What Size Water Pump Is Needed for a 55-Gallon Aquarium?

By Floyd Drake III ; Updated April 12, 2017
A clean aquarium is necessary for aquatic life to thrive.

Whether freshwater or saltwater, home aquariums are an enjoyable addition to your household, giving you a glimpse into a different ecosystem. Home aquariums can range from a goldfish in a bowl to extravagant tanks holding more than 100 gallons. A 55-gallon tank is large enough for a variety of aquatic life, including fish, plants and other interesting creatures, all heightening your aquarium experience. Compatibility is a key issue when setting up a home aquarium, both in the fish chosen and the equipment required to maintain it. Proper planning makes your home aquarium an enjoyable experience, as well as easily maintained one.

Aquarium Maintenance

Water pumps are a vital aquarium component, maintaining the proper water flow and filtration essential for aquarium maintenance. Aquarium water that is not circulated and filtered would kill fish in a matter of days, and, since some fish are messier than others, improper maintenance could kill fish in even less time. The water pump and filtration system continuously clean your aquarium, lessening the work required when a full cleaning is performed. Proper maintenance keeps your aquarium water clear and improves the overall water quality. Using plenty of filtration keeps your water free of toxins.

Aquarium Filtration Systems

Maintaining a clean aquarium requires the proper filtration system, powered by an appropriately sized water pump. Proper filtration is accomplished on biological, mechanical and chemical levels. Biological filtration involves a special filter that removes ammonia from the water, mechanical filtration involves a filter that removes particles from the water, such as solid waste and food, while chemical filtration involves carbon charcoal, normally found in aquarium filter systems, and removes certain minerals from the system.

Aquarium Water Pumps

All aquarium water pumps are either external pumps or powerheads, which must be submerged in water; inside the tank, or in an external sump. External pumps are not submerged, and move water flow for the entire tank, not just the filtration system. A key feature of pumps is head pressure, which is the water pump's distance from the top of the aquarium. The distance between the aquarium and water pump changes the pump flow, and must be considered when determining the proper water pump for your 55-gallon aquarium. Decide where the pump is going to rest and measure this distance for future reference.

The Correct Water Pump for a 55-Gallon Aquarium

"The rule of thumb for good water flow and turning over water in your system is a minimum of 10 times per hour. In other words, if you have a 55-gallon aquarium, you will want to choose a filter pump that can move water flow at 550 gallons per hour at zero head pressure," according to Seaquest Marine.

When shopping for a water pump, the gallons per hour and head pressure specifications are listed, so a pump that maintains 550-gallons per hour with a zero head pressure at the pump's distance is sufficient for a 55-gallon aquarium.

About the Author

A native of New Haven, Conn., Floyd Drake III began writing in 1984. His work has appeared in the "New Haven Register," Medford's "Mail-Tribune" and the "Ashland Daily Tidings." Drake studied journalism at Southern Connecticut State University. After working as a reporter in Oregon, he is now based back home in New Haven.