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How to Make an Aquarium Waterfall

By Kelly Schaub | Updated September 26, 2017

Howard Jokela/Demand Media

Items you will need

  • Small submersible fountain pump

  • Flexible vinyl tubing

Making a waterfall within an aquarium is simply creating a small tabletop fountain. You will need the water to fall from a height above the surface of the aquarium water, so consider the design of your tank and the point from which you want the water to fall. A rock precipice (real or fake) is the most realistic origin for your waterfall, but with a little imagination, you can create endless interesting paths for your aquarium waterfall. The first step is setting up the waterfall pump.


Purchase a submersible fountain pump small enough to fit in the aquarium, with a low gallons-per-hour (GPH) rating. Three brands that make small submersible fountain pumps are Rio, ViaAqua and Fountain Pro. For the small space of most aquariums, a 40-GPH pump is sufficient.


Purchase flexible vinyl tubing that matches the size of the pump outlet. Connect one end of your tubing to the pump outlet.


Cover the inlet of the pump with screening to catch droppings or food leftovers the fish will leave in the water. You will need to clean this off periodically to maintain pump strength. Consider creating a screen “box” to place around the pump that will hold clogging materials away from the pump.


Place the submersible pump at the bottom or downhill side of the waterfall. The pump must be fully submersed in water because it is water cooled.


Run the tubing to the top of your waterfall. Create visual interest with the water spilling over a rock ledge rather than the bare end of the tube. Add water and turn on the pump to enjoy a recirculating, closed-system waterfall.

Photo Credits

  • Howard Jokela/Demand Media