How to choose tubing for your custom watercooling loop

How to choose tubing for your custom watercooling loop

When planning a custom loop, an important consideration to make is which type of tubing is used. There are two main types - hard tubing and soft tubing. There are several options of each, all with their merits, so this guide will help you to understand what those are, and which one you should use in your next custom watercooling PC build.  

Which should I use?

Firstly, let's cover which type of tubing to use in every scenario. 

Hard tubing requires more effort, and is generally more expensive to use due to the variety of angled and offset fittings often used, but, can look especially good in showpiece or aesthetically spectacular builds. Hard tubing takes a little more time and user skill (in terms of actually shaping it), with some specialised tools needed, which I'll go into more depth on later. 

Pictured: A custom-build PC by the AquaCustoms team featuring hard tubing


On the other hand, soft tubing is a lot easier to set up and use, does not require any special tooling to install, and reduces build time greatly. Soft tubing is especially useful if your tubing runs aren't going to be broadly straight, as it can go in many directions without being specifically bent to do so. However, soft tubing takes a lot more planning to get a build to look clean with, but it is possible, as shown in the below picture.

Pictured: Build with soft tubes by IntenseWiggling, posted in the Watercooling Enthusiasts (WCE) Discord server


So, if you're looking for convenience and a quick build, soft tubing is the way to go. Furthermore, if you are planning to use an external radiator, soft tubing is almost a must. 

On the other hand, if you want to make something that looks quite the spectacle, hard tubing done well can really provide a huge aesthetic element to your build. However, you must note the significant time commitment, and the need to buy special tools. If this is okay, then you can go with hard tubing. 

Soft tubing: in depth

Let's start with a more detailed view of soft tubing. For a beginner in the watercooling space, soft tubing is a lot more forgiving, and is much easier to implement. The only tools you need to cut and install soft tubing are a pair of scissors, and your hands. It's that simple! Furthermore, your tubing runs can go pretty much anywhere, without the need for special fittings or bends, often making soft tubing a lot cheaper to implement. If you are considering using an external radiator, soft tubing is almost a must, outside the case at least, as it's, again, much easier to implement here, especially over the long distance to an external radiator. 

To proceed with a soft tubing loop, you'll need the tubing itself. I recommend EPDM - this is an opaque, black, tubing style that is easy to install and requires very little maintenance (seen above on the second pictured build). I would recommend staying away from the clear soft tubing, as, over time, the plasticisers in this type of tubing can leak out, turning your tubes yellow, and potentially causing issues in your loop. You'll also need soft tube fittings - but fittings is another guide altogether, a guide that I'll be writing soon, in fact.  

Hard tubing: in depth

Unlike soft tubing, hard tubing cannot simply be bent and cut with the fingers and scissors respectively - you need special tools to do so. But first of all, let me cover the various types of hard tubing. 

My recommendation is Acrylic, also known as PMMA, this can come in a frosted or clear finish. This is because it can withstand high liquid temperatures, meaning it won't deform, even under relatively high temperature strain. 

In order to cut it, you need to use either a standard hacksaw, or what I like to use, a mini electric cut-off saw. Rotary pipe cutting tools will crack acrylic, please note this.

With acrylic, you can buy the tubes as straight, or pre-bent into a 90 degree angle. If you do intend to bend the tubes at all (ie if all your runs are not perfectly straight) you'll need to pick up a heat gun, and silicon bending insert, among other things.

This tutorial ( from bit-tech modding is especially helpful if you would like to learn how to do this.

However, new technologies such as EKWB's Matrix7 means that you can build a hard tubing system without any bends even required, something that hasn't been truly possible until now - this video from EK themselves ( will help to explain that concept.

Another type of hard tubing is PETG, but quite frankly, using  it cannot be more contrary to my recommendation. PETG starts to deform at just 40 degrees Celsius, meaning that at relatively normal loop load temperatures, this type of tubing can deform over time, eventually causing leaks and other issues. It is true that PETG can be easier to bend, especially for beginners, as it begins to melt at lower temperatures, but, its lower melting point does mean that it poses more risks than benefits for your loop.

Metal tubing, such as brass or stainless steel, is also available, but for a beginner in the watercooling space looking to go with hard tubing, it's best to start with acrylic and learn the ropes from there. 

With hard tubing, it can be easier to use angled fittings in place of bends, and offset fittings instead of slight adjustments while bending, among others, however, as I said, fittings is another article entirely!


I hope this guide has been useful for you, in your watercooling journey. If you have any questions, please do feel free to drop us a note using the contact form on our website, found in the navigation pages at the top or side. Thank you for reading, and happy watercooling!




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