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Best Sponge Filters for Aquariums

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When it comes to keeping your aquarium fish healthy, high water quality is a must. Filtration is essential to remove solid and dissolved wastes, keeping your tank water free from toxins that might harm your fish. There are a number of different kinds of filters designed to provide mechanical, chemical, or biological filtration – some filters offer all three. Sponge filters provide mechanical filtration and, over time, may provide biological filtration as well.

While sponge filters may not be the ideal filtration method for all aquariums, they certainly have their applications. Read on to see our top picks for the best sponge filters for aquariums. 

Before you go shopping for sponge filters, think about how you’re going to use the filter – this will help you determine the right size. If you’re not using the sponge filter as your sole source of filtration, the size may not matter as much. You should still consider other factors, however, such as the pump you use and the quality of the sponge itself.

Here are our top picks for the best sponge filters for aquariums:

Aquarium Technology, Inc. Hydro-Sponge Filter

This sponge filter comes in four different sizes to accommodate tanks up to 125 gallons and you can purchase up to 4 in a pack. Not only is this sponge filter easy to use, but it offers high flow volume with a 1-inch diameter lift tube.

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Uxcell Aquarium Biochemical Sponge Filter

Designed to deliver both mechanical and biological filtration, this sponge filter is powered by a simple air pump and comes with the airline adapter you’ll need to hook it up. It is extremely cost-effective, and you can purchase up to 6 at a time.

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Hygger Aquarium Double Sponge Filter

Do twice the work with a single filter using this double sponge filter. Not only does this filter use two sponges, but each side has a compartment for filter media balls for added biological filtration. This filter comes in two sizes rated for tanks up to 55 gallons.

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Aquaneat Aquarium Bio Sponge Filter

This sponge filter comes with everything you need to connect to an air pump. In addition to the sponge filter itself, it comes with 4 feet of airline tubing, a control valve, a tee, and a non-return check valve. It also comes with 4 suction cups to keep the tubing in place.

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Lefunpets Biochemical Sponge Filter

Available in four sizes, this sponge filter accommodates tanks from 5 to 80 gallons. It features a unique cylindrical shape with 6 vertical stripes, providing plenty of surface area for beneficial bacteria to colonize.

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Aquaneat Small Bio Sponge Filter

Ideal for betta tanks and fry tanks, this small sponge filter is compact but still offers two separate sponges to maximize biological filtration. It is easy to install using an air pump and it creates minimal current.

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Upettools Aquarium Biochemical Sponge Filter

This double sponge filter combines a 7-layer ribbed sponge design with ceramic bio filter media to support biological filtration with ease. It is suitable for freshwater and saltwater tanks, and the oxygen port can rotate a full 60 degrees for easy installation.

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Hikari Bacto-Surge High Density Foam Filters

Sold in a convenient 3-pack, these high-density foam filters offer generous surface area and can be used in tanks up to 75 gallons. These sponge filters have a sturdy stand to keep them in place and they are easy to install.

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Aquarium Technology, Inc. Pre-Filter

If you simply want to add the benefit of a sponge filter to your existing filtration system, this pre-filter is a great option. Simply connect the unit to the impeller tube in your power filter or connect it directly to a powerhead for use in freshwater or saltwater tanks.

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Zanyzap Pre-filter Sponge

Turn any 2-stage power filter into a sponge filter with these pre-filter sponges. Simply slip them over the filter intake system and all water will be filtered through the sponge. The sponges provide space for beneficial bacteria to grow and they help prevent small tank inhabitants from accidentally being drawn into the filter.

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Tips for Using a Sponge Filter

A sponge filter is exactly what it sounds like – a filter that utilizes a sponge to remove waste from aquarium water. These filters typically use an air pump or powerhead to siphon aquarium water through the sponge where waste and debris gets trapped before the water is returned to the tank. Over time, beneficial bacteria colonize the sponge to provide biological filtration.

Here are some tips for using a sponge filter:

  • Choose a sponge filter when gentle filtration is required – fry tanks, betta tanks, and hospital tanks are the ideal application.
  • Use a sponge filter as a pre-filter for cannister filters to help remove large particulate matter that might otherwise clog the line.
  • Consider using multiple sponges with your filter – this adds to the biological filtration and means you can stagger benefit, so you don’t disturb all the bacteria at once.
  • Pair your sponge filter with another filter to provide chemical filtration – this is particularly important for species of aquarium fish that are sensitive to water chemistry.
  • Think about the placement of your sponge filter – you can hide it behind aquarium decorations to avoid having an unsightly sponge affecting your aquarium aesthetics.
  • Clean your sponge in water from the tank – just submerge the sponge and squeeze it to remove accumulated particulate matter.

Sponge filters work well for applications that require gentle filtration, but they aren’t ideal as a sole filtration source for larger tanks. These filters provide surface area for beneficial bacteria to colonize and they help remove solid wastes from the water column. If you’re considering a sponge filter, keep the tips provided above in mind and consider one of the options we’ve recommended.


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