Special Notice – These are my favorite small pumps for aqua and hydro systems. The 550 is the mid range in this line and will do most things the average system needs doing. They are low draw and have a long life expectancy and today are on sale for more than 30% off the regular price.
Every day I bring you an item on Amazon that I personally use or has been purchased by many members of the audience and I have researched enough to recommend.
Today’s TSP Amazon Item of the day is the Active Aqua Submersible Pump. Fans of my indoor vertical farm project will recognize the 550 GPH version of this pump. Since starting that project well over 100 have been purchased by followers and I have to say, I got exactly zero complaints and it was exactly what I expected.
These are not the most expensive pumps, they are also far from the cheapest, but you know how I feel about “cheap” by now right? I consider the word as it is most often used a true profanity! Everything I do when it comes to products is about the price to value ratio. I never buy the most expensive just because it is expensive, I buy the best value I can find for the task at hand.
That is what this pump is. I also want to say I have zero experience with any version of this pump other than the 550 GPH version which is what I am linking to but you can select other GPH options for it from a tiny 40 GPH model likely suited to fish tanks to a hefty 1100 GPH version. For my use I have standardized on the 3000GPH Danner Pump for my lager needs. In fact I have after trying many pump options I have 100% standardized on those two pumps now for everything I do. Why? Well, when I use a pump it is part of a system that keeps things alive. Always at least plants usually plants and fish and other critters. Translation dead pump can equal dead critters sometimes a lot of them and that equals a very bad, very sad day.
So at all times one of each of these pumps sits on a shelf, if one ever does die, since all the fitting are the same swapping the pump takes less time then opening the box and getting it out. I call it pop and swap! Now here is the thing, I have had to replace two of the Danners and I don’t really have an issue with that, everything has a life cycle. In both instances they didn’t die, they just stopped preforming well enough to rely on. They were both pretty old and used a long time when that happened.
Then there are these little guys by Active Aqua. They don’t move 3000 gallons an hour like the Danner does, but for the places I use them, they move more water than I need. My rule with a pump is I buy more flow then I need, I then control flow with valves and I vent extra pressure with secondary valves because more O2 is never a bad thing anyway. It also keeps the pump from working harder than it has to. When you throttle a pump with a valve and don’t vent off the excess pressure, you are doing the mechanical equivalent of clogging an artery and making the heart work harder. We all know how that ends right?
Right now this moment there are six of these little pumps running on my property. What can I say I have a lot of water features. Some run continuous and some on a timer. The one I have owned the longest was purchased in 2014 so it has been running over 6 years in almost full continuous use for the majority of its life. Folks that is why I recommend this pump!
The 550 is about 45 bucks average price on Amazon. Now you can get an el cheapo for about 25, and frankly if you get a year out of it, consider it good, if you get two years buy lottery tickets because you have luck on your side. So do the math, say I buy three pumps for 25 bucks in 5 years, or I buy one 45 dollar one in 6, which way am I better off economically. Isn’t there some law of life I teach along the lines of always being frugal and never cheap? See how that works?
There is more though. Say it is August, the temps outside are 104 in the shade. Your pump dies about 5 minutes after you leave for work. That day things go long, you get home tired at 9PM for whatever reason. You crack a beer and take a walk to relax. Something is wrong, there is no sound of moving water in the back yard. Dead fish float, others surface breathe, you go to work fast but you know by now most of the surface breathers will die too.
You can mitigate this, all my systems have two pumps minimum. I have back up power as well. Yet in time, every small pond owner will deal with this. One way to minimize it is use pumps that don’t die suddenly. This is why I like the Danners for the big stuff, never had one just kick off and die. I have yet to ever replace an Active Aqua but my gut is it will degrade in performance before it shits the bed just like the Danners do.
I have another way I mitigate this. I tend to run pumps in twos, one is usually on a timer, say 15 on and 45 off. When I build a new system, I tend to take out the oldest pumps and put them in as a timed pump, so they are only being used 6 vs. 24 hours a day. The new pumps with the longest life expectancy become back ups.
I also tend to after a time, take the oldest pump on the property out even if it is still preforming well. I then put it on a shelf and replace it with a new one relegating the old pump to spare status. I figure if a death occurs the older one will easily last long enough until a new one shows us. Same deal when you replace a fan belt that didn’t break in your truck or a hose. Don’t toss it, save it, it can serve well as a spare.
Final note, while I would use any of these pumps form Active Aqua and size to my needs 550s will do about anything you need for systems of about 50-800 gallons and they are overkill for most small hydro projects. I love overkill! Overkill means I have all I need and more, again I just vent extra pressure using a T fitting and a valve in the sump. Again I like to have standardized parts. Half inch and one inch pipe, two standard pumps, etc. it makes back up parts simple to stock. However, the reason I am saying this again is everything I am about to say applies to the 550, I don’t know if it applies to any of others as I have never used anything personally but the 550 version.
The 550s come with a venturi, I have never used it because the fittings that come with it are designed to use with flexible hoses you clamp on with a hose clamp. I don’t use hoses in my systems I use PVC, again 1/2 and 1 inch for 90% of my applications with some legacy 3/4 mixed in and some larger stuff for returns on large systems.
The 550 pump perfectly accepts a schedule 40 PVC 1/2 inch slip and thread connector. With that and either 1/2 inch pipe or a 1/2 – 1 inch pvc bushing these pumps work seamlessly with everything I already use, this was of course done by design. I will also point out if you totally standardized on 1 inch pipe all you’d need is a 1/2 inch thread to 1 inch slip adapter and keep some extras around and you’d be all set. The only down side to this is 1 inch pipe and fittings cost more money then 1/2 inch. If you do a lot of projects like I do that adds up, if you only want a few systems the price doesn’t really matter and the convenience of one size is really great.
So for all your mid sized to small scale needs consider the Active Aqua Submersible Pump 550 GPH pump, or any of the other options sized to your needs. Cleaning and servicing it is a snap and like I said they just last like a marathon runner. Remember when sizing a pump though lift height (head) matters. I have used these pumps to push water to the top of my vertical farm, that is about 5 feet and they are still pushing a lot of water. Data sheet says they top out about 8 feet though, so if your head height is more than 5 feet of lift, I would up size to the 800 or even 1100 gallon model.
If your application is larger or requires more left then say 10 feet, look to the 3000 GPH Danner pumps if and Danner also makes a 2000 GPH model in the same footprint if you don’t need quite that much. But remember a bit of overkill is fine as long as you design a way to vent the extra pressure and make more 02.
Remember you can always find all of our reviews at TspAz.com
P.S. – Think beyond hydroponics and ponds with this gadget. Pair it up with rain catchment and a timer and it can do a lot for your irrigation needs. For instance the 550 will easily push a good spray though 6 hedge sprinkler heads. I haven’t tried the 1100 GPH version but my gut is it would be pretty damn awesome in this role.