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Having pets is a wonderful thing but, like every other responsibility one can take on, there are some sacrifices to be made. This is quite true with those who require absolute silence while they are sleeping but also choose to keep fish; filters can be rather noisy which can seriously interfere with you getting a good night’s rest. Let’s take a look at your options and find safe middle ground.

To quickly answer this question, no, you can’t turn off your fish’s filter each night. The average person sleeps around eight hours per day and if you have to turn the filter off every single night, you are cutting down on its ability to assist in regulating the tank by over twenty-five percent.

Do I have to use an Aquarium filter?

It is generally recommended to use a filter regardless of which fish species you have or your tank size. Filtration keeps your tank levels healthy and introduces oxygen into the environment. Not having a filter can be detrimental and while your fish may survive for a while, they will likely experience a shortened lifespan, illness, and generally not thrive as well as they would have with a properly filtered tank.

The Purpose of Aquarium Filtration

Aquarium filters are used to help keep your fish’s tank clean by, as the name suggests, filtering out waste. This includes leftover food, fish excrement, decaying plant matter, harmful chemical compounds from the water itself, and free-floating particles of random dust and debris that managed to enter the tank. Filtration is vital in keeping your water clear, chemical levels balanced, and fish healthy and happy.

If this filtration is unable to occur for over a quarter of the day, the refuse begins to build up in the tank. Though this does not seem like a big deal since it is such a short time for a human, this can be absolutely detrimental to your fish’s health.

Fish produce a lot of waste, even if you cannot readily see it. When this begins to build up, your fish can encounter higher levels of ammonia which can lead to ammonia poisoning. Bacteria and parasites also thrive in dirty water, meaning your fish is more likely to get sick and illness will spread more easily.

Additionally, your tank not being filtered properly can lead to disruption of the nitrogen cycle, which can prove fatal. In your tank, the cycle helps break down waste comprised of fish refuse, uneaten food, biological matter, and plant matter and prevents harmful levels of ammonia and other chemicals from forming. Not having your tank filtered can skew these bacterial levels, resulting in an unbalanced tank which can prove to be quite a dangerous situation for fish and plants alike, especially if the damage occurs on a regular basis.


I was advised to not turn off my filter but cannot sleep with the noise.
What should I do?

In a situation like this, it might be a good idea to move your tank from the room you sleep in, if possible. Filtration is very important in keeping your fish healthy and if a vet or expert hobbyist has advised you to keep your filter on, they probably are right. Certain fish produce a lot of waste and larger groups of fish can deplete the oxygen levels quickly so it is best sometimes to err on the side of caution and have a moving day for your fish friends.

Necessary Precautions

While it is not recommended to turn off your filter, realistically some people do it and it may work with their specific tank setup (Tank size, amount of fish, equipment, etc.). Still, if you plan to try it, there is something incredibly important to consider aside from the obvious “filtering out bad stuff” job of your filter system: oxygenation.

Fish need oxygen to breathe. There is a strange myth that they do not since they live underwater but they actually use their gills to get oxygen directly from the water they live in; this is why they cannot breathe when out of water. They have adapted to an aquatic lifestyle.

The secondary purpose of using a filter involves oxygenating the water and ensuring your fish can breathe easily. The waste build-up, of course, inhibits this, but simply not having the water circulating via a filter will also contribute to the loss of oxygen.

If you only have a few fish in a tank that is of adequate size for their species, chances are they will have enough oxygen to last through a period of no filtration comfortably and safely. The issue arises when you have more fish in the tank, which means more gills are going to be working to suck in oxygen and the levels will deplete much faster.

Due to this, if you have a large tank with many fish, it is probably a good idea to have a secondary air filtration system set up for when your main filter is off. Your fish deserve to be able to breathe easily and this will help ensure they can! Plus, many of these products are nearly silent since they just pump in the air.

Is there such thing as a silent filter?

Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a silent filter. Some brands claim to have produced such a product but customer reviews generally reveal that there is still some sound produced when the filter is in use. There are many options that minimize the noise through constructive methods but there will almost always be at least a bit of noise.

Quiet Aquarium Filters Options

Perhaps the best solution to this issue is to choose the quietest filter you can. No filter is going to be absolutely silent since they tend to have a lot of moving parts and require electricity to run but you can definitely find something a bit smoother than the run of the mill generic brand waterfall filtration system set up.

Here is a brief overview of three of the quietest filters on the market with good customer reviews:

1. Marina Power Filter:

A mainstay brand in fishkeeping, Marina pumps out affordable, high-quality products regularly that make for great starter kits and long-term assets, alike. The Marina Power Filter hits the same mark of high-quality construction as other comparable pumps at a cost of only around fifteen dollars or less. Plus, this filter’s motor is submerged underwater which helps lessen the sound actually heard when in use. The filter is available for five, ten, and twenty-gallon tanks. Here you can find the Marina Power Filter!

2. Aqueon Quietflow E Internal Power Filter:

A filter that is literally designed with quiet function in mind, this product is great if you want all of the power of a regular waterfall filter without the vibrating sounds produced by a typical motor. The filter is available in ten, twenty, and forty-gallon options and runs exceptionally well, especially considering its incredibly low price tag. Here you can find the Aqueon Quiestflow E Internal Power Filter!

3. Polar Aurora Free Media 4-Stage External Canister Filter:

This filter is a great contender for those with large tanks, as it can handle up to two hundred gallons. The product has thick outer walling to help prevent the sound from the motor from being as loud. While this is a canister filter and not as easy to use as a simple plug-in model, this product has wonderful reviews and is probably one of the best options for those looking to have big tanks without dealing with a loud power motored pump. Here you can find the Polar Aurora Free Media 4-Stage External Canister Filter!

4. Tetra Whisper EX Silent Multi-Stage Power Filter for Aquariums:

Perhaps one of the most affordable and readily available quiet filters, this product from Tetra can be picked up in most pet stores for less than twenty dollars for the lower-volume models. These filters come in four varieties that are each designed to be suitable for ten to twenty gallons, twenty to thirty gallons, thirty to forty-five gallons, or forty-five to seventy gallons. Designed to be quiet, the Whisper filter is a fantastic low-end choice for beginners and experienced fishkeepers alike. Here you can find the Tetra Whisper EX Silent Multi-Stage Power Filter!

Are there any fish that can survive without filters?

As far as fish you will find in a traditional pet store, many of them could technically survive without a filter but they will not thrive. Many people place bettas and goldfish, especially into filter-less tanks since it is commonly claimed that they can live without filtration but they honestly will be much healthier and happier with a properly filtered tank. Goldfish are extremely high waste pets and need the extra filtration to help keep their water clear. Despite being “tough” enough to live without a filter, they still benefit greatly from it and it should be considered part of their basic proper care.

Conclusion: Should You Turn off an Aquarium Filter at Night?

While fish can technically live without filtration if accommodations are made for oxygen, it is best to filter your tank, even for the nighttime. Fish benefit greatly from the cleaning factor and oxygenation aspects of using a filter and will be much happier and healthier if one is added to the tank at all times.

If you like the article above, here are some other similar articles you should check out!

Is it okay to have Multiple Fish Tank Filters?

Can Sand ruin Aquarium Filters?

Best Aquarium Filters: A Buyers Guide


Hi, my name is Jordan. I've been in the fishkeeping hobby since my childhood. Welcome to my blog where I help fishkeepers enjoy the hobby by offering free guides, advice, & product reviews. Read more...