No aquarium owner wants to deal with the annoying rattling noise generated by the fish tanks. This unwanted sound is most likely coming from the tank’s filter, which is an indispensable part of any fish tank. 

In some cases, the problem may come from your tank’s air pump. Nevertheless, identifying the cause and eliminating this sound should be prioritized. 

So, how to deal with fish tank filters making rattling noises? I will show you some potential causes for this issue and help you fix it easily. 

Keep reading to find out!

Fish Tank Filter Making Rattling Noise

There are many reasons that cause the rattling noise in your tank filters, such as debris building up inside the unit, inadequate placement, a faulty impeller, a high flow rate, or a malfunctioning water pump. 

To fix the filter and eliminate that annoying sound, you first need to identify the cause of this problem. In the sections below, I will discuss these potential issues in detail.

dirty fish tank filter


The dirt and algae building up inside your tank filter will block its pipe and lead to a rattling noise. This issue is more likely if you haven’t removed and cleaned the filter for a long period. 

Flow rate

There are actually moving parts inside a tank filter. When these parts malfunction, they will lead to a higher water flow rate and cause an unusual sound in your filter. 

Air bubbles

Look around the tank carefully, and you may see many tiny air bubbles. It’s a sign of insufficient protein in the tank, which helps prevent the bubbles from popping.

Therefore, too many bubbles indicate that the water has gotten dirty, and you need to improve its quality. The best way is to clean your filter media and remove the dirt building up inside.

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Broken impeller

A malfunctioning impeller is likely the cause of that rattling noise. This component’s utility is to move water along the tank filter using centrifugal force. So, you need to check the impeller to see if it lacks lubrication. 

Impellers will run out of lubrication over time, so you need to apply a little greasing to the unit. 


Vibration commonly happens when one or two components inside the filter have broken down. Another likely cause is the inlet has gotten clogged up. 

As a result, your filter will start vibrating and scratching against the wall, causing the annoying rattling noise. 

Lack Of Water

A malfunctioning or weakened water pump won’t provide enough water, thus leading to a defective water level in the tank.

The water pump can also make annoying sounds when it gets dirty or damaged.

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How To Reduce Common Noises in Your Fish Tank Filter?

Since the aquarium filters vary in shape, design, size, and construction, the fixing method may not work for every case. Here are some easy steps to help you identify the cause and eliminate the annoying sound.

Reduce Noises in Your Fish Tank Filter

Step 1

First, always disconnect the filer from the power source to ensure your safety. 

Then, raise the inserts with green water to remove the green substances and put them back into the filter. 

Step 2

The filter has a part extending into the tank’s water called the intake nozzle. You need to remove this component from the water to remove the potential algae and clogs clinging to it. 

If the nozzle is too dirty, you can clean its inside using a pipe cleaner. Brushing the unit with an old toothbrush also helps remove the stringy algae and debris. 

Step 3

If you still hear the annoying sound after cleaning the inserts and pump nozzles, move on to check your tank filter. Ensure to turn off the power and carefully disassemble the filter. 

Check every component thoroughly for any damaged or loose parts and carefully reassemble it in place. The rattling noise may come from a loose impeller in the filter. 

Step 4

Another potential cause is the too-low water level in your tank, which may generate bubbles and lead to a rattling noise. You should push the filter much lower than the water level and avoid scratching it against the tank walls. 

Loud Noise From The Outside Won’t Affect Fish

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Why Is My Fish Tank Filter Making Noise But Not Working?

The most likely cause is your filter’s air pump has broken down. But sometimes, it’s the filter that causes the annoying time. This problem is more common if you haven’t cleaned or rinsed your filter for a long time. 

Over time, the algae and dirt will build up in the air pump and obstruct its airflow, causing the filter to break down. 

What Should A Fish Tank Filter Sound Like?

If your filter tank is working properly, it will generate a small noise that sounds like a gentle electric drum playing. Meanwhile, some high-quality and quiet tank filters don’t generate any sound at all. 

Does A Loud Filter Bother Fish?

Sound travels differently in air and water. Thus the rattling noise from a loud filter won’t bother your fish much. However, if the sound comes right from underwater, it may spook and annoy your fish in the long run. 

Can I Turn My Fish Tank Filter Off At Night?

No, you should not turn off your tank filter at night since this component is essential for the health of your fish. Without the tank filter to remove debris, algae, and bacteria, the water quality will slowly decrease and affect the fish. 

Is It Okay To Put A Fish Tank Near The TV?

As mentioned above, the sound traveling from the air will get blocked by water. Thus, loud noises or screams near the fish tank won’t affect your fish much. Therefore, feel free to put a fish tank beside the TV if you prefer.

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Final Thoughts

In summary, your tank filter will generate a rattling noise when it gets too dirty after a long period. Another reason may be the broken-down components in the unit, like the impeller, water pump, or even high flow rates. 

If you have cleaned and stabilized the unit, but the sound doesn’t disappear, it’s best to remove the filter and have it examined by professional repairers. If your tank filter is seriously damaged, you have to replace it with a new one. 

I hope the provided answer and information in this post can help you eliminate that annoying sound. Thank you for reading!

Alex is a pet freelance writer and editor with more than 10 years of experience. He attended Colorado State University, where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in Biology, which was where he first got some experience in animal nutrition. After graduating from University, Alex began sharing his knowledge as a freelance writer specializing in pets.

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