Fixing Pump Problems

Eighty percent of pump problems can be fixed in minutes, saving you further inconvenience.The pump can be called the “heart” of the pond. Without it, the relaxing, rushing sound of the water over the rocks would not exist. The fish and the filtering bacteria in the biological filter also depend on the pump to provide fresh, oxygenated water.Most quality pumps should get you at least three years of maintenance-free service of re-circulating the water in your pond, so how can the pump not be working? Odds are the pump is actually fine. As a pond owner, there are a few things you can do to help detect, and hopefully fix, the problem before you call the installer or return the pump to the merchant from which you purchased it. Eighty percent of pump problems can be fixed in minutes, saving you further inconvenience. The following troubleshooting steps will help you quickly identify, and hopefully solve, the problem with a failed pump.


Proceed with the following actions until the problem is found.

    • First of all, is the pump receiving water? This sounds like an obvious question, but it’ s not an uncommon problem. Water evaporates and, if not replaced, the lack of it can affect the operation of the pump. In this situation, the pump may actually be running, but just not receiving enough water. A lot of times you can actually hear the “hum” or “gurgle” of the pump when this is happening.
    • Make sure nothing is blocking the flow of water to the pump. Large boulders, debris blocking the front of the skimmer opening, a clogged skimmer net, or clogged skimmer filter can reduce the flow of water. If you have a skimmer, make sure the water level is 3/4″ below the top of the skimmer opening. If the established water level is lower than this, the pump may suck the skimmer dry, causing the thermal shut-off to activate. The thermal shut-off will deactivate once the pump cools back down. The proper water level will then need to be established.
    • The pond is too small for the stream above it. The lowest pond must be large enough to supply enough water to start the circulation of the stream and/or waterfall. Once the pump is started, it may be necessary to add a few inches of water to the lower pond in order to account for the water used to feed the stream, pipe, and waterfalls. Lower ponds that are designed too small may not be able to supply enough water to start the streams/waterfalls. This will cause the water in the pond to drop below the opening of the skimmer upon the initial start-up, and starve the pump of water.
    • The pump may be vapor-locked