Aquarium Pumps for Water Tables

Water tables are a classic toy that provides hours of sensory play and open-ended fun for kids. Kids can pour, scoop, splash, and experiment to their heart’s content by adding water and various cups, buckets, and toys. But what if you could take the water table experience to the next level by incorporating circulation into the mix? This is where aquarium pumps come in handy. Aquarium pumps are designed to keep water moving in fish tanks, creating a dynamic environment. In a water table, a pump can transform static water into a flowing, engaging aquatic playground for kids. This comprehensive guide will explore everything you need about using aquarium pumps for water tables.

How Do You Use a Water Pump in a Water Table?

Using an aquarium pump in a water table is relatively straightforward. But before getting into the specifics, it’s important to understand what the pump does.

Understanding the Basics

An aquarium pump serves one main purpose: to circulate water. The pump keeps fresh water flowing through the tank and filter system in a fish tank. This water circulation is crucial for maintaining a healthy aquatic environment for fish.

In a water table, the goal is different but the effect is the same. The pump circulates and aerates the water, creating a dynamic sensory experience for kids. The moving water adds engagement; kids can pour water over the pump to see it splash and bubble. It also prevents stagnation and adds oxygen to the water.

Step-by-Step Guide

Here is a step-by-step overview of how to use an aquarium pump in a water table:

  1. Select the right pump: Choose an appropriate pump for your water table setup. Consider flow rate, size, and safety features. Submersible pumps tend to work best.
  2. Install the pump: Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines to install the pump. This usually involves securing it to the water table basin’s bottom and side. Make sure it is fully submerged.
  3. Connect tubing: Attach tubing to the pump outlet to direct the water flow. Secure the tubing in place along the edge or bottom.
  4. Check electrical safety: Ensure no electrical components can come into contact with water. Use a GFCI outlet. Keep cords out of standing water.
  5. Test it out: Once assembled, test the pump in a small amount of water to ensure it runs properly before filling the whole table.
  6. Add toys: Finally, add cups, boats, squirters and other accessories to enhance the play experience. Supervise use.

These basic steps allow you to integrate an aquarium pump into a water table for endless aquatic fun. Always put safety first and supervise children during play. Now let’s look at choosing the right type of pump.

What Kind of Water Pump Do I Need for My Aquarium?

There are a few different options for aquarium pumps for various purposes. The type you need will depend on how you plan to use it. Here are the most common types of aquarium pumps:

  • Air pumps: These pumps use air pressure to create water flow. They provide aeration but not circulation. Best for decor.
  • Powerhead pumps: Designed for high flow rates to create currents and waves. Too strong for water tables.
  • Submersible pumps: Fully submergible with quiet operation. Ideal for water table use.
  • External pumps: Sit outside the water. Not recommended for water tables due to safety issues.

For water table use, submersible aquarium pumps are undoubtedly the best choice. They can operate safely when fully underwater. Submersible pumps are compact, quiet, and designed to work efficiently when submerged. Most include GFCI and thermal protection.

Brands like Fluval, Penn Plax, and EcoPlus make high-quality submersible pumps perfect for enhancing water tables. Just make sure to size the pump appropriately for the table. We’ll discuss sizing later on.

Where Should the Pump Be in a Fish Tank?

Understanding pump placement is key to creating proper water circulation in an aquarium. The same logic applies when using a pump in a water table.

In an aquarium, the ideal pump location depends on factors like tank size, obstacles, and type of outlet (spray bar, nozzle, etc.). But generally, the best practice is to position the pump low in the tank to promote upward water movement.

This facilitates surface agitation and gas exchange while the pump pulls water through the entire depth of the tank. The same placement applies for water tables: install the pump near the bottom of the basin. This will provide full circulation as water gets pulled from bottom to top.

Securing the pump to the bottom or side of the table will hold it in place. Use suction cups, mounting brackets or foam tape based on the pump type and setup. Then you can redirect the flow using plastic tubing.

Types of Aquarium Pumps

Now that we’ve covered pump basics and placement, let’s take a more in-depth look at the types of aquarium pumps that work for water tables: submersible and external.

Submersible Pumps

As mentioned, submersible pumps are the top choice for water table use due to their safety and efficiency. Here are the key features:

  • Fully submersible: Designed to operate underwater, eliminating electrical hazards.
  • Compact size: Small enough to fit in tight spaces and not take up room.
  • Quiet operation: Important for water table use near kids. Quality submersible pumps run quietly.
  • Reliable performance: Keep water flowing continuously without issue.
  • Durability: Made to last. Housing protects impeller from damage by sand/debris.
  • Safety features: Models include GFCI, overheat auto-shutoff, and noise reduction.

Top brands for submersible water table pumps include Fluval, Aquascape, Penn-Plax, MarineLand, and EcoPlus. These companies make pumps of all sizes and flow rates for aquariums that translate perfectly for water table use.

External Pumps

External aquarium pumps sit outside of the tank. They are more powerful and can accommodate very large aquariums over 100+ gallons. However, we do not recommend external pumps for water table use.

Here’s why:

  • Electrical hazard: Since external pumps are not submersible, electric shock is risky if water splashes the pump.
  • Accessible cords: Kids could potentially access dangling electrical cords. Very unsafe.
  • Priming issues: External pumps can lose prime if air gets in the line, stopping flow. Not reliable.
  • Size: They are bulky and occupy ample space around the water table.

For these reasons, external pumps present safety risks and should be avoided for kids’ water tables. Submersibles are a much better choice.

What Is the Purpose of a Water Pump in an Aquarium?

As discussed earlier, the main role of an aquarium pump is to circulate water. This provides several important benefits:

  • Filtration: Pulls water through mechanical and chemical filtration.
  • Oxygenation: Improves dissolved oxygen levels through surface agitation.
  • Circulation: Moves water so it doesn’t become stagnant. It Evens out temperature.
  • Movement: Creates current and wave effects.

All of these factors promote a healthy aquatic environment. In a water table, the purpose differs. A pump makes the experience more engaging and dynamic for kids by:

  • Motion: Adds visual interest and sensory stimulation through flowing, splashing water.
  • Aeration: Prevents standing water issues and odors.
  • Engagement: Kids can pour water into the pump to observe the effects.
  • Play: Drives toys around the table and makes bathing toys more realistic.

So while an aquarium pump serves vital functions for fish, it creates added play value in a water table context.

Automatic Water Table Pump vs. Battery Water Pump

When it comes to keeping the water flowing in your water table, you’re often faced with a choice: should you go for an automatic water table pump or a battery-operated one? Both have merits and drawbacks; the best choice depends on your needs and circumstances.

FeatureAutomatic PumpBattery Pump
Ease of UseEasyVery Easy
SafetyModerateVery Safe


Automatic Pump: Generally, automatic pumps are more expensive upfront. However, they can be more cost-effective in the long run due to their durability and efficiency.

Battery Pump: Battery-operated pumps are usually cheaper to purchase initially but can become costly over time as you’ll need to replace batteries or even the entire unit.

Ease of Use

Automatic Pump: These pumps are relatively easy to use. All you need to do is plug them into an electrical outlet and install them in your water table. However, they may require some basic wiring and plumbing skills.

Battery Pump: Battery-operated pumps are incredibly user-friendly. They require no wiring, making them a plug-and-play solution. Just insert the batteries, and you’re good to go.


Automatic Pump: An automatic pump can last for years with proper maintenance. They’re built for longevity and can withstand the test of time.

Battery Pump: These pumps have a much shorter lifespan, often lasting only weeks or months depending on usage and battery quality.


Automatic Pump: As long as plugged in, automatic pumps offer consistent and steady power, ensuring a reliable water flow.

Battery Pump: The power of a battery-operated pump diminishes over time as the battery drains, leading to inconsistent water flow.


Automatic Pump: While generally safe, automatic pumps do require an extra level of caution. Electrical components and water are not the best friends, so follow all safety guidelines.

Battery Pump: Battery-operated pumps are very safe and pose little to no risk of electrical hazards, making them a great option for those who prioritize safety.

Key Takeaways

  • Automatic pumps offer more power and longevity, while battery pumps win in ease of use and safety.
  • Consider if you want consistent circulation or shorter-term portable use.
  • Battery pumps avoid electrical hazards in a kid’s water table.
  • Initial costs are lower for battery but long-term battery replacement adds up.

 Battery-powered pumps are the safest choice for kids’ water tables given their lack of cords and electricity. They provide stress-free operation. Just be prepared to replace batteries frequently.

An automatic submersible pump is a good investment for an at-home water table that will get regular use. Just take extra care regarding electrical safety.

Best Aquarium Pump for Water Table

Quality and safety are key factors when considering automatic pumps for water tables. Here are some of the top-rated aquarium pumps suitable for water table conversion:

Fluval Q1 Submersible Pump

  • Extremely quiet operation, under 40 dB
  • Built-in pre-filter prevents debris from entering
  • Adjustable output nozzle for directing flow
  • Suction cups kept in place
  • 65 GPH flow rate

AquaClear Powerhead Submersible Pump

  • Energy efficient design with flow monitoring
  • Durable ceramic impeller shaft
  • Attaches via suction cups or bracket
  • Higher 200 GPH flow rate

Penn Plax Silent Air Bubbler Aquarium Pump

  • Designed to operate quietly
  • Combination air pump and water pump
  • Adjustable flow rate up to 96 GPH
  • Built-in air diffuser for extra aeration

These are all quality, name brand pumps suitable for kids’ water tables. Consider the flow rate and features to choose what fits your table size and needs.

DIY Aquarium Pump for Water Table

If you’re handy and want to take a more DIY approach, it is also possible to make your water table pump using simple supplies:

  • Small submersible pump – Compact fountain or pond pumps work well.
  • Plastic tubing – To direct water flow.
  • Waterproof sealant – For sealing connections.
  • Hose clamps – To secure tubing to pump outlet.

Steps for Assembly:

  1. Attach tubing securely to the pump outlet using a hose clamp. Seal connection with sealant.
  2. Determine where you want water flow directed. Cut tubing to desired length.
  3. Seal the open end of the tubing so water flows out holes along the tube length.
  4. Test fully submerged before adding to table to ensure no leaks.
  5. Conceal tubing along the interior rim/base of the water table.

With a simple submersible pump kit, you can make your water table pump on a budget. This is also a great way to reuse supplies you already have.

Water Table Pump DIY and Hack Ideas

In addition to fully building your pump, there are also some neat ways to DIY hack an existing water table to add pump circulation:

Battery Pump Kits – Many companies sell small battery-operated pumps designed to clip onto containers. These are an easy add-on for short-term use.

Tubing Upgrades – Insert a length of tubing into an existing water table component, like a funnel. Connect tubing to a pump to make the funnel into a flowing water feature.

PVC Pipe Add-Ons – Use PVC pipe fittings and plastic pumps to create new water features like archways, cascades, and water wheels.

Themed Enclosures – Build a themed enclosure around your water table, like a boat or whale. Conceal tubing inside to make interactive features.

Splash Guards – Fashion splash guards around the pump outlet using foam or soft plastic sheets. This helps contain splashing.

Check out sites like TikTok and Pinterest for clever water table pump hacks and DIY ideas. You can transform an ordinary table into a dynamic water world with some creativity.

Small Aquarium Pump for Water Table

When selecting the right aquarium pump for your water table setup, size and power matter. You want a pump compact and quiet enough for little kids, but strong enough to circulate water in your table.

 A small submersible pump in the 50-100 GPH (gallons per hour flow rate) range is usually perfect for standard toddler water tables. These mini aquarium pumps are sized for table spaces under 30 gallons.

Some good small pump options include:

  • Penn Plax Cascade 50 – 55 GPH pump under 5 inches long
  • AquaTop Submersible – Adjustable 80 GPH pump with suction cups
  • EcoPlus Submersible – Compact 55 GPH with 3 year warranty
  • MarineLand Magnum – 96 GPH pump good for small tanks

Look for key child-friendly features like quiet operation, full submersion, and good circulation power for the table size. Smaller pumps are safer and easier to configure in kids’ water tables versus larger bulky pumps.

What Size Pump Do I Need for My Aquarium?

Choosing the right water pump essentially comes down to properly “sizing” your pump for the aquarium or water table. The key factors are:

  • Aquarium/table size
  • Desired flow rate
  • Type of outlet (spray bar, nozzle, etc.)

Bigger is not always better when it comes to pumps. You want adequate circulation for the space, but too much power can create issues.

As a general rule of thumb for water tables:

  • 10-20 gallon size = 50 GPH pump
  • 20-30 gallon size = 75-100 GPH pump
  • 30-50+ gallon size = 100-200+ GPH pump

Measure your water table’s capacity in gallons to determine the optimal flow rate. Also consider factors like amount of accessories, number of kids, and desired splashing/waves.

An adjustable flow rate pump lets you tweak the speed as needed. Always supervise kids around water tables and pumps. Now let’s look at some specialty pumps made just for water tables.

Specialty Pumps for Water Tables

In addition to standard aquarium pumps, some speciality pumps are designed specifically with water tables in mind.

Splash Unlimited Water Table Pump

Splash Unlimited makes a diaphragm pump tailored for use in toddler water tables. Features include:

  • Adjustable flow rate – Dial controls speed from 0-100% flow.
  • Quick connections – Easy to attach and detach tubing.
  • Durability – Stainless steel and polymer construction.
  • Convenience – On/off switch and flow rate control dial.

This pricier pump offers great control and quality for enhancing water table play.

Step2 Water Table Pump Hack

Step2 manufactures popular molded plastic water tables for kids. While Step2 tables don’t come with pumps, their YouTube channel offers a simple hack:

  • Use a small fountain pump secured with zip ties
  • Insert pump into an existing table component like the funnel
  • Add tubing to create flowing water effects

This easy DIY approach takes advantage of built-in water table features. Search online for “Step2 water table pump” to find the video and other examples.


Adding an aquarium-style pump to a kids’ water table unlocks a new sensory play and engagement world. With the help of this comprehensive guide, you should now be equipped with the knowledge to choose the right pump and install it in your water table setup. The right pump can bring even an old water table back to life. Set it up properly, supervise play, and prepare for endless fun! Let us know if you have any other water table pump questions.