Basic Aquarium Filter Maintenance Guide for Beginners

Regular maintenance of filter is important to keep fishes in good health and smooth running of aquarium. Filter without proper maintenance gets blocked and will be unable to circulate tank water. This results in generation of nitrate and ammonia in tank water, which is toxic for fishes. 

For newbies, filter maintenance might seem confusing, you can get the help from Fish Tank Focus. In this guide, you will learn the basics of how to clean your aquarium filter.

How often you should clean aquarium filters

There is no fixed time on how often you should clean these filters. It depends on filter size and number of fishes in it. You should keep a check on water quality test and water flow coming back to aquarium.

  • If water flow slows down, it is an indication to clean your filter.
  • If the water test depicts a high amount of nitrite or ammonia, then you should check whether the filter is clean and running properly.

Daily Filter Checks

Visually check the movement at the surface of aquarium water. A quick look to make sure filter inlet cage is not clogged by debris or algae. Lastly, make sure all pipes and fittings are attached to the filters as fishes can sometimes alter filter parts.

Weekly Filter Check

Take a look at filter’s water flow, and check if it is working properly and the water flow is not reduced. Touch the filter and make sure it is not overheated. Overheating indicates that filter is struggling to pull water as designed. Clean the inlet if there are any grot and debris.

Cleaning Aquarium Filter

First, turn off filter’s power and disconnect the plug from power socket. Next, turn off any UV sterilizers if there is any. Now, remove the filter and place it in a bucket. Disassemble the filter and take out media and impeller.

Give media a good squeeze in old aquarium water to clean the media. Use a small brush and filter floss to clean filter’s impeller. Also, clean filter’s inlets and outlets using a small brush.

After cleaning all parts of filter, reassemble it and replace your aquarium. Internal filters will start as soon as you switch on the power. In case, it doesn’t, follow the below mentioned steps:

  • Make sure the inlet and outlet of filter are not blocked.
  • Give impeller 1 or 2 turns to make sure it is turning easily.
  • Make sure that everything is in its right place or else reassemble the filter.

Quick Tips

Here are 7 tips on aquarium filter maintenance:

  • Do not replace all filters media in one sitting.
  • Do not use chemicals to clean filter media, use water from aquarium.
  • To increase lifespan of filter, clean impellor regularly.
  • Avoid cleaning aquarium filter at the same time as changing foods, introducing fishes or changing water in large quantity.
  • To re-oxygenate the returning water, keep filter outlet at or above the surface.
  • Never turn off your filter for more than few minutes for cleaning or maintenance.
  • If you are not a pro in filter maintenance, then purchase external filters. As external filters require less maintenance when compared to the internal ones.


Initially, it might take time to know how to disassemble, clean and reassemble aquarium filter properly, but once you get to learn it, this task will become easier.

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