Fish Tank Filter Not Pumping Water – How To Solve This Problem

Aquarium filters are vital when it comes to maintaining the quality and parameters of your tank’s water. Not only do they help filter dirt and waste, but they are also capable of reducing the levels of nitrate and ammonia.

That said, sometimes you will see a fish tank filter not pumping water properly. What are the causes of this issue? And how can you fix it? Keep reading to find out more!

Fish Tank Filter – Why You Need It

Fish tank filters are a common tool in tank maintenance, as they are capable of removing toxic accumulation, debris, and waste. Installing a filter is a must-have step should you want your tank to stay clean and toxin-free.

Without these vital filters, you will soon find your fish tank too polluted for fish to reside healthily.

Furthermore, fish tank filters help with the aeration of your home tanks. They generate and release oxygen into the water, thus ensuring the oxygen supply for your fish. That is not to mention how tank filters create gentle or strong water flows, depending on how you set up the machine.

Why Is Fish Tank Filter Not Pumping Water

While a fish tank filter plays an irreplaceable role in tank maintenance, sometimes, you will spot a fish tank pump not working after cleaning, or a fish tank filter running slow. The causes of this problem can be traced back to the following factors.

fish tank filter

Missing parts

Your fish tank filter may fail to pump water due to the loss of components. If the filter lacks the necessary parts, it surely cannot function properly. Remove your filter from the tank and examine it closely.

If you think there are several missing parts, cross-check with the manual and ask the retailer for more information. You may have to buy these separate parts and reattach them to your filter, or even purchase a brand new filter altogether.

Unplugged wires

You will be surprised to learn that some people forget to plug in their filters after cleaning. If the electricity is disconnected from the machine, it is no surprise that your filter fails to turn on.

Plug the wires back into the socket and restart the filter to see if it still works. In most cases, unless your motor has some serious issues, connecting the filter to its power source will guarantee a working session.

Faulty components

Your fish tank filter may shut down due to errors. If you have had the filters for quite some time, chances are they have become too rusty. Or, if the filters have fallen to the ground or come into extreme contact with other objects, the inner motor might have been affected.

Here, you can either give your filter a rest for a few hours and restart it or try fixing the entire thing. There are repair kits available on the market to treat faulty filters. But unless you are well-trained in engineering and mechanics, overhauling your filter is a handful.

Clogged intake tube or motor

Your fish tank filter’s breakdown may be caused by a clogged intake tube or motor. This can happen rather frequently, as the motor surely collects dirt and debris in the air.

If not cleaned regularly and properly, chances are the clogged motor will be a nuisance for a while. In case you find things getting stuck inside the filter’s engine section, gently remove it and start cleaning. Make sure to rinse it carefully so all the stuck hair and dirt are gotten rid of.

Also, remember to be on the outlook for algae and gunk buildup. These matters are slimy, which means they can easily be overlooked. Using a toothbrush helps you dislodge them with as little effort as possible.


1. How long do aquarium filters last?

There are two types of aquarium filters. The first one is chemical filters, which should be replaced once every two or three months. This is because chemical filters run on a limited supply of chemical substances, and they fail to work properly as soon as the supply goes out.

The second type of aquarium filter is the biological filter. Here, you can keep it up to 3 to 7 years provided that maintenance is in place. However, most aquarists proceed to buy a new filter every 3 or 4 years to ensure maximal performance.

2. How to tell that your fish tank filter is not working?

There are multiple signs indicating that your fish tank filter is faulty.

First off, check out the water’s parameters. If the filter is doing its job, the levels of ammonia and nitrite must be zero. At the same time, the nitrate levels must stay under 20 ppm.

Secondly, examine the water flow. If the water gets stuck inside the tank and fails to enter the filter, then the filtration system is failing.

Thirdly, try to see if the filter emits any sounds at all. Under most circumstances, fish tank filters will vibrate slightly with an almost silent hum. Thus, hearing heavy vibrations and grinding noises coming out of your filter can only mean one thing: it is undergoing some problems.

Now, if you spot even one of these symptoms, it is time to give your filter an overhaul. The longer you delay treatment, the more difficult it will get for the filter to be fixed properly. If all things fail, you may have to consider investing in a new one.


Now that you understand the causes and solutions to fish tank filter not pumping water, rest assured that you will not be confused next time this accident happens to you. In the meantime, cleaning your filter regularly should be enough to minimize the risks of a filter’s breakdown.