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The 12 Best Aquarium Return Pumps

The appropriate return pump is a crucial component of a properly working aquarium, and the ideal one for your needs will depend on a number of criteria.

You must consider the size of your aquarium, the amount of fish in it, and the species of fish you have; certain fish are sensitive to too much movement, while others require it.

The tides cause regular water movement through and around a natural coral reef. This action assists the reef in obtaining necessary nutrients while also washing away trash.

This movement is also required to deliver oxygenated water to your fish and to circulate the water through the filtration system.

Finding the appropriate unit for your fish tank can be challenging, but don't fret! BestForPets (bestforpets.org) has done the legwork for you and compiled this list of the best aquarium return pumps to assist you to locate the product that best meets your specific needs.


Jebao Marine Submersible

The Jebao DCP Sine Wave return pump is our top recommendation for aquarium return pumps. The Jebao is a small, compact, and powerful machine. But don’t be fooled by its modest size; it packs a powerful punch.

Due to its sine wave technology, the pump operates quietly and includes a memory recall feature for when the power goes out. This is a wonderful feature, as you will not need to alter the settings after a power outage.

The pump has a flow rate of 1,710 GPH (gallons per hour) and a design that makes it about 50 percent more energy efficient than its predecessor.

It also has a wall-mountable controller, allowing you to create a personalized flow rate according to your preferences. Copper-free components render the machine safe for use with water and rustproof.

Several users have reported that the pump leaks when used outside the water, therefore there may be an issue with seal quality control. Moreover, the flow rate is subject to fluctuation, making it difficult to monitor the overflow level of your tank.


  • Inaudible operation
  • Energy-saving design
  • Wall-mountable controller included
  • Memory recall capability


  • Users have reported leaks when using the pump externally.
  • Variations in the flow rate


Unisex DEP-4000

Uniclife’s DEP-4000 is the most affordable aquarium return pump available. This pump boasts a durable three-phase, six-pole motor and a ceramic shaft that is resistant to wear.

The Smart Controller function makes it simple to choose between the 10 different speed settings, and the 10-minute feed mode is practical. The memory feature is an advantageous innovation that eliminates the need to reconfigure the device after each restart.

It features several modes, including control by an IC chip and protection against overheating in the absence of water. The pump can be operated externally as well as submerged in freshwater or saltwater.

It offers a respectable 1052 GPH flow rate, making it excellent for small to medium-sized aquariums, and its detachable construction makes it simple to clean.

Users note that this pump’s flow rate is not as powerful as advertised, and it regularly underperforms at high settings.

The pump’s front face is kept in place by merely three little clips, making it simple to dislodge and spill water everywhere. This poor design choice prevents the DEP-4000 from achieving first place.


  • Inexpensive
  • Intelligent Controller function
  • 10 speed settings
  • Multiple protection modes


  • Not as potent as represented
  • Front plastic face simply detaches


Fluval Hagen Sea

This Sea Sump Pump from Fluval Hagen carries a premium price tag, but offers a premium and powerful flow rate of up to 1822 gallons per hour.

It operates at a low temperature, so you can rest assured that it will not impact the water temperature in your tank and will not overheat. This durable pump is electrically approved for marine use and is constructed with unrivaled energy economy.

The magnetic drive design allows the pump to be utilized externally or buried in the tank, which is a useful feature.

Additionally, barbed hose connections are included for simple setup and installation, and this pump is very silent. This is an excellent feature for bedroom and living room aquariums.

This pump is larger than the majority of the other pumps on this page, which is particularly essential if you intend to use it submerged in a tiny aquarium.

Additionally, there is no filter cap on the intake, so you will need to leave it open or create one yourself. These minor restrictions prevent this pump from ranking among the top two.


  • Strong flow rate
  • Chilly operating temperature
  • Can be utilized externally or submerged.


  • Expensive
  • Fairly big dimensions
  • There is no intake filter provided.


Current USA eFlux DC Flow

Current USA’s eFlux DC Flow pump can be used externally or submerged and is safe for use with both freshwater and saltwater aquariums. It has a variable flow rate that may be adjusted by twisting an external dial.

It is easy and quick to install, and its small, compact design allows it to fit readily into small tanks. The eFlux offers energy-efficient operation to reduce power consumption, yet it will still provide your aquarium with powerful water flow and high pressure.

Its built-in soft-start will ensure a smooth speed change that will not shock your fish, and its IC electronic protection will prevent the pump from overheating in the absence of water.

The connection line and fittings are included for simple installation, and the pump has an impressive flow rate of up to 1900 GPH.

Several users have reported problems with this pump leaking when used externally, as well as a considerable drop in its flow rate over time. Some users have noticed the pump randomly shutting off, most likely due to controller defects.


  • Can be utilized externally or submerged.
  • High velocity
  • Energy efficient
  • Soft-start procedure


  • When applied externally, it leaks.
  • Inconsistent rate of flow
  • Controller can intermittently turn off the pump.


Hygger Quiet Submersible

This aquarium return pump from Hygger runs quietly and is suitable for both exterior and submerged applications. The 6.6-foot power line is a useful feature because it eliminates the need for potentially hazardous extensions and adapters.

The LED screen controller is a unique feature, with settings that let you modify the flow rate between 30% and 100% for optimal customisation, effectively providing 70 control speeds.

It contains two interchangeable water intake screens and an automatic shut-off function for when there is no water detected or when the water levels are too low.

The ceramic shaft’s resistance to water and the absence of copper make this pump durable and adaptable, suitable for use with both freshwater and saltwater.

Several customers have reported that the pump turns off intermittently and must be reset to function properly again. This can be a significant issue if it occurs while you are away on business or vacation, leaving your fish without circulating water.

The sensitivity of the flow rate adjustment is a result of the controller’s voltage regulation, which can result in slightly uneven flow rates.


  • Can be utilized both externally and submerged.
  • 6.6-foot-long power cord
  • LED display controller
  • 70 various speed settings


  • Turns off sporadically
  • fluctuating flow rates


Eheim Universal Pump

This universal pump from Eheim is epoxy-filled and hermetically sealed to prevent leaking, making it excellent for both exterior and submerged use. It has a motor that is energy-efficient, resulting in silent operation and reduced electricity costs.

Additionally, it is a versatile pump that may be utilized in both freshwater and saltwater. With a removable integrated pre-filter, barb fittings, and a built-in twist clamp, installation is quick and simple.

This unit’s plug-and-play installation is one of its most noteworthy characteristics.

With a flow rate of approximately 158 GPH, this little return pump is not ideal for big aquariums. The flow rate is not adjustable, and no controller is included.


  • Energy-efficient
  • Can be utilized both externally and submerged.
  • Simple installation


  • Low velocity
  • Flow rate cannot be adjusted


aquatic Station Quiet Swirl

This tiny pump from Aquastation is surprisingly strong despite its diminutive size. The maximum flow rate is a healthy 1056 GPH, and the integrated controller allows for up to twenty various speed settings.

Its sine wave technology provides energy efficiency and a silent operation, and it can be submerged or used outside. Its intelligent controller features a 10-minute feed function, a Constant Flow Mode, and a Wave Function.

This pump is likely to leak when used externally, and you may need to do silicon repairs to prevent this. The fittings are not standard, making installation difficult even if the proper sizes can be obtained.

Many users have reported defective controllers that cause the pump to stop sporadically, with some units never turning back on! Despite what the description says, this pump will rust when used in saltwater.


  • Small and diminutive
  • 20 various speed settings
  • Silent and energy-efficient functioning


  • Will leak when externally employed.
  • Fittings are not standard
  • Pump pauses periodically
  • Will corrode in seawater


Aqueon Submersible Silent-Flow

This Aqueon submersible pump is perfect for submersible return pump applications due to its silent operation and handy suction-mount feet. The equipment includes all necessary adaptors, including an inlet adaptor, for first use.

It is also suitable for usage with either freshwater or saltwater and has a small, compact design that is easy to install and won’t take up a lot of room in your tank.

The flow rate of 515 GPH is insufficient for large aquariums, and the pump lacks a crucial auto-shutoff function should the water level drop.

According to numerous consumers, this pump is not as quiet as stated, however the noise may subside after a brief break-in period.

According to user reports, you can expect the internal motor to last between 6 and 12 months with average use. There are no variable speed settings, hence there is no controller, and the flow rate can be quite inconsistent.


  • Adhesive-mount feet
  • Inexpensive
  • Simple installation


  • Poor GPH ranking
  • Non-adjustable speed
  • Noisy
  • Poor construction
  • Variable flow rate

Final Decision

For the best aquarium return pumpsThe Jebao DCP Sine Wave aquarium return pump is BestForPets‘ (bestforpets.org) top choice. It offers a lot of power in a small, compact package and uses sine wave technology to operate quietly and efficiently. With a flow rate of 1710 GPH and a wall-mountable controller, this return pump is an excellent option.

Uniclife’s DEP-4000 is the most affordable aquarium return pump available. It contains a 10-minute feed mode and a Smart Controller function that allows you to select between 10 different speed settings. It also boasts a respectable 1052 GPH flow rate, making it excellent for budget-conscious aquarium lovers.

What to Consider when Buying Aquarium Return Pumps?

A high-quality return pump is vital for the health and functionality of an aquarium. It permits all the water entering your aquarium to first pass through the filtration system, ensuring that only clean, filtered water enters your aquarium and aiding in oxygenating the water.

But how can you ensure that you’re selecting the right pump for your tank? There are several crucial aspects to consider.

Internal or external?

Even though many pumps on the market can perform both functions, return pumps normally fall into two categories: submersible and exterior.

A submersible pump can be completely submerged and function in water (often both freshwater and saltwater), whereas an external pump can only be utilized outside of the tank.

Both of these alternatives have advantages and limitations, which is why hybrid units are so prevalent.

Submersible pumps are typically quieter and easier to install and maintain, but if they run hot, they can have a significant impact on the temperature of the water in your tank.

External pumps require regular maintenance and are more difficult to install. However, they are typically more powerful, have higher flow rates, do not transfer more heat to the aquarium’s water, and stay longer.


The volume capacity of your aquarium is also an important thing to consider. If you purchase a pump that is too tiny for your aquarium’s water capacity, the water in your tank will not be filtered effectively.

This will eventually lead to an unhealthy environment for your fish, as well as a possible pump motor failure. If you have a pump that is too big for your aquarium, it can easily cause the tank or sump to overflow.

In addition, larger pumps are more costly, so purchasing one that is too large is a waste of money.

AC vs. DC Pumps

AC pumps have always been the standard for aquariums, requiring little more than connecting them to the wall. Recently, DC pumps have gained popularity, as they often come with a controller that allows you to customize the speed.

You can modify the flow rate of your pump with the push of a button, which is a major benefit if you have multiple species of fish.

In the event of a power outage, these pumps can be equipped with backup batteries, and more complex models can even be changed remotely via smartphone apps. DC pumps cost more than AC pumps.


Since aquariums are typically situated in bedrooms or living rooms, the last thing you (and your fish) want is a noisy pump.

The noise can convey detrimental vibrations throughout your aquarium, causing distress to any organisms that reside there.

Some pumps are noisier than others, even though correct installation can decrease the noise of many pumps.

As long as they do not contact the tank’s walls or any installed pipes or rock features, submersible pumps are typically more quiet.

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Dr. Deborah Fletcher

Deborah R. Fletcher, DVM, is a skilled veterinarian with more than 15 years of experience dealing with companion and exotic animals. She has experience caring for a variety of animals, including household cats and dogs, reptiles, birds of prey, and even primates. Dr. Fletcher is a valuable part of the BestForPets team, where she contributes to their aim of providing pets and their owners with the finest possible treatment and services.

Veterinarian (DVM) Dr. Deborah Fletcher


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