Pump Troubleshooting

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 BIOFALLS®, also depend on the pump to provide fresh, oxygenated water. Thankfully, all of the pumps Aquascape carries should provide years of maintenance-free service in the pond.

Regardless, sooner or later you will have to go out and replace the pump. Hopefully, all of the pumps you install will perform for a number of years without a problem. You do, however, want to be prepared for the unusual case when a relatively new pump is experiencing problems. How can the pump not be working? Odds are the pump is actually fine, there is just some troubleshooting that needs to be done.

The troubleshooting steps listed will help you quickly identify and 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 we have had clients call and state that their pump is not working only to find that they haven't added water to the pond in the past few weeks and the skimmer ran dry. The pump in this situation 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 while it's in the skimmer.

Make sure nothing is blocking the flow of water to the pump, such as large boulders, debris blocking the front of the skimmer opening, a clogged skimmer net, or clogged skimmer filter mat that has not been emptied or cleaned in a long time.

The pump may be vapor locked. This term sounds complicated, but it simply means that air is trapped in the volute of the pump. The pumps are designed to push water, not air ... so an air bubble gets trapped, and the pump becomes vapor locked. In this situation the impeller is basically spinning, but water is not being pushed. Listen to see if you hear the hum of the pump. A vapor lock can be fixed by tilting the pump to allow the air to escape from the intake. You may even be able to accomplish this without disconnecting the fitting on pump.

It is also effective to check and see if the electrical supply is operating properly. Premature pump failures can occur due to faulty electrical. For example, pumps hooked up to extension cords may cause potential problems. While this electrical setup usually works for testing the pump soon after the water feature is built, it is not recommended for permanent installations, and may end up causing the pump to fail.

Check the electric box to see if the safety breaker on the ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) has tripped. The proper electrical setup for the pond should include a GFCI outlet. The GFCI's responsibility is to shut the power down if it senses an electrical problem. The GFCI is a safety device installed to protect people from receiving a shock in case of an electrical malfunction. GFCI's are very sensitive and can sometimes trip during a thunderstorm or a power surge. Reset the breaker if it has tripped.

Unplug the pump and disconnect the union fitting found at the top of the check valve. The water will back-flush from the BIOFALLS® back into the skimmer. This will help flush out any possible clogs along the length of the pipe.

Pull the pump out of the skimmer and inspect the intake on the pump for any lodged debris. Aquascape pumps are capable of handling solids and debris up to a reasonable size, typically 5/8". On some occasions, debris may become lodged in the impeller (housing) of the pump. This could possibly seize up the impeller, or restrict the flow causing the pump to stop operating properly. Thoroughly check the pump intake, including the area above the impeller where small debris, such as gravel, may be trapped.

Plug in the pump after inspecting it for debris, and see if the impeller spins.

If the impeller does not spin, unplug the pump and try to assist it by using a screwdriver or similar tool to give it a little kick start. On some occasions, the impeller may seize up and not spin. This sometimes happens after the pump has been out of operation for a period of time (such as over the winter). Hopefully, the pump will then begin to operate after it is plugged back in. Once it starts back up on its own, you'll want to unplug the pump again, wait a few seconds, and plug it back in. The impeller should begin to spin without assistance this time.

If you still have no luck, bring the pump over to a different electrical receptacle on the property, specifically one that contains a GFCI breaker, and see if the pump operates. This will tell us if the pond's electrical supply is bad, or if there is something internally wrong with the pump. If the pump trips this GFCI, then there is definitely something wrong with the pump, and it should be replaced. However, you'll want to have a qualified electrician come out and check the pond's electrical setup if the pump runs without a problem on another outlet.

Hopefully, through these steps, you have found the source of the problem and corrected it. You will most likely have to replace the pump if you are still having problems getting proper performance.

Warranted Pumps

All of Aquascape's pumps are covered under warranty (length of warranty depends on the pump model). This warranty covers any mechanical failure within the pump that causes it to perform improperly. Please keep in mind that this warranty does not cover damage or defects due to mishandling, improper installation, improper electrical set-up, or debris damaging the pump or impeller.

There are typically two reasons that most submersible-style pumps fail.

The first is due to the seals on the pump failing. This allows moisture to enter into the pump. The GFCI will sense this moisture and will trip the breaker, cutting off the electrical supply to the pump.

The second reason may be due to bearing failure, which would explain the problems with the impeller failing to spin when the pump is plugged in.