Lily Pipes – Different Designs & Usage and How to Choose One

An effective water filtration system helps you maintain clean water when running your home aquarium. Water filters are hard workers, as they remove both physical and chemical waste dissolved in water, so your tank water can remain clean. 

Water filtration is relatively simple: water is pumped through the filter, cleaned, and then returned to the tank. But there’s more to it than that.

But it’s about more than just maintaining your system; loads of ugly plastic tubes won’t do. This is where lily pipes come in, and it’s time to beautify the filtration process right now.

Lily Pipes

What Do Lily Pipes Do?

There are several ways to filtrate your tank. Most will use a filter containing filtration material and even a UV light to clean water. The filtration process includes elements of chemical, biological, and mechanical cleaning processes. Filters are versatile and can be attached to the back of your tank, hang off the sides, or be submerged in your tank.

However, the main aesthetic problem lies in the appearance of all the plastic tubes that take water to the filter and return the clean water to your tank. When you rely on a canister filter, having inlet and outlet tubes and spray bars in your tank can be quite the eyesore.

While canister filters are efficient and usually offer you much more room for an effective filtration process, such as bacterial filtration and even UV-light placement, the return of cleaned water can be a problem. The tubes quickly discolor and become ugly additions to your tank. 

Thankfully, there’s a solution—a lily pipe. 

The primary reason for having tanks is to make our aquascape beautiful with diverse and harmonious life inside, not to have tubes protruding from it. Lily pipes help reduce the need for plastic tubes in the tank, and they also gracefully enable the management of the water return in a gentle way that your fish will appreciate, too. 

You would get a lily pipe to limit the equipment in your tank, and they work best with an external canister filter for this reason. With a lily pipe, you can circulate clean water more efficiently than a spray bar ever can. 

Most filters return clean water to the tank’s water surface with a cascade or spray bar feature. However, this is not the most efficient way to circulate fresh water. Lily pipes allow the filter to return the fresh water to any level where the lily pipe opens in the tank while also controlling the rate of return and the resulting current. 

The selling point of lily pipes is that they are gorgeous, making for a beautiful feature in your tank instead of ugly tubes. Lily pipes resemble a lily flower, thus the name. Today, there are many different pipe designs, but all are known as lily pipes to describe their appearance.

Different lily pipe designs and their usage

When you are ready to order your first lily pipes, you’ll notice many different pipes and designs. While they are all called lily pipes, they differ in the angle at which the water is reintroduced to the tank, the unique water movement, and CO2 management.

Here are some of the most popular types of lily pipes:

1. Original lily pipes

Original Lily Pipes    

Lower parts of the aquarium tend to have less water movement, which results in near-bottom water being CO2-rich, stagnant, and filthy. Stale water is perfect for the growth of algae, which can disturb the pH balance in your water.

Lily pipes provide better water movement by circulating fresh water to the bottom layers, thus efficiently solving this common problem. The fresh water pushes the filthy water to higher levels, where the water is more easily filtered.

Thanks to the angle at which fresh water is introduced, there is a gentle current, which suits fish that prefer tranquil water instead of the churning effect of most other filter outlets. In tanks with surface plants, there is less disturbance of the water surface, which helps to encourage growth and settle top-feeding fish. 

2. Spiral pipes

Spiral pipes    

Another type of lily pipe is the spiral pipe. It slows the speed of water flowing back into the system. This is particularly important for properly caring for delicate fish and fine-stemmed plants inside the aquarium.

Water circulates in the glass circle at the end of the pipe, reducing speed until it pushes out the open ends of the loop into the tank. Decreasing the water circulation rate preserves your tank’s delicate elements from excessive stress.

3. Straight pipes (powerful pipes)

Straight pipes    

Straight pipes provide strong currents. The water supply flow inside the system is greatly improved using this glass tube. The narrowed opening releases water at an increased speed, churning the water surface or creating a current that stimulates fish.

However, this lily pipe does not disturb the aquascape or gravel surface within the aquarium, as the pipe end is at mid to upper level, directing the current away from these. These pipes create natural habitat conditions for fish living in this environment.

4. Violet pipes (angled pipes)

Violet pipes    

Violet pipes are a variation of the classic lily pipe, designed for improved water movement inside the system while directing the water flow further to the bottom of the tank. The shape of the pipe end (which points downward at an angle) drastically increases the current inside the aquarium.

Using violet pipes helps decrease the number of stagnant spots inside the system. By directing the current to specific areas in the tank, water is better circulated and filtered to reduce filter dead-spots in the tank.

Violet pipes can help circulate fresh water to the substrate, feeding plant roots and flushing toxins to the upper levels.

Choosing the Right Type of Lily Pipe for Your Aquarium

So you’re tired of ugly plastic tubes obstructing the view in your aquarium, and you’re ready to purchase your first lily pipe, but where to look and how to choose? Luckily, we have an easy-to-follow buyer’s guide to help you select the best lily pipe for your tank.

1. Consider Your Tank Size

Lily pipes come in different sizes, and depending on your tank’s dimensions, you can choose a large or smaller lily pipe. Some lily pipes can reach the bottom of a deep tank, while others only come to mid-depth. 

It’s best to measure the distance from the tank rim to the point where you want the lily pipe to sit for the best circulation effect. 

2. Water Circulation Requirements

Decide whether you need an original lily pipe, a spiral pipe, a straight pipe, or a violet pipe for your tank’s circulation needs. This will be determined by whether you want to create a current or not, churn the water surface, or inject fresh water into the bottom layer of your tank.


  • The original lily pipe introduces fresh water in the middle of your tank without disturbing the surface or substrate layers. The water spreads wide and gently, not creating a strong current or disturbance.
  • The spiral lily pipe further reduces the water speed, ensuring no current as water returns to the tank. 
  • The straight lily pipe is ideal for tanks that need current to stimulate fish.
  • The violet lily pip directs the fresh water to the tank substrate, removing filter dead spots. 

3. Tube Size

Your filter tube will eventually connect with your lily pipe, so choose a lily pipe that fits your tank tubing. However, hose adaptors are available to help secure your tubing to your lily pipe. Remember that you wouldn’t want to force the plastic tube over the glass pipe, as lily pipes are fragile.

4. Nano vs. Standard Lily Pipes

If your tank is large, you will need a standard lily pipe, which usually comes with a set of suction cups on the pipe section that runs down the outside of the tank. These suction cups help keep the pipe steady and secured against the side of your tank. 

Smaller nano tanks usually have smaller filters, meaning less risk of the lily pipe moving around or knocking the glass, so these don’t have suction cups. The angle of the downpipe of the lily pipe is also more vertical, further securing the pipe. 

5. Inlet and Outlet Lily Pipes 

Lily pipes come to their right when you use all glass in the tank, which means glass lily inlet and outlets for your tank. Luckily, lily pipes are available in sets, including inlets and outlets. Keep your lily pipe ends in mind, which helps you choose the lily pipe head that best suits your tank circulation needs. 

6. Cleaning Your Lily Pipes

Aquarium tubing usually discolors over time, and while you can soak your tank’s plastic tubes, these rarely get as clean as you’d like. Lily pipes are glass, so if you need to, you can bleach your lily pipe without contaminating your tank. 

When you purchase a lily pipe set, you should also get a cleaning kit to help you clean your lily pipes. Cleaning will be frequent as your lily pipes quickly show algae deposits and buildup inside the pipes. 

7. Glass vs. Acrylic

One failing of lily pipes is that they are usually made from glass. While the glass gives you a near-invisible finish in your tank, they are also fragile, and one drop is enough to crack or break them. 

If you are all fingers and thumbs, you can save yourself the cost and heartache by getting an acrylic lily pipe. Acrylic pipes are almost as see-through as glass and much more tolerant of the occasional slip. 

Final Thoughts

A lily pipe in your aquarium can turn a drab tubed-up tank into a work of art. Better circulation management and an unobstructed viewing experience make it ideal to step up your aquatic hobby and get some lily pipes today.

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