Fish Tank Filter Motor Not Working? Reason and Troubleshooting

What if you suddenly realize that your fish tank’s water filter is not functioning? The water filtration process may come to a stop due to a motor failure.

What causes the motor in the fish tank to fail? How does a fish tank filter motor malfunction and what can you do to fix it?

You must first check the motor in order to diagnose the malfunctioning fish tank filter motor. Fix the groove within the housing after that. Clean the motor and the surrounding parts as well. Finally, if the shaft is damaged, replace it.

Read the whole article and carefully follow the directions if you want a thorough understanding on how to use the methods given.

What Causes the Fish Tank Filter Motor that is Not Working?

Burnt-out motors are the major causes of a fish tank motor failure. However, if that’s the case, replacing is your best course of action.

A dirty motor and impeller, wear in the impeller groove, and a damaged filter motor shaft are some more causes.

The main cause of a fish tank filter motor not working are these problems. Using the fish tank filter for extended periods of time causes the majority of these issues.

4 Steps to Troubleshoot a Fish Tank Filter Motor Not Working: 

When a fish tank filter malfunctions, many people usually replace it. However, there are some clever and simple steps you may take. The effectiveness of the fish tank filter must be routinely checked.

But, if the motor fails to spin completely, the water will not flow through the filter. If this is the case, you have to take the necessary steps as soon as possible.

You can fix the fish tank filter motor by following this step-by-step troubleshooting guide.

Things required to troubleshoot the fish tank filter motor not working:

Take a look at the tools and materials listed below for troubleshooting a fish tank motor not working:

Tools Materials
Screwdriver Replacement motor (if needed)
Torch Motor shaft (if needed)
Small piece of cloth
Wooden stick

Step 1 – Inspect the Motor:

First of all, plug in the fish tank filter’s plug inside the outlet. Now, take the shaft and the impeller out of the motor. Put a screwdriver inside the hole and inspect if the magnet inside pulls the screwdriver toward any edge.

Inspect the Motor
Inspect the Motor

If it does not work, you might need to replace the motor.

Step 2 – Fixing the Groove Inside the Housing:

Take a torch and illuminate the inside of the shaft chamber. The groove that the shaft and the impeller sit into may have deteriorated. As a result, the impeller will not be able to turn properly.

If the damage due to friction is too much, the impeller will fail to turn completely.

To fix this issue, take a small piece of cloth cutting. Wrap and roll it around the bottom of the shaft.

 take a small piece of cloth cutting.
small piece of cloth cutting.

After that, put it inside the hole and it will fit perfectly. Put the impeller and outlet pipe back on and examine the fish tank filter by running it.

Step 3 – Cleaning the Motor:

The motor is located at the bottom of the fish tank filter. But if the motor, the impeller, and the area around it are dirty and clogged, the motor will not spin. So, take the motor off the filter.

Cleaning the Motor:
Cleaning the Motor:

Now, take out the covering and detach the impeller from the motor. Take out the shaft.

If the impeller refuses to come out, use a wooden stick or metal rod to pull it out of the place.

use a wooden stick
use a wooden stick

Now clean both of these thoroughly under tap water. You should use a sponge, a sharp rod, and a brush to clean it properly.

 You should use a sponge,
use a sponge,

Now, clean the housing of the motor. This area becomes very dirty.

 the motor’s spinning.
the motor’s spinning.

If it is not cleaned regularly, the built-up gunk can stop the motor’s spinning.

Step 4 – Replacing the Broken Shaft:

The shaft is placed right underneath the impeller of the fish tank filter. If the shaft breaks, the motor will not be able to rotate the impeller.

So, you should buy a replacement shaft and replace it. After replacing, the motor will work perfectly again.


  1. Before beginning any troubleshooting, always switch off the fish tank filter and remove the plug from the outlet.
  2. You can use a thin piece of rubber while troubleshooting the deteriorated groove.
  3. While cleaning the fish tank filter, refrain from cleaning the sponge using tap water. If you do so, the important bacteria needed for the fish will be washed away.
  4. Replace the motor or the whole fish tank filter if the motor has burnt due to a heavy power surge.
  5. Do not turn the fish tank filter on without placing it inside the water. But you can do it for a short amount of time to test the magnetism.
  6. If your product has a warranty, send it to the company to get the motor fixed if you can’t fix it yourself.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is the reason for low or no suction with the fish tank filter?

One common reason for this problem is a jammed or dirty impeller and motor. As a result, water can’t enter the filter. If you clean it regularly, this issue will not occur.

What should I do if the motor of my fish tank filter has burnt out?

You can’t fix a burnt motor. One thing to do is to send the product to the company for service. But the best choice is to replace the motor or the filter completely since after repairing, the problem can reoccur.

Should I turn off my fish tank filter at night to reduce the risk of burning out the motor?

The motor may burn out due to running for months. But it should not run for a month because you should clean the fish tank filter twice a month. If you turn it off at night, it won’t do any good.

However, the nitrogen cycle inside the fish tank will become imbalanced and the fish may suffer.

Why do I need to clean the fish tank filter with water from the tank?

The main reason for going through this procedure is to save the bacteria that are important for the habitat inside the fish tank. The sponges and water inside the fish tank filter hold a colony of important bacteria.

If you wash these with tap water, the bacteria will wash away with the water. So, by using the water from the fish tank, you can help keep the nitrogen cycle steady.

How often should I replace my fish tank filter?

If you own a mechanical filter, you do not need to change them until they become faulty.  The same goes for biological filters. But if you own a chemical filter, you should replace it every one or two months.

Final Verdict

The motor of the fish tank filter serves a great purpose by spinning the impeller. As a result, water gets inside and gets outside of the filter.

But if the motor fails, the process may shut down. The fish can’t survive for more than 2 days if you do not fix the issue and if you also do not own a pump.

I have discussed all of the possible reasons for a fish tank filter motor failure. Follow the troubleshooting methods properly to fix your fish tank filter motor which is not working.

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Arif H Fahim

Welcome to PetFishTank! My name is Arif. I make an effort to publish educational articles using my many years of expertise as a fish owner.

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