When it comes to your aquarium, there are many, many factors to consider. Proper filtration is one of the most important things, as with the wrong filter, your fish won’t have good water quality, might have too strong a current in the tank, or other issues.
Personally, I love a good sponge filter for many situations, but they’re especially great for my breeding tanks, shrimp tanks, and even nano tanks when it comes down to it.
Let’s take a look at the best options for sponge filters for many situations, including budget-friendly, small aquariums, and more.
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4 Best Sponge Filters for Your Aquarium
Once you’re ready to find the right filter for your aquarium, you’ll find these options are a great collection to choose from. Look at the details, what comes with them, and what they’re great for to find the right one for your fish tank.
The Aquaneat Double Bio Sponge filter is a great solution for anyone looking for both mechanical and biological filtration for their small aquarium. The filter hits both needs on the head with powerful filtration that works safely in a variety of smaller aquarium sizes, including breeding tanks and nano tanks.
- Capacity: 10, 20, or 60 gallons
- Comes with: airline tubing, aquarium air pump valves, suction cups
What We Loved
The Double bio sponge filter was designed by this well-trusted brand specifically to be even more effective than the average sponge filter. It’s great for small fish tanks up to 60 gallons for this very purpose.
We love that this sponge filter is safe for fish fry, shrimp, and other small animals and fish that might otherwise be caught up in the filter.
We also love that it offers two methods of filtration, which most tanks benefit from greatly.
It’s also easy to install, clean, and maintain, which is a big thing for us.
What We Didn’t Love
The only “downside” of this is that it’s not intended for larger fish tanks. If you’re just keeping a smaller aquarium though, that’s not a problem.
If you’re an aquarist with a smaller fish tank in mind, then this one really is the best sponge filter option out there. It combines the power of mechanical filtration with biological filtration for a super healthy, clean, happy aquarium.
Just remember it’s not suitable for tanks larger than 60 gallons – and for that, make sure you get the large size! – or you’ll find it’s not effective enough for your water capacity.
While this brand isn’t as well known on Amazon as say, Hygger or Fluval, the Jardin Sponge Filter is a great option for anyone looking for a budget-friendly sponge filter. It’s similar to more expensive offerings but much less expensive for those who aren’t as concerned about name brand and more concerned with affordability.
- Capacity: 10 gallons
- Comes with: filter and tube
What We Loved
We love that this budget-friendly option is effective for smaller aquariums up to 10 gallons in size.
And, honestly, we love that this one is super cheap. It’s great for someone on a tight budget yet provides a high-quality filtration system as needed.
We also love that it’s super easy to clean and doesn’t require any particular maintenance. Just run under cool water.
It also pairs with air pumps and air stones, which makes it a great option for most small aquarium setups.
What We Didn’t Love
We didn’t really find anything not love on this, except the capacity. It won’t work for larger tanks for sure, so it’s not for everyone.
If you need an inexpensive, easy to use sponge filter for a small aquarium, this is a great option for hobbyists getting started in fishkeeping in particular. It helps your fish have good water quality without requiring maintenance or much effort on your part. It’s just not going to be great for tanks larger than about 10 gallons.
If you’re looking for a quiet, submersible, easy to install filter kit, the Hygger Aquarium Double Sponge Filter kit is probably your best bet. This inclusive kit comes with some extras to get you started and works for either freshwater or saltwater aquarium setups.
- Capacity: 10-55 gallons
- Comes with: 2 spare sponges, 1 bag of bio ceramic media balls
What We Loved
Coming from one of the most well-trusted brands in the hobby, Hygger offers some really great things with this filter kit. The filter has a media chamber for adding extra biological filtration, plus the ceramic media balls come with it, so no extra expenses there.
You can replace the media with carbon, as well, and have a three-stage filter, if needed, which is fantastic.
We also love the telescoping lift tube which allows you to make the filter even quieter for those spaces where you really don’t want any extra noise.
What We Didn’t Love
The only potential downside to this one is that it cannot be modified to suit air stones. If you’re not in need of that, then you’re all set!
The Hygger double sponge filter kit is a great option for anyone looking for some extra oompf for their money, along with extra sponges. The kit comes with a bag of bio ceramic media balls, as well, which adds even more punch to your filtration. The only downside is that it can’t be modified.
The Aquarium Technology Inc., Hydro-Sponge Filter is our top pick for the best sponge power filter for larger aquariums. The filter itself doesn’t have the capacity for larger tanks but it’s specifically designed to work with powerheads to enable it to do just that.
- Capacity: up to 125 gallons without powerhead
- Comes with: filter with one sponge only
What We Loved
We love the way this one is built. It allows easy adjustments and modifications to work with multiple devices, like air stones and powerheads so that you can filter whatever size aquarium you’ve got.
It has a free-standing heavy base that locks securely into place, making it super easy to install, maintain, and durable.
It’s made of super high quality foam material for long lasting quality and extra biological filtration surface.
What We Didn’t Love
One potential downside to this is that it’s a bit more expensive than some filters, especially since it doesn’t come with any extras. But since it can be used to filter much larger aquariums and is made of super high-quality materials, it doesn’t seem that expensive to us.
The other downside is that this has no chemical filtration options.
If you’ve got a larger aquarium and need powerful filtration, this is your best bet. It’s easy to install, sturdy, made of high-quality materials, and can easily modify to work with air stones or powerheads. The real potential downside is that there’s no real option for chemical filtration with this.
What is a Sponge Filter?
A classic sponge filter is a simple device that has six parts to it: a base, step, strainer, bullseye, lift tube, and sponge. This kind of filter has a piece of foam that can filter an entire fish tank. The foam filter can double as both a biological and mechanical filter.
These filters can be noisy and to reduce that noise try attaching a piece of airline to the bottom of the bullseye, this will allow you to attach a diffuser that can sit inside the strainer. This will help make the bubbles going through much finer so that the filter is not so loud.
Parts of a Sponge Filter
There are four basic components of the sponge filter.
1. Foam Sponge
The high quality of the filter the better the foam will be. This is important because the sponge houses the bacteria that acts as a filter.
2. Weighted Base
This is a vital part that keeps your sponge from floating away or being carried off by a current. The base can be anchored on rocks or gravel.
3. Strainer and Bulls Eye
The strainer keeps out detritus and food from filtering out of the filter. The Bull’s eye helps to connect the airline tube directly to the sponge filter.
4. Life Tube
This moves water from the sponge filter and into the tank. Some filters connect to an aquarium powerhead which helps the filter operate quietly.
What Are Sponge Filters Used For?
In order for a tank to operate successfully, it requires biological filters. These filters handle all of the waste that the fish produce in their tank. If this waste is not removed then it will begin to break down and produce ammonia in the water. Ammonia is highly toxic for fish and it doesn’t take a lot of time for it to build up and then kill the fish in your tank.
1. Biological Filtration
For a tank to operate successfully it requires biological filters. These filters handle all of the waste that the fish produce in their tank. If this waste is not removed then it will begin to break down and produce ammonia in the water. Ammonia is highly toxic for fish and it doesn’t take a lot of time for it to build up and then kill the fish in your tank.
What is Biological Filtration?
Biological filtration is just a technical term for the process in which the fish wastes in the tank water is converted from being toxic to being non-toxic. The filter itself houses colonies of good bacteria that act to detoxify the waste. The bacteria turn ammonia first into nitrite and then into nitrate. Nitrate is much less toxic so it can be allowed to build for up between the tank’s weekly water changes.
In order to have these bacteria they need a place to live and the filter provides that. The bacteria even produce a natural type of glue and are able to fix themselves to surfaces where there is a lot of water. The sponge provides plenty of surface space that bacteria can live on.
This kind of bacteria is aerobic which means they need oxygen to live. There is a need for water to continually flow over them and this will give them the needed oxygen.
2. 2-in-1 Filter
Not only are sponge filters are great biofilters but they can also work as mechanical filters in picking up detritus and food particles from the water. This all means that it can also pick up all of the waste that your fish put out.
It’s important to know when to clean out your filter because they can pick up a surprising amount of gunk.
Another great advantage of using sponge filters is that they help to aerate your tank. By itself, a sponge filter is great for working with a 10-gallon tank. In larger tanks, a sponge filter can work great in conjunction with hang on the back filters. This is especially effective in long tanks so that there are no dead spots and all the water in the tank is moving and being filtered.
4. Safe for Fry and Shrimp Tanks
Sponge filters are a great choice for tanks that house shrimp or fry. With canister filters and hang on the back filters, it is easy for shrimp and fry to get sucked into. An advantage of sponge filters there is no way for these species to get sucked up. Oftentimes shrimp and fry will choose to feed off of the surface area of the filter and eat trapped food, bacteria, and algae.
5. Cycled Back Up Filter
No one ever expects their primary filters to break but having a sponge filter in your tank can make for a great backup. When a filter breaks it is easy to miss things for a day or two, especially with a canister filter. This lack of aquarium water flow can kill all the beneficial bacteria. However, with a sponge aquarium filter acting as a backup, your tank will be safe until you can replace the primary filter.
6. Low Flow Rate Tanks
If you are running a tank with fish that prefer slow-moving currents, sponge filters are great for this. Bettas still need the benefits that filters provide but can’t handle fast currents well. Using a sponge filter will keep them healthy and happy.
What Kinds of Aquariums Benefit from Sponge Filters?
1. Breeder Tanks
One of the best ways to put a sponge filter to work is in a tank for breeding fish. This filter is gentle, so it does an impressive job in a breeder tank. There will be no risk of losing your fry.
2. Quarantine/Hospital Tanks
No matter how careful a fishkeeper is, sooner or later fish will get sick. When fish get sick it’s important to have a quarantine tank for them to recover in. Sponge filters are a treat for this type of tank because they can provide all the beneficial bacteria needed to help your fish recover. There is no chemical filtration with sponge filters so there is no need to worry about losing the medicine through the filter.
3. Freshwater Shrimp Tanks
If you have a freshwater shrimp tank then a sponge filter is a great choice. Your shrimp will be protected from being sucked up into the filter due to the design. Furthermore, sponger filters grow biofilm on the surface and this can provide a food resource for your shrimp.
4. Betta Fish, Guppies, Cichlids, Discus, and Goldfish Tanks
Betta fish are a species that needs calm water and also have long fins that can be damaged by some of the more powerful filters. If you want to make sure your Betta or other fish remain safe and healthy then using a sponge filter is a great option.
5. Small Fish Tanks
If you are planning on using an aquarium that twenty gallons or less, then a sponge filter is a good choice. A high-quality sponge filter will be able to offer the filtration needed to support your fish.
Pro Tip on GPH Ratings
While shopping for sponge filters it is important to look for what tank size they are rated for. There is a wide variety of tank sizes and it’s important to make sure that if you need a sixty-gallon filter you don’t purchase a ten.
Pay attention to the Gallons Per Hour (GPH) rating and this will tell you a lot of information that you need to know. For the filter to have any effect the water has to flow through the sponge to get to the beneficial bacteria that live inside of it. Larger tanks require a larger filter, a larger sponge, and a capacity for processing larger amounts of water per hour.
Remember with Filtration: More is More
When running a larger sized tank, it is important to have enough filtration for your tank. Depending on how your tank is set up it may operate better with several smaller sponge filters rather than just a single large one. The smaller filters can be placed strategically around the tank to have an increase in water flow and remove any dead spots.
What Are The Benefits Of A Sponge Filter?
Sponge filters have a lot going for them that make them super attractive for fishkeepers, especially those keeping planted tanks.
1. Easy To Use Biological Filtration
Sponge filters are great because they are so easy to use. With a high-quality filter, all you have to do is follow the simple instructions, and then your fish will be happy.
2. Two In One Design
Sponger filters are a two in one type filter that can filter both biological and mechanical wastes.
3. They Are Gentle
If your fish tank requires a gentle current, then sponge filters will work great. This filter is safe for use around shrimp, baby fish, and small fish.
4. Very Quick to Cycle
This is a very flexible filter that if you have an emergency need to cycle another tank, it can help.
5. They are Inexpensive
This filter is one of the most cost-effective means of keeping your tank clean. Depending on how big your tank is, do the math and you’ll see that sponge filters can save you money while making your fish happy and keeping them healthy.
What Are The Disadvantages Of A Sponge Filter?
Sponge filters are great, but like everything else on this planet, there are some flaws.
1. They are Kind of Ugly
If you are setting up a personal tank where the display doesn’t matter, this filter should be fine. However, if you are creating a tank for display purposes this filter may not work for you. These filters are so large that they cannot be easily hidden.
2. No Chemical Filtration
If you are using a sponge filter you will not be able to use chemical filtration in the same tank. You can offset not being able to use chemical media by using a large number of quality live plants. However, this may not line up with the fish you want to house in your tank.
3. Some Fish Will Try To Eat It
Certain kinds of fish will try to eat anything. Sponge filters need to be placed inside the fish tank and may trap a large number of food particles. Some fish may start to think the filter looks like a meal waiting to happen.
4. They Can Be Loud And Messy if Not Used Properly
Sponge filters require some experience to install. If you are not careful in how you set up your tank you will have a very loud experience when the sponge filter starts to work. The uplift tubes also need to be properly placed otherwise you will end up with water splashed everywhere.