6 Best Sponge Filters For Fish Tanks (& How To Pick)

Sponge filters are a popular choice among aquarium enthusiasts for their ability to effectively filter aquarium water, all while being low maintenance and easy to use. But with so many options on the market, how do you choose the best sponge filter for your needs?

In this article, we’ll take a look at the top 6 best sponge filters available based on customer reviews and feedback, as well as our own expertise. So, keep reading to find out everything you need to know!

Table of Contents

Our Top Picks:

What Is A Sponge Filter?

A sponge filter is a type of filter used in aquariums. It helps keep the water clean by trapping debris and particles, such as uneaten food and waste. The filter also provides a place for beneficial bacteria to grow, which can help in breaking down ammonia and other harmful substances. 

Sponge filters are easy to install and maintain, making them an ideal choice for aquarium owners who want to keep their tank clean without having to invest too much time or money. 

What Are The Benefits Of Sponge Filters?

Sponge filters provide numerous benefits for aquarium owners, from keeping the water clean to promoting beneficial bacteria growth. Unlike other filtration systems, sponge filters are effortless to install and maintain, making them an ideal choice for beginners and experts.

1. Traps Debris and Particles

Sponge filters are designed to trap debris and particles from the water, keeping it clean and clear. As the water passes through the sponge, it removes any uneaten food, feces, or other waste products that may be present in the tank. By doing this, sponge filters prevent the build-up of unwanted materials that can contaminate the water and harm the fish.

2. Promotes Beneficial Bacteria Growth

The sponge in a sponge filter is a perfect breeding ground for beneficial bacteria. These bacteria help in breaking down harmful substances like ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates, converting them into less harmful compounds. If you’re cycling a new aquarium, a sponge filter can help speed up the growth of healthy bacteria, leading to a more stable ecosystem.

3. Easy to Install and Maintain

Another benefit of sponge filters is that they are incredibly easy to set up and maintain. All you need is a sponge, an air pump, and tubing to start using a sponge filter. Sponge filters are a breeze to install, even for beginners. They also require very little maintenance, with only the sponge needing to be replaced periodically.

4. Provides a Gentle Water Flow

Sponge filters provide a gentler flow of water in the aquarium, making it an ideal system for delicate fish species like bettas, guppies and tetras. The gentle flow also helps prevent substrate disturbance, which can stir up debris and harmful bacteria.

5. Cost-Effective

Sponge filters are relatively cheap compared to other filtration systems. This makes them an attractive option for those who want to keep their aquarium clean and healthy without spending too much. Additionally, sponge filters have a long lifespan, with the sponges lasting for several years before needing replacement.

What Are The Problems With Sponge Filters?

Sponge filters are a popular choice for aquarium enthusiasts because of their simple design and ease of use. However, like any other filter, they can encounter certain problems that may affect their functionality. 

1. Clogging

Sponge filters work by trapping debris and waste particles within their porous structure. As a result, they can quickly become clogged, reducing water flow and compromising the filter’s effectiveness. To prevent clogging, it’s essential to clean the sponge regularly. You can do this by gently squeezing the sponge in a bucket of aquarium water to dislodge any trapped debris.

2. Inefficient Filtration

One of the significant problems with sponge filters is their limited filtration capacity. They are not suitable for large aquariums or tanks with heavy bioloads as they may not be able to handle the amount of waste produced by the fish. To address this problem, it’s advisable to use multiple sponge filters or opt for a more powerful filtration system.

3. Buildup of Harmful Bacteria

Sponge filters can harbor harmful bacteria that can affect the water quality in your aquarium. These bacteria can lead to a variety of issues, such as foul odors, cloudy water, and even fish illness or death. To prevent the buildup of harmful bacteria, it’s crucial to clean the sponge regularly, avoid overfeeding your fish, and maintain good water quality.

4. Noise

Sponge filters can sometimes be noisy, which can be disruptive and annoying, especially in quiet environments. The noise is often caused by air bubbles passing through the sponge, creating a gurgling sound. To reduce noise, you can adjust the airflow rate or use a silencer attachment to dampen the sound.

5. Limited Aesthetic Appeal

Sponge filters can be unsightly and take away from the overall aesthetic appeal of your aquarium. Unlike other types of filters, they cannot be hidden or disguised, and their presence can be distracting. However, you can mitigate this issue by choosing a sponge filter with a sleek and modern design that blends in with your aquarium’s decor.

6. No Chemical Filtration

Chemical filtration is essential for ensuring the tank doesn’t start to smell bad, and to help reduce the chances of the tank becoming cloudy. Unfortunately, while sponge filters have biological and mechanical filtration, they do lack chemical filtration.

What Tanks Are Sponge Filters Best Used In?

Aquarium enthusiasts often choose sponge filters for their simplicity, low cost, and ease of maintenance. However, these filters are not suitable for every aquarium or tank setup. 

1. Breeding or Quarantine Tanks

Sponge filters provide adequate filtration without producing strong currents in breeding or quarantine tanks that could harm your pets. The sponge acts as a mechanical filter, trapping debris and waste particles within its porous structure while also providing a surface for beneficial bacteria to colonize and perform biological filtration.

2. Shrimp Tanks

Sponge filters are also preferred in shrimp tanks, as they do not harm the shrimps or their babies, unlike other filtration systems that can suck them up or damage them due to strong currents. The gentle filtration provided by sponge filters ensures that the shrimps can thrive in their environment.

3. Nano Aquariums

In nano aquariums, sponge filters are an excellent choice because of their small size, which allows them to fit comfortably into small tanks without taking up too much space. They are also quiet and unobtrusive, making them an a perfect choice for tanks located in bedrooms or other quiet environments.

What To Look For When Purchasing A Sponge Filter

When purchasing a sponge filter, it’s essential to consider the size of the filter, the pore size of the sponge, the quality of the sponge, ease of maintenance, and the cost of the filter. Let’s dive deeper into this.

1. Size of the Filter

The first thing to consider when purchasing a sponge filter is the size of the filter. Sponge filters come in various sizes, and it’s essential to choose the right size for your aquarium. A filter that is too small may not provide adequate filtration, while a filter that is too large may produce too much flow, which can stress or harm your fish. 

2. Pore Size of the Sponge

It’s important to choose a sponge filter with a pore size that matches the size of the particles you want to remove from your aquarium water. Sponge filters come in different pore sizes, and the pore size determines the level of mechanical filtration provided by the filter. 

A sponge filter with a small pore size will trap smaller particles, while that with a larger pore size will allow larger particles to pass through. 

3. Quality of the Sponge

When looking for the best sponge filter, choose one that’s made of high-quality materials that are durable and long-lasting. The sponge should be able to withstand regular cleaning and not break down quickly. A high-quality sponge will provide optimal filtration and last for a long time.

4. Ease of Maintenance

Sponge filters require regular cleaning to maintain optimal filtration. Therefore, it’s essential to choose a sponge filter that is easy to clean and maintain. Some sponge filters can be disassembled for easy cleaning, while others require replacement sponges. Overall, It’s important to choose a sponge filter that suits your preferences and is easy to maintain.

5. Cost of the Filter

Finally, the cost of the sponge filter is also an essential factor to consider. Sponge filters are generally affordable, but the cost can vary depending on the size, quality, and brand. It’s important to choose a sponge filter that fits your budget while also meeting your requirements in terms of size, quality, and ease of maintenance.

Best Sponge Filters For Aquariums

When it comes to choosing a sponge filter for your aquarium, it can be overwhelming to decide which one is the best fit for your needs. So, to make things easier for you, here’s a list of the top sponge filters available based on the market!

1. XY-380 Aquarium Bio Sponge Filter

The XY-380 sponge filter is an affordable option for your sponge filter that provides excellent mechanical and biological filtration. It’s easy to install and maintain, making it a popular choice among aquarium enthusiasts. 

Pros:

  • Affordable option for efficient filtration
  • Easy to install and maintain
  • Provides excellent mechanical and biological filtration

Cons:

  • Not suitable for larger aquariums
  • Sponges may need to be replaced more frequently than other filters

2. Qanvee Aquarium Sponge Filter

One of the great things about Qanvee aquarium sponge filter is its versatility. It is suitable for use in both freshwater and saltwater aquariums, which makes it a great choice for fish keepers who have a variety of tanks. It is made of high-quality materials, which ensure its durability and longevity.

Pros:

  • Can be used in both freshwater and saltwater aquariums
  • Comes with an adjustable air flow valve to control water flow and oxygenation
  • Easy to install and maintain
  • Durable and long-lasting design

Cons:

  • May not fit well in tanks with limited space due to its larger size
  • The sponge may clog quickly in tanks with heavy debris or waste
  • Sometimes the suction cups don’t stick securely to the tank walls
Sale
QANVEE Aquarium Sponge Filter Bubbler with Ultra Quiet Water Pump and Ceramic Balls for Fish Shrimp Breeding Tank (Filter M(15-50 Gallon))
  • Work Without An Air pump, Ultra quiet and more efficient than other sponge filter
  • USB Driven 5V Safety Low Voltage and 2W Energy Saving,Simply plug in USB adapter and you get a Bio sponge filter and a “Air pump”

3. Aquapapa Bio Sponge Filter

The Aquapapa Bio Sponge Filter is the most affordable option for those who need biological filtration. It comes with suction cups to attach to aquarium walls. However, it may not provide enough mechanical filtration for heavily stocked aquariums.

Pros:

  • Affordable option for biological filtration
  • Easy to install and maintain
  • Comes with suction cups to attach to aquarium walls

Cons:

  • May not provide enough mechanical filtration for heavily stocked aquariums
  • Sponges may need to be replaced more frequently than other filters
Sale
Aquapapa Bio Sponge Corner Filter for Aquarium Fish Tank 70 Gal -100 Gal ea. (2-Pack)
  • Provide both mechanical and biological filtration.
  • Simply install an airline into the unit and provide both aeration and filtration for your fish. Aerobic bacteria colonize the sponge providing a bacterial substance to facilitate the nitrogen cycle.

4. AQQA Aquarium Filter Fish Tank Sponge Filter

The AQQA Aquarium Filter Fish Tank Sponge Filter is an effective and reliable sponge filter that is ideal for both freshwater and saltwater aquariums. Its unique design features a multilayer filtration system that ensures efficient mechanical and biological filtration to maintain clean and healthy water for your fish and other aquatic pets.

Pros:

  • Multilayer filtration system for efficient mechanical and biological filtration
  • Easy to install and maintain
  • Adjustable water flow rate
  • Suitable for both freshwater and saltwater aquariums
  • Available in different sizes to suit different tank sizes

Cons:

  • May not be suitable for larger aquariums
  • May require more frequent cleaning than other sponge filters
  • Some users report the filters can clog easily with debris
AQQA Aquarium Filter Fish Tank Sponge Filter Whisper Submersible Filters for Aquarium Foam Filter for Freshwater & Saltwater(Medium for 20-110 Gallon)
  • 【Ultra Quiet Submersible Filter】 AQQA Aquarium Sponge Filter is air-powered and ultra-quiet, providing efficient filtration without disturbing your fish; (Air pump and air hose are not included in the package) Please prepare a suitable air pump for this filter according to your tank size.

5. ALEGI Large Sponge Filter Kit

The ALEGI Large Sponge Filter Kit is an excellent choice for large aquariums up to 125 gallons. It comes with two sponge filters and airline tubing, providing efficient biological and mechanical filtration for your aquarium. The sponge filters are made of high-quality foam, which can be easily cleaned and reused, saving you money in the long run.

Pros:

  • Suitable for large aquariums up to 125 gallons
  • Made of high-quality foam that is easy to clean and reuse
  • Includes suction cups for secure installation
  • Has a valve to control water flow rate

Cons:

  • May require frequent cleaning in heavily stocked aquariums
  • The hose may need to be replaced after extended use
  • Requires an air pump (not included) for operation
  • Sponges may need to be replaced periodically for optimal performance
ALEGI 2 Pcs Large Sponge Filter Kit with Airline Tubing, Air Pump Valves, Suction Cups for 125 Gallon Tank
  • The fan-shaped sponge filter fits the edge of the aquarium to save space.The sponge medium is harmless to fish and it’s suitable for both fresh and saltwater environments.
  • The sponge filter can trap debris and avoid clogging.
  • Easy to operate,use one end of an air hose connected to the filter, and the other end connected to an air pump. A check valve can be installed on the air hose to prevent backflow of water.
  • Recommend tank size: up to 125 gallon, Dimension: 4.5″ D X 5.5″H
  • Includes: 2 Pcs Sponge Filters, 1 Piece of 8 Feet Clear Standard 3/16″ Airline Tubing, 2 Pcs Check Valves, 8 Pcs Suction Cups ,2 Pcs Y-shaped Connectors

6. Pawfly Aquarium Bio Sponge Filter

The Pawfly Aquarium Bio Sponge Filter is an efficient and affordable option for maintaining the health and cleanliness of your aquarium. Its unique design allows for effective biological filtration while also providing aeration to the water. The simple setup and maintenance make it a great choice for both beginner and experienced aquarium owners.

Pros:

  • Provides efficient mechanical and biological filtration
  • Made from high-quality, durable materials
  • Promotes healthy bacteria growth
  • Provides a gentle water flow that is ideal for delicate fish and plants

Cons:

  • May not be suitable for larger aquariums
  • May require frequent cleaning to maintain optimal performance

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How Do Sponge Filters Work?

If you’re wondering still whether a sponge filter is right for you, here is a little bit more about how they work in your tank.

1. Mechanical Filtration

The primary function of sponge filters is mechanical filtration. As water is drawn through the sponge, debris and waste particles are trapped in the sponge’s pores. The sponge acts as a barrier, preventing particles from passing through and contaminating the aquarium water.

The larger the pores of the sponge, the larger the particles that can pass through, and the smaller the pores, the smaller the particles that can be filtered.

2. Biological Filtration

In addition to mechanical filtration, sponge filters also provide biological filtration. Beneficial bacteria grow on the surface of the sponge, which breaks down harmful ammonia and nitrites produced by fish waste and uneaten food.

These bacteria convert ammonia and nitrites into less harmful nitrates, which can be removed by performing regular water changes.

3. Air Pump and Water Flow

Sponge filters work by utilizing an air pump and water flow. The air pump creates a flow of air, which is forced through a tube and into the sponge filter. As the air bubbles rise through the sponge, they create a vacuum that pulls water into the sponge.

The water is drawn through the sponge, where it is mechanically and biologically filtered before returning to the aquarium.

(Check out the best air stones for fish tanks as well!)

4. Placement in the Aquarium

The placement of a sponge filter is also crucial to its effectiveness. Sponge filters work best when placed in the aquarium’s corners, where water flow is the weakest. This allows the sponge filter to draw water through its pores more effectively and provides a greater area for beneficial bacteria to grow. 

6 Best Sponge Filters For Fish Tanks (& How To Pick)

How Do You Clean A Sponge Filter?

Cleaning a sponge filter is a simple process that will help to maintain good water quality in your aquarium. Regular cleaning of the sponge filter will ensure that it is functioning effectively, providing both mechanical and biological filtration for your fish. To clean your sponge filter, follow these steps:

Turn off the air pump – Before cleaning the sponge filter, it’s important to turn off the air pump. This will prevent any debris from being dislodged from the sponge and entering the aquarium.

Remove the sponge filter from the aquarium – Take the sponge filter out of the aquarium and place it in a bucket or container. Be sure to handle the sponge gently to avoid damaging it.

Rinse the sponge filter – Rinse the sponge filter in a bucket of aquarium water. Do not use tap water, as this can harm the beneficial bacteria that grow on the sponge. Gently squeeze the sponge to remove any debris and waste particles that have accumulated.

Reinstall the sponge filter – Once the sponge filter has been thoroughly rinsed, you can reinstall it back into the aquarium. Turn on the air pump and check to make sure the water is flowing properly through the sponge filter.

It’s recommended to clean the sponge filter once a month, or more frequently if you have a heavily stocked aquarium. Regular cleaning will help to maintain good water quality and ensure that your sponge filter is performing optimally.

FAQ

Here are some frequently asked questions that people have about sponge filters in their aquarium!

Can You Use A Regular Sponge Filter In An Aquarium?

While it is technically possible to use a regular sponge as a filter in an aquarium, it may not be the most effective or safe option for your fish. Regular sponges are often made with materials that may contain chemicals or additives that are harmful to aquatic life. Also ,they may not be the right size or pore size to effectively trap and filter out waste in the water.

(Find out more about using a regular sponge as a filter.)

How Do You Make A Sponge Fish Tank Filter?

To make a sponge fish tank filter, you will need a sponge filter, an air pump, airline tubing, and a check valve. Here are the steps to make a sponge fish tank filter:

  • Insert the airline tubing into the air pump and attach the check valve to the other end.
  • Cut a small length of airline tubing and attach it to the check valve.
  • Insert the other end of the small length of airline tubing into the sponge filter.
  • Place the sponge filter into the aquarium, ensuring that it is fully submerged in the water.
  • Turn on the air pump and watch as the sponge filter begins to filter the water.

Do Sponge Filters Aerate The Water?

Sponge filters can definitely help aerate the water. When the air pump is turned on, it creates bubbles that rise through the sponge filter, causing water to be drawn through the sponge, as well as agitate the surface of the water as well. Both of which oxygenate the tank.

Is One Sponge Filter Enough?

As a general rule of thumb, one sponge filter can handle up to 10 gallons of water. However, if you have a heavily stocked aquarium or a larger aquarium, you may need to use multiple sponge filters, or a larger one to ensure adequate filtration.

Are Sponge Filters Good For Bettas?

Sponge filters are great choices for Bettas. Bettas prefer calm water with little to no water flow, and sponge filters are perfect for this as they provide gentle and consistent water flow. Additionally, sponge filters are beneficial for Bettas as they provide mechanical and biological filtration, removing waste and harmful chemicals from the water.

Are Sponge Filters Good For Axolotl Tanks?

Sponge filters are wonderful choices for Axolotl tanks. Axolotls require clean water, and a sponge filter is a great way to achieve this. Sponge filters are gentle and do not create strong water currents, which is important for Axolotls as they can get easily stressed by strong water movements. 

Are Sponge Filters Or Power Filters Better?

Sponge filters are gentle and affordable but may not work for larger tanks. Power filters are effective for larger tanks, but can create strong water currents and are more expensive. The choice depends on the aquarium’s needs and species. A combination of both filters may work best.

Do Sponge Filters Help With Algae?

Sponge filters can help with algae to some extent, as they remove organic matter from the water, reducing the nutrients that can contribute to algae growth. However, they are not a complete solution to preventing or removing algae growth.

Does Bacteria Grow In Sponge Filters?

Bacteria can definitely grow in sponge filters. Sponge filters provide a large surface area for beneficial bacteria to colonize, which helps to break down waste and maintain good water quality in the aquarium.

Do You Need An Airstone If You Have A Sponge Filter?

The need for an airstone with a sponge filter depends on the aquarium’s requirements. A sponge filter provides aeration, but some aquariums may need extra aeration or circulation. In those cases, an airstone can be added. However, many aquariums can do well with just a sponge filter for maintaining good water quality and aeration.

Conclusion

In conclusion, choosing the best sponge filter for your aquarium depends on your specific needs and preferences. Whether you prioritize durability, efficiency, ease of use, or affordability, there is a sponge filter on the market that will meet your criteria. We hope this article has provided you with valuable information to make an informed decision when selecting the best sponge filter for your aquarium.

About the author

Hey! I'm Antonio!

Betta fish keeper for over 6 years now! Since owning a betta I've also housed all kinds of tropical fish, and have seen all manner of problems and how to look after them!

If you need any advice you can always message me or better yet join the Facebook group where a community can answer your questions!

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