The “white noise” sounds that come from your aquarium can be very relaxing, help aid sleep, and provide a calming background noise. I’ve written extensively on the website before about how white noise can be effective in this way.

But what happens when the noise from your filter is too much, and is actually getting to uncomfortable levels? There can become a point where the filter will go from a peaceful hum to something louder.

As someone who keeps tropical fish, and has done for many years, there are a few things that I always do when my fish tank filter is becoming noisy.

Here are my quick troubleshooting tips for fixing a noisy aquarium filter, which hopefully will mean you won’t have spend any money in buying a new one. 

Step 1: Inspect the Filter to Identify the Source of Noise or Fault

If you live in a busy house, then you are going to have a lot of background noise as well as the noisy fish tank filter. Make sure any other noises in the room (or ideally the house) are switched off as you will need to identify where exactly in the aquarium filter the loud noise or loud buzzing is coming from.

I always turn off the lights in the aquarium too, as well as any heating elements. The aim is here to completely isolate the noise from the water filter.

As you will have turned off the light in the fish tank or aquarium, you will need a flashlight or torch as your task here is to inspect the filter to see if there any visible problems, and figure out if the noise is coming from a particular area.

Step 2: Hold the Filter to Feel for Sound or Noise

If you can’t see any visible fault in step 1, then next wash your hands, dry them off, as to not contaminate the water, then place your hands inside of the fish tank.

Grip the filter and press on it gently to see if you can feel for where the issue might be. If you feel a shaking or rattling then this will most likely mean that you have a loose filter inside of the unit – the best solution here would be to purchase a new filter unless it’s something that can be fixed.

My recommendation here would be to buy a new one (Amazon have some products right now), and leave the noisy loud filter in place until the new one arrives.

Whilst it will be annoying to leave the loud noise in there, if it’s still filtering water, then we want to leave it in so there is no period where the aquarium is not receiving the benefit.

There are also specially designed quiet filters available on the market – the Aqueon QuietFlow filter range being products that have great reviews and customer feedback so worth checking out if you decide to buy from new.

Step 3: Examine the Filter for Trapped Debris

Many noisy or loud aquarium filters may become clogged up with trapped debris. This can include stones, gravel, or pebbles.

Trapped debris in the filter can cause vibrational noise and rattling sounds. It’s easy enough to resolve though, as most filters will let you take the elements apart to remove any blockages quickly to resolve the noise problem.

Step 4: Adjust the Return Pump & Hoses

If the steps above have not fixed your loud aquarium filter then it might be an issue with the return pump, especially if the noise you are hearing sounds like water lapping or splashing.

If the return hose for the pump is set-up and placed correctly then it should not produce any noise, so try to push the hose deeper into the water from the waterline.

This can help to reduce splashing noises associated with water re-entry, and can also be helped by clipping the hose to the side of the aquarium so that it doesn’t shift in placement.

You can purchase clear suction clips which work really well and are very cheap to purchase. I recommend the Pawfly hose clips on which can be picked up for under five dollars.

Step 5: Adjust the Return Rate & Water Flow on the Filter

The speed of the water flowing into the tank could be the source of the loud noise as well the return rate on the filter.

By reducing the flow rate (the amount of times water passes through the filter) you can reduce the noise that is emitted.

Try adjusting the pump dial to the lowest setting to see if that makes a difference to how noisy or loud your aquarium filter is. This is simple fix which is so often overlooked and can be all you need to do.

Step 6: Perform a Manual Reset on the Pump & Filter

If all else fails and you still haven’t managed to isolate the loud noise and fix the issue then perform a manual reset on the entire filtration and pump system.

Turn the power off at the mains, left it for 60 seconds, and then switch the system back on again.

If you are still experiencing loud noises then, depending on your comfort level, you might want to completely dissemble the filter to look for internal cracks or broken pieces.

In most cases though, it will simply be a lot easier to purchase a new aquarium filter and wait for that to arrive before replacing the existing unit.