Fish enthusiasts are usually interested in the most recent or technologically advanced method of accomplishing a task such as filtration. The sponge filters, which haven’t changed much in the last 20 years, are a notable exception. The best sponge filters are basic devices that any fish keeper should have on hand!

A Quick Comparison of the 5 Best Sponge Filters.

Product Features
UPETTOOLS Sponge FilterUPETTOOLS Sponge Filter Tank Capacity: Up to 15 Gallons
Dimensions: Variable
Power: Air Pump or Powerhead
Aquatop Sponge Filter KitAquatop Sponge Filter Kit Tank Capacity: Up to 60 Gallons
Dimensions: 5.5 x 5.5 x 8.5 inches
Power: Air Pump or Powerhead
AquaPapa Corner Internal FilterAquaPapa Corner Internal Filter Tank Capacity: 5 to 10 Gallons
Dimensions: 5 x 3.4 x 3.4 inches
Power: Air Pump
Huijukon Double Sponge Filter KitHuijukon Double Sponge Filter Kit Tank Capacity: 10 to 60 Gallons
Dimensions: 5.9 x 2.4 x 11.1 inches
Power: Air Pump
Lustar Hydro Sponge Filter KitLustar Hydro Sponge Filter Kit Tank Capacity: 10 to 40 Gallons
Dimensions: 6.2 x 4.4 x 4.1 inches
Power: Air Pump or Powerhead

What Exactly Is A Sponge Filter?

A sponge filter is exactly what it sounds like: a filter that mechanically captures particles of food and solid fish waste floating in your aquarium water using a fine or coarse sponge. Unlike HOBs and canister filters, sponge filters do not typically include filter media or chemically clean the water in a tank.

The terminology is where things get a little confusing for new fish keepers. While including stages for water-polishing sponges or being modifiable with a sponge filter tip, other types of filters are not sponge filters. Let’s go over the specifics so you can see what makes these useful filters stand out from the crowd!

What Is Included in a Sponge Filter Kit?

While there are many different styles and designs, all of the sponge filters that I’ve seen and used have the same basic setup. Some of the newer models have increased capacity for filtering media (more on this below), but this is not a standard feature. When you purchase a complete sponge filter system, you can expect the kit to include the following items:

  • Sponge Tip– For the filter intake, use a coarse or fine spongy cover.
  • Intake Tube– A plastic tube with holes through which the sponge tip fits.
  • Central Tube/Outflow– Either part of the intake tube or connected to it, the central tube may also be the outflow where water returns to your tank or connect to a separate, adjustable outflow.

How Does a Sponge Filter Work?

Sponge filters are attached to the side of your tank or are weighted to rest on the rim. Water is drawn through the sponge tip, where debris is collected, into the central tube, and out the outflow back into your tank.

Sponge filters are used in aquariums to provide simple mechanical filtration. While healthy aquatic bacteria can grow in your sponge filter, they usually don’t provide much biological filtration unless they have a special stage designed to hold bio-media for an extended period of time. Despite their advertising, the majority of these filters are only one stage.

How Do Sponge Filters Get Their Power?

You’ll note that there’s one item missing from the parts list: a power source. You’ll need to pick and buy your power supply separately from the pack, whether it’s an air pump for a sponge filter or an aquarium powerhead. The lack of moving parts is the primary explanation for the low cost of these filters.

Using Sponge Tips With Different Filters

A finer sponge tip may be used to replace the plastic intake panel on a HOB or canister filter. This allows you to use your filter for very tiny or delicate fish and shrimp that would otherwise be sucked through the standard screen. However, if you don’t want to reduce the flow rates, you should use a coarser sponge.

Taking Care of Sponge Filters

Sponge filters have the added benefit of being incredibly simple to maintain. When it comes to regular washing, this is by far the most hands-off filtration device. You’ll normally only have to remove the sponge tip and clean it once a week or a couple of times a month (depending on how much debris is in your tank).

It just takes a few minutes to clean the sponge tip under running water, and then you can replace it on the intake and go about your day. The sponges, on the other hand, normally last about 6 months before needing to be replaced. The intake, core, and outflow tubes may need to be cleaned a few times a year, but that’s it!

Advantages of using Sponge Filters in Aquariums

There are some reasons why experienced aquarists keep sponge filter kits on hand, even if they don’t use them often or as their primary filtration method.

  • Sponge filter kits are extremely affordable, and even premium systems seldom cost more than $20, to begin with.
  • Replacement sponges are inexpensive, and they only need to be replaced every six months, resulting in very low overall running costs.
  • They are extremely adaptable and can be used in freshwater and marine tanks of any scale.
  • They’re a great way to add oxygen to your aquarium’s water.
  • They produce little water current, making them suitable for low-flow fish such as shrimp, Bettas, and goldfish.
  • Sponge filters are low-maintenance and need just a few minutes of cleaning once a month.
  • They are suitable for use in hospital tanks or when medicating your aquarium because they (usually) do not contain filter material.
  • Sponge filter tips also protect your other filtration device from harming small fish, fry, shrimp, or snails.

 Sponge Filters Disadvantages

These filters have also some serious drawbacks, despite their many advantages. Although I recommend having an emergency kit on hand, there aren’t many cases where I’d use a sponge device as my primary filter, and here’s why:

  • Sponge filters only offer one-stage mechanical filtration and are unable to extract chemicals or odors from aquarium water.
  • Since the sponge tip is rinsed clean weekly to avoid clogging, it won’t provide much biological filtration to your tank.
  • Further media compartments can give good bacteria more room to thrive in premium sponge filters in the long term, but still offer less space than other filters (or your substrate, for that matter).
  • Sponge filter tanks need water modifications at least weekly, to remove toxins from the water except if your primary filter is used with another chemical purification system.
  • Sponge tips can only filter some waste and can be blocked quickly in a dirty tank.
  • You really can’t polish water like a HOB or a canister system and as the filter takes waste, the flow rate drops dramatically.
  • You may need to clean the sponge tip more than once a week to keep the water flowing through the filter, depending on how thin or gross the substance is.
  • While the sponge filter is cheap, you will need to purchase an air pump or power supply to operate the filter as well.
Aquarium Sponge Filter Pros & Cons
  • Setup and maintenance are both inexpensive.
  • Freshwater, brackish, and marine tanks are all possible applications.
  • Since they don’t use chemical filter media, they’re ideal for hospital tanks and filtering a medicated group tank.
  • Ideal for growing fry, snails, shrimp, and other small, fragile aquatic species that would otherwise be sucked into a conventional screened intake.
  • Operation necessarily involves the use of an auxiliary power source.
  • Typically only provides one stage of filtration (mechanical), making it ineffective in most types of tanks.
  • The effectiveness of the sponge is determined by its texture, pore size, and the amount of debris in the tank.

Selecting The Best Sponge Filter For Your Aquarium

Let’s bring it all together and discuss how to choose the best sponge filter for your aquarium! As compared to more complex filter designs, there isn’t much to think about when purchasing a sponge filter. Almost any kind will effectively remove debris from your water. However, here’s what to look for in the best.

Size of Aquarium and Filter.
Sponge filter kitsOne significant difference between sponge filters and HOB and canister systems is that you don’t have to think as much about filter size matching tank capacity. Although most sponge filters come with suggested tank sizes, you can use any sponge filter in any tank as long as it fits inside.

A sponge filter for a 10-gallon tank is available, but you aren’t limited to that size. I’ve used the same sponge filter in tanks ranging in size from 2.5 to 75 gallons! Using a larger sponge tip in a larger tank will reduce cleaning frequency, but the size has little bearing on flow rates, which are determined by the power source.

Price And Replacement Parts.
filter replacementMost sponge filter kits cost between $8 and $20, but even a premium filter won’t break the bank. Instead of worrying about the initial kit’s price, I’d look into the cost of replacement parts and sponges. You’ll need to replace the sponge at least twice a year, so make sure you can get replacements quickly!
Advanced characteristics

Sponge Filter PartsDespite the manufacturer’s marketing and hype, sponge filter kits don’t come with several unique features. For optimal debris collection, you may be able to change the direction of the outflow current or raise or lower the location of the sponge tip. Suction cups and weighted bases will also help keep the filters in place.

If you’re going to use your filter all year, an advanced feature to look for in a container or stage that can carry extra filter media.

This isn’t necessary for hospital tanks, but it’s great for breeding fish, raising fry, and general community tanks.
Ceramic rings or other biological filtering media are typically used in the containers, but some may also enable chemical media such as carbon to be used.

A Reminder About GPH Ratings And Sponge Filters

Another significant distinction between sponge filters and other models is that they do not have a flow rating in gallons per hour (GPH). This is because the flow rate is entirely determined by the output of your air pump or powerhead, rather than the sponge filter’s design.

Sponge filters often don’t have a consistent flow rate because it decreases as the sponge tip picks up debris and then rises as it is washed. As a result, GPH isn’t a useful metric for comparing these filters to one another or to other systems.

  • Regardless of the overall design of the filter, finer sponge tips clog faster and slow the rate much more than coarser tips.
  • This is why, when using a sponge tip with a HOB/canister filter, the coarser style is preferable, as a finer product could burn out the motor if it clogs and you don’t catch it right away.

Best Product Reviews for Sponge Filters and Filter Tips

Because they are not high-priced items, there is a wide variety of sponge filters on the market, and many of them look nearly identical to one another. I wouldn’t worry too much about specific brands for these filters; instead, choose one with the features you require, one that will work with your power supply, and one that has readily available replacement parts.

1. UPETTOOLS Sponge Filter

UPETTOOLS Sponge FilterTank Capacity: Up to 15 Gallons
Dimensions: Variable
Power: Air Pump or Powerhead

Check Price

Sponge filters are typically single-stage devices, but this upetstools alternative combines biological and mechanical filtration for longer-term use. It’s an excellent choice for raising fish and shrimp fry, and while hospital tanks don’t require bio-filtration, the Hydro can still be used for them.

 

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  • Adjustable nature is suitable for raising fish fry and shrimp and provides mechanical and biological filtration with a low, gentle rate of circulation.
  • Maintenance is minimal, and new parts are rarely needed.
  • Only 1 to 2 levels of filtration are available, and if used for a limited period of time, only a single stage is available.
  • If algae grow inside the tubing, it’s difficult to clean.
  • It’s not a particularly long-lasting design, and replacement parts can be difficult to come by.

2. Aquatop Sponge Filter Kit

Aquatop Sponge Filter Kit

Tank Capacity: Up to 60 Gallons
Dimensions: 5.5 x 5.5 x 8.5 inches
Power: Air Pump or Powerhead

Check Price

This simple Aquatop system is a Classic for a reason: these high-quality filters have been around for years with only minor design changes! The weighted base secures the fine sponge tip over the intake, and the central tube serves as an outflow. You can also put this one in any part of your tank.

This versatile sponge filter kit can be used with an air pump or powerhead to help oxygenate your water as it bubbles through the outflow. I really like the sponge tip’s quality, and it’s the perfect size for catching the majority of the debris. However, replacement parts for this system are becoming increasingly difficult to come by.

Aquatop Sponge Filter Kit Pros & Cons
  • The sponge filter can be put anywhere in your tank thanks to the weighted foundation.
  • Works with multiple power sources, or use the sponge tip as a pre-filter for a HOB or canister system on its own.
  • Sponge tips are becoming increasingly difficult to find
  • There are no different types of coarse or fine sponge filter tips to choose from.

3. AquaPapa Corner Internal Filter

AquaPapa Corner Internal Filter

Tank Capacity: 5 to 10 Gallons
Dimensions: 5 x 3.4 x 3.4 inches
Power: Air Pump

If you’re looking for a sponge filter for nano tanks, this intriguing hybrid system might be the one for you. It is an excellent sponge system for a 10-gallon or smaller setup. It is not a sponge filter, but rather a small internal filter with two water-polishing sponges and a small compartment for biological filter media.

This small filter fits neatly in the corner of your tank. An air pump draws water through a plastic screen and into the first compartment with the sponges. This isn’t the best system for raising fry or shrimp because they could get caught in the plastic screen, but it’s ideal for Bettas and other nano fish.

AquaPapa Corner Internal Filter Pros & Cons
  • 2 internal sponges filter and polish the water, and most particles are removed
  • Separate stage in bio-media management, more efficient than using a sponge only
  • An internal filter with a sponge stage, rather than a corner sponge filter.
  • Not ideal for raise small fry or shrimp that may be sucked into the filter through the screen

4. Huijukon Double Sponge Filter Kit

Huijukon Double Sponge Filter Kit

Tank Capacity: 10 to 60 Gallons
Dimensions: 5.9 x 2.4 x 11.1 inches
Power: Air Pump

If you want a versatile sponge filter that can be used in a variety of ways, I highly recommend Huijukon’s Double Sponge Filter Kit. This filter, with two high-quality sponge tips, can cycle twice as much water at once and is less likely to clog than any other system on the list. It’s also one of the simplest to keep up.

This filter includes optional canisters that can be attached to the sponge intake tubes. Fill these with your preferred chemical or biological media for added filtration power! This is an excellent choice for fry and shrimp tanks, hospital installations, and as a secondary filter for any freshwater or marine tank. This is my choice for a sponge filter!

Huijukon Double Sponge Filter Kit Pros & Cons
  • Two high-quality sponge tips allow for twice as much water intake.
  • Optional base containers can hold your preferred filter media.
  • Power is provided by an air pump, and there is no option to use a powerhead.
  • Assembly is required, and this filter has more parts than the others.

5. Lustar Hydro Sponge Filter Kit

Lustar Hydro Sponge Filter KitTank Capacity: 10 to 40 Gallons
Dimensions: 6.2 x 4.4 x 4.1 inches
Power: Air Pump or Powerhead

Another option is the Lustar Hydro Sponge Kit, which is a classically styled and basic filter that can be used with either an air pump or a powerhead. This is their mid-tier model, with a fine and easily clogged sponge tip. If you want a coarser reticulated sponge tip, you’ll need to upgrade to their Pro series.

This sponge filter is ideal for a fry tank or a breeding tank with a low bioload. The fine material will protect any eggs or babies from the filter’s tug. However, weekly cleaning is required to prevent the sponge from becoming clogged with debris. The frequency with which it is maintained will reduce its ability to provide biological filtration.

Lustar Hydro Sponge Filter Kit Pros & Cons
  • It can be positioned in the tank vertically or horizontally and has a weighted base to keep it in place.
  • The fine sponge tip filters out minuscule particles and keeps delicate species from being drawn in.
  • Fine sponge filters clog easily and must be cleaned on a regular basis.
  • To obtain the highest quality sponge filter tip, users must upgrade to the more difficult-to-find Pro series.

Final Thoughts

I hope you enjoyed this brief overview of sponge filters, and I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments or on social media! Sponge filters are extremely useful regardless of the size or type of tank you keep, and these adaptable systems are ideal for raising delicate small fish, fry, and shrimp, as well as hospital tanks.

Don’t worry if you’re still unsure about which sponge filter is best for your home. These are cheap enough that you can easily upgrade if you don’t like your first choice.

  • Personally, I prefer the versatile Huijukon Double Sponge, and I’ve been using the Fluval Sponge tip on my powered HOB and canister filter intakes for years.
  • The Aquatop Classic is a great basic sponge filter that is ideal for larger tanks up to 60 gallons in size, but the Lustar is a better option if you prefer a finer sponge tip.

William
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