7 Common Problems with Fish Tank Filters and Fixes

An aquarium filter is a must-need item for your tank. Without it, it’s difficult for the fish to lead a healthy life. 

It provides you with great value, but it comes with some common problems with tank filters as well. Had you faced them already? If not, it’s never too late to prepare. 

Suddenly getting stopped, rattles when turned on, broken parts inside the filter, and cracks in the facade are some problems you can face. 

There are more, keep reading to know the problems and how to solve them.

Problems and Solutions at a Tank Filter

Tank Filter ProblemsSolutions 
No SuctionCleaning the filter
Different Sound or No Sound  Broken part or clogged dirt
The filter Stopped Working EntirelyUnplug the filter, plug it in a couple of hours later
Too High/Low Flow RateSet up an additional filter or buy a new one.
Cloudy WaterCleaning or replacing if needed  
No pumping waterCleaning or replacing if needed  
No BubbleDisconnected or blocked air pump

Why Filter is an Important Part of Your Tank?

Aquarium filter maintains a healthy balance in the water for the fish to thrive. The main purpose of the whole filtration process is to clean the water and make it suitable for the fish. 

It also helps beneficial bacteria to grow which is super important for the tank and its ecosystem. 

Without a proper filtration system, the water will get dirty in no time. Toxin will build up over time which will turn into poison. This situation can be deadly for the creatures of the aquarium. 

This is why a filter is one of the most important parts of the tank. 

Common Fish Tank Filter Problems and How to Solve Them

No matter whether you are a beginner or a pro aquarist, you are going to face filter problems.

Here are some of the problems you can face with remedies:

1. No Suction 

The filter sucks the water with the help of a motor-operated impeller and brings it inside the filter media through the intake tube. In the process, thank water purifies, and clean water comes out. 

The common problem is not being able to intake the water. It happens mostly if there is solid debris clogging the intake tube or the impeller. Without suction, the filter does not work. 

The Fix: 

The solution to this problem is to clean the filter. As the most common cause is a clogged mechanism, it is best to clean out the filter.

Firstly, unplug the filter and take it out. Dissemble it and clean the whole thing. 

But be careful about cleaning the filter. There are a lot of beneficial bacteria inside it and you do not want to wash them off. You can check out How to Clean Top Fin Filter to know the entire process. 

If this does not solve the problem, most probable the motor is damaged. See the manufacturer’s guide to see if there are any warranties. 

2. Different Sound or No Sound  

Every aquarium makes some kind of noise and it is completely normal. While the filtration system, there will be noise even if it is very gentle. 

It is alarming when the filter does not make any sound or makes a different sound than usual. 

It can happen for many reasons. Some of them are, dirty or clogged filters, displaced parts inside the filter, or the filter is somehow damaged. 

The Fix

Just like the previous one, you need to disassemble the filter and check if something is broken or displaced. If you think you can fix it you can try, if not you may need to think of a replacement. 

A dirty filter also has the same problem sometimes. Cleaning the filter can reduce the problem. 

3. Filter Stopped Working Entirely 

When this happens, the filter stopped working completely. Any kind of suction or sound will not be visible. 

The main reason for this problem is a power outage. It can also happen if something gets stuck in the motor. 

The Fix

As the filter stopped working for a power surge, the solution for this can be to give the filter some rest. Keep it unplugged for a couple of hours and see what happens. 

Most of the time this works fine. If not, you may need to buy a repair kit. But check if the motor area is not clogged with debris. 

4. Too High/Low Flow Rate

There are so many species you can cultivate in your tank. Some of them prefer a minimal low rate such as lake and pond fish. Some fishes prefer high flow rates such as tropical or mountain stream fish.

Before you set up your aquarium, you need to know which kind of fish you want in your tank.

Some filters come with an adjustable flow rate. If you one, not one of them and the flow is messed up, then it can be too old.

The Fix 

If the flow rate is low, you can make up an upgrade to the tanky by adding another additional filter. 

But if the flow tends to be high, there is a little you can do. Replacing the filter is the best option in this case. 

5. Cloudy Water 

Water can become cloudy if the filter malfunctions. It can happen if the filter is too old. It can lose its effectiveness over time. 

A clogged filter can also cause this problem.

The Fix 

Firstly, clean the filter and see if there is any improvement. Unplug the filter and detach the filter from the aquarium. Clean it properly and reset it again.

If it does not work then most probably it’s time for a new filter. 

6. No Pumping Water  

The filter takes in and pushes out the water. It is a process of how a filter works. If you notice there is no pumping, then it’s perhaps the motor or impeller is broken.

A dirty or clogged filter cause most of the filter problem. The same goes here, clogged dirt can slow down the procedure. 

The Fix

the solution here is the same as the previous one. You need to unplug and inspect the filter and the impeller. If it is dirty, cleaning is the first thing you should do and take a look if it works. 

If it is broken, then there is not much to do. You have to replace the new one and buy another. 

7. No Bubble

Too much bubble is not good for the filter. On the other hand, no bubble is also a sign that your filter is not working. The most common reason for that may be the air pump is disconnected or blocked.

It also causes the water of the aquarium contaminated.

The Fix 

Initially, you need to look for if the air pump is working fine. If not, see if the pump is blocked or unplugged. An Unplugged filter is one of the problems we seldom notice. 

Check the tubing if it has excess algae build-up or debris around it. if so, simply clean the tubing.

Can Your Fish Survive Without a Filter?

Yes, some fish like goldfish or plecos can survive without a filter. 

But you have to set up the filter that way. You need to put a lot of real parts so that they can produce enough oxygen for the fish. 

Not all fish can survive in this. Select fish carefully. Especially those who produce a lot of waste. It is good for the plants inside. 

The plant also needs to cope with the environment. Also, you need to maintain good water quality. 

When to Consider Replacing the Filter?

When you have tried all of the fixes mentioned above or a lot more and still it’s not working efficiently. Then it is time to buy a new one. 

Not all the tank problems can be solved. If it is meant to be solved, then you do not need to put so much effort into that.  

If it is consuming so much of your valuable time you should look for a new filter. 


I hope that this article helped you to understand and fixed your filter problem. The most common problems are not that difficult to be solved. 

As the filter plays an important role in your aquarium, you should take good care of it. Those problems can be avoided if you maintain the tank and the filter on regular basis. 

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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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