5 Best Hydroponic Pumps & Aerators

By: Chris | Last Updated: May 20, 2021

Sizing and selecting water and air pumps for hydroponic systems can be tough if you’ve never done it before. Below you’ll find products I use in my own systems. I think they’re the best hydroponic pumps & aerators you can invest in as a hobby gardener. For the money, these items are hard to beat.

If you’re building a deep water culture system, jump down to the aerator section. Basic deep water culture systems don’t need a water pump.

Jump to Best Aerators for Hydroponic Systems

On the other hand, if you’re building a nutrient film technique, ebb & flow, dutch bucket, or vertical hydroponic system, you’ll want to look for a pump and aerator that fits your needs. A pump will move the water throughout the system while an aerator keeps the nutrient solution clean and oxygenated in the nutrient reservoir.

The Best Hydroponic Pumps For Small & Medium Hydroponic Systems

A quick search will return results for thousands of different water pumps.

For hydroponic systems, you’ll mainly be interested in inline and submersible pumps. Two of the pumps listed below can operate as an inline, submersible, and sump pump by changing out a couple of parts. It’s handy to use a sump pump when you want to completely remove all the water from a nutrient reservoir.

For smallish scale hobby hydroponics, submersible pumps are what you’ll mainly be dealing with. As the name suggests, submersible water pumps go in the bottom of a nutrient reservoir and are surrounded by water.

You’ll probably notice all the pumps I list are from the same manufacturer. Why? Because this manufacturer publishes full head height charts for all their pumps. Most other manufacturers on Amazon don’t do this. It’s really important to have this information so you can properly size the pump to your hydroponic system.

Having Trouble Finding the Right Size Pump?

Take the guesswork out of hydroponic water pumps and aerators. Step-by-step instructions for DWC, NFT, Ebb & Flow, Vertical Systems, and Dutch Buckets.

Click Here to Read

How to Size Hydroponic Water Pumps & Aerators

Recommendation: Pumps fail over time. It’s a good idea to always keep a spare pump handy so your plants aren’t left high and dry when a pump failure happens. This is even more important in NFT and tower/vertical systems that rely on a constant supply of water to keep plants alive.

Best Budget Hydroponic Water Pump

Hydrofarm Active Aqua AAPW160 160GPH Water Pump

One of the most trusted names in hobby hydroponic gardening, the Active Aqua series of pumps is a clear step above the competition. The lineup has pumps ranging from 40GPH all the way up to 1110GPH. The 250GPH and above pumps come with fittings allowing them to be run as either submersible or inline pumps.

I recommend the 160GPH model because it’s a really versatile pump that works with most small hydroponic systems. The flow rate can be adjusted on the pump from 175GPH down to 106GPH. I use this exact pump in all my “smaller” systems with reservoirs under 20 gallons.

Hydrofarm Active Aqua AAPW160, 2 Pack
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All Active Aqua pumps are easy to disassemble for cleaning, and you can buy replacement filters for them. Try doing that with the ultra-cheap competitors.

The pumps come with a 1-year warranty, but you’re going to get way more than 1 year’s worth of life out of em!

Best Multi-Purpose Hydroponic Water Pump

Hydrofarm Active Aqua AAPW250 250GPH Water Pump

The next step up from the AAPW160, this pump comes with additional fittings that can be used to turn it into an inline pump that sits outside the nutrient reservoir.

The pump is easy to take apart for cleaning, and there are a lot of replacement parts available for them. Speaking of parts, the AAPW250 comes with a ceramic shaft rated for use in saltwater environments. This feature is ideal for hydroponics since nutrient solutions are made with nutrient salts.

Hydrofarm Active Aqua AAPW250
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Another advantage to the Active Aqua line is the bottom draw pump adapter (sold separately). This adapter turns your submersible pump into a sump pump that can pull every last bit of water out of a reservoir. This is super handy when it’s time to empty and replace the water in the reservoir. I keep an extra 250GPH pump with the bottom draw adapter just for draining reservoirs.

Best Large Multi-Purpose Hydroponic Water Pump

Hydrofarm Active Aqua AAPW1000

If you need to pump out a serious amount of water or reach the top of tall vertical systems, the AAPW1000 will provide the power you’re after. This pump has a maximum head height of almost 12 feet, and can still pump out over 400 gallons per hour at a 9′ head height.

Hydrofarm Active Aqua AAPW1000
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As you may be guessing, this pump is for larger-scale systems. It has all the same features as its 250GPH little brother. One big difference is the sump pump fitting. The 250GPH model uses a 1/2″ fitting while the AAPW1000 uses a 1″ fitting. This pump will empty out reservoirs, and small ponds or pools quickly.


The Best Aerators for Small & Medium Hydroponic Systems

Plants absorb oxygen through their roots. In a hydroponic setting, plants get most of their oxygen in the form of dissolved oxygen in the nutrient solution. No matter what system you use, your plants need oxygen.

The water in your hydroponic system is oxygenated in a couple of ways.

In recirculating systems, a drain line from the grow chamber returns nutrient solution to the reservoir. Drain lines placed above the reservoir will spill water back into the reservoir, creating varying degrees of oxygenation.

Aerators are a lot more effective at oxygenating the water in your system. An aerator is an electric pump with a baffle that pushes air into the reservoir using small tubing and a bubble stone like you’d see in an aquarium. The only difference is that the stones you’ll be using for hydroponics are a lot bigger.

Benefits of Aerators:

If the recirculating drain works, why use an aerator? Efficiency and effectiveness. Aerators improve dissolved oxygen levels in water and keep the system healthier.

Algae forms in stagnant water. By agitating the surface of the water in the reservoir, the aerator bubbles create an environment that inhibits algae growth. This is great news for hydroponic gardeners. Reduced algae growth leads to a healthier system. A healthy system needs less cleaning and maintenance.

Algae growth and stagnant water can quickly lead to serious problems like root rot. Why not do everything you can to prevent problems before they exist?

What Size Aerator Do I Need?

If you’re aerating a nutrient reservoir, around .5 liters per minute (L/pm) of airflow for each gallon of nutrient solution will oxygenate the water and limit algae growth. An airflow output of 1L/pm per gallon of nutrient solution should come close to fully oxygenating the solution in the reservoir.

0.5-1.0 L/pm of airflow per gallon of water

If you’re using an aerator in a deep water culture (DWC) system, .5-1L/pm per gallon works too. The closer to 1L/pm per gallon, the better the solution will be aerated.

Remember: Base your aerator size on the number of gallons of water you’ll be using, not the total capacity of the container. For instance, in a 5-gallon bucket, you’re most likely only using 3-4 gallons of water.

Best Aerator for Small Hydroponic Gardening Systems

Hydrofarm Active Aqua AAPA7.8L Air Pump

Active Aqua AAPA7.8L, 3W, 7.8 L/min Air Pump
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This little aerator is a workhorse. If you’ve read my DIY Deep Water Culture Bucket System article, you already know I love these aerators. At only 3 watts, they’re affordable to run continuously. Speaking of running continuously, my first Active Aqua aerator has been running pretty much non-stop for almost 2 years.

Moving 7.8L/min of air, the AAPA7.8L will easily oxygenate up to 4 DWC buckets. I also use this exact pump to aerate 15-gallon nutrient reservoirs.

Works well for: Deep Water Culture Systems, Oxygenating Nutrient Reservoirs

Aerators vibrate, there’s no getting around that. Some are extremely loud. The AAPA7.8L is as quiet as a lot of small single port aerators I’ve used in the past. It’s not whisper quiet, but it’s still pretty stealthy. If you plan on running it in your bedroom, you may find it annoying. Beyond that, the noise is no issue.

The AAPA7.8L, like most aerators, doesn’t come with tubing or soapstones. I recommend getting black tubing, check valves, and large soapstones. The check valves prevent water from reaching the aerator and causing an electrical short. That would be bad.

Most Versatile Aerator for Medium Hydroponic Gardening Systems

Hydrofarm Active Aqua AAPA15L Air Pump

Active Aqua AAPA15L, 6W, 15 L/min Air Pump
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The Active Aqua AAPA15L from Hydrofarm is a great choice for medium-sized hydroponic systems. Like the smaller AAPA7.8L, this pump is designed to be quieter for indoor use with hydroponic hobbyists in mind. Running at 6 watts, this is still a very affordable pump in terms of electricity being used.

This pump has plenty of airflow for up to 10 DWC buckets. Nutrient reservoirs up to 30 gallons can also be maintained using this pump. This pump is a great choice if you’re planning to make a deep water culture system using heavy-weight storage containers, like the one below.

Deep Water Culture Reservoir


The AAPA15L is a little bit louder than the smaller 7.8L version, but not by much. You’ll need to purchase tubing, check valves, and soap stones separately.

Chris Cook started Happy Hydro Farm to share his passion for hydroponic gardening! Growing your own food is incredibly rewarding both physically and mentally. His mantra - "Take excellent care of your plants, and your plants will take excellent care of you."