A faulty filter can produce all sorts of loud noises – humming, waterfall, and vibrations. The noise can be uncomfortable for you and your fish and can even damage the aquarium system, so it’s crucial to fix the filter as soon as possible. But why does the filter make noise, and how do you fix it?

Aquarium filter noises and vibrations are caused by the accumulation of dirt in the filter, a high water flow rate, faulty parts, a clogged water inlet, or contact between the filter and the tank’s wall. If you have an air-driven filter, clean and lubricate it regularly to stop and prevent noise in the fish tank.

I’ve found that a quiet filter can become noisy over time due to dirt accumulating along the inflow and outflow ports of the filter.

The sound will get even louder when the water moving through the filter is quite little. With too much noise, your fish get stressed and develop a poor immune system. Some fish will die suddenly due to extreme noise in the tank.

How to Fix Aquarium Filter Noise
Always clean and maintain the filter to stop the loud noises.

Why is my fish tank filter so loud?

Here are the causes of loud aquarium filter noises and their fixes:

Cause of noiseBest fix
Contact between aquarium filter and tank wallRest your aquarium filter on a sponge
Accumulated solid waste in the aquariumChange about 10% to 20% of aquarium water weekly
Using air-driven filterBuy a quieter aquarium filter system
Contact between aquarium filter and tank wallSuspend the filter mid-air inside your fish tank
Clean the inflow and outflow ports of your aquarium system.Submerge the filter underwater
Weak aquarium attachment mechanismDisassemble the filter and lubricate the impeller
Clogged water inletClean the inflow and outflow ports of your aquarium system

Below, I’ve discussed these types of noises and how to fix clunking and rattling aquarium filter noises.

Obstructed water flow

It is vital to have a water flow that is slow and smooth. A disruption of the water flow can cause an unsettling high-pitched generator noise in your aquarium. 

The rattling sounds come from little water flowing through the filter. This occurs primarily when there is a drop in the aquarium water volume.

Using air-driven filter

Sometimes, the noise is part of the filter itself. There are many types of aquarium filters, and air-driven aquarium filters produce the most noise. 

The noise could even be louder if the filter encounters water flow or clogging issues. If the air-driven aquarium filter is too loud for your fish, you can increase the tank size and water volume or buy a quieter filter.

Clogged water inlet

An aquarium filter cleans the water by trapping solid wastes. Over time, the debris accumulates and clogs the aquarium filter.

These wastes stress the filter’s inlet system when the filter is not cleaned regularly. As a result, you may notice a constant, strange loud buzzing noise from the aquarium filter as it attempts to clean all the dirt, debris, and solid waste.

Clogging can also damage a filter.

Contact between aquarium filter and tank wall

Most aquarium filters vibrate when plugged into power. If you place them in contact with the tank’s wall, the vibrations will cause rattling noises in the aquarium. 

The bigger the filter, the louder the noise will be. When installing an aquarium filter in your tank, allow a two or three-inch gap between the filter and the tank wall to avoid this kind of noise. 

A weak aquarium attachment mechanism

The three primary filtration units in an aquarium system are mechanical, chemical, and biological filtration. Mechanical aquarium filters have several detachable parts. Prolonged use loosens the attachment mechanisms of the various part, causing clunking noises. 

The filters can also break at these points due to constant vibrations. If the noise is caused by a broken part or a loose attachment mechanism, disassemble the filter and tighten the loose parts.

Faulty sump set-up

 If you’re using a sump with your filter, you’ll probably encounter some gurgling noises. These point toward improper setting, which means you’re pushing too much water through it.

You can easily fix this type of noise in your fish tank by dialing back your return pump flow.

Pro tip: A typical aquarium filter produces a smooth electric hum and the sound of flowing water. Different aquarium filters, such as canister filters with a sump, produce bubble, waterfall, or gentle pump noise.

Common types of aquarium filter noises

Not all aquarium filter noises are harmful to fish. Aquarium filters are designed to splash in various sounds that mimic natural scenes for fish. For instance, some aquarium filters produce waterfall noises, and others produce bubble noises that are serene and satisfying. 

Here are the common types of aquarium filter noises:

Waterfall noise

The waterfall noise occurs when the tank’s water level is too low. Therefore, the filter splashes water a longer distance than usual. The further the water drops, the louder the aquarium filter noise. Intense waterfall noises can make your fish anxious and restless. The fish may also find it difficult to eat or swim against the powerful currents.

However, some aquarium filters are designed to mimic waterfall noises. If that’s the case, regulate the sound to comfortable levels to keep your aquarium livestock happy. The most effective way to fix aquarium filter waterfall noise is to increase the water volume in your aquarium. If the filter is submerged correctly, the water will not splash more or cause noises.

Bubble noise

Bubble noises occur when the water in your fish tank is dirty or filled with protein. Increased bacterial and fungal activity on aquarium plants and food leftovers makes the water media slimy, and a filter will most likely create bubbles in that aquarium. Too much bubbe noise means the aquarium requires a water change, and the filter needs cleaning.

Aquarium filters made to produce bubbles in the tank can also wear out with continuous use and produce more bubbles than necessary. Spongy aquarium filters effectively reduce the bubbles and the noise associated with them.

The noise arises when the filter attempts to perform its function with all the dirt and debris. If not corrected sooner, your filter could malfunction.

Aquarium pump noise

Aquarium filter pump noises are unnecessary vibrations produced alongside the filters. In most cases, they come as a result of broken filters. Inside the filter is a stretchable diaphragm that allows air inside. As it wears out, water filtration becomes harder and reduces the filtration efficiency of the filter. 

As a result, insufficient oxygen would reach the fish. In addition, the pump starts to produce awkward electric noises because the pump works harder than normal to bring in the air that can accommodate all the fish hence the noise. If you don’t attend to the pump noise, the filter pump will begin to burn out and become functionless with repeated use.

How to Fix Aquarium Filter Noises

It’s important to fix your aquarium to avoid stressing your fish. Stressing your fish too much can cause illness; some fish may die suddenly due to reduced immunity from stress.

In fact, if you introduce new fish in a noisy aquarium, some of the fish may start to breathe fast and look restless due to the disturbance in the aquarium.

Here’s how to fix and stop loud filter noises in your aquarium:

1. Clean the inflow and outflow ports of your aquarium system

Often, dirt accumulating along the inflow and outflow ports of the filter are huge sources of unwanted aquarium noise. Clean your aquarium filter once a month to preserve tank hygiene and prevent unsettling noises in your tank. 

Follow these steps to clean and reduce the aquarium filter noises:

  • Unplug the filter from the power source and remove it from the aquarium
  • Scoop out two or three cups of water from the tank and use it to clean the filter sponge
  • Use a small brush and filter floss to scrub the inlets and outlets of the filter
  • Return the sponge into the aquarium
  • Put back the filter in the aquarium and power it on

2. Disassemble the filter and lubricate the impeller

An aquarium filter has several moving parts. Other spinning parts, such as the impeller, may require frequent lubrication to reduce aquarium filter noise.

Carefully disassemble the aquarium filter and locate the impeller at the bottom of the filter. You will identify an impeller by looking at it. It has about eight blades and a magnetic cylinder on either side.

A broken impeller interferes with the centrifugal force required to push and filter the water in your aquarium. Once the impeller is located, use grease or vaseline to lubricate it.

After this is done, you should reassemble the filter and ensure that the friction is no longer an issue. Sometimes the noise is because the impeller is broken. If that’s the case, replace it.

3. Submerge the filter underwater

Sometimes, the noise produced is not about mechanical damage or a malfunction but can be about water levels. Aquarium waterfalls over time due to evaporation or slight reductions during water changes. If a filter actively splashes water further due to little water in the tank, you will experience waterfall noises.

Submerge the filter entirely underwater to avoid aquarium waterfall noises. Alternatively, top up the water in your aquarium to end your woes of a noisy filter. Afterward, adjust the water flow rate of the filter to reduce the noise as much as possible.

4. Suspend the filter mid-air inside your fish tank

If you keep the filter in contact with the tank wall, the vibrations will shake and rattle the two surfaces. The rattling sound terrifies the fish and affects their feeding, mating, and playing habits. You can fix this aquarium filter noise by suspending the filter mid-air inside your fish tank. 

Leave about two or three inches gap between the filter and the tank wall while ensuring that the entire recommended filter system parts are entirely submerged underwater.

5. Install a quieter aquarium filter system

Air-driven aquarium filters are generally noisy. The noise interferes not just with the aquarium livestock but also with people. You may not listen, communicate, or even concentrate on tasks near the loud aquarium noises. The best way to fix such aquarium filter noises is by purchasing a quieter system. 

If you have a larger tank, buy a larger filter and vice versa. A large aquarium filter in a small tank could also be noisy and messy.

On the other hand, a small filter may perform efficiently in a large aquarium. It can get clogged or even get damaged faster.

6. Change about 10% to 20% of aquarium water weekly

Accumulation of solid waste in the water is another leading cause of aquarium noises. Filters are essential for breaking down debris into smaller, manageable components for the fish. Filters also mix oxygen with the water for the fish to breathe effortlessly. Therefore, a filter will eventually get clogged with debris and produce clunky and rattling noises.

To reduce the damage to your filter and the unwanted noises for your fish, change about 10% to 20% of aquarium water weekly. The water change helps lower solid waste in the aquarium, which would otherwise clog and cause potential damage to your aquarium filter.

7. Rest your aquarium filter on a sponge

If you cannot find a way to suspend the aquarium filter mid-air inside your fish tank, rest it on a sponge. The sponge can be the medium between the tank wall and the filter. In that case, the sponge will absorb most of the filter vibrations and lower the possibility of rattling noises in your aquarium. 

You can also decide to use a sponge filter altogether. Sponge filters are effective for controlling bubble noises. It filters the water rather gently and smoothly.


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