing a water pump, highlighting the top options available on the market and providing insights into their features and performance. Additionally, we will share a real-life success story of a farmer who significantly improved their aquaponics system by selecting the right water pump.

Key takeaway:

Choose the right water pump: 

  • When selecting a water pump for your aquaponics system, consider factors such as flow rate 2 - 4 times the tank size per hour, head height reducing flow rate, power consumption, inlet size, pump location in or outside the water, and durability. Ensuring that the water pump meets the specific requirements of your system will contribute to its overall efficiency and success.

Less maintenance: 

  • Larger dirty water pumps can be used for big systems to reduce clogged inlets. You can also consider building a coarse dirt filter to prevent clogging. 

Consider energy efficiency: 

  • Opt for water pumps that are energy-efficient to minimize electricity consumption and reduce operating costs. If your pump is in the water, the extra power will heat your system. Depending on the pump's efficiency, 30 to 60% of the pump’s power will be converted into heat and partially replace water heaters. You may want to look for models with variable speed controls, as they allow for better water flow control for your grow bed. External pumps, depending on design, will mainly heat the air around them.  

Proper maintenance is essential: 

  • Regularly clean and monthly maintain your water pump to prolong its lifespan and prevent blockages or damage. This includes inspecting and cleaning the impeller, checking for leaks, and ensuring proper water flow throughout the system.

Consider additional stream pumps for your aquaponics system: 

  • Complimentary to your grow bed water pump, consider adding stream pumps for your fish. As they increase their swimming activity, they exercise the fish and multiply the felt living space of the fish because they have to swim against the current. Most fish prefer strong currents in crowded spaces more than the tension built up in still water. Larger systems require more powerful water pumps to ensure adequate water circulation and oxygenation.

Noise level and durability: 

  • Pay attention to the noise level of the water pump, especially if your aquaponics system is located inside your living area. Pumps that are located in the water are usually quieter. Additionally, choose a water pump that is durable and designed to withstand continuous use in water environments, and check for winter compatibility if your system is outside.

Consider the power source: 

  • Depending on your setup and location, choose a water pump that is compatible with your available power source. Options include electric pumps, solar-powered pumps, and battery-operated pumps. 12V pumps are very safe compared to 120V or 220V, and if you have an unused old PC power supply, you can recycle that to deliver power to your 12V air and water pump. There will be no risk to fish and humans in case of a leakage.

Bonus tip for the lazy: Invest some money in a mechanical timer and set it to run every one to three hours for 15 - 30 minutes. I had problems with electronic timer because the reversing water flow in the pipes when the pumps turned off induced electricity from the back spinning rotors and regularly caused freezing or errors in the electric programable timers. The watering cycle will depend on your grow bed type, size, and your plant's needs. With more fish, you can increase the frequency of flooding the grow bed or run a second pump to a second grow bed with a second timer that alternates every half hour. Certainly, this will improve the fish tank water quality with heavily occupied fish stock.


How to Calculate the Correct Water Pump Size for Your System

Determining the appropriate water pump size for your aquaponics system requires careful consideration. Follow this 4-step guide to ensure you choose the correct size:

  1. Calculate the total volume of water in your system: Measure the total volume of water in your aquaponics setup, including fish tanks and any other components that hold water. This will give you an idea of the water volume that the pump will need to handle.
  2. Determine the desired flow rate: Consider the specific needs of your system, such as the type of plants you are growing and the species of fish you are keeping. The drier the needs for the plant, the more time you will want in between the flooding periods. The fish on the other want more frequent filtering by flooding the grow bed. The more dirt your fish produce and the more fish you have the more often you want to flood. For the beginning, you can start with every three-hour running pump the for 15 minutes. So you go for dry plants then you should use 4 times the water size of your tank. For plants that don’t mind a little water you can go for a water pump with 2 times the water volume per hour output. If the fish tank dirt increases, you can increase it to every two-hour run for 15 minutes. On the other hand, if the plants prefer drier conditions, you can also increase the time to 4 or even 6 hours. Usually, the ideal flow rate lies between 2 - 4 times running the water through the whole system. There are big differences in the pump size if you plan on heavily stocking your aquaponics system compared to a low-stock system. Buy bigger pumps with adjustable flow rates if you are unsure which pump to choose for your particular setup to ensure optimal conditions for both plants and fish and expandability for many big fish.
  3. Consider head height and pipe diameter: To choose the perfect pump for your system, you have to know the pump's flow rate for your head height. Take into account the head height, which is the vertical distance between the water level of your fish tank and the highest point in your system where the water needs to be delivered. Additionally, consider the diameter of the pipes you will be using not to have them as a constraining factor. Over time, a thin biofilm will occupy your pump inlet and water pipes, so add 10 to 20% to your calculated GPH (Gallon Per Hour) of your pump and pipe diameter. Combined, these factors will affect the overall pump performance and efficiency.
  4. Select a pump with big inlet filters: Using the information gathered in the previous steps, choose a water pump that meets the required flow rate and can handle the head height of your system, preferably one with good debris handling. Remember that when the pumps turn off, the pumped-up water in the pipe flows back, cleaning the inlet to some degree, depending on your head height and pipe diameter. Make sure not to make a science out of it; probably, any pump can make your system work in the beginning, as small fish don’t put out any noticeable waste. Be sure to account for any potential expansion of your system in the future, where you will buy bigger pumps and can use the old pumps for stream pumps in the fish tank or garden irrigation.

It is important to note that each aquaponics system is unique, and there may be additional factors to consider based on your specific setup. You can ask questions in the comments, and I try to answer them all for further guidance tailored to your system that I have not mentioned yet.

When selecting a water pump, consider energy efficiency, noise levels, and the overall reliability of the pump. A properly sized pump will ensure efficient water circulation, oxygenation, and nutrient distribution throughout your aquaponics system, promoting healthy plant growth and fish health.

Remember, choosing the correct water pump size is crucial for the success of your aquaponics system. By following these guidelines and consulting with experts, you can ensure optimal performance and maximize the potential of your system.

Aquaponics Water Pump Location Inside or Outside the Tank

In-Tank Submerged Pumps

Designed to operate while fully immersed in water, in-tank pumps are often situated within the fish or sump tank. They are commonly chosen for more compact aquaponics systems. These pumps work by drawing water in and then expelling it. Here's their operational breakdown:

  1. Intake Mechanism: Positioned at the base of the pump is an intake filter or screen. This ensures debris doesn't enter the pump while water is drawn in.
  2. Rotor: The core of the pump houses a rotor—a spinning element with blades. When activated, the rotor's rapid rotation creates a force that drives the water through the pump.
  3. Discharge Point: Post rotor, the water is channeled through an exit pipe or hose, distributing it to the grow beds or other system parts.


  • Simple to set up, in-tank pumps mostly evade intricate plumbing due to their in-water placement.
  • They are generally more budget-friendly compared to their external counterparts.
  • Safer than external pumps when any unexpected leaks happen.
  • Operating silently, in-tank pumps are ideal for setups indoors or closer to living areas.
  • Pump heat is transferred into the water
  • Nothing outside the fish tank resulting in a cleaner look
  • No need for pre filter


  • Being in the fish tank exposes these pumps to potential blockages from fish waste and other debris if the inlet is bad, which may necessitate adding a self-made prefilter or regular cleaning if the inlet is not well protected.
  • Their capacity in terms of flow rate and lift height might be limited, affecting the system's scalability when building bigger set ups.
  • Uses minute space in the fish tank.

External Pumps

Often referred to as centrifugal pumps, these are positioned outside the fish tank and are a preferred choice for expansive aquaponics systems. Their robust motors are adept at circulating substantial water quantities. Unlike their submersible counterparts, external pumps are quantified in horsepower. Here's their functioning:

  1. Suction Point: Water from the fish or sump tank is suctioned into the pump through an inlet hose.
  2. Rotor: Similar to in-tank pumps, external ones also use a rotor that, upon spinning, propels the water.
  3. Discharge Point: Post the rotor, water is directed to the desired parts of the system through an exit pipe or hose.


  • Being outside the fish tank, these pumps are less exposed to debris, which translates to reduced maintenance.
  • Their ability to handle higher flow rates and greater lift capacities makes them apt for larger, more intricate aquaponics configurations.
  • Their positioning outside water, away from potential corrosive agents, augments their longevity.
  • Doesn’t take up space in the tank.
  • Pump heat dissipates into the air which may be good in hot climates.


  • Setting up external pumps might demand a more comprehensive plumbing arrangement.
  • They usually come with a heftier price tag compared to in-tank models.
  • The noise they produce might require soundproofing, especially if the system is inside or adjacent to living spaces.
  • Might need prefilter
  • Loss of temperature in cold climates.
  • More prone to leaks


Factors to Consider When Choosing a Water Pump for Aquaponics Systems

When selecting a water pump for aquaponics systems, there are several crucial factors to keep in mind. These considerations play a significant role in ensuring the optimal functioning and efficiency of the system. Here are five key points to consider:

  • Flow Rate: Consider the desired flow rate of water within the system. This will depend on the size of the aquaponics setup and the specific needs of the plants and fish being grown.
  • Head Height: Take into account the vertical distance the water needs to be lifted. The pump should have enough power to overcome the elevation and maintain adequate water circulation.
  • Power Consumption: Evaluate the energy usage of the water pump. Opt for a pump that is energy-efficient to minimize operational costs and environmental impact.
  • Durability: Look for a water pump that is made from high-quality materials and is designed to withstand the demands of aquaponics systems. This ensures longevity and reduces the need for frequent replacements.
  • Noise Level: Consider the noise level produced by the water pump. For indoor aquaponics setups, a quiet pump is essential to maintain a peaceful environment. But usually this doesn’t matter because air pumps tend to be lot louder than water pumps in home sized aquaponics.
  • Power source: Solar or wind powered battery are an option for outside use without power outlet.
  • Water Inlet: Bigger inlets tend to block less often.
  • Buying Bigger Pumps than necessary: You can regulate down while also got enough room for eventual biofilm build up which lessen flowrate over time. Also bigger pumps tend to have bigger inlets which makes them more clogresistant.

Additionally, it is important to assess other unique details that have not been covered already. This includes factors specific to your aquaponics system, such as the availability of backup power sources or the compatibility of the water pump with other equipment like Arduino and other types of automation and electronic regulation. The automation with arduino and humidity sensors could create optimal automated ebb and flooding for picky plants and easier to regulate for different climate zones and weather.

Interesting article on how flow affects fish growth in nature.

Pro Tip: Regularly inspect and clean the water pump to prevent clogging and maintain optimal performance. You can also check if your grow beds are still wet and your fish tank is free of debris.


Water Pump Setup and Maintaining Guidelines

Proper setup and regular upkeep of your water pump are essential for its optimal performance and durability. Follow these comprehensive guidelines:

Setting Up Your Pump

  1. Choose the Right Spot: Depending on the pump type, place submersible pumps inside the fish or sump tank and inline pumps outside.
  2. Connect Inlet and Outlet: Follow manufacturer guidelines to attach the inlet and outlet tubes or hoses.
  3. Priming Inline Pumps: Some inline pumps need priming. Fill them with water to ensure a smooth start by aiding suction.
  4. Integration with Aquaponics: Connect an optional pre-filter to prevent clogging to your inlet and submerse the inlet. Link the outlet of your pump with the grow bed of your aquaponics setup, ensuring water is directed appropriately.
  5. Ensure Electrical Safety: If your pump needs electricity from a power outlet, connect it to a GFCI outlet and ensure proper grounding. For maximum fish and human safety you should consider buying a 12V pump with a power adapter.
  6. Activate and Test for Leaks: Monitor connections for any leaks after turning on the pump. If spotted, turn off the pump and address the issue to avoid potential risks. For grow beds directly above the fish tank, some leaking is no problem and will most likely stop because, over time, debris and fish waste build up.
  7. Observe the Water Flow. Adjust as needed to suit your fish and grow bed.

Routine Upkeep Recommendations

  1. Intake Cleaning: For in-tank pumps, check the intake filter for clogging or screen the grow bed regularly for moisture to notice potential pump blockages. External pumps might have a pre-filter that needs periodic cleaning if the head height is low and less water flows back out of the inlet to clean it.
  2. Check the Rotor: Periodically inspect the rotor for any debris or obstructions, cleaning or replacing if needed.
  3. Lubricate When Needed: Some pumps might need occasional lubrication. Always refer to the user manual.
  4. Review Seals: Regularly check gaskets, seals, and joints for potential leaks, replacing any worn-out parts.
  5. Keep Pipelines Clear: Ensure that connected hoses or pipes are clean and obstruction-free which usually happens at pipe connections where the radius is the smallest.
  6. Monitor Sound Levels: An increase in pump noise could hint at a rotor issue or maintenance requirement
  7. Overheating: Sand or metall particle blocking and grinding inside the motor and causing overheating which might destroy the magnet of your pump resulting in weaker pump performance or starting difficulties to total failure. 
  8. Routine Inspections: Dedicate time for regular pump checks and maintenance as this will save you from most bigger problems like fish death and stunted plant growth. If you notice your water pump is reliable you can reduce the inspection frequency. 

For the full aquaponics set up click here.

Addressing Common Aquaponics Water Pump Challenges 

Pump Doesn't Start:

  • Verify power connectivity.
  • Ensure no blockages or clogs in the pump.
  • Turn off the pump and clean the pre-filter, the pump inlet and take out the motor and clean the magnet where usually the propeller sits on and use a cotton swab to clean the pump head inside. Try to remove any potential sand, small stones or metall particles which could potentially damage your pump irrevocably
  • If the motor still stands still after cleaning the pump completely try to use a toothpick to kickstart the pump
  • For external types, ensure correct priming.

Reduced Water Flow:

  • Confirm rotor and intake are clear.
  • Detect and fix any air leaks in the intake.
  • Make sure your pump's size matches system needs.

High Noise Levels:

  • Look for rotor obstructions or wear.
  • Confirm the pump is stable and not causing undue vibrations.
  • Lubricate if specified by the manufacturer.

Identifying Leaks:

  • Secure all connection points.
  • Swap out worn seals or gaskets.
  • Double-check the firmness of all plumbing links.


FAQs about Best Aquaponics Water Pumps

1. Why is choosing the right water pump important for efficient system performance in aquaponics?

Answer: Choosing the right water pump is crucial for efficient system performance in aquaponics because an inadequate water pump can result in inefficient water flow, leading to problems such as low oxygen levels, nutrient deficiencies, and stagnant water.

2. How does an inefficient water pump affect fish and plant health in an aquaponics system?

Answer: An inefficient water pump can lead to low oxygen levels for fish and plants, resulting in poor health and stunted growth. It can also cause nutrient deficiencies and promote the growth of harmful bacteria and fungi while the fish become more prone to spreading diseases and parasites due to stagnant water.

3. What role does the water pump play in an aquaponics system?

Answer: The water pump circulates water within the aquaponics system, ensuring that fish have clean water and plants receive the necessary nutrients to grow optimally. It draws water from the fish tank and pumps it to the grow bed or channels, filtering it through the growing medium or flowing over the plant roots.

4. How can I calculate the required flow rate for my aquaponics system?

Answer: To calculate the required flow rate for your aquaponics system, you need to determine the volume of water in your fish tank and calculate the desired turnover rate. Multiply the fish tank volume by the desired turnover rate of 2 - 4 times the tank size per hour to find the required flow rate in gallons per hour (GPH) or liters per hour (LPH).

5. What should I consider when selecting an eco-friendly pump for my aquaponics system?

Answer: When selecting an eco-friendly pump, look for ENERGY STAR certification or high-efficiency ratings. Consider variable speed pumps that can adjust their flow rate to match the system's needs but you should know that only electrically regulated pumps reduce electricity consumption when reducing the flow rate and add to your pump a timer or a controller for optimized energy use completely automated.

6. What maintenance requirements should I consider for a water pump in aquaponics?

Answer: For proper maintenance of a water pump in aquaponics, review the manufacturer's guidelines for cleaning and lubrication schedules. Regular check to see if the pump works fine and is not blocked is essential for longevity and efficiency. Dry running, overheating, and a blocked propeller can unreversly destroy the motor. It's also advisable to choose pumps made from high-quality, corrosion-resistant materials and keep spare parts on hand for unexpected maintenance needs.