Regardless of whether you’re new to the world of aquatic pets or you’ve been riding this wave for a while, sponge filters are one of the easiest and most reliable filtration systems you can get for your setup.
As we’ve spent quite some time researching, exploring, and reviewing different filters, we’ve also come to the conclusion that will be backed up by many: sponge filters will be your filter of choice if you need something easy and effective.
Either way, even the most experienced aquarists need some opinions from other professionals. You’ll find different recommendations based on your specifications for your setup; however, our filter of choice is the filter. We’ve made sure to handpick these out of hundreds on the market to bring you and your aquatic pets the best sponge filter.
- Best Double: hygger Aquarium Double Sponge Filter
- Best for Shrimp: Hikari Bacto-Surge High-Density Foam Filter
- Best Flexible: Aquarium Technology, Inc. Hydro-Sponge Filter
- Best for Bettas: Aquaneat Aquarium Bio Sponge Filter
- Best for 10 Gallon Tank: Lefunpets Sponge Filter
Who Should Use Sponge Filters?
Among some really good and beneficial filtration systems out in the market, sponge filters stand out. Our team has done an extensive research to tell you that these best sponge filters are friendly to delicate livestock, among other impressive qualities.
Sponge filters are also the best at ensuring that breeding or/and quarantine tanks are 100% safe and stress-free, providing aquarium water with abundant air, and are, price-wise, very strong opponents to some other options in the category.
Tanks with Delicate Livestock
People often buy popular breeds of fish that also happen to be extremely delicate and require lots of specific conditions provided to live happy and healthy. And more often than not, the higher-end products and equipment aren’t going to be the ones to get the job done right.
Tiny fish or shrimp is like the perfect example of the phenomenon, and if you have ever kept them, you will know how easy it is for them to, for example, get caught up in the filtration systems.
So if delicate species are your favorites, sponge filters should be your go-to. Not only will your fish never get sucked up, but many of your invertebrates will be more than happy to feed on the tiny debris and detritus the sponge filters will have collected.
It’s worth noting how away more calmer your aquarium water will be since the sponge filters only create as much turbulence as the gas exchange process requires. There’s not much turbulence to disturb species that don’t prefer high currents, such as some tropical freshwater fish.
Quarantine and Breeding Tanks
We said earlier that with quarantine and breeding tanks, sponge filters are one of the most suitable choices. The reasoning is pretty simple: they make sure not only that the health of the fish won’t be compromised by adding too many unnecessary elements in a tank or by requiring fancy maintenance procedures.
Sponge filters also keep the fish safe from being pushed around by high currents or sacked up by some aggressive filter.
Freshwater Shrimp Tanks
Another group that will likely find sponge filters most useful is freshwater shrimp breeders. These filters are one of the best for shrimp tanks.
We are not going to remind you how gentle these filters are and how positive that is for small freshwater shrimps and their babies. Shrimps will all appreciate aerated water with minimal turbulence.
Let’s also not forget that, when using sponge filters, you will notice biofilm grow right on the foam’s surface. That is a great food resource for your shrimps and a big part of why so many people opt for systems of sponge filtrates instead of anything else with their shrimp tanks.
Bettas Fish Tanks
The number of bacteria needed to keep aquarium waters safe is important, especially in mid-size or bigger tanks.
Fortunately, Betta fish prefer nano aquariums, so sponge filters are a no-brainer choice in this case because of just how perfect they fit into the environment and help make it safe for Bettas, who need calm waters.
Let’s also not forget that more powerful filters would probably do more harm than good, sucking up your Bettas or putting their long fins in danger of being caught up within the filter’s body.
Best Sponge Filters Reviewed
Now that you know more about the sponge filters and how they can be implemented into your setup, it’s time to pick the best ones! We have reviewed and created a list of the best sponge filters, so there is an option for everyone regardless of tank size or budget needs.
The Hygger Aquarium Double Sponge Filter is perfect for anyone looking for an easy and efficient way to keep their fish tank clean. This filter is super quiet and more delicate than other filters on the market, making it perfect for any fish tank – from a small betta and shrimp tank to a large tropical fish tank.
This filter uses mechanical filtration and biological filtration (via bio media included) that work together with air bubbles from an air pump (not included) to create optimal conditions for the growth of helpful bacteria that remove ammonia, nitrites, and other toxins from your aquarium water while also providing oxygenation for healthy plants and fish.
The double sponge filter design allows twice the amount of beneficial bacteria to grow on each side of the filter media which means twice as much oxygenation in your water. It’s simple enough that nearly anyone can set up this type of filter in minutes without having any previous experience doing so!
- Two-sponge design
- Big surface area
- Bio filter media balls included
- Replaceable filter media
- Provides a greater water intake
- Energy saving and silent
- Well-known and reputable brand
- Doesn’t include an air pump
Anyone with a little bit of experience would simply tell you that the Hikari sponge filter is the most well-rounded product you can get and wouldn’t bother to give you other options.
This sponge filter comes in different sizes, where the largest can handle aquariums for up to 125 gallons like a champ. Regardless of the ecosystem, freshwater, or saltwater, the highly porous, polyether foam sponges will handle it just well and keep doing that for quite a while.
It is also going to be easy to maintain and clean up. When delivered, the package came full. However, this was not the case for one of our team that had ordered one for themselves a while ago. They reported some pieces missing, and they had to find them themselves (not essential pieces).
The setup is a breeze up to the final step. We soon understood that it would be a struggle to keep the sponge filter submerged. It took some time and effort to get rid of the oxygen in the foam. We had to rinse it thoroughly several times for that to happen. Once it was submerged, it was a statement piece and made sure everyone could see it.
- Great for freshwater/marine
- Potent water flow
- Promotes good bacteria growth
- Well-known and reputable brand
- Easy to clean
- Longevity boosted due to polyether foam
- Sponge tends to float and is somehow hard to keep submerged
- Large and bulky
- No Air pump
This product is at the top of its category and is one of the user favorites due to its efficacy while usage. It comes in 5 sizes, 10, 20, 40, 80, and even 125 gallons making it one of the most flexible options on our list. Especially considering that it can be placed horizontally and vertically, thus giving it extra flexibility in placement.
You can put it anywhere in your tank since it doesn’t need to be attached to the tank’s walls. You might want to pair this filter with a CO2 diffuser since by itself it can get a little loud from the bubbles hitting the surface, kind of like when water is boiling. The difference in noise without vs. with a diffuser would be about ten times quieter, so it is something to consider.
The filter is practical because you don’t need to buy a whole new unit, even when the sponge wears out. You can replace the sponges. This is an excellent product, completing the checklist of an all-optional product. The lift tube is around 1 inch, a diameter that allows a wide variety of equipment to be connected without the need for adapters and a higher volume of water to be processed.
The sponge is made of a material that can withstand regular cleanings and high water currents that allows the best mechanical filtration. In rare cases, there may be missing pieces that prevent setting everything up correctly. Another thing we noticed is that it requires regular cleaning since the foam gets clogged, and the sponge starts floating unless rinsed.
- Can be hooked up directly to an aquarium powerhead
- The diffuser can replace air stones
- Easy to assemble
- Doesn’t require constant cartridge replacements
- Quick to clean
- Comes in different sizes and can be placed horizontally or vertically
- Hard to sink
- Gets clogged easily
- Requires to be cleaned often
- Air pump not included
This compact sponge filter is perfect for Bettas since it isn’t very space-occupying but still provides enough surface area for beneficial bacteria. Due to its size, you can’t pair this small filter with a CO2 diffuser, so you should expect it to be louder than a filter of a larger size at about 60 decibels with really no way to make it quieter.
A weighted base on the bottom of the unit is intended to keep the filter stable; however, you should still be careful with keeping it from being moved around when the air is on. A benefit to its dimensions is that this piece is really easy to hide with plants or other aquarium decorations.
We recommend using an air pump with this filter rather than a powerhead since it would probably bring more hassle since it is so light.
- Greater surface area for beneficial bacteria
- Easy to hide
- Better oxygen exchange rate
- Mechanical and biological filtration
- Corner design good for a different size
- Easy to submerge
- Underpowered for large tanks
- Some parts are missing from the delivery
- Larger bubbles are produced that might affect the sealife
The perfect choice if you have a 10 gallon fish tank, this corner design will be a great addition to your small tank. It’s easy to disassemble and assemble, making it easy to maintain and clean.
To push its maximum capacity, it’s a great idea to add an ear stone since this sponge filter works better with that. It tends to float up for a few days and then submerges and stays like that. It promotes healthy bacteria growth since the sponge has a dense foam. However, it gets clogged easily. It’s great for smaller tanks and will be a breeze to handle.
- Saves on space
- Easy to maintain and disassemble
- Promotes bacteria growth
- Needs additional purchase
- Works well only on smaller tanks
- The sponge will float for a few days
Disadvantages of a Sponge Filters
A good item, no matter how great it is, can’t be realistic with some flaws. You need to keep in mind a few things before deciding on a sponge filter that will also help you understand them better.
No Chemical Filtration
If you prefer to throw a pinch of chemical media here and there to ease the process of filtration -and your life in general-, maybe don’t keep your hopes up for finding a way around the sponge filters.
It is really important to get this part right, as it is vital to keeping ideal conditions in any fish tank. Suppose there is not enough surface area of sponge to withhold a certain, necessary amount of bioload.
In that case, the water parameters will be thrown out of proportion making the water practically unsafe for any fish living in it.
Your Fish Might Try to Eat It
We said earlier that because sponge filters work like mechanical filters, they always trap food bits. That’s why more energetic fish might carelessly bite into it, thinking it is a snack.
The fact that sponge filters are supposed to stay inside the tank and, therefore, around your fish all day makes life even more difficult.
They Are Loud and Difficult to Hide
If the looks of a tank don’t matter to you, you might not be too dissatisfied by the appearance of a big sponge with practically no option of concealment right into your space; however, the noise factor is more universal.
We made sure to include the quietest sponge filter that would not bother you, but you must consider noise when choosing something different from our top pics.
You need to think about the noise so as not to be disturbed by it at night, especially if you find your fish a source of comfort, stress relief, and relaxation. Keep in mind that noise is also a problem you will have to think about when purchasing an aquarium powerhead.
What to Look for When Buying a Sponge Filters
If the part above leaves you with some questions, it’s sure that the one below will answer them all. We put all our years of experience into a definitive guide of purchasing the best sponge filter, and the results are there to read for your convenience.
Sponge filters are different from other filtrating systems for yet another reason. That is their lack of GPH rating (flow rating in Gallons Per Hour). The reason behind this is that the filter’s performance doesn’t depend on the sponge at all: it’s the quality of the air pump and the powerhead that makes the difference.
You must know that the best sponge filters do not have a consistent flow rate, resulting from the sponges collecting debris, and therefore, the flow rate decreases. When the filters are clean again, there is a little blockage on the surface, and the flow rate shoots up again.
Having this in mind, it is best to opt for coarser tip sponges, as they tend to clog up from the debris slower than finer tip sponges, regardless of the filter’s overall design.
Aquarium And Filter Size
We might consider this a very important advantage that sponge filters have over Hang on Back and canister systems. You don’t have to pick and choose the perfect size for this type of filter. As long as you can fit it into your tank, that is.
Conveniently, you can use the same sponge filter for different size tanks. A larger sponge surface won’t force you to clean it as much. However, the flow rate won’t be impacted by it at all.
You might find some of the filters slightly underpowered for larger tanks. That can be fixed if you use two or more filters in the same tank.
Nowadays, every business strives to advertise their product or service in the way that is most intriguing and appealing to their clientele. Filter manufacturers are similar in nature, and yet, however, there are few unique features in the market for sponge filter kits.
Some items may allow flexibility in setting up the direction of the outer flow current or repositioning the sponge tip lower or higher for more efficient debris collection.
Keep in mind that if you’re using the same filter for year-long periods, you might find containers or stages for holding extra filter media.
Averagely, sponge filters have a price varying from $8 to $20, and that gives just about anyone a breath of fresh air because it means you can choose to make no compromise on the quality freely since it is so affordable.
What is most important, even more probably than the filter kit itself, is the price for the replacement parts: sponges, for instance, need a twice-yearly replacement, so make sure you can source them easily.
As for our final words, we think it’s important to emphasize that there is no one-size-fits-all in the fish care community. No one knows exactly how your situation is, from fish type to tank size, to ecosystem to budget, etc., nobody can give you a definitive answer.
With the right professional guidance we have provided in this article, it’s safe to say that you have everything you need to make the correct choice. We’d strongly recommend the Hikari Bacto-Surge High-Density Foam Filter for most use cases or the Aquarium Technology, Inc. Hydro-Sponge Filter if you need to get the job done well regardless of how it looks in your tank.
We hope to have contributed to the longevity of your aquatic ecosystem and thus made your fish happy and you a little clearer on your decision.
How We Choose the Best Sponge Filter
During our many years of experience, we’ve come across different products that claim to provide the best for your fish. However, that claim is not always true. We go through all the options, evaluate them, pick out a large selection of products, and take them to our team to review.
Then we come up with a definite list of products and a guide to help you choose between them based on your tank setup. Between hobbyists, there’s always some prejudice going around for new products on the market, and that’s why we take it upon ourselves to weigh all options equally as if we were to choose for ourselves. A member of our team ends up taking a product home after reviewing it.
We hope that our efforts helped in making your choice easy, and we assure you that you won’t regret purchasing either of the products listed above.
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