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Aquarium Sand Filter Problems (Filter Not Working)

Aquarium Sand Filter problems

Having a filter is an essential part of a tank setup. Without one, water stagnates and builds up harmful compounds that can hurt your fish.

As such, it can be incredible frustrating when your hang-on filter stops working properly.

If you’ve noticed that your motor seems to burnout or sputter when you turn it on, then it’s possible that you’re having some aquarium sand problems. Here’s how to fix a malfunctioning filter.

Most hang-on filter problems boil down to a clogged motor due to sand particles going up the intake and getting stuck in the motor, causing it to malfunction. If you have a motor issue, using a repair kit or simply buying a new motor will fix the issue.

If the issue is with the intake or impeller, then you can take the filter apart piece by piece to clear out any debris.

There’s a lot that goes into fixing issues with sand in your aquarium filter, but thankfully, filters are pretty easy to fix or replace if they go on the fritz suddenly. The rest of this article will walk you through how to fix a malfunctioning heater and alternatives for good hang-on filters.

Why Is My Filter Not Working?

It’s important to note that most intake or clogged motor issues are with hang-on-back (HOB) filters. These are cheap, easy to use, and effective, but they do generally have some intake issues due to how they run.

Compared to the suction-based nature of the sponge filter or the raw power of a canister filter, HOB filters generally have more issues. That’s not to say they’re not effective, however.

They’re perfectly suited for most tanks, but you’re likely to run into some issues with clogging somewhere down the line.

Before jumping to conclusions, you should check the instructions that came with your HOB filter to make sure you’re operating it correctly. Are all components of the filter properly installed? Is the intake submerged properly? Have you plugged it in and switched it on?

Simple as they may seem, it’s important to clear up some basic issues before tearing your filter apart looking for any obstructions. Some HOB filters require ‘priming,’ which means that you have to put some tank water into the water storage area of the filter to get it running.

If you try to ‘dry run’ the filter, it’ll just make a loud noise and not function properly. When working as intended, you’ll see a ‘waterfall’ from the outtake where clean water is being put back into the tank.

Will Sand Break My Aquarium Filter

Assuming all assembly and use instructions are properly done, your issue is most likely a clogged motor. If you have anything other than a HOB filter, maintenance is a lot easier with sand.

With an HOB, when you have aquarium sand, every time some of that sand is picked up, it runs the risk of entering the intake tube and going up into the motor. These fine particles, in high enough quantities, can clog a motor and cause it to malfunction.

In addition, the intake or impeller can get clogged up, causing the filter to make noise but not actually function. To solve these issues, a little dissection is in order.

Unplug the filter and remove it from the tank. Take apart all of the components (just remember where they go!) and give them a thorough cleaning with aquarium water. Don’t use tap water or any cleaning chemicals since you’ll kill off beneficial bacteria living on the filter.

Replace the carbon filter media if it’s clogged beyond cleaning, remove any calcified deposits or algae with gentle scrubbing, and reassemble the filter.

HOB filters need a good clean every 2-3 weeks for best results, but you should avoid cleaning more often than that so that the filter can maintain a healthy culture of good bacteria.

If a good clean doesn’t fix your issue or you can’t find anything wrong with the intake, then you’ll probably need to repair or replace your motor. For the future, you can get a pre-filter for the intake.

These are like little sponges that fit on the end of your intake tube and prevent any sand from being sucked up by the filter.

Should I Turn on My Filter after Adding Sand?

Depending on how carefully you added the sand, you’ll need to give it time to settle before turning your filter back on to avoid clogging it. Wait 1-2 hours before turning it back on to give the sand time to settle.

Why Does My Filter Keep Stopping?

Filters stopping and starting are usually due to a blockage in the impeller. Take apart your filter, give it a good clean and remove anything blocking the intake, impeller, or carbon filter media. This will help your motor run properly and consistently for better filtration.

Is Aquarium Sand Hard to Maintain?

Aquarium sand is pretty easy to maintain. It makes siphoning your tank nice and easy because you can see the muck on your tank floor and address it quickly.

Of course, you want to siphon slowly and carefully to avoid kicking up sand into the intake of your HOB filter, but a pre-filter can help reduce the risk of clogging up the motor.

Final Thoughts

Most issues related to aquarium filters for the average fish keeper comes down to a clogged motor or intake. Taking apart the filter can help clear up any blockages, but if you have a busted motor, then repairing or replacing it is the best option.

With aquarium sand, the best option is to get a pre-filter that fits over your intake so that it’s not sucking up large particles that can damage your HOB filter.

Aquarium sand as a whole is pretty easy to maintain and isn’t a problem with filtration as long as you’re careful and prudent with cleaning your filter regularly. Addressing sand-related filter issues can be a pain, but regular cleaning and a pre-filter can usually address any issue.

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Erik Miller

Passionate scuba diver

Hello, there. Welcome to my blog. I am Erik and I’m the main editor of Sealife Planet website.

My passion and hobby has always been scuba diving. My mission is to grow this website and help others with useful information about the sea world. Enjoy!

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