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Are Fish Tank Filters Noisy? (How to Fix)

If you’re putting an aquarium in a room where you want silence, I can understand wanting to know if fish tank filters are noisy. Fish tank filters come in different styles and some are better for certain sized aquariums. You not only have to consider noise but whether you have the correct type of filtration for your size of fish tank.

Fish tank filters aren’t noisy. Fish tank filters do make a sound while running which is a humming sound coming from the motor. It’s a faint noise that’s barely heard in most cases. If your fish tank filter is making loud noises, there’s something that needs to be corrected. 

In general, fish tank filters aren’t very noisy at all. If yours is making loud noises, it’s because of something else going on. In this article, I’ll go over these things so you can get things quiet again. I know myself that I really enjoy watching my aquariums when they’re quiet. Noisy fish tanks stress me out for some reason.

Let’s get started.

What Causes Fish Tank Filters to Make Noise?

The main cause of a noisy fish tank filter is debris accumulating and blocking the flow of water. There are some other things that can cause the filter to get noisy and we’ll go over those things now.

 

  • When filter intakes and filter medium start getting plugged up with algae, decaying plants, fish poop, dead fish, excess food, etc., it slows down the amount of water flowing through the filter which will cause your filtration to run louder.

 

  • If you have an aquarium canopy or a light that rests on the tank, sometimes they start to vibrate when running equipment like this. Vibration is common and can get loud and annoying.

 

  • Water that’s heavy with minerals can cause a buildup on the moving parts of your filter. For example, I have a hang on back filter on a freshwater tank. My water is very hard. It comes from an aquifer and is loaded with minerals even though it goes through the town’s water treatment plant.
    • The minerals build up so much that the moving parts get bunged up and when unplugged for maintenance, I have to spin the impeller to get it running. It also causes the filter to make extra noise.

 

  • If the water is obstructed even slightly while existing the filter and entering the fish tank, it can cause extra noise. This would apply mainly to hang-on-back filters. I’m talking about the deck of the filter where water has run through the media and is now pouring into the fish tank. If there’s mineral buildup, it can cause the water to make a bit of noise when hitting the aquarium water.

 

  • If your filter has air such as a sponge filter or a tube that draws in air so it can run through the filter, this can cause extra noise. Sponge filters are the common culprits for this type of noise.
    • If you’re using a sponge filter, then you’re using an air pump. If it’s an older air pump, I guarantee updating it will cut down on the noise. I know this because I did this, and I have to say, the difference in noise between an older pump and a new one is night and day.

fish tank with seahorse

How to Quiet Noisy Fish Tank Filters?

Unless your filter has a mechanical issue and just needs to be replaced, quieting a noisy filter is straight forward. Here are some great tips for you.

 

  • Regular maintenance of your filter will help it run efficiently. This means cleaning it every 2 to 4 weeks. I’m not talking about filter media. I’m talking about cleaning the actual filter itself. Keeping the intake tube is most important. Ensure it is free of mineral and algae buildup. The filter media itself should only be cleaned as needed as this is where the bacteria reside.

 

  • The other thing you can do is turn the air flow down if you’re using a sponge filter. Also, replacing the air pump with a newer one will make a big difference.

 

  • If you’re using a canister filter, having it in a cabinet under the aquarium helps reduce the noise. If it’s still noisy, you can use Styrofoam insulation and line the inside of the cabinet with it. This will help reduce the noise.

 

  • My last tip on quieting fish tank filter noise is to surround your fish tanks with houseplants and furniture. I find having furniture and plants nearby helps to muffle the sound coming from my fish tanks.

Next up, I’m going to go over some more common questions when it comes to fish tank filter noise.

Should a Fish Tank Filter Make Noise?

Because a fish tank filter is a mechanical device, it’ll make some noise. The noise a perfectly fine functioning filter should make is minimal.

If yours is making loud noises or vibrating, see above sections for help.

Is My Filter Too Loud for My Fish?

Of course, we should consider the living creatures in our tanks when it comes to the noise levels in and around them.

I’d say that if there are no loud sudden sounds to startle the fish or constant vibrations, the fish in your tank will be fine.

Can You Get Silent Fish Tank Filters?

A silent filter is almost impossible however, a well insulated cabinet using a canister filter can be almost silent.

Don’t mistake the sound of water flow going back into that tank as filter noise.

If you’re looking for a new canister filter, I really like these ones over at Amazon. 

Can I Turn off the Aquarium Filter at Night?

You could turn your filter off at night but it’s not a great idea. Here is an article I wrote on this exact topic if you want more info.

Since beneficial bacteria reside in the filter media, if you turn the filter off, the temperature in the filter will drop and bacteria will start to die off. This will affect the tank’s water parameters in a negative way.

Unless you sleep for an hour, but I am guessing turning a filter off at night means for 7 to 9 hours.

So, you can see turning filtration off on your fish tank over night can be problematic.

aquarium filter

Are Hang on Back Filters Noisy?

I have been using hang on back filters (or HOB’s) since 1989 and I love them. I have used them on freshwater and smaller saltwater tanks with great success.

The only time I’ve ever had noise issues is when the filter got clogged up somehow or the tank lid started vibrating because of the water flow.

Either way, it wasn’t a problem and easy to fix.

I currently have a 10-gallon tank with an HOB sitting in my living room right near where I sit most of the time and it never makes loud noises from the filter. It’s always something else.

The answer is, no hang on back filters aren’t noisy.

Conclusion

In general, fish tank filters don’t make much noise right out of the box.

It’s what happens with them when being used that causes any noise over and above their normal sound levels.

Regular maintenance of your fish tank and filtration system will keep everything running smoothly and noise levels where they should be.

Thanks for reading – good luck!

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