How to Repair an Aquarium Pump

Basic repairs on an air pump are not difficult, but do require a steady hand.
Basic repairs on an air pump are not difficult, but do require a steady hand. (Image: aquarium fish 8 image by cherie from <a href=''></a>)

The air pump is an important piece of equipment for a healthy home aquarium. It is used to drive filters and bubbling decorations, and helps keep the water oxygenated. A decent air pump can last for years, but problems such as excessive rattling or humming can arise, or a loss of air pressure. Repairing such problems usually involves simply replacing the pump’s diaphragm (which looks like a suction cup) using a repair kit readily available at well-stocked pet shops or from Internet sellers.

Things You'll Need

  • Small screwdriver, usually a Phillips head
  • Air pump repair kit with diaphragm and magnetic arm

Unplug the air pump and disconnect it from the aquarium hoses.

Remove the screws from the bottom insulating cover of the pump, and pull off the cover. Check for signs of damage, like rust or water in the pump. If the pump is damaged beyond wear and tear of the diaphragm, consider it a potential hazard and replace it entirely.

Take note of the air pump’s make and model, and purchase the appropriate repair kit. Read the instructions that come with the kit.

The diaphragm looks like a suction cup or plunger head, attached to a magnetic arm that vibrates when the pump is plugged in. Ease the diaphragm off its attachment, using your fingers to work around it and push it off. Gently take hold of the magnetic arm and pull it out of its bracket.

Push the new magnetic arm into the bracket. Gently work the diaphragm around its attachment, creating an even, airtight seal.

Replace the bottom cover. Reconnect the pump to the aquarium air hoses and plug it back into the wall. Make sure the pump works properly.

Tips & Warnings

  • Work on a flat, solid surface. Replacing an air pump diaphragm involves small parts that can be lost in thick carpeting.
  • The air stones that diffuse bubbles at the end of air lines can become plugged with algae or other materials, which can back up pressure and damage an air pump. Replace the air stones regularly.
  • Repairing aquarium pumps requires the use of potentially hazardous tools, plus unplugging and plugging the pump into an electrical outlet. Children should not do this without adult supervision.
  • Water will run up air hoses when the pump is disconnected, potentially turning the hoses into aquarium water siphons that can cause damage. Avoid this possibility by moving the ends of the hoses to a surface above the aquarium, which stops the siphon.

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