Cyclic Tasks: Cleaning the Pumps

Table of Contents

This article is part of the “Cyclic tasks” series, intended for beginner aquarists who are looking for the basics of running a saltwater aquarium, or for those who are considering setting up a tank and want to understand the amount of work involved.

In order for the aquarium to function properly, we must regularly undertake certain works. If you’re a beginner aquarist, you’ve come to the right place!

Why clean pumps at all?

Return pumps come into contact with algae, slime and other impurities from the aquarium. Working 24/7, they collect a lot of dirt. Over time, the dirtier they get, the more they lose their power and their service life decreases. Pump manufacturers require systematic cleaning of equipment. So if we send back a pump that’s not been cleaned regularly for warranty, the complaint may be rejected due to the user’s fault.

Cleaning the return pump

We must start by turning the water circulation off. In the next step, remove the pump from the sump. Put it in a container, for example a large bowl. We disassemble the pump into parts and remove the impeller.

Gently clean the impeller. Wipe the inside of the main body carefully, using a cloth. Clean the inlet and other elements.

After cleaning, we assemble all the elements together and put the pump in the sump. Reconnect the device to the circuit, start the system and make sure that the joint between the pump and pipes is not leaking.

After the return pump has started, additional adjustment of the overflow may be needed, because the pump may now have a little more power.

Cleaning the skimmer pump

The procedure for cleaning the skimmer pump is quite similar, with two differences. First thing – we need to get the pump out of the skimmer. The second thing is that the impeller and pump inlet will be different, in this case we’re dealing with a needle wheel impeller. After removing the impeller from the pump, clean it gently so as not to damage the needles.

After reconnecting the pump to the skimmer, you may need to adjust the device as after cleaning it may have a little more power.


How often you clean the pumps depends on the condition of your aquarium and on how much dirt collects on the pumps. If there is little, the pumps will be cleaned less often, and if the pump collects quite a lot, the procedure will have to be performed more often. In my opinion, the pump should be cleaned more or less every 2-4 weeks.

About the author

Picture of Marek Protasewicz

Marek Protasewicz

Reefkeeping has been my passion for over 10 years now. I love learning. The hobby has taught me many valuable lessons, patience being the best example. Combining work and passion is my path. I run Crazy Coral, a marine aquarium shop, for a number of years. Building this business from the scratch I learnt from my own mistakes at a heavy cost.
Later I managed a project aimed at development of methods for quick growth of Corals in non-natural conditions. The project was carried out by Get Sales, Poland. Presently, I am responsible for distribution strategy at Reef Factory, of which I am a co-founder. The company produces smart devices for marine aquaristics. The last projects I have been involved in are Social Reef and ReefPedia.

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