7 Causes Why Top Fin Filter is Not Working (Solved)

Jaime Douglas
Jaime Douglas

Writer at The Aquarium Keeper

Every fish tank, big or small needs a filter to maintain a healthy underwater ecosystem. Lots of beginners tend to make a mistake and avoid getting filters, which leads to nowhere.

Purchasing a filter is one thing, but maintaining one is another. One of the most popular filters on the market is the top fin filter, and there are a lot of reasons why they might suddenly stop working. This article will break down the root causes of top fin filter failure, as well as provide good solutions for each problem.

Table of Contents

Reasons For Top Fin Filter Not Working

Clogged Filter Media

Firstly, the most common reason why top fin filters are not working properly or not working at all, is clogged filter media. This simply happens, when the filter hasn’t been cleaned in a while, and all of the detritus and waste piles up, which makes water running through it extremely difficult.

image of a top fin filter media from the top

Solution: Unplug the filter, do a partial water change, remove the filter sponge, and rinse it in aquarium water. Also, remove any old cartridges used in the filter, and replace them with brand-new ones. After that, fill up the aquarium back up again, and test, if the top fin filter started working.

Impeller Issues

Another relatively common reason why top fin filters stop working is the impeller. It is a small part, that is responsible for moving the water through the filter. Since the impeller sends the “dirty” aquarium water to the filtration system, it can also get easily clogged with debris and other waste. If you hear weird noises from the part where the impeller is, or if you don’t hear it at all, there is an issue.

Solution: cleaning the impeller is relatively easy. Firstly, unplug your top fin filter, and remove some part of your aquarium water into a bucket. Secondly, remove the impeller from the top fin filter, and thoroughly clean it with your hands. After that, add it back to the filter, and fill your tank up with water. 

Electrical Problems

Be sure to check whether you have any electrical problems before coming to the conclusion that the filter is broken. Maybe there is a problem with your electricity outlet, or you may had a power outage.

Solution: When it comes to the filter itself, make sure there is no visible damage to the power cord since a faulty cord could cause your filter not to work properly. Be sure to also check whether your filter works with a few different outlets. Filters also have fuses, so there is a chance, that it might been blown. If that is the case, you will need a new filter.

Motor Failure

Moving on, another less common reason why top fin filters stop working is motor failure. This mainly happens in brand-new or extremely old filters. Old filter motors usually wear out from old age, while new top fin filter motors can simply be faulty.

Solution: If you have an old top fin filter, there isn’t much you can do, besides getting a new one. If your new top fin filter motor broke down, try to get it replaced in the pet store where you purchased it.

Improper Assembly

This reason is fairly common, why top fin filters are not working properly. Sometimes the assembly instructions can be confusing, or maybe some steps were skipped when assembling the filter. Nevertheless, it is an easily fixable problem.

Solution: Unplug the filter from the outlet, and remove it from the water. After that double-check with the packaging instructions, whether you assembled the filter the right way. Maybe you have some spare parts missing, that should be somewhere. After thoroughly checking, try the filter out in a bucket of water, and see if it works properly.

Low Water Level

This is an extremely common problem, and it makes every top fin filter stop working. I had this problem countless times because the intake of the filter simply can’t suck any water in if it can’t reach it. Luckily, it is easily and quickly solvable.

image of a top fin filter on aquarium glass

Solution: If the water level is below the intake part of your top fin filter, it means you need to add some water to your aquarium. Make sure the water has the same temperature and pH as the water in the aquarium, and simply add it, so it reaches the intake part. Once that is done, you can also open the top lid of your top fin filter, and add some water to the filter media section. These two steps will surely make your filter work again.

Broken Parts

Moving on, there is a slight chance, that you have a faulty filter in the first place if it is not working and is brand new. Sometimes it happens, as things get damaged when they are shipped or transported from one pet store to another. You might also just have a very old filter, that is worn out.

Solution: Check for visible damage, on the top fin filter, and if it has missing, or broken parts. If the filter is brand new, try to return it and get another one from the pet store. If the filter is old, it might have just broken, and you need to get a new one.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Often to Change Aquarium Filter Pads?

This often depends on your aquarium setup, how big is your tank, and what kind of fish species you keep, but a good rule of thumb is to at least change the filter pads once a month.

Do Aquarium Filters Oxygenate The Water?

All types of aquarium filters do oxygenate the water because they keep the water moving. If the water simply stays still, there is less oxygen in it, but with a filter, you add some fresh oxygen to the tank.

Writer's Thoughts

Understanding these simple problems, that could happen with your top fin filter is crucial because it can save you money and time. Most of these problems can be solved by yourself, which is a good thing, as you can be less reliable on pet stores to fix your filters.

Jaime Douglas
Jaime Douglas

Thank you for reading my blog post. This website was created with the sole intention of providing quality information regarding fishkeeping. I have been in the fishkeeping hobby for 8 years, and through many trials and errors as well as online research I gathered a lot of information, which I want to give back to the community.