How to Keep My Pond Pump From Clogging (Best Tips)

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Your pond pump plays an integral role in your pond by powering your waterfall or fountain, circulating dirty water through your filter for cleaning, and even providing vital oxygen to your pond’s water.

So, when your pump keeps getting clogged, it can become a maintenance nightmare that can have a negative effect on your pond.

And, unfortunately, even the best pond pumps can clog from time to time.

If you’re struggling with how to keep your pond pump from clogging, then we have a few tips and tricks up our sleeves to help your pump run more smoothly and stay clog-free.

Let's check them out now!

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Why Does My Pond Pump Keep Clogging Up?

First, we need to understand why your pond pump is continually clogging up.

Whether the clog is in the pump’s filter, the volute chamber, or the interior baffle (if it has one), the main reason it’s clogging up is because of excess debris in your pond water.

In other words, to keep your pond pump from clogging up, you need to have a clean pond. And you should clean your pump periodically to keep any build-up from forming in it.

That doesn’t mean you need to spend countless hours picking every leaf, piece of grass, and other debris out of your pond or water garden.

There are many different approaches you can take to keeping your pond clean and pump clog-free, some more hands-off than others.

Let’s look at those now.

How To Keep A Pond Pump From Clogging

Remove Floating Debris

Skim the surface of your pond regularly to remove any leaves, twigs, or other material that might fall into it. The idea here is two-fold:

  1. Removing debris that is floating on the surface of your pond will help prevent it from clogging up your pump.
  2. Removing debris before it sinks will help alleviate sludge building up on the bottom of your pond.

You can do this two ways – using a pond net and/or using a pond skimmer.

Pond Net

Simply taking a pond net and scraping the debris off the water’s surface is extremely effective and takes little effort.

How often you need to do this will depend on how much debris you have finding its way into your pond.

Tip: Keeping your yard clean and removing any trees near your pond will help prevent debris from blowing into your pond.

Pond Net w/Telescopic Handle

Pond Net w/Telescopic Handle

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Pond Skimmer

A more hands-off approach is to use a pond skimmer. A skimmer acts as a type of prefilter, effectively skimming the surface of the pond of any debris and trapping it before it reaches the pump or sinks to the bottom. A pond skimmer will clean your pond of debris, oils, etc. around the clock (as long as your pump is running).

OASE SwimSkim Floating Pond Skimmer

OASE SwimSkim Floating Pond Skimmer

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Vacuum Up Your Pond Sludge

Next, we need to clean up any debris that has sunk to the bottom of the pond and turned into sludge.

Pond sludge can get trapped in your pond pump and cause it to clog or malfunction. Get rid of pond sludge by vacuuming it up from the sides and bottom of your pond.

As an added bonus, you can even use a pond vacuum to suck up any debris floating on the surface, as well.

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Oase Pondovac 5 Pond Vacuum Cleaner

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Add Beneficial Bacteria

What many pond owners don’t realize is that certain types of bacteria, also known as beneficial bacteria, work around the clock to help keep your pond clean. They help break down organic substances in your pond thus improving water quality and reducing the amount of pond filter maintenance.

There are plenty of ways to introduce good bacteria to your pond and ensure that it helps contribute to a healthy ecosystem. In fact, healthy ponds have millions of these bacteria already.

But increasing the amount of substrate in your pond, using biological filtration, and even directly adding beneficial bacteria to your pond water can help keep those bacteria levels high.

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Eco labs Microbe-Lift PL

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Use a Pond Pump Pre-Filter

A pond pump pre-filter is exactly as it sounds, a filter that attaches to your pump that filters out debris before the water reaches your pump. This helps to clean the water and reduce the clogging of the pump.

Pre-filters come in different forms, with the most popular being either an actual pond filter that attaches to your pump or for submersible pumps, a mesh bag that you place your pump in. A pond skimmer, as mentioned above, is also a type of pre-filter.

Bring In Some Algae-eating Fish

Pond algae eaters can help keep your pond looking pristine. Carp, koi, mosquitofish, and common pleco can all help remove algae from your pond, and the fewer algae there are, the less material your pond pump has to process.

As a bonus, many of these fish make beautiful additions to an outdoor pond.

Keep in mind, however, that overfeeding these fish can cause more harm than good when it comes to controlling algae. And be sure to use high-quality fish food without a bunch of fillers.

Invest In Plant Life

Plants can help to balance out your pond and filter the water naturally. Ensure that there’s a healthy balance of plants to fish and that your pond is full of proper vegetation. Your pond pump won’t have to work as hard, and you will have a better overall aesthetic.

Check out our post on the 10 Best Oxygenating pond plants for some ideas and inspiration.

Soak The Pond Pump In Vinegar

Vinegar can remove residue and buildup from your pond pump, so try to flush the pump with white vinegar regularly. You can get white vinegar at virtually any store, and it’s an inexpensive way to keep your pond pump clean and functional. Simply soak the pump overnight in a 50/50 white vinegar and water mix.

did you know Important

Check with your pond pump manufacturer to ensure it’s safe to use vinegar to clean your pump.

Additional Tips

  • Use pond netting: A pond net, which is simply a net you place over your pond, can help prevent leaves and other pump-clogging debris from falling into your pond.
  • Don’t overfeed your fish: As mentioned, pond fish can help keep your pond clean by feeding off any algae that may grow. However, overfeeding your fish can make matters worse as it will sink to the bottom and increase the amount of pond sludge. And the nutrients in the uneaten food can actually fuel algae growth.
  • Perform water changes: Periodically draining and refilling 25-30% of your pond's water volume may help reduce excess nutrients and other harmful substances, thus helping to control algae and improve water clarity. Your pump will thank you!

How Do I Unclog My Pond Pump?

For those times when your pump does clog up, it’s good to know how to unclog and clean it.

did you know Important

These unclogging and cleaning steps are a general guide. Be sure to read your pond pump’s owner’s manual for specific steps to clean your pump.

How to Unclog a Pond Pump Step-By-Step

  1. Unplug the power to the pump and remove it from your pond.
  2. Remove the check valve that is located on the top of the pump.
  3. Next, remove the volute cover and clean off any debris. Do NOT use any cleaning chemicals during this process.
  4. Remove and clean the interior baffle if your pump has one.
  5. Reassemble the pump and place it back in your pond.
  6. Restore power and ensure your pump is working properly.


Do I need to run my pond pump all the time?

You should run your pond pump 24 hours a day. This will help provide vital oxygen to your pond fish, operate the skimmer or filtration system, and keep the water moving to help suspend debris which can then more easily get sucked in the skimmer or filter.

Check out our guide titled How Many Hours a Day Should I Run My Pond Pump? for more information.

Why does my pond pump keep cutting out?

Pond pumps often cut out due to overheating or clogs. If you’ve followed the above steps to avoid clogging, check to see whether your pump is overheating or has other electrical problems.

How do I protect my pond pump?

Many pond owners use a cage, bag, or another type of protective element over their pumps to help catch debris and protect their pump.