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Guide to Choosing the Best Water Pump for Aquaponics

Choosing the right water pump for an aquaponics system is essential to ensure efficient system performance. An inadequate water pump can result in inefficient water flow, which can cause various problems, such as low oxygen levels for fish and plants, nutrient deficiencies, and stagnant water.

On the other hand, the right water pump can promote optimal water flow, resulting in healthy fish and plants, efficient nutrient cycling, and overall system productivity. This guide discusses factors to consider when selecting the best water pump, types of water pumps, and maintenance and troubleshooting tips.

The Importance of Selecting the Right Water Pump for Efficient System Performance

Selecting the right water pump is essential for the optimal performance of an aquaponics system. It plays a crucial role in circulating the water within the system, which is vital for ensuring that fish and  plants receive the nutrients and oxygen.

An inefficient water pump can cause various issues, such as if the water flow is inadequate, the plants may not receive enough amount of nutrients, which will lead to stunted growth and low crop yields.

Stagnant water can also result in anaerobic conditions that promote the growth of harmful bacteria and fungi, which are the cause of various fish and plant diseases.

Additionally, a too-low water flow may cause stress to the fish and plants. On the other hand, a too-high flow rate may cause the quick flushing of nutrients out of the system too quickly, which can lead to nutrient deficiencies.

Therefore, selecting the right water pump ensures optimal system performance.

Water Pump in Aquaponics

A Brief Explanation of How Water Pump Work in Aquaponics Systems

Water pumps are used to circulate the water in the whole system. They typically draw water from the fish tank and then pump it to the grow bed or channels, where it is filtered through the growing medium or flows over the plant roots. The clean and filtered water is then returned to the fish tank for the fish to live. Choosing the right water pump is essential to ensure the water is circulated at the appropriate flow rate for optimal system performance.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Water Pump for Aquaponics Systems

Here are several factors to consider when selecting the best aquaponics pump for aquaponics systems.

A.System Size and Flow Rate

1.How to calculate the required flow rate:

  • Calculating the required flow rate for your aquaponics system is crucial to ensure that your plants receive adequate water and nutrients while maintaining proper oxygen levels for your fish. To calculate it:
  • Determine the volume of water in your fish tank, typically in gallons or liters.
  • Calculate the desired turnover rate, which is the number of times you want the entire volume of water in your fish tank to circulate through the grow beds each hour. A turnover rate of 2-4 times per hour is often recommended.
  • Divide the fish tank volume by the desired turnover rate to find the required flow rate in gallons per hour or liters per hour.

2.Matching pump capacity with system size:

Select a pump that can deliver the calculated flow rate. It's essential to match the pump's capacity to the specific needs of your aquaponics system to ensure efficient nutrient distribution and oxygenation.

B.Energy Efficiency

1.The importance of energy-efficient pumps:

Energy-efficient pumps reduce your environmental footprint and save you money on energy costs in the long run. In an aquaponics system, where the water pump runs continuously, the impact of energy efficiency is significant. Efficient pumps consume less electricity while delivering the required flow rate, helping you achieve a more sustainable and cost-effective operation.

2.Tips for selecting an eco-friendly pump:

  • Look for pumps with an ENERGY STAR certification or high-efficiency ratings.
  • Consider variable speed pumps that can adjust their flow rate to match the system's current needs. This can save energy during periods of lower demand.
  • Choose a pump with a timer or controller that allows you to schedule pump operation during peak nutrient uptake periods, optimizing energy use.

C.Noise Level

1.The impact of pump noise on your aquaponics system:

Excessive pump noise can disrupt the tranquility of your aquaponics setup, especially if it's indoors or near living spaces. Noise can also stress fish, affecting their well-being. Therefore, it's important to consider noise levels when selecting a water pump.

2.Quieter pump options:

  • Submersible pumps tend to be quieter than external pumps because they are submerged in water, which acts as a natural noise dampener.
  • Look for pumps with noise-reduction features, such as insulated housings or anti-vibration technology.
  • Position the pump on a stable surface to reduce vibrations and noise transmission.

D.Durability and Maintenance

1.Materials and construction quality:

  • Choose a pump made from high-quality, corrosion-resistant materials, especially if it will be in contact with water. Stainless steel or high-grade plastics are often good choices.
  • Consider the pump's construction quality, including the integrity of seals and components. Well-built pumps are less likely to develop leaks or fail prematurely.

2.Maintenance requirements and longevity:

  • Review the manufacturer's guidelines for maintenance, such as cleaning and lubrication schedules. Regular maintenance is essential to ensure the longevity and efficiency of your pump.
  • Opt for pumps from reputable brands known for durability and reliability.
  • Keep spare parts on hand, such as impellers and seals, in case of unexpected maintenance needs.

How to Determine the Correct Water Pump Size for Your System

Determining the correct water pump size is crucial for the efficient operation of your system. If the water pump is too small for the system, it cannot provide enough water flow for your plants and fish, while a too-big pump can lead to higher electricity consumption and costs. 

Below are the steps to follow in determining the correct water pump size:

First, you need to determine the GPH (Gallons Per Hour), measure the head height, and then combine the GPH and head height.

1. Determining GPH (Gallons Per Hour)

The first thing you need to do in sizing the water for your system is to determine the GPH or Gallons Per Hour. Submersible pumps have a Gallons Per Hour (GPH) rating, which is the number of gallons of water that a water pump can pump every hour. In some areas that use the metric system, the ratings are Liters Per Hour.

The rule of thumb is that your water pump should circulate the entire water volume in your system at least every two hours. So choose a water pump that can meet this minimum requirement of cycling half of your entire system's volume of water every hour. So if your aquaponics system has 100 gallons of water, you will need a pump that can circulate at least 50 gallons of water per hour. So you will need a water pump that has at least 50 GPH.

2. Measuring the Head Height

The head height is the distance between the fish tank's water level and the desired water level of the grow bed. When measuring your aquaponics system's head height, measure the distance between the two water levels using a ruler or tape measure. 

Keeping the heat at a minimum level will keep the entire system efficient. But for some aquaponics systems where the fish tank and the grow bed are at the same level, there is no head height.

3. Combining GPH and Head Height

Once you have determined your GPH and measured your head height, the next step is combining the two variables to determine the right water pump size for your aquaponics system. In general, most water pumps come with a chart that combines GPH and head height. 

Aquaponics Water Pump Chart
This sample chart for the Active Aqua Submersible Pump should only be used if you're using an Active Aqua Pump. Each manufacturer has its specific chart that comes with the product.

Reading the Pump Curve

Every water pump has a pump curve in its user manual or datasheet. In looking at your water pump's pump curve, look at the left axis first and find the head height you calculated for your system. Draw a line to the right, look for your required minimum flow rate, and draw a vertical line. The point where the lines cross is your pump's "working point."

Types of Water Pump for Aquaponics

Here are the two common types of water pumps for aquaponics systems.

1. Submersible Pumps

Submersible pumps are designed to be fully submerged in water, usually within the fish tank or sump tank. Submersible are small water pumpsand are often used in smaller aquaponics systems. These pumps operate by drawing water in through an intake and then expelling it through an outlet. Here's how a submersible pump works:

  • Intake: Submersible pumps have an intake screen or filter at the base, which prevents debris from entering the pump. Water is drawn in through this intake.
  • Impeller: Inside the pump is an impeller—a rotating component with vanes or blades. When the pump is activated, the impeller spins rapidly, creating a centrifugal force that propels the water through the pump.
  • Outlet: The water is then expelled through an outlet pipe or hose and directed to the aquaponics system's grow beds or other components.

Pros:

  • Submersible pumps are easy to install and require minimal plumbing since they are placed directly in the water.
  • They are typically more affordable than external pumps.
  • Submersible pumps are quieter than some external models, which can be important if your system is indoors or near living spaces.

Cons:

  • Submersible pumps are located within the fish tank, making them more susceptible to clogging from fish waste and debris. Regular maintenance is necessary to prevent blockages.
  • They may have limitations regarding flow rate and head height (the vertical distance the pump can lift water), which can impact the scalability of your aquaponics system.

2. Inline Pumps

Also called centrifugal pumps, the inline pumps are placed out of the fish tank and are primarily used in larger aquaponics systems. These higher-powered motors are capable of moving larger volumes of water. Inline pumps are measured in horsepower (HP), not by the volume of water that they can move. Here's how an inline pump works:

  • Intake: These pumps draw water from the fish or sump tank using an inlet pipe or hose.
  • Impeller: Like submersible pumps, external pumps have an impeller that generates water flow when it rotates.
  • Outlet: The water is then pushed through an outlet pipe or hose, which directs it to the grow beds or other parts of the aquaponics system.

Pros:

  • External pumps are less prone to clogging since they are not submerged in the fish tank, reducing maintenance needs.
  • They often have higher flow rates and can lift water to greater heights, making them suitable for larger and more complex aquaponics setups.
  • External pumps have a longer lifespan due to their location outside the water, away from potentially corrosive elements.

Cons:

  • Installation of external pumps may require more extensive plumbing work than submersible pumps.
  • They are generally more expensive upfront than submersible models.
  • External pumps can be noisier, so noise insulation may be necessary if your system is indoors or near living spaces.
    Submersible Water Pump for Aquaponics

     

    Our Choice for the Best Water Pump for Aquaponics

    After considering the factors discussed above, here are our choice of some of the best water pumps for aquaponics.

    1. Hydrofarm Active Aqua Submersible Water Pump, 400 GPH

     


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    Features of Hydrofarm Active Aqua Submersible Water Pump, 400 GPH:
    • Submersible design for easy integration into water-based systems
    • Compact size for versatile installation options
    • 400 GPH pumping capacity for efficient water circulation
    • Quiet operation for a peaceful environment
    • Durable construction for long-lasting performance
    • Adjustable flow control to meet specific plant needs
    • Detachable filter to prevent debris clogs
    • Easy to clean and maintain

    Our review:

    The Hydrofarm Active Aqua Submersible Water Pump, with a pumping capacity of 400 gallons per hour (GPH), has proven to be an exceptional choice for aquaponics enthusiasts. The submersible design of this water pump makes it an ideal fit for aquaponics setups. Whether you have a small-scale home system or a larger commercial operation, this pump seamlessly integrates into the water environment without any leakage concerns. Its compact size allows for easy installation in various configurations, optimizing space utilization in your aquaponic setup.

    The Hydrofarm Active Aqua Submersible Water Pump, with its reliability, efficiency, and aquaponics-friendly features, has proven to be an invaluable asset to many aquaponics systems. Its robust pumping capacity, quiet operation, and adjustable flow control make it an excellent choice for beginners and experienced aquaponics enthusiasts. 

    2. EcoPlus Submersible Water Pump

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    Features of EcoPlus Submersible Water Pump:

    • Designed specifically for aquaponics use
    • Powerful motor for efficient water flow
    • Submersible design for easy integration into the system
    • Durable construction for long-lasting performance
    • Quiet operation for a peaceful environment
    • Adjustable flow control for customized water circulation
    • User-friendly installation and setup
    • Easy to clean and maintain

    Our Review:

    The EcoPlus Submersible Water Pump is a top choice for aquaponics enthusiasts. Its powerful and efficient performance ensures consistent water flow and promotes the healthy growth of plants and aquatic organisms. The durable construction and quiet operation make it a reliable and low-maintenance option. The pump's submersible design and adjustable flow control add to its versatility, making it an excellent fit for any aquaponic setup.

    3. VIVOSUN Submersible Pump

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    Features of VIVOSUN SUbmersible Pump:

    • Designed specifically for aquaponics use
    • Powerful motor for efficient water circulation
    • Submersible design for easy integration into the system
    • Durable construction for long-lasting performance
    • Quiet operation for a peaceful aquaponic environment
    • Adjustable flow control for customized water circulation
    • Easy to install and set up
    • User-friendly features for convenient operation

    Our Review:

    The ViVOSUN Submersible Pump is a reliable choice for aquaponics enthusiasts. Its powerful motor ensures efficient water circulation, promoting the healthy growth of plants and aquatic organisms. The submersible design allows easy integration, and its durable construction ensures long-lasting performance. The pump operates quietly, maintaining a peaceful environment. The adjustable flow control adds convenience for customized water flow. Overall, it's a valuable asset for any aquaponic setup.

    4. Tetra Pond Debris-Handling Pump

    etra Pond Debris-Handling Pump

     

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    Features of Tetra Pond Debris-Handling Pump:

    • Designed specifically for efficient debris handling in ponds and aquaponics systems
    • Equipped with a large intake and internal basket to prevent clogs and debris from reaching the impeller
    • Powerful motor ensures efficient water circulation, facilitating nutrient and oxygen exchange
    • Submersible design allows easy integration into ponds or aquaponic setups
    • Operates quietly, maintaining a peaceful environment for aquatic organisms
    • Durable construction guarantees long-lasting performance
    • Versatile and adaptable to various pond and aquaponic configurations

    Our Review:

    The Tetra Pond Debris-Handling Pump  is a reliable solution for efficient debris management in aquaponics. Its large intake and internal basket prevent clogs, ensuring uninterrupted water flow. With a powerful motor, it promotes healthy growth in plants and aquatic organisms. The submersible design allows for easy integration while its quiet operation maintains a peaceful environment. Cleaning is hassle-free with the removable internal basket. It's a valuable asset for maintaining optimal conditions in an aquaponic system.

    5. Uniclife UL400 Submersible Water Pump

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    Features of Uniclife UL400 Submersible Pump:

    • Efficient submersible water pump designed for aquaponics systems
    • Powerful motor ensures effective water circulation for optimal nutrient and oxygen exchange
    • Submersible design allows for easy integration and operation in water
    • Quiet operation maintains a peaceful environment for plants and aquatic organisms
    • User-friendly and easy to install, suitable for beginners and experienced enthusiasts
    • Compact size and space-saving design
    • Easy to clean and maintain, with removable parts for hassle-free maintenance
    • Durable construction ensures long-lasting performance
    • Versatile and suitable for various aquaponic setups and applications

    Our Review:

    The Uniclife UL400 Submersible Water Pump offers reliable performance for aquaponics systems. Its powerful motor ensures efficient water circulation, promoting the healthy growth of plants and aquatic organisms. The submersible design allows for easy integration, and its quiet operation maintains a peaceful environment. User-friendly features and easy maintenance make it a convenient choice for aquaponics enthusiasts.

    Water Pump Installation and Maintenance Tips

    Proper water pump installation is crucial to ensure its efficiency and longevity. Here are step-by-step tips:

    A.Installation Tips

    1. Select the Pump Location: Choose the correct location for the pump. Submersible pumps should be placed inside the fish or sump tank, while inline pumps are typically located outside the water.
    2. Install Intake and Outlet: Attach the intake and outlet pipes or hoses to the pump according to the manufacturer's instructions.
    3. Prime the Pump (for inline pumps): If you're using an inline pump, you may need to prime it by filling the intake pipe or housing with water to create suction to help the pump start smoothly.
    4. Connect to the Aquaponics System: Connect the pump to your aquaponics system. The outlet should direct water to the grow beds or other components that need circulation. Make sure the water flow aligns with the intended flow of your system.
    5. Secure Electrical Connections: If your pump requires electricity, ensure it is properly grounded and connected to a GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) outlet. 
    6. Turn On the Pump: Start the pump and check for proper water circulation. Adjust flow rates if necessary to match the system's requirements.
    7. Monitor for Leaks: Keep an eye out for leaks at connection points. If you detect any, shut off the pump and fix the issue to prevent water damage or electrical hazards.

    B.Maintenance Tips

    1. Clean the Intake: For submersible pumps, periodically remove and clean the intake screen or filter to prevent clogs from fish waste and debris. Inline pumps may have a pre-filter that requires cleaning.
    2. Inspect Impeller: Check the impeller for debris or blockages. Remove and clean it if necessary and inspect for any signs of wear or damage.
    3. Lubrication (if applicable): Some pump models may require periodic lubrication of moving parts. Refer to the manufacturer's instructions for guidance.
    4. Check Seals and Connections: Inspect seals, gaskets, and connection points for leaks and replace damaged seals to prevent water leakage.
    5. Clean Plumbing: Ensure that the pipes or hoses connected to the pump remain clean and free from obstructions.
    6. Monitor Noise Levels: Investigate the cause of increased pump noise, as it could indicate a problem with the impeller or a need for maintenance.
    7. Schedule Regular Checks: Establish a routine schedule for inspecting and maintaining your pump.

    C. Troubleshooting Common Pump Issues

    1. Pump Not Starting:

    • Check the power supply and connections.
    • Ensure that the pump is not clogged or obstructed.
    • For external pumps, check the priming process if applicable.

    2. Low Flow Rate:

    • Verify that the impeller and intake are clean and free from debris.
    • Check for air leaks in the intake line.
    • Ensure that the pump is appropriately sized for your system's requirements.

    3. Excessive Noise:

    • Inspect the impeller for damage or blockages.
    • Ensure the pump is properly secured and not vibrating excessively against its mounting surface.
    • Lubricate moving parts if recommended by the manufacturer.

    4. Leaks:

    • Tighten connection points.
    • Replace damaged seals or gaskets.
    • Ensure that all plumbing connections are secure.

    Conclusion

    Choosing the best water pump for your system is crucial for its efficiency and success. You can make an informed decision when selecting a water pump by calculating the flow rate requirements and considering factors such as energy efficiency, durability, and noise level. Regular maintenance and troubleshooting can help keep your water pump running smoothly and your aquaponics system thriving. Hopefully, with this article, you can confidently choose the best water pump for your aquaponics system and enjoy a successful and sustainable growing experience.

    7 Responses

    Francky

    Francky

    September 06, 2023

    Thank you for sharing this informative article on Water Pumps

    Mats Wolff

    Mats Wolff

    May 31, 2022

    Its interesting when you said that the air cools the heat created by the pump, which is a major benefit of inline pumps. My uncle owns a farm and wants to hire a water pump repair service since some of his pumps are getting worn out. Thanks for the article and I will forward it to my uncle so that he can repair his pumps as soon as possible! https://www.aemgroup.net.au/water-pumps

    Amy Saunders

    Amy Saunders

    February 08, 2022

    Hey there! Now, my neighbor’s grandmother is considering setting up a mall pond in her backyard but she wonders how she can make sure the water stays clear. I like it when you reminded us to get a pump that doesn’t take up too much electrical power. I’ll share this article with her so she’ll be more encouraged to make the right purchase. http://www.betterwaterwells.com

    Luke Smith

    Luke Smith

    February 08, 2022

    It was very informative to know that the energy level of a water tank is dependent on its head height. My well has been acting up lately, because it doesn’t produce water as much as it used to. This well is very essential in this neighborhood, so I’ll make sure to inquire for the best well pump services as soon as possible. http://www.downrightdrilling.com/services

    Levi Armstrong

    Levi Armstrong

    July 27, 2021

    It’s great that you mentioned that the inline pumps are placed out of the fish tank and are mostly used in larger aquaponics systems. These higher-powered motors are capable of moving larger volumes of water. My brother needs new water pumps to pump clean water into his homemade pond at home. I’ll share this with him to help him find a new one before his fishes in the pond die out. Thanks! https://www.waterworksirrigationandpumpsystems.com/water-pump-repair

    Levi Armstrong

    Levi Armstrong

    July 27, 2021

    It’s great that you mentioned that the rule of thumb is that your water pump should circulate the entire water volume in your system at least every two hours. My sister seems to have plumbing problems with her good pipes and isn’t receiving clean water. I’ll share this with her later. Thanks. https://www.russellrobinsonwellman.com/water-well-pump-repair

    Levi Armstrong

    Levi Armstrong

    July 27, 2021

    It’s good to know that submersible pumps are cheap, easy to use and install, and do not produce much noise. My dad is looking for a pump for his aquaponics system. He could learn much from this article of yours, so I’ll share this with him tonight. Thanks. https://www.wwpp.co/flint-and-walling-pumps/fandw-commander-s-4-submersible-pumps/

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