Hayward Aqua Critter Review | Efficient & Cute Automatic Cleaner For Your Pool

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It’s springtime again and we all know what that means- time to get the pool ready!  We all know the feeling of pulling off the weather-worn pool topper only to find a disgusting, muddy mess where our beautiful, crystal-clear water used to be. Staring into the abyss of the seemingly infinitely soiled flooring can be very daunting to us all. Well, it’s time to tell the bog monster his lease is coming up because we’ve got some cleaning to do! Don’t be caught unaware this summer while searching for a new pool cleaner, instead read our Hayward Aqua Critter Review and stay in the know!

Here we will be giving our review of the Hayward Aqua Critter pool cleaner to provide an insightful, informative look at the options and performance of this machine so that buyers can make an educated decision when it comes time to drop the dough. For more information on pool cleaner choices and informative, in-depth reviews, take a look at these above ground pool cleaners.

The Aqua Critter pool cleaner from Hayward is a robotic, above ground pool vacuum that is well-built and takes a unique approach to overall pool care.  

Unlike other pool cleaners or ‘sweepers’ the 500Y Aqua Critter runs its mission around the bottom of any above ground pool, hungrily devouring any wayward debris that is unfortunate enough to find itself settling upon the floor. This machine sucks in from the bottom and forces water up to the top, where it is then filtered, and then recycled, shimmering and shiny, back into the pool.  

Something we noticed was that although an accessory kit is included with this purchase, it seems odd that the cleaning or ‘skimming’ basket is not included.  Hayward includes literally every other piece to get us up and running, yet the cleaning basket is an additional purchase for whatever reason, and it seems like this marketing decision may have been a hasty afterthought.

What the average consumer is looking for in a pool cleaner is ease of use or no-hands operation, ease of set up, affordability, and thoroughness of clean.

The Aqua Critter ticks most of these boxes considering its bargain cost, yet there are many more expensive models which might be more appealing.  

For average, seasonal use this unit seems like it will provide reliable service for years as long as it is well taken care of and not overworked.  Other than the hoses which seem to be constructed at a slightly lower standard than the base, it seems that it will hold up well to daily use while only having to replace the standard wear parts.  

Build quality on this piece is of average to high quality, and while the character element of these machines is cute, tends to feel somewhat cheap in the hand, though we didn’t run across any issues ourselves.  

Hayward 500Y Specifications, Features, & Benefits

hayward 500y features and benefits

Utilization of the patented SmartDrive steering system is a unique feature of this machine as the 500Y will scoot itself around the pool bottom tucking into every nook and cranny for an outstanding clean.  

While manual pool skimmers may work fine for floating debris, the Aqua Critter is perfect for picking up all of the settled dirt or sediment sitting on the bottom where the standard pool skimmer would never be of any real service.

This particular design works backward when compared to many other models on the market today.  

While most pool sweeps utilize a pressurized system forcing water down into the mechanism from the top essentially only cleaning the surface, the 500Y acts a vacuum sucking up dirt directly from the pool bottom shooting it up through the hose into the cleaning basket.

This is a great feature ensuring that more of the water gets completely cleaned throughout.


This cleaner is specifically designed for above ground pools, and whether they have a flat or dished bottom is sure to leave a sparkling swimming hole every single time.

Easy installation is a huge plus with this innovative pool cleaner taking less than ten minutes to set up, meaning there will be more time for squirt guns, lemonade, and water balloons.

Another great point worth mentioning is that the Aqua Critter does not require the use of an additional booster pump to function as the included 32 feet of Hayward vacuum hose connects to the existing pump, saving time and money!

cleaning time of average pool is two hours

Speaking of saving time, this critter keeps its cleaning cycles down to just two hours and as the cleaner moves around the pool bottom it also helps to circulate the water, which helps to agitate the cleaning chemicals thereby maximizing their efficiency.

One of the best and often most pertinent features, the Hayward 500Y Aqua Critter rings in at a very acceptable price point providing a great cleaning experience at a cost that won’t break the bank.

With a 1-year limited warranty against manufacturer’s workmanship and defects, there is also the added comfort of knowing it’s a protected investment should anything go wrong.

Fast and Thorough Above Ground Pool Vacuum 

Sporting a shorter run-time than many, the Aqua Critter attempts to make the most of its time.

Though it doesn’t have a brush-scrubbing action like some other popular models, it nonetheless does a very good job of not only bottom cleaning but introducing additional water circulation as well.

The benefit of the full circulation is that just like dish soap in the sink.  If the cleaning agent is not agitated often enough, it basically stagnates and does not do as good of a job of keeping the pool water sanitary.  The Aqua Critter aids in this by making sure the chemicals are thoroughly mixed into the water at all levels.

The one thing it does not accomplish in its two-hour runtime is clean the pool walls, but not every invention can do it all.

luxury of not having to be nearby while the pool is cleaning

When first assembling the Aqua Critter the hoses might take some finagling to get them to fit just right, but other than that it seems to amount to a great time-saver.  

Once this machine is all set up, it is ready to provide consistent, nearly maintenance-free operation, that will, in the long run, end up saving quite a pretty penny.

The luxury of not having to be nearby while the pool is having its pedicure done is fantastic and leaves its owner free to attend to other, much more enjoyable endeavors.  

With many, the monotony and tediousness of having to keep a pool clean -especially if there are trees around- is enough for the hygiene of the pool to be overlooked altogether, and this is a particularly bad idea.

The 500Y Aqua Critter does a pretty decent job of making its way around the pool, pushing well up to the edges in most conditions.

Though this machine touts that it can clean flat or ‘dished’ pool bottoms, we noticed that if there is a substantially rounded corner, it may not quite make it all the way up to the wall.

This is ok though and is to be expected at this level of affordability.

Hayward Aqua Critter Troubleshooting

Cracked Fittings

One thing we noticed was that the hose couplings have the tendency to crack.  The included hose, however, is made of several different sections which can be interchanged, so with the separate lengths of hose all having male and female couplings, the segments can be swapped around providing new couplings for a while, until eventually new hose will have to be purchased.

No Suction 

If it seems there is either no suction or lousy suction when first starting up the Aqua Critter, make sure to prime both the pump and the suction hose to get all of the air out.   This will prevent air from getting into the filtration system and causing a loss of suction.

By slowly lowering the base into the water and allowing all of the air bubbles out prior to letting it sink, this should provide a fairly decent prime.  Be sure to sort of roll or rock the base around prior to dropping to release as much air as possible.

If there is a lack of suction after several hours of normal, successful operation, check the filter net/ filter for holes or blockage, and check the suction hose.

Rapidly Clogging Filters 

rapidly clogging filters

As for the frequency of Hayward filter cleaning, if it seems like the filter is clogging up somewhat rapidly at first don’t worry as this is normal.  The reason for this is that the Aqua Critter is designed for continued cleaning of the pool- once it has already cleaned it.

What we mean is that when just starting out it may take a few runs of less than two hours to initially clean the pool, and during this these few runs it will require more frequent cleaning of the plugged-up filter.  

Once the initial buildup is taken care of, the machine will be able to run its full course over and over with minimal cleaning of the filter.

Parts Availability    

Should anything break at the hands of the operator or require replacement, Hayward Aqua Critter parts availability is fairly good.

There are a number of online retailers which readily carry replacement parts, and many of them can be easily located on Amazon.

Other Options 

Here are just a couple of alternative options we thought we’d include as a comparison.

First up is the Dolphin Nautilus Automatic Robotic Pool Cleaner.

This fantastic little machine from Dolphin is an easy-to-use, automated power scrubbing system for any above ground pool.  

While the Aqua Critter indeed does a very good job at cleaning pool bottoms, the Nautilus from Dolphin excels. This is a very well-thought-out design, featuring dual brush scrubbers on the bottom for that ultra-deep clean.

The Nautilus requires absolutely no hoses or pumps for an incredibly clean-looking and simple installation, and the power cable on this model features a genius swivel-mount to the unit itself, preventing any tangles or snags that may arise.  It is attention to details like this which display Dolphin’s expert engineering.

Next comes the Water Tech Pool Blaster Max.  

Whereas the other selections we’ve gone over are automatic and allow for essentially a zero-user interface, the Pool Blaster Max from Water Tech is a manual option.

With a lithium, rechargeable battery this little unit is great for cleaning up debris that has found its way to the floor. The Catfish features a 45-minute run time, which although is enough time to clean the pool, doesn’t seem like a whole lot considering the time to fully charge is 4 hours.

Where the Pool Blaster falls behind is in the full-pool cleaning department.  Whereas the design of the Max limits it to essentially cleaning small bits of debris off the pool bottom, both the Dolphin and the Aqua Critter have preset run times and will actually filter most (if not all) of the pool water through, causing a much more complete clean.

    Laurie S.

    As a multi home owner for 15 years I've tried out a ton of pool products and methods and have found out the best ones that work for me. I love helping out other people with real, honest advice and spending time with my family. If you have any questions please don't hesitate to contact me in the about or through a comment.

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    Your Pool Help - May 19, 2019 Reply

    Hayward has been known to have some of the worst pool cleaner designs, but it’s nice to see them changing the style, although not for me this is no doubt a trendy style robotic pool cleaner.

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