Aquarium Plumbing: Hard Plumbing vs. Flexible Tubing

When you talk about aquarium maintenance,  plumbing is an aspect you can’t overlook. There are essentially two types of plumbing. You can either go with hard plumbing or flexible tubing. Scroll down and decide for yourself which plumbing is the best for your aquarium!

Hard Plumbing – PVC Pipes

Hard plumbing uses PVC pipes. PVC pipes come in a variety of types like Schedule 40 and Schedule 80. These two main forms of PVC are differentiated on the basis of their color and thickness. Schedule 40 is white in color and comparatively thinner. It is readily available at local hardware stores. On the other hand, Schedule 80 PVC is black. It is more expensive but it can withstand higher pressure as compared to Schedule 40.

Hard plumbing comes with an added bonus; if you do it right, you can disassemble and reassemble the entire plumbing system however you like without cutting any pieces.

The main drawback of using PVC is that once you’ve glued it, it becomes harder to alter. Although you can reassemble multiple times, it requires a lot of planning. If you don’t plan your plumbing route properly, you may end up spending a lot more money than you initially intended.

The only way of altering a glued PVC system is by cutting the piece out and replacing it. Moreover, the gluing can get messy and the PVC primer can leave unappealing stain marks. Lastly, you need tools for hard plumbing; for example, you will require PVC cutters or a PVC saw.


  • Reliable and durable
  • Resistant to high pressures
  • Can be disassembled and reassembled (before gluing)
  • Excellent for large tanks


  • Difficult to alter (after gluing)
  • Require special tools
  • Require elaborate planning
  • Installation can be messy

Flexible Tubing

Flexible tubing or soft plumbing is relatively simpler. It employs flexible tubes and barbed fittings with hose clamps to attach the tubing of your aquarium. The tubing can be either of the two types.

  • Flex PVC (medium)
  • Vinyl tubes (flexible)

Although flexible PVC is more advanced than vinyl tubing, it is also difficult to work with. On the other hand, vinyl tubing is easier to install and comes in a variety of color. You can easily cut it and push them onto the barbed fitting.

Moreover, altering is much easier in the flexible tubing set up. You can easily add, remove or replace damaged vinyl tubes. Moreover, you won’t have to glue anything or use elbows.


  • More Flexible
  • Quick an easy installation
  • Altering is easy
  • No special tools are required


  • Comparatively less reliable and less durable
  • Cannot withstand high pressure
  • Easily damaged
  • Not suitable for large tanks

Plumbing an aquarium takes a lot of planning. If you are new to it, consider hiring a professional plumber for your aquarium or seek guidance from an expert. You will probably experience leakage in either setup. Just keep learning from your plumbing mistakes and eventually you’ll get the hang of it.

Happy plumbing!


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