Common Problems with Aquarium Water Filter & Trouble Shooting


Problems with Aquarium Water Filters

Aquarium water filters can run into a wide range of problems like installation issues, noise or vibration while operating, reduced flow of water, no suction through the filter, etc. While the problem may seem intimidating at first, we have provided easy solutions for them so that you can quickly troubleshoot these issues and get the system up and running with minimal hassles.

Aquarium filters perform an essential function.

They are directly responsible for maintaining the health of the water inside the aquarium.

The cleanliness of the water has a direct impact on the health of flora and fauna inside the aquarium.

An essential aspect of aquarium filters that are not given much importance in the case of other filters is sizing.

An aquarium filter has to be sized precisely to avoid under-filtration or over-filtration. In this article, we look at some of the problems that you might run into while using an aquarium filter.

We have provided an elaborate troubleshooting guide to solve these problems is as straightforward a manner as possible.

Below, we briefly discuss some of these problems. We also guide you on how to deal with them in a DIY setup.

No visible suction

Almost all models of aquarium filters make use of a motor.

A critical component of this motor is the impeller. The impeller motion works toward sucking the water from the aquarium into the filter via the input valve.

When you notice that the filter is not suctioning the water as expected, there may be a few factors that may be causing this problem.

  • Chocked input valve
  • Clogged impeller

How to troubleshoot

If the problem lies with the input valve, you need to disconnect the hose from the aquarium filter and connect it to a water faucet.

The water running through the tube will dislodge any clogged debris from the tube and ensure that water flow is restored to the original level.

If the problem lies with the impeller, you will have to take apart the motor and clean the impeller to get it functioning smoothly. While you do this, you should also notice if there is any damage to the impeller.

The damage may be due to wear and tear or any other reason. If the impeller is not in top shape, it needs to be replaced.

The filter has stopped working altogether

The reason for a filter to stop working can be due to a wide range of reasons.

  • Problem with the filter motor
  • Clogging in the input or the output hosing
  • Unexpected power surging that damaged the motor
  • Mechanical issues with the filter

How to troubleshoot

For Motor problems

The only moving part of the motor is the impeller. If there are any issues with the impeller, take it out completely.

Clean the impeller as well as the housing of the impeller. If the problem is still not resolved, there may be an issue in some other part of the motor.

You should get the motor checked after all the other alternatives mentioned in this section.

For clogged pipes

Disconnect the inlet and outlet hoses from the filter.

Connect these hoses to a faucet one at a time and allow the water from the tap to run through the pipes at full speed.

This will allows any built-up debris to get dislodged instantly and clean the insides of the hoses. If needed, use a long brush to clean the insides more thoroughly.

For unexpected power surges

Instead of connecting the aquarium filter to the power outlet directly, you may connect it to a spike suppressor that will handle any sudden surges in the power, voltage, or current.

Almost all models of aquarium filters are fitted with DC motors that cannot tolerate high fluctuations in the power supply.

This fix will eliminate the threat of the motor getting damaged in such situations.

For mechanical issues

Although certain parts of the aquarium filter have to remain submerged in water, there are power cords and wires that need to be kept away from the water.

Regularly check these cords to ensure that there is no wear and tear. Also, check the connections regularly to ensure that they are fastened correctly.

Unsteady flow rates (too low or too high)

Common Problems with Aquarium Water Filter Trouble Shooting

All filters need the flow rate of the water to be in a particular range prescribed by the manufacturer.

This flow rate makes for ideal filtration. If the rate is too low or too high, the water will not get adequately filtered. It compromises the performance of the filter.

How to troubleshoot

Correctly sizing the aquarium filter will avoid this problem in the first place.

How to size an aquarium filter?

The rule of thumb to maintain a healthy environment inside the aquarium is as follows.

“All of the water inside the aquarium tank should pass the filter at least four times within the hour.”

What this means is that if the size of the tank is 40 gallons, then the flow rate of the aquarium filter should at least be 40X4 i.e., 160 GPH.

This ensures that the water remains clean. If there is a choice between a 150 GPH and 180 GPH filtration unit, you should choose the 180 GPH filtration system.

This choice is also influenced by the number of plants and fishes that are present in the aquarium. You should change the filter if you are increasing the number of fishes in the aquarium.

Keep an eye out for the water quality to know when it is the right time to make the change.

Another solution to this problem is to purchase a filter with an adjustable flow rate. This flexibility is especially useful if you plan to make changes to your aquarium.

Any future changes like adding more fishes, increasing the tank size, adding, or removing plants can be accommodated easily by changing the flow rate of the filter adequately.

The flow rates can affect the oxygenation levels of the tank. If the water is not being circulated at a specific speed, there will be a lack of fresh oxygen in the tank, which may prove fatal for the fishes.

Aquarium water has become cloudy

The reason for aquarium water clouding up could be a malfunctioning filter.

If the filter is clogged or near the end of its life, it can have a negative impact on the effectiveness of the aquarium filtration system.

If the filter remains unchanged for a long time, eventually, the filtration process will not take place adequately, and there will be an increase in the number of impurities in the water.

How to troubleshoot

An old filter should be cleaned or replaced with a newer one as soon as it reached the end of its prescribed life.

The procedure to change the filter cartridge can be different from one model to the next. Carefully refer to the instruction manual to get a clear picture of how to replace the cartridge correctly.

If the problem persists, the problem does not lie with the filter.

There are a couple of reasons for the aquarium water being cloudy.

First is the floating silt and debris, typically from gravel or décor, or suspended algae could be causing the cloudiness. Another reason could be the ‘new tank syndrome.’

Sometimes the level of phosphates or nitrates in the water is high. You might want to check for this if the problem persists.

The filter is making a lot of noise

Noise from the aquarium filter can be an indicator of a couple of things. There might be an issue with the filter assembly or the motor.

Noise while operating the filter should be rectified as soon as possible because if you keep operating the filter in this manner, it can cause further damage to the filter, and eventually, the situation will be beyond any repair.

Some of the possible causes for noise from the aquarium filter are listed below.

  1. Fall in the water level of the aquarium due to evaporation
  2. Sometimes a small piece of gravel gets sucked into the system by the impeller
  3. Debris in the intake tube

How to troubleshoot

Ensure that the water level of the aquarium is maintained in a manner that it is barely touching the output.

Take apart the entire filter assembly and clean every component.

If you notice that the filter has a lot of build-up of algae or other debris, make sure to remove it entirely before putting it back together.

Some clogged debris can cause the filter to malfunction and put a lot of load on the motor resulting in the vibration or rumbling noise.

Check the intake nozzle next for a similar clogging issue. If there is debris inside the tubing, clean it out entirely before fitting it back.

Check out this video about the possible reasons for noise from an aquarium filter and how to get rid of this noise –


Installation and fitting issues of the aquarium water filter

Installing aquarium filters is a fairly straightforward process.

There are different types of filters available, which might need slight modifications in the installation process.

However, the basic installation algorithm tends to remain the same in most cases.

You might run into small snags while installation, for which we have given a brief outline of the installation process below.

How to troubleshoot

The installation of an aquarium water filter needs the following steps to be done sequentially.

  1. Assemble all the different parts of the filter. The filtration media will have various components for chemical, biological, and mechanical filtration.
  2. Make the connections of the filter with the input and output valves.
  3. Place the filter outside the water or submerged, depending on the type of configuration specified in the instruction manual.
  4. The last step is plugging the aquarium filter into a power source.


Do not turn the filter on unless the aquarium is filled with water.

Check out how to install a basic aquarium filter in a quick video here –

The motor is becoming very hot while operating

The reason that the motor might be becoming hot after a while is that it could be overloaded.

The overloading can happen if there is some debris stuck inside the motor, which is making the motor expend more power than necessary to function.

Another reason could be that the motor is undersized for that particular aquarium.

How to troubleshoot

Stop the aquarium filter and take apart all the components. Scrutinize the motor assembly.

Notice if there is any clogged material inside that is hampering the smooth movement of the impeller.

Clean all the parts thoroughly before putting it back. If the problem persists, look at the following step.

If you have recently added more fish or plants to the aquarium and have not adjusted the motor, it might be the case that the motor is getting overloaded, cleaning the number of impurities present in the water.

Check whether the capacity of the motor is sufficient for handling your aquarium. (Details are mentioned above)

If the problem persists, a more in-depth inspection might be needed by a professional.

If nothing works

Aquarium water filters run smoothly when all the different components work together in harmony and function well. Regular maintenance is a must to ensure a long life for the aquarium filter.

However, with wear and tear, some problems with the filter are bound to occur.

While we have covered all types of issues that can be solved by you at home, there might be some issues that cannot be solved quickly.

You should check what the exact issue is and get in touch with the support services provided by the company to get a resolution for the problem in this case.

Any repairs or replacements that happen should be done by professionals to get the best possible outcome.

In The End

Aquarium filters are a very common necessity these days for the aquarium tank to remain clean and germ free.

It guarantees the long life of the flora and fauna in the tank and helps to maintain the aesthetic appeal of the aquarium by keeping the water crystal clear.

As it is not a very high technology device, any problems that crop up with the aquarium filter can be diagnosed easily with the help of this troubleshooting guide.

By following the steps that we have listed under each problem, you can get the full use out of the aquarium tank for the longest time.

About Anthony White

Anthony has vast experience in critically analyzing and writing on products and gadgets. He spends a lot of his time over internet tracking the latest tech developments. When he is not doing that, he can be found pursuing his love of gardening.