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Aquarium Filter Common Problems and Solutions

As one of the most vital devices for tank maintenance, aquarium filters exist in almost all aquariums. An aquarium filter can help remove waste and toxins in the water, promote water circulation and provide beneficial bacteria needed.

However, while using aquarium filters, aquarists will encounter many annoying problems. If they can not deal with the problems well, their fish will be threatened by poor water quality and lacking oxygen.

Thus, in this article, we will list the 3 most common problems with aquarium filters. We will help you find out the causes, the diagnosing methods and solutions. Don’t worry, these problems are not big deals.


1. Unsuitable flow rate

Unsuitable flow rate means the flow rate of your filter is too low or too high. When the flow rate is too high, your fish will suffer from stress due to violating the movement of water. A strong wave will disrupt their swimming rhythm, making them feel uncomfortable.

Likewise, too slow flow rate is also harmful to fish. It fails to create enough water circulation, without which, fish can not get the oxygen they need. But oxygen is essential to the survival of fish.

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If the flow rate of your filter is nonadjustable, the cause may be that the filter is not suitable for your fish. If it is adjustable, the cause may be that you don’t set the right flow rate.


Diagnosing methods

To diagnose whether the flow rate is correct, you can check the behavior of your fish. When the flow rate is too strong, your fish will swim away from the water flow or hide in the decorations. However, when the flow rate is too slow, they might swim to the water surface to get oxygen.



  The flow rate is too high The flow rate is too slow
Nonadjustable flow rate Add some decorations to reduce the water current;
Dense the filter media;
Create more outlets to diffuse the water;
Add a pre-filter sponge;
Buy an adjustable filter.
Add a powerhead;
Reduce some filter media;
Reduce some decorations;
Clean the filter;
Buy an adjustable filter.
Adjustable flow rate

Adjust the flow rate according to the instructions.

Adjust the flow rate according to the instructions.


2. No suction

Filters work with the help of an impeller. It will suck in the dirty water and pass it through the filter media and finally release the clean water back to the tank. If a filter has no suction, the process can not be done successfully. The result is that the waste remains in your tank and contaminates the water gradually.

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The main cause of a no suction filter is a clogged impeller. With time passing by, some fish fries or debris will accumulate in the filter and clog the impeller, resulting in an inefficient or broken filter.


Diagnosing methods

If you notice that the impeller is working normally but there is no water sucking in, the filter may have lost suction.



It’s not difficult to deal with the suction problem. You just need to take apart the filter according to the user manual and check which part is clogged. When you find out the clogged component, use water to rinse it or use some tools to remove the debris. Then, assemble the filter and install it back in your aquarium.


3. Not working

The last problem people will meet is that the filter stops working completely. Reasons behind a not working filter may vary.

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A faulty power supply, power failure, a clogged motor, and a line fault in a filter will result in a non-working filter. You should also check if the plug is loose.


Diagnosing methods

  • Plug the filter into another power supply to check if it is because of the power supply.
  • Check other equipment and appliances in your home to check if it is because of a power failure.
  • Disassemble the filter to check if the motor is clogged..



  • Check if the plug is loose, if it is, plug it in correctly.
  • Check the power supply. If there is something wrong with it, change another power supply.
  • if there is a power failure in your home, ask an electrician for help.
  • Dismantle your filer to clean the motor if it is clogged.
  • Replace your filter if it is damaged due to some reasons, such as a wiring fault.


Can fish live without a filter?

The main aim to use a filter in an aquarium is to create a clean environment, but without it, we can also make our tank clean. To reduce waste from the source, we can keep fish that produce less waste. And we can also use proper fish-keeping methods, such as feeding properly.

For waste that has existed in the aquarium, we also have methods to deal with it. For example, we can add as many plants as the tank allows to it. Plants are great assistants in removing waste and toxins in fish tanks. Except for this, we can also add some tank cleaners, such as shrimp and snails, to remove the algae in the tank. What’s more, we can do water changes more regularly to remove the waste that plants and tank cleaners can’t remove.

So, about the question “Can fish live without a filter”, the answer is the opposite. But I have to say, adding a filter to your aquarium will save much of your time and energy, and make your fish-keeping process much easier.



If you’re facing the problems above, hope this article can help your solve the problems as soon as possible. And if you are lucky not to encounter such problems, hope this article can help you get prepared when they show up one day. But I hope they will never happen in your filter.

If you want to know more about aquarium filters or fish-keeping, you can subscribe to our email ( We will share some valuable articles from time to time, and offer some special offers on our products. If you like our articles and products, don’t forget to share them with your friends!

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