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Last update: April 7, 2021

Lily Pipes: Say Goodbye to Ugly Filter Equipment for Good!

Are you sick and tired of staring at those ugly plastic hoses and filter intakes sitting inside your tank?

Wouldn’t it be great if you could get rid of them?

Well, a lily pipe is exactly what you are looking for!

This nearly invisible piece of equipment replaces all the plastic distractions in your tank, allowing you to recreate a more natural environment for your fish.

Today you will learn all about lily pipes, including the different types, how they affect water flow, and how to clean them!

What is a lily pipe?

Lily pipe with suction cups attached to glass wall of aquarium

Traditionally, a lily pipe is a beautifully constructed piece of glassware that sits on the outflow of your filter and disperses the returning water into your aquarium.

I don’t have to tell you that filter intakes, outlets and other pipes running through your aquarium look messy.

Because a lily pipe is made out of glass, it blends in with the aquarium, allowing you to recreate a perfectly natural looking environment, without the sight of ugly hosing in your tank.

It is this feature that makes lily pipes particularly popular in planted tanks – no more ugly pipes!

Glass lily pipe outflow sitting inside planted tank
Source

Yep, when placed under water, a lily pipe becomes almost invisible!

Outside of the water, a lily pipe looks more like artwork than a piece of aquarium equipment…

glass lily pipe for filter outflow

How does that compare to your filter outlet?

I’ll be honest, it puts the spray bar on my current set-up to shame!

But Lily pipes also have a second benefit, they can be used to control the pressure of the outflow on your filter, but I will cover that in detail in a moment.

Lily pipes get their name from the Calla Lily, because the end piece is modeled on the flower of this plant.

See the resemblance?

The cala lily flower that a lily pipe resembles

There was a time when this was the only type of glassware available for filter outlets.

However, as the hobby has advanced, new designs have emerged that not only attach to the filter outlet (outflow), but the intake (inflow) as well.

While each of these designs has their own name, nowadays when someone refers to a lily pipe they are actually referring to any piece of glassware that attaches to your filter intake or outlet.

Because most lily pipes are made from glass, care will need to be taken when handling. Lily pipes are delicate and if you drop one on the floor, it will break.

However, if you would call yourself ‘clumsy’ you will be pleased to know that lily pipes are also available in acrylic – a clear plastic that is much more difficult to break.

Different types of outflow lily pipes

As I touched on before, there are now many different types of lily pipes available for you to choose from. And each glass pipe has its own unique effect on the water flow.

It is worth mentioning that the manner in which each lily pipe affects the water flow is determined by whether or not it is placed above or below the waterline – lily pipes are most commonly placed underwater.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the different glass outflow types available – pipes that sit on the outlet side of your filter.

Lily Pipe

Standard glass lily pipe for for aquarium

Use when… You want an even, gentle current dispersed across your aquarium and minor surface movement.

The original lily pipe is still the most popular.

The broad opening allows water to flow across a wide area, resulting in gentle surface movement and water flow.

Violet Pipe

Violet pipe glass outflow for aquarium

Use when… You want water movement throughout your tank but don’t want any surface agitation.

While the violet pipe may look similar to a lily pipe, if you take a closer look at the end, you will notice that the opening is angled downwards.

As water flows out the violet pipe, it is directed towards the bottom of your tank, creating a gentle water flow without causing movement on the surface of your aquarium.

Poppy Pipe

Poppy pipe glass outflow for aquarium

Use when… You want to churn the surface water to help oxygenate your aquarium.

Named because the end of this pipe resembles an unopened seed pod from the poppy plant, this pipe is all about creating surface movement.

And to do that, the head of this glass pipe sits well and truly underwater.

As you may have noticed, the only opening in the poppy pipe aims upwards, towards the surface of your aquarium.

As water flows out the pipe and out the opening, it will churn the surface water, which helps with gas exchange – Oxygen (O2) entering the water and Carbon Dioxide (CO2) leaving it.

The surface agitation effect of a poppy pipe is similar to that of an aquarium bubbler.

Jet Pipe

Glass jet pipe outflow for aquarium

Use when… you want to create strong water movement near the surface of your aquarium.

Any glass outflow pipe that does not have a flanged opening is referred to as a jet pipe.

As the name suggests, a jet pipe creates strong, turbulent water movement towards the top of the aquarium.

Some jet pipes, like the one pictured above, have a narrowed opening. This causes the outflow to build up pressure, causing a stronger stream of water to shoot out from the pipe.

It is also worth mentioning that jet pipes are also available in stainless steel. While they are a lot more visible than glass pipes, they do appeal to some hobbyists. At the time of writing this, jet pipes are the only type of metal lily pipe outflow available.

Spin Pipe

Spin pipe glass outflow for aquarium

Use when… You need low water movement or very little surface agitation, such as in a nano tank or betta tank.

The spin pipe is unique in that water does not flow straight out into your aquarium once it reaches the end.

Instead, the head sits underwater. As the water hits the back of the glass circle it loops around and around until it is pushed out the openings in the side of the pipe.

What this does is slow the water movement down until it is virtually non-existent – perfect for fish that hate strong currents.

Inflow lily pipes

Inflow lily pipes sit on the intake side of your aquarium filter.

While outflow lily pipes have a large impact on the water flow in your aquarium, inflow lily pipes are just for show – they serve no other purpose other than removing ugly plastic filter intakes from your aquarium.

But when paired with a glass outflow pipe, the result is a beautiful, natural looking aquarium.

At the time of writing this, all inflow glass pipes are a variation on the following design:

Lily pipe glass inflow for aquarium

The design is simple but effective, a glass tube with slits that allow the filter to draw in water.

Many lily pipes will come in a set of two: one outflow pipe and a matching inflow pipe.

Stainless Steel Lily Pipe

stainless steel metal lily pipe

While they may be more visible than your your standard lily pipe made from glass there is no arguing that stainless steel lily pipes are not beautiful in their own right – they sure beat out that black plastic filter equipment that currently sits in your tank!

As an added bonus, stainless steel lily pipes won’t break if you drop them during cleaning!

Stainless steel lily pipes are only available in a very limited range of styles, most typically jet pipes. However, they are often sold in a kit with both outflow and inflow pipes included in a single pack.

Buying a lily pipe

Don’t run out and buy any old lily pipe just yet.

The next thing you want to do is make sure that it will fit with your existing set-up.

Lily Pipes are available in 3 different sizes to suit your filter hose, otherwise the lily pipe will be unusable with your set-up.

  • 3/8 x 1/2 inch (9/12mm) – Fits 3/8 inch filter tubes (Fits 9-10mm)
  • 1/2 x 5/8 inch (12/16mm) – Fits ½ inch filter tubes (Fits 12-13mm)
  • 5/8 x 7/8 inch (16/22mm) – Fits 5/8 inch filter tubes (16-17mm)

If you bought the wrong size, you can always use a multi hose adapter to size the hose up or down in order to get a correct fit.

If you are buying a lily pipe online, then I want you to be aware that most inflow and outflow pipes come in two different varieties:

  1. Nano Aquarium lily pipes
  2. Standard lily pipes

And when you are shopping online, it can be difficult to determine which is which.

Fortunately, you will be able to determine which type of lily pipe you are buying by the picture…

Nano aquarium lily pipe vs standard aquarium lily pipe

When compared side by side, the differences are obvious:

Standard Lily Pipe: The neck of the pipe will angle towards the center of your aquarium. The outflow head is normally larger and suction cups can be found on the stem to hold the lily pipe in place.

Nano Lily Pipe: The neck of the pipe will angle back towards the wall of your aquarium, so that the lily pipe takes up as little space as possible. The outflow head is usually smaller too.

But what about brands?

Well, when it comes to glass lily pipes, there are quite a few brands to choose from, including:

  • Aqua Design Amano (ADA) – Prohibitively expensive
  • Do!aqua – ADA’s non-branded mid-priced version
  • VIV – Affordable
  • Jardli – Affordable

I’ll be honest, having used both the premium priced ADA lily pipes and the cheaper “knock-offs,” as well as speaking to many different tank owners and sellers of the product, I have come to the conclusion that there isn’t much difference in either quality or performance.[1]

If owning a brandname product is important to you, regardless of price, then it will be difficult to recommend a cheaper option. But for those of you on a budget, you will be happy to know that the affordable lily pipes work just as well as the expensive ones.

Because most lily pipes are made from glass, care will need to be taken when handling. Lily pipes are delicate and if you drop one on the floor, it will break.

Cleaning a lily pipe

It’s unavoidable…

Whatever sits on the outflow of your aquarium is eventually going to gunk up. Yes, even those black plastic filter hoses: if you were to look down the center of one, you would see a build-up of algae and other gunk on the walls…

Because lily pipes are made from glass, the sludge is a lot more visible. And if you want to keep your lily pipe crystal clear, you are going to need to clean them as part of your tank maintenance routine.

Fortunately, cleaning a lily pipe is incredibly simple. I just use a flexible cleaning brush like this one…

flexible hose cleaning brush for cleaning lily pipes

The bendable wire allows you to push the cleaning brush through your lily pipe like a snake. As the flexible brush moves along, it scrubs and removes all the gunk with it, leaving you with a crystal clear lily pipe

If your lily pipe still has build-up left after scrubbing, a long bleach bath will get rid of the remaining gunk.

Some people even let their clean-up crew do the hard work for them.[1]

By temporarily switching off the filter, you will encourage algae eaters like plecos and shrimp to clean the lily pipe for you!

Many hobbyists buy two sets of lily pipes, so that they can rotate them out when cleaning time comes around.

Conclusion

A lily pipe certainly isn’t the only way to create surface agitation and water movement in your aquarium.

But you can’t argue that it’s definitely the prettiest!

And it’s for this reason that lily pipes are popular with many hobbyists who want the focus of their tank to be the fish and environment, not ugly aquarium equipment.

Do you use a lily pipe in your aquarium? Let me know in the comments below!

Ian Sterling

I've been keeping fish for over 30 years and currently have 4 different aquariums – it's an addiction. I'm here to teach you everything there is to know about fishkeeping.

I also use this site as an excuse to spend lots of money on testing and reviewing different aquarium products! You can find my reviews here.

Comments (12)

Amazing! I was looking for something like this publication. It’s really hard to find some full info about them!
I wish there were a stainless steel spin pipe :/
But here in Brazil it’s really hard to find them, and when we finely find is it’s very expensive, unfortunately.

Nice post!

Hi Patrícia,

I agree, for what they are, lily pipes are definitely pricey – but they make a world of difference when it comes to removing distractions from an aquarium.

Have you considered ordering from America? Many sellers, like JARDLI here will happily ship internationally. Is that cheaper than what is available locally? Don’t forget to include the shipping costs when comparing!

Any thoughts on using dual inflow and outflows in larger tanks?
I am setting up an Amazon planted tank for Dwarf Cichlids, Tetra and Discus and want medium flow while also getting max gas exchange.
I also find the Skimmer type outflows fascinating as well.
CO2 will be in play as well.
Looking for best advice arrangement of dual inflow and outflow on 60×25.5×24

Best’
Mike

Hi Mike,

This is a great question – unfortunately I am not experienced with using more than one in flow/outflow. If you have not already, I highly recommend asking this question over at plantedtank.net – They really know their stuff and I am confident someone familiar with the setup will be able to provide you with the appropriate advice!

Love my Lily’s. I have the protien skimmer and the spin outflow. Also ordered the brackets that they offer to mount and hold your glass. Broke the bottom of skimmer cleaning and need to get up with Jardi about replacement parts. How do I get in touch with them?

Hi Alan,

I’m not sure you will be able to get replacement parts and if you could, it would likely cost as much as a complete unit once you factor in international shipping. I tried to buy replacement parts from ADA yeeeeears ago didn’t get any help. I’d assume it’s the same here unfortunately.

I see still not much info on this company or reviews.Would love to start trying on a new build but can’t find to much info. Other than experimenting not sure how one will connect these to a fluval canister that uses ribbed plastic hoses 🙁

Hi Vinny,

Unfortunately I can’t help you out here, I don’t have a fluval Canister on hand to test how it would fit.

Swap the tubing. I got eheim green tubing on amazon, but the fit for my outflow pipe, so snug I honestly can’t remove it now….

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