Best Sponge Filters – Review & Guide

Is your fish tank cloudy or otherwise not in great shape? Have you ever considered adding a sponge filter to your tank set up?

It’s easy to get lost in all the different styles and features available. You should consider several things like your tank size, the type of fish you currently have and your overall needs in a filtration system.

Sponge filters are very easy to maintain and simple to set up. They can be used secondary to a larger filter, double as a pre-filter or be used on their own in smaller tanks.

Before grabbing the first sponge filter you see in the store, consider what is most beneficial to the types of fish you currently have and their needs. Sponge filters work great in hatcheries and maternity tanks as well as with low current fish.

Sponge Filters Reviews

UXCELL XY-380 Filter

This UXCELL XINYOU XY-380 Aquarium BioChemical Sponge filter is a 4.5 inch by 5.5 inch sponge style filter. Its perfect as a secondary filtration system to your tank. You can place it in your tank on the opposite end of your canister or hanging filter.

The larger sponge is perfect for filtering out larger style tanks. The porous sponge aids in biochemical filtration. Good bacteria live inside the sponge to create helpful byproducts by breaking down fish waste.

Once an airline is installed, water is pulled through the sponge and exists through the attached tube. This creates a mechanical filtration system as well. The sponge catches all sorts of debris like fish waste and particles.

This filter can be used in both fry and shrimp tanks. The sponge prevents these smaller fish from being sucked up into the filter tube.

Pros

  • Works well in larger tanks, over 40gallons, as a secondary filter
  • The sponge material is very durable
  • Clears water efficiently

Cons

  • Too large to be used in small tanks
  • Filter sits on the bottom of tanks and can take away from the aesthetics of the tank. Its bulky size maybe hard to hide it with plants or decorative rocks.

Aquarium Technology Inc

The Aquarium Technology Inc Hydro-Sponge filter is an easy to clean sponge filtration system. It traps fish waste, like fish poop, instead of trapping your little fishes. Its made from proprietary patented sponge foam for increased mechanical filtration capabilities.

This filter is great for hatcheries and breeding tanks. It has a heavy base so it stays in place at the bottom of your tank, but the filter is raised from the tank floor. This creates extra hiding space for baby fish or small fish.

The filter can be placed both vertically and horizontally in the tank. It helps clean tanks up to 125 gallons. Due to the large sponge size, this filter is not recommended for used in small tanks.

There is a 1 inch diameter tube that is used to pull water through the sponge filter. This large diameter tube gives this filter increased volume flow.

Pros

  • Small fish can use the raised filter bottom as shelter or extra hiding space
  • Filter design helps to filter out unsettled sand that is floating throughout the tank
  • The large diameter tube gives this filter increased volume flow

Cons

  • Sponge is roughly the size of a roll of toilet paper and maybe be hard to hide
  • Directions may not be clear when explaining set up instructions

Hikari Bacto-Surge Foam Filter

The Hikari Bacto-Surge High density sponge filter uses both mechanical and biological filtration. This single stack sponge filter sits on the bottom of your tank, pulling water through it, creating much needed bubbles as it filters! It’s perfect for fresh water tanks.

This sponge filter is good for tanks up to 125 gallons, especially if it is used as a secondary filter. It works well in large tanks, quarantine, breeding and holding tanks. The slow current is ideal for fish such as the discus or bettas.

The pro-foam used for the sponge is finer than other sponges making is excellent for small fish like fry. The foam is soft making it easy to clean.

You also have the option to stack to the filters. If you needed the extra filtration due to messy fish or large tank size, the filters snap together. This is also a great option when hiding the filters, if you have tall plants and didn’t want two sitting on the bottom of your tank.

Pros

  • Uses both mechanical and biological filtration
  • Since they snap together, you have the option to stack two filters on top of one another for extra filtration
  • The soft sponge material makes it easy to clean

Cons

  • Due to its large size, it may not be ideal for tanks smaller than 60 gallons
  • May not be visually appealing on the floor of your tank and it may be hard to hide

Aquaneat Sponge Filter

The Aquaneat small bio sponge filter is a small scale filter for smaller tanks. Its used for dwarf chichlids, guppies, betas, killifish and as maternity tanks. It’s a two sponge filter system.

Its an easy to set up and super easy to clean filtration system. There is a 3/16 inch inner diameter tube that pulls water through the sponge, trapping debris that’s floating around in your tank. The nozzle at the top of this tube can be placed in any desired direction.

When running, the entire sponge filter system is very quiet. Which is great if your tank is located within a popular room in your house.

In larger tanks you have the option of using two sponge filter systems or to clean the sponges more often. The sponges should be squeezed out within a bucket of your tank water for cleaning. Similar to ringing out a household sponge.

Pros

  • You can pull sponges from an existing tank instead of waiting for your sponges to become established with good bacteria
  • You have the option of cleaning one sponge while the other one remains in place
  • Quiet design

Cons

  • The picture shows two suction cups. These suction cups are not included and need to be bought separate
  • Does not come with airline or air pump

Huijukon Double Sponge

The Huijukon Air Driven sponge filter is perfect for shrimp, turtles, hospitals, goldfish, guppies, fry and nano tanks. It has a no noise design that can be used in tanks anywhere from 20 to 55 gallons.

It has two sponge stacks that each have a 10 layer ribbed sponge. This ribbed sponge increases the surface area of each sponge for the good bacteria to live and thrive. It also establishes the bio filter quickly, which is great for tank set up.

This sponge filter comes with two suction cups that attach to the back of the filter set up. This allows the filter to be installed virtually anywhere inside your tank, making it easier to hide or place around plants.

The air/water outlet is adjustable, you can change the direction and height of the outlet. The arms holding the sponge stacks allows you to tilt them away from the tank wall.

Pros

  • The 10-layer double sponge design is high quality and creates a large surface area to promote the growth of bacteria
  • Both the double sponge stacks and outlet nozzle are fully adjustable
  • Filter can be installed anywhere in the tank

Cons

  • Does not work as efficiently in the 55 gallon tanks
  • A typical aquarium airline may not fit this filter set up

Hygger Aquarium Sponge

The Hygger Aquarium Double Sponge filter is a quiet filter. It comes in two sizes. The small size is used ideally in 10-40 gallon tanks whereas the medium size is comfortably used in 15-55 gallon tanks.

This filter is 6 inches wide and needs a 4mm sized air hose to function properly. It’s pretty versatile in that it can be used in both saltwater and freshwater tanks!

Under the filter stacks is a filter compartment. This compartment is used to house ceramic media balls that come with the filter. The ceramic balls create even more living space for the much needed bacteria in your tank. These media compartments can be used with other types of media as well.

The water outlet coming up from the bottom can be placed above or below the water line. It creates more bubbles and promotes more oxygen within the tank. All the pieces of the filter can be taken apart for easy cleaning. You should clean the filter parts prior to placing them in your tank.

Pros

  • This filter set up comes with ceramic media balls which create living area for the bacteria in your tank
  • Multiple sizes are offered to accommodate different tank styles
  • All the pieces of the filter can be taken apart for easy cleaning

Cons

  • Is too large for the smaller tank
  • Does not come with airline or air pump

PowKoo Aquarium Corner Filter

The PowKoo Aquarium fish tank corner sponge filter is used for smaller 1 gallon to 10 gallon tanks. Its small 2.4 inch by 1.8inch size make it ideal for tiny household tanks.

This filter fits uniquely in the corner of a tank. This wedge like design maximizes the amount of swimming space for your fish while it sides on your tank floor.

The outlet tube coming out of the filter can be attached to a top filter. This means it can double as a pre-filter as well. Filtering out the large debris prior to it reaching your more heavy duty filtration system. Ultimately, extending the life of your filter.

The inside chamber of this tiny filter can be filled with media pellets. These pellets are increased living space for the healthy bacteria that you want growing in your tank.

Pros

  • Uniquely, it’s in the bottom corner of the tank
  • Inside chamber allows you to use different types of media pellets. These help to increase the living area for bacteria
  • This filter hooks up to larger filters allowing it to double as a prefilter

Cons

  • Does not work well in large tanks
  • The filter can only sit on the floor of the tank

Como XY-2830 BioSponge

This Como XINYOU-2830 sponge filter is a single stacked filter that can be hung horizontally or vertically in your tank. Making it easy to fit around your already established tank set up. Which is perfect since this filter is for a smaller tank size.

The 7 layered ribbed, single stacked sponge should be used in 5 gallon to 10 gallon tanks. The sponge is roughly 5cm long by 1.85 cm high. A single suction cup allows you to place the filter anywhere in your tank. The sponge stack can be tilted away from the tank water if needed.

The filter comes with an air diffusion chamber. This creates a combination of larger and smaller bubbles. The bubbles from the filter increases the amount of oxygen available in your tank.

This single stacked filter is best used for fish smaller in size and don’t mind a gentle current. This filtration system is great for hatcheries and for fish such as Angel fish.

Pros

  • This is a very quiet filter
  • The filter comes with an air diffusion chamber. The bubbles from the filter increases the amount of oxygen available in your tank.

Cons

  • Can only be used in smaller tank sizes
  • May not be a silent filter

Upettools Aquarium BioChemical Sponge

The Upettools aquarium biochemical sponge filter is a double stack sponge filter. It has two stacks of 7 layer ribbed sponges. This ribbed design helps increase the amount of debris they can catch from the water.

This is a hanging filter that is meant to be placed at the top of your tank. The outlet nozzle can rotate 360 degrees allowing you to point it wherever you need to.

Under each stack there is a media compartment. This media compartment can hold ceramic balls and other types of media pellets. The ceramic balls create extra living space for bacteria and increase the oxygen in your tank.

There is an added bonus, the sponges that come with this double stack sponge filter are environmentally friendly and biodegradable. Can’t beat that with a stick.

Pros

  • The filter sponges are green in color. This green color allows you to physically see when they are dirty and need to be cleaned.
  • The sponges that come with the sponge filter are environmentally friendly and biodegradable
  • The double stack design can be placed anywhere in your tank

Cons

  • The ceramic balls may impede on water flow through the filters
  • Media pellets create extra dust and may need to be thoroughly rinsed before adding them to your tank

PowKoo Sponge Filter

This PowKoo breeding tank sponge filter is great for all breeding tanks, planted aquariums, hatcheries and maternity tanks. It’s a double stacked sponge filter that can be used in tanks up to 30 gallons.

It has a 10 layered ribbed design to help catch all the floating debris in your tank. There is a built-in airline extension from the base of the filter up through the top. Reducing the amount of airline needing to be attached to the filter.

This double stacked sponge filter can be used in both fresh water and salt water tanks! Making it super versatile if you have multiple types of tanks.

The sponges are made with food grade material which is safe for your fish. The telescoping tube gives you the option of heights between 9.4 inches and 13.8 inches. The nozzle at the top can be rotated 360 degrees and it comes with the suction cups for easy hanging.

Pros

  • is great for all breeding tanks, planted aquariums, hatcheries and maternity tanks
  • Can be used in both salt water and fresh water tanks
  • The entire filter set up can be broken down for easy cleaning.

Cons

  • The bundled version that comes with the air pump should be used in a smaller tank size
  • Plastic may not be durable

Types of Sponge Filters

There are several different types of sponge filters that can be used in your tank.

Single stack for tank floor: One type of single stack filter sits on the bottom of the tank. Water is squeezed into the sponge so that they sink. These filters also have a weighted bottom to help them stay in place. The inner tube and airline comes up through the center of the sponge filter.

Single stack for tank wall: Another type of single stack sponge filter can usually be arranged vertically or horizontally. These types of filters stick to the side of the tank and can be placed nearly anywhere.

Double stack: The double stack sponge filter comes with two separate sponge stacks. The stacks are connected at the bottom by a piece of tubing. This tube then extends up from the middle of this connection. The telescoping tube has a nozzle on top that can be rotated 360 degrees. Suction cups on the back of the filter allow for easy placement.

Stacks with media compartments: Some sponge filters come with media compartments. These filters look identical to the single and double stacked sponge filters that can be hung anywhere in the tank. Under each sponge sack are compartments that can be filled with media pellets.

How to Select a Sponge Filter?

There are a couple different things you should consider when choosing which sponge filter will work best in your tank.

Consider how large your tank is, very small tanks would benefit from smaller single stacked filters that sit on the bottom. Larger tanks may need several double stacked filters. Make sure you choose a filter that can handle your tank size.

What types of fish do you have? Bottom dwellers? Or do you have fish that enjoy their free space. If you have fish that prefer the extra hiding place you may want a single staked filter that has a spacer on the bottom. This provides a place for smaller fish to hide. Sponges that sit on the bottom give fish more room to swim about on the top of the tank.

You may need increased oxygen in your tank. Media pellets can help provide you with a much needed oxygen boost.

Some fish, like bettas, don’t like a lot of agitation in the water. If your fish fall in the same category you may want to choose a filter stack that doesn’t protrude over the top of the water. The telescoping nozzle on some filters poke up through the top of the water, when water escapes the outlet, it drips back into the tank.

Frequently asked Questions

How do you set up a sponge filter?

When you first receive your sponge filter, take it apart and clean each part. Especially if your sponge filter came with ceramic pellets, the dust may have settled on other parts of your filter.

Most filters do not come with an airline or pump needed to make them work properly. Attached the appropriately sized airline and check valve to the pump. The check valve will prevent water from travel back up through the motor in case of power failure.

Place the sponge in a bucket of your tank water and squeeze the sponge so it soaks up water. This will help it to sink and promote bacteria in the sponge.

How do you clean a sponge on a sponge filter?

When cleaning the sponge portion of the sponge filter, remove the sponge from your tank. It should slide right off the tubing its sitting on. Place the sponge in a bucket of your tank water.

DO NOT use tap water. This will destroy the colonies you worked so hard to develop.

Softly squeeze the filter several times till no more debris falls from the sponge. Make sure not to over agitate the sponge, this will also kill the good bacteria.

What is biological and mechanical cleaning?

Biological cleaning in the use of the good bacteria that lives in the sponge. Fish create a lot of toxins in their waste, but the number one toxin is ammonia. If there is excessive ammonia built up, it will eventually kill your fish.

The bacteria breaks this ammonia down into more manageable byproducts. Ammonia is broken down into nitrites, then nitrates, which are much less toxic to your fish.

The mechanical filtering is the physical removal of debris from the water. The airline hooked up to your sponge filter pulls water through the sponge. The small pores on the sponge don’t allow larger debris to pass through. Fish poop, sand and debris will get caught in the ribbed layer of your filter.

What are the benefits of having a sponge filter?

A sponge filter works very good as a backup filter in case your primary canister filter dies. When these heavier duty filters stop working, it can go several days before being noticed. Although a sponge filter may not be able to clean your tank by itself, it will continue to clean the water till you can replace the other filter.

Sponge filters can be used in conjunction with other filters to increase water quality. They are an easy alternative when trying to find ways to keep your water clean. Especially with fish that create lots of extra waste, a sponge filter will catch floating debris so it doesn’t end up in your other filters.

What types of fish tanks should use a sponge filter?

You can use a sponge filter in nearly any tank as long as it fits appropriately. Betta fish or fish that like low currents are perfect homes for your sponge filter. Any fish that create excess waste may need the extra filtration system.

How to Maintain your Sponge Filter?

Sponge filters are a very low maintenance filter. There is not really a whole lot of things you need to do in order to keep them running smooth.

You should clean out your sponge filter every few weeks or as needed. Squeeze them out in a bucket of your tank water to help maintain the bacteria living in the filter. If you have a small filter in a larger tank, or you have fish that tend to poop a lot, you may need to clean it more often.

Sponge filters use both biological and mechanical filtration. Although you may not be able to see the bacteria, you will be able to see any waste stuck in the ribbed layers.

The sponge themselves should be changed out every 3-6 months or as needed. Don’t forget about the ceramic pellets! Your media pellets will also need to be changed every few months.

There are several things that determine how often you should clean your sponges, or replace them:

  • Do your fish produce excessive waste?
  • Your tank size relative to the sponge filter your using can affect how dirty it becomes
  • Is the sponge filter secondary to another filtration system
  • How often and how much water you remove when doing water changeouts

Regardless of your tank size there is a sponge filter that can benefit you and your tank. From their simple design, to easy install it’s a great way to create a secondary filtration system for your tank. Especially since they are super versatile and can be used in anything from beta tanks, to hatcheries, to full scale aquariums.

Was there a type of sponge filter that helped you get your tank squeaky clean? Let us know in the comments.

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