How to Make a Noisy Fish Tank Filter Quieter

Noisy fish tank filters can be a real pain. In fact, they can be so annoying that they’ll turn even the most ardent fish lover away. And just in case you’ve never owned an aquarium yourself, here’s a little video of what a noisy filter sounds like. Spoiler alert: it’s not exactly a fun sound to hear on a daily basis.

Of course, when a device starts to make loud, repetitive noises, chances are that something might be wrong with it. So, how do we fix that problem? Are there any methods of making a noisy fish tank filter quieter? Whether you’re a veteran pet owner or a beginner, you’ll want to continue reading to find out.

How to quiet a noisy aquarium filter.

The Importance of Water Filters

In the wild, fish have a vast ecosystem to thrive in. Both saltwater and freshwater areas provide more than enough nutrients for millions of fish species. And while we can emulate those ecosystems in our fish tanks and large aquariums, there are definite drawbacks.

One such drawback is the limited nature of a fish tank. A fish will spend nearly all of its life in this area, where it will eat, sleep, urinate, defecate, and even procreate if there are other fish in there. And because of how limited the tank is, all the waste that comes from the fish will accumulate and quite literally muddy the waters. Too much waste in the water will cause our swimming pets to get ill and eventually die.

For that reason, having a water filter is extremely important. Filters keep the water clean, removing any harmful material through different means. Consequently, if the filter you own starts acting up, you should act quickly. And it’s safe to say that loud noises constitute “acting up” when it comes to filters.

Are Fish Bothered By Filter Noise?

Interestingly, dozens of online communities dedicated to pet fish have tried to answer that question. In fact, most people aren’t exactly sure if fish can hear anything at all. So, before we move on to the topic of quieting a noisy fish tank, let’s cover the noise and the fish first.

Some people know that fish can, in fact, hear. They might not have ears like most vertebrates, but they definitely can receive sound. To be precise, sound reception is an extremely important part of their everyday life, as it helps them detect and avoid predators.

In terms of fish hearing us, fishing experts will tell you that sound doesn’t travel fast between air and water. So, yelling at a fish from outside of the tank will do nothing, considering that the sound barely even reached it. However, if you were to make a sound under the surface of the water, it would travel incredibly fast and it would, if loud enough, spook the fish.

So, how does all that relate to fish tank filters? Well, if you were to own a filter that’s outside of the tank, the fish wouldn’t mind the noise. But they would be constantly spooked if the type of filter you use has to be attached on the inside of the fish tank, or above it. Alternatively, if the noise is too loud, it can cause vibrations which also startle the fish.

To put it simply, a noisy filter may (or may not) bother your pet. But it most definitely will bother you.

How to Make a Fish Tank Filter Quieter — List of Methods

1. Cleaning the Filter

Since it collects debris and dirt on a daily basis, a filter will get dirty at some point. Once it does, it might start making noise because the dirt might be messing with the internal system. Here are some of the steps you should undertake to clean your filter if it makes a lot of noise.

Before you can do any cleaning, you need to see if the noise is actually coming from the filter itself and not somewhere else. To do that, make sure to turn off any device in or around the room. In addition, turn off all the lights (yes, fish tank lights very much included). Once you do, listen closely and confirm whether or not the sound came from the filter or any of the peripheral fish tank media.

After you’ve confirmed that the sound is coming from the filter, it’s time to take a closer look. Wash your hands thoroughly with clean, plain water, dry them well, and slowly open the lid of the aquarium. Use light to help you guide your hand to the filter. Once you reach it, press down on it and discern what type of noise it’s making (rattling, shaking, popping, etc.).

Stones, pebbles, gravel and other debris often get stuck in the filter while it’s on. And because they get stuck, they make the whole device reverberate and make noise. So, once your hand is there, try and remove as much debris as possible. Finally, pay close attention again; if there is still some noise, proceed to one of the other methods that follow.

2. Checking the Return Pump

For those of you who are new to fish tanks, a return pump is the main pump that brings back the water from the filter to the aquarium. Oftentimes, it’s this part of the filter that makes the most noise if it isn’t adjusted properly or if it’s defective.

In case you hear a lapping or splashing din coming from the return pump, try readjusting it. Make sure that the return hose is well-placed; if it is, you shouldn’t be able to hear any more noise when it starts working again.

If you want to reduce all noise associated with the return pump, plunge the tip of the hose into the water itself. Furthermore, use a clip to attach it to the side of the aquarium. That way it’ll stay affixed and all the noise will be drowned out under the surface.

3. Lowering the Water-Flow Rate

Sometimes, water will pass through the filter quickly as it performs the cleaning. If the water should flow too fast, it can produce noise. In fact, a filter can be overworking if the rate is set too high. More stress and pressure on the filter causes it to produce more loud and repeated sounds.

So, your next step will be to reduce both the flow rate and the return rate. However, it’s imperative that you don’t go too far and “over-reduce” it. After all, the filter still needs to clean the aquarium and if the water-flow rate is too low, the level of debris will grow at a steady pace, slowly harming the fish inside.

4. Checking the Water Pump

A defective water pump is a frequent issue with modern fish tank filters. Because it’s made up of small parts, the pump can break down after a while and might need repairs. And considering how important it is for the filtration, you should check it carefully.

The first thing you need to do is to try and manually pump the water, without the filter. In addition, try resetting the pump system overall and give it another go. If none of that works, you can move on to the proper inspection of the pump.

While inspecting the pump, check for any cracks, broken bits, or stuck debris. If the damage is minimal, you can repair it yourself. Moreover, remove any debris that you can see. However, if the damage seems severe, you might need to service the pump or just buy a new one altogether.

5. Placing a Fabric Under the Fish Tank

Most of the methods above will eliminate loud, irritating noises. However, you might still hear a soft humming or a slight rattle, even from a fully functioning filter or a perfectly level aquarium. Those are the “normal” sounds of fish tanks, but there are still ways to reduce them if they annoy you.

The best low-budget solution is to place a fabric under the tank. But not any fabric will do. By far the best solutions include thick towels, mats, moving blankets, and heavy rugs.

Thick fabric tends to absorb vibrations such as sound. Once you place a fish tank on top of a rug, you’ll feel a significant reduction in humming and rattling. Of course, make sure the tank stands level on the fabric and that the fabric itself doesn’t crease.

6. Anti-Vibration Pads

Shock-absorbing anti-vibration pads are a good solution if the fabric method doesn’t work. They absorb most of the vibrations that come from the tank and prevent them from reaching other rooms in the house. And unlike cumbersome rugs, these pads are small and compact.

Another advantage of these pads is that they are easy to install. All you need to do is affix them to the bottom of the fish tank and you’re good to go. More importantly, that “installation” can take less than five minutes.

Finally, a typical set of anti-vibration pads is inexpensive, and they usually sell them in sets, or even in bulk. So, if you happen to buy some, you can use the rest of the pads in other rooms and soundproof various items.

7. When All Else Fails, Get a New Filter

At this point, you’ve tried everything. First, you cleaned up the filter, then you inspected all the pumps and hoses, as well as the impeller. Next, you lubricated everything and cleaned up everything else. But even then, the filter won’t stop buzzing or rattling or otherwise irritating you.

When you’ve come that far, the best solution is to simply buy a new filter. If you continue to use the defective, noisy one, you might end up harming the fish, which is significantly worse than putting up with a disquiet gadget.

Of course, there are a few key details you should know before you try buying a new, quiet filter. They are as follows:

  • Check the size of your tank and how much water it can hold
  • See what type of filter it is and what kind of filtration method it uses
  • Make sure your filter of choice is either freshwater, saltwater, or both
  • Check the water-flow rate of every product you see
  • If possible, see if it comes with self-priming
  • Compare the prices to other popular brands and check the comments; if it costs too much or too little, ignore it

A Few Last Words on Noisy Fish Tanks

You deserve to live in a quiet, noise-free home, as do your fish. By paying attention to your tank filter, you can not only make sure that the fish are always receiving clean water, but can also, at long last, get some peace of mind.

Did this article help you with your noisy fish tank filter problem? Let us know in the comments below.

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