Why is my fish tank filter so loud the guide for a noiseless aquariumWhat makes a fish tank filter so loud as to wake the proverbial dead? If you’re wondering the same, we can help. This article is designed to assist even the most skilled aquarists in tackling noisy filters.

We’ve compiled six of the most common culprits for loud filters, easy solutions, and much more.

Why Is My Fish Tank Filter So Loud?

If you’re battling an aquarium filter making noise, there’s no need to suspect the worst. A fish tank filter can become loud for several reasons: debris, faulty impeller, inadequate placement, defective water pump, and a high flow rate.

At times, noise can also result from using older models that lack the technology for soundless function. If you’re dealing with a deafening tank filter, start by examining the equipment to reach the root cause of the concern instead of browsing for replacements.

You can do this easily by going through our list of common causes and solutions for loud filters below:

– Debris and Dirt

A fish tank filter making loud noise generally indicates the presence of dirt or debris. This is especially true if you haven’t cleaned the filter in a while. The gunk building up in the filter media can obstruct water flow, leading to noise.

Thankfully, tackling a dirty filter isn’t too difficult and doesn’t require too much time. Here’s how:

  • Step 1

Start by unplugging and removing the filter from the fish tank. Open the filter and remove the media inserts (generally a sponge in mechanical filters). Rinse the sponge in old tank water until it appears clean again. Don’t be tempted to wash the sponge using tap water because the chlorine content can wipe out the beneficial bacteria, leading to ammonia spikes.

  • Step 2

Observe the filter’s casing and tubes. If they appear dirty, clean them with leftover tank water with the help of a filter cleaning brush.

  • Step 3

Put the sponge back in the filter and remove any leftover water from the equipment. Place the filter bank in the tank and plug it back in. Users with chemical filters can replace the carbon and follow steps one to three for a clean-up.

– Faulty Impellers

A defective impeller can also be the source of a noisy fish tank filter. If you’re not too sure about what impellers are, these are what help move water along the filter with the use of centrifugal force.

The good news is loud noises don’t always mean the impeller is broken. The lack of lubrication can cause the impeller to emit sounds and can be taken care of easily with the help of a lubricant to reduce friction.

If the pump and filter are functioning albeit with sounds, the impeller likely requires greasing. However, it’s important to note that not lubricants are suitable for use in fish tank filters, as some include ingredients that can be harmful to the fish.

Aquarists can rely on silicone oil (or Vaseline) to avoid any health concerns for the aquarium inhabitants. If there’s no water moving through the filter (i.e., the pump or filter isn’t functioning), check if the impeller is broken. In this situation, you will have to conduct an impeller replacement.

– Inadequate Placement

Inadequate placement of the filter can also contribute to noise. For example, when there’s space between the tank glass and filter, the vibrations created by the equipment can lead to the filter rattling against the glass.

However, vibration-related sounds can still occur when there’s no gap between the filter and tank glass. The best way to reduce the chances of vibrating sounds and make a fish tank filter quieter is to place an aquarium sponge in the gap between the filter and the aquarium glass.

The sponge will absorb any vibrations caused by the filter and act to lessen the friction leading to unpleasant decibels.

– Defective Water Pump

If your search history contains the following terms: aquarium filter making buzzing noise, you might want to pay attention here. Often loud buzzing sounds emanating from the filter can point to a defective water pump.

To ensure your water pump is functional, it’s best to pump the water manually (without the filter). You can also reset the system to check if the pump’s efficiency and function are normal.

A water pump can make sounds for various reasons, such as malfunctioning parts, debris, cracks, etc. If the problem is related to a faulty part, you’ll have to replace it. If you’re unable to resolve the issue on your own, it’s best to refer to the aquatic specialists at your nearest aquarium shop.

– Water Flow Rate

A tank filter may seem small to the ordinary eye, but it contains many moving parts. When the filter is plugged in, the functioning or movement of these parts can lead to a slight buzz.

The situation can be made worse if the water flow rate on your filter is set to high. The logic behind this is simple; a high water flow rate means all the filter parts will have to function faster to accommodate the flow, leading to more sound.

On the other hand, a moderate speed will allow for an average water flow, leading to less noise and friction. If you’re looking to reduce the water flow of your filter, make sure to do it in increments.

Decreasing the water flow too much can affect the filter’s cleaning efficiency, which you want to avoid. In the long term, this can lead to a faster build-up of pollution in the water and cause stress and other health concerns in fish.

– Upgrading the Filter

There’s a reason why we’ve left the ‘upgrading the filter’ option for the last. If you’ve investigated and tried all the solutions listed previously, it’s highly possible your tank filter belongs to an outdated generation.

As with all technological gadgets, tank filters have evolved in design to promote quieter functioning. Older tank filters will always be much louder compared to these.

Unfortunately, no DIY fix can turn an old filter tank as quiet as the latest models. That’s why aquarists should browse local and online shops for the latest filters for noise reduction. Although, you should keep in mind several other factors to consider when buying a new filter, such as tank size, aquarium type, water volume, etc.

Notes To Keep In Mind Regarding Filters

No aquarium filter is 100 percent noiseless. Nonetheless, fish tank filters should produce no more than a gentle hum when fully functional. Here are some tips to keep in mind when combating a loud aquarium filter:

  1. Fish tank filters making buzzing or humming sounds may be suffering from obstruction (from debris or dirt), a defective water pump, or a high water flow rate.
  2. Conversely, filters emitting a rattling sound can be due to faulty impellers or inadequate placement.
  3. The best way for aquarists to tackle a loud filter problem is to thoroughly investigate the equipment and choose the best course of action, depending on the symptoms.


If you’re still brimming with questions relating to loud tank filters, don’t worry. This section is designed to answer any lingering queries you may have.

1. What Should a Fish Tank Filter Sound Like?

Fully functional tank filters will generally produce a gentle electric drone or hum when plugged in. This type of noise is low enough in decibels to blend into other household sounds.

If your tank filter produces buzzing or rattling sounds, it’s likely related to an obstruction of some kind or a broken part/piece.

Nonetheless, loud filters don’t always mean there’s a problem with the equipment. It could simply be that your tank filter is pretty old and needs an upgrade.

2. Does a Loud Filter Bother Fish?

While above water sounds don’t travel too well underwater, the same can’t be said of underwater sounds. A few studies show that fish have auditory sensitivity and can pick up noises like heavy footsteps, thunder, etc.

If you compare that to the constant din that an underwater fish tank filter can result in, it’s safe to say your fish will be bothered by it. However, don’t be tempted to revert to an easy fix like switching off the filter at night to provide the fish respite.

Switching off the filter can lead to the tank water getting polluted much faster and, worse, ammonia spikes.


Why is my fish tank filter so loudWhile upgrading a filter is a sure-shot method of reducing filter noise, it’s not always the recommended course of action. Here’s what aquarists looking to avoid replacements need to remember:

  • A fish tank filter can become loud for several reasons: debris, faulty impeller, inadequate placement, defective water pump, and a high flow rate.
  • When cleaning a dirty filter, ensure you’re using old tank water to clean the casing, the rubes, and media filters.
  • Aquarists can use vaseline to lubricate noisy impellers as this will help ease friction and lead to a quieter filter.
  • If the water flow setting of your filter is too high, be sure to reduce it incrementally. Decreasing the water flow too much can lead to increased rates of water pollution.
  • If you’re dealing with broken impellers or water pumps, you can choose to replace the faulty parts yourself. Otherwise, you can consult specialists in aquarium shops for an alternative solution.

A noisy filter can alarm first-time aquarists. However it can be easily fixed as soon as you discover the problem’s source. Thanks to healthy competition, there are plenty of filters in the market with an excellent price-quality ratio, meaning you can replace your filter if nothing else works.

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