In this article, you’ll learn a few reasons to use a powerhead in a 10-gallon tank along with a filter. Plus you’ll find our recommendation for 3 great powerheads for small 10 gallon tanks.

One of the most common problems new fish tank owners run into is not enough filtration. Keeping the water in your tank clean and ensuring it’s cycling properly is critical to the health of your fish.

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A fish tank filter alone may not be enough, however. Combining it with a powerhead will help it work more efficiently, keeping the water in your tank cleaner and your fish healthy and happy. Let’s look at what you need to know when choosing these two components of your aquarium.

What Does a Fish Tank Filter Do?

There are three steps to filtering your fish tank:

  • Mechanical
  • Biological
  • Chemical

Mechanical filtering gets rid of debris in the water. This includes excess food, fish waste, and pieces of plants or other decorations that have broken away.

Biological filtering helps to maintain the proper levels of ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates in your tank. If these get out of balance, your fish can become sick or even die.

Chemical filtering will help get rid of unwanted chemicals in the water itself. For example, if you use tap water in your tank it quite likely contains fluoride and other chemicals that can be harmful to your fish.

Cycling Your Fish Tank

Biological filtering is one of the most important parts of the process. Because most tanks don’t flush the water in the tank on an ongoing basis, fish waste and excess food will decay and increase the ammonia levels in the tank.

Biological filtering will convert this excess ammonia, which is harmful to fish, into nitrites. Nitrites, which are also harmful if too high, are then converted to relatively safe nitrates. This process is known as cycling.

Once your tank is cycling well, regular water changes will help to keep the nitrates at a reasonable level. They can also be harmful to your fish if the levels get too high.

Choosing the Right Filter

Biological filtering (cycling) is mostly handled by the ecosystem of your fish tank. If you’re setting up a new tank, it’s important to get this process started before adding a lot of fish to the tank. If you don’t, you’ll likely face “new tank syndrome” where more of your fish will die within a couple of days of getting placed in the tank.

Your fish tank filter, one of the essentials of aquarium maintenance, does play a part from both the mechanical and chemical perspectives. The filter will “strain” debris from the water as it passes through. A sponge, a carbon filter, or some other physical filtering system will do this.

Chemicals in the water will also get cleaned up as the water runs through the filter. Getting rid of these things will help your tank cycle properly so the biological filter gets up and running.

Flow Rate

One of the most important considerations when choosing your filter is the flow rate or how much water can flow through the filter per hour. This is measured in gallons per hour (GPH).

The larger your tank, the higher the flow rate needs to be to keep the water filtered properly. You should aim to completely cycle the water through the filter at least four times per hour. So if you have a 10-gallon tank, the filter should run at a minimum of 40 GPH.

How a Powerhead Improves Your Tank’s Filtering

Choosing a filter with a high enough flow rate to clean your tank four times an hour or more isn’t necessarily enough. Most filters have a tube or intake of some kind that pulls the water in from the tank and outflow of some kind to push it back out after cleaning it.

The catch is, the filter is only pulling water from close to the intake. Water at the opposite end of the tank may not be getting filtered at anywhere near the necessary rate, if at all. This will lead to the ammonia and nitrite levels getting out of line.

How a Powerhead Works

A powerhead creates a current in your tank to keep the water moving. This ensures that all the water in the tank will get filtered, not just the water closest to the filter intake.

The powerhead works pretty simply. It pulls water in one end and pushes it out the other, creating a current in the tank. It can be placed freely in the tank so you can put it where it will direct the most water toward the filter.

You can use more than one to mimic natural currents if your tank is large enough but one powerhead should be plenty in a 10-gallon tank. You don’t want to make the current too strong or your fish will never be able to rest.

Recommended Powerheads

There are several things to consider when choosing a powerhead:

  • Flow rate: Again, aim for at least four times the tank size.
  • Sound level: The powerhead is underwater but if it’s too loud, you’ll still hear it.
  • Type of fish and other creatures in your tank: Some organisms need less movement than others.

The following are our top 3 recommended powerheads for a 10-gallon tank.

1. Hydor Pico Evo-Mag 180 Circulation Pump

Hydor Pico Evo-Mag 180 Circulation Pump with Magnet Mount, 180 GPH

Get The Hydor Pico Evo-Mag 180 Circulation Pump

The Hydor Pico Evo-Mag 180 provides up to 180 GPH flow, more than enough to support a 10-gallon tank. It also offers a unique magnetic mounting system, making it easy to place anywhere in your tank.

2. AquaClear Powerhead 20

AquaClear Powerhead 20 - 110 V, 127 Gallons per Hour

Get The AquaClear Powerhead 20

The AquaClear Powerhead 20 provides up to 127 GPH flow, again plenty for a 10-gallon tank. The AquaClear offers stronger currents for fish that come from that type of natural environment, such as the ocean floor.

It offers silent operation, easy installation, and it can be hidden in your tank. It also includes extra mechanical filtration to help supplement your tank’s filter.

3. Fluval Sea CP1 Circulation Pump

Fluval Sea CP1 Circulation Pump for Aquarium

Get The Fluval Sea CP1 Circulation Pump

The Fluval Hagen pump has the highest flow rate of our three recommended products, at 425 GPH. It simulates a natural reef current and is safe to use with a timer system.

Putting your powerhead on a timer is another option if you don’t want to tire your fish with a never-ending current.

Choosing the Right Fish Tank Filter and Powerhead

Like most things in life, you get what you pay for with a fish tank filter and powerhead. There’s no need to spend a fortune on models that are designed for much larger aquariums or specialized fish but make sure you choose models that will support the life in your tank.

The powerheads we recommended above will serve you well and your fish will thank you for it.

Here is a great video that discusses some of the basics when selecting a powerhead. Although they are discussing reef tanks some of the tips and suggestions will apply to freshwater. Check it out.

More Info About 10-Gallon Tanks

  1. Guide to Setting up Your 10-Gallon Planted Tank
  2. 12 Hungry Algae Eaters For Small Tanks 10 Gallons & Under
  3. Stocking A 10 Gallon Tank
  4. Best Small Catfish for a 10-Gallon Tank Setup
  5. Bottom Feeder Fish for a 10-Gallon Tank
  6. How Much Gravel For A 10 Gallon Tank
  7. How Many Neon Tetras In A 10 Gallon Tank
  8. How Many Guppies in a 10-Gallon Tank
  9. How Many Goldfish in a 10-Gallon Tank

3 Best Powerheads For 10 Gallon Tanks