Best Sponge Filter – 2021 Reviews (Cheap and Effective Filtration)

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The sponge filter is filtration made simple. It is the cheapest and easiest to use filtration system available in the fish tank keeping hobby. They are not for every setup, but if you know what they are best for you can save yourself a lot of money on filtration. Today’s post we talk about the best sponge filters and where they are best suited for. As a quick note before we get started, this post will contain affiliate links. An affiliate link means I may earn advertising or referral fees if you make a purchase through my link. Let’s go ahead and get started!

Contents show

What Is A Sponge Filter?

Sponge Filter Make Up

A sponge filter is super simple. It literally is a piece of foam that filters your entire fish tank. Some people are taken aback that that really is all there is too. It’s simplicity has to do with it’s foam filter that doubles up as a mechanical and biological filtration unit. A well made sponge filter will be made of the following components.

Sponge Filter Construction

1. Foam Sponge

The better the quality sponge filter, the better the foam. This matters a ton in your selection process! The sponge will house the beneficial bacteria that becomes your biological filtration. The best sponge will have more surface area and will have superior biological filtration capacity.

2. Weighted Base

This keeps your sponge filter from floating away or getting dragged around by your fish and current. The base can be anchored against gravel or aquarium rocks. Some sponge filters utilize a suction cup mount instead of a weighted base. Suction cup mounts can come in handy in bare bottom setups.

3. Strainer and Bulls Eye

The strainer keeps out detritus and food particles from filtering out of your sponge filter. The bulls eye allows you to connect your airline tubing directly to your sponge filter from your air pump. Some value priced sponge filters will not have this feature. They will have an airline hose connector that sticks out eternally from the filter for you to connect.

4. Lift Tube

This moves the water out of the sponge filter to the rest of your fish tank. On higher quality and larger sponge filters, you can use this tube to connect the sponge filter to an aquarium power head. This allows you to have a quieter and more powerful filter. Other sponge filters will have a lift tube that will extend higher so the bubbles made by your air pump will be less disruptive.

What Are The Benefits Of A Sponge Filter?

Sponge filters have a lot going for them that make them super attractive for fish tank keepers.

1. Easy To Use Biological Filtration

Nothing is easier than a sponge filter. It just works. If you purchase a high quality sponge filter, you can filter large tanks. In fact, there are many local fish stores that use large high quality sponge filters to save on costs! Imagine that!

2. Two In One Design

A sponge filter can handle both mechanical and biological filtration. Any foam will do a great job at mechanically filtering your tank. A good foam will stand out in its biological filtration capacity. They are also very easy to adjust with an air pump. 

3. They Are Gentle

If you have fish tank setup with inhabitants that require low current, these are great filters to use. You won’t have to worry about a sponge filter sucking up your baby fish, small fish, or ornamental shrimp like the Cherry Shrimp.

4. Very Quick to Cycle

Because of the flexibility of the foam filter it is very easy to always have a spare foam handy to cycle another tank in an emergency. I’ve also done quick cycles by soaking the sponge in bacteria in a bottle solutions Fritz Turbo Start and got other tanks running.

5. They are CHEAP!

Ya I know that should have probably been the 1st reason. I just feel that shouldn’t be your ONLY reason for getting them ?.

What Are The Disadvantages Of A Sponge Filter?

So we know why they are great. Let’s see where sponge filters fall short.

1. They are Big and Ugly

If you are setting up a simple fish tank or breeder tank looks won’t matter too much. However, these sponge filters are not going to look great if you are doing a grand aquascape or driftwood setup. They are also very large and difficult to hide. 

2. No Chemical Filtration

This is a big no go for me. I like having the ability to use chemical media in a pinch whenever it is needed. Not having that in a fish tank is a major issue for me. You can mitigate chemical filtration with lots of quality live plants, but then you will still have #1 to deal with above.

3. Some Fish Will Try To Eat It

Because a sponge filter is meant to be placed inside your fish tank, your fish are around it all day. It also traps food particles because it acts as a mechanical filter. If you have a fish like a Pleco or a large hungry aggressive fish they may decide to snack on your sponge filter thinking it would make a niece meal. 

4. They A Loud And Splash Water Everywhere

I’m demand a quiet display tank when I setup a fish tank. I don’t want noisy equipment and I quietly don’t want my significant other or hear about my client’s significant other complaining about how the noise the fish tank makes keeps them up at night. Quiet is the main reason I go for high quality equipment. You will also need to factor in the noise level of the air pump you purchase.

With their uplift tubes, many sponge filters will splash water everywhere at the top of your aquarium. Water droplets will get all over your aquarium canopy and the back of your walls. Again, I want quiet and clean in a display tank. 

What Are The Best Uses For A Sponge Filter?

I hit you with a number of disadvantages of using a sponge filter. While they may not be the best choice for a display tank, let’s talk about what types of fish tank they are excellent choices for.

1. Breeder Tanks

One of the best applications for a sponge filter is for a breeder fish tank. Because sponger filters are gentle they do an amazing job filtering in a breeder tank. You won’t have to worry about losing your small fish fry to your filter intake. They deliver great piece of mind in these setups.

2. Quarantine/Hospital Tanks

Because sponge filters can be setup and cycled so quick and easy, they are great to use in a quarantine tank. A cycled sponge can provide all the beneficial bacteria and biological filtration capacity for a quarantine tank. Since they do not use chemical filtration you are free to use whatever medication you need without worrying about your media removing or absorbing the medication. The sponge filter is also gentle to your inhabitant keeping stress levels down. 

3. Freshwater Shrimp Tanks

Sponge filters are amazing in a Freshwater Shrimp Tank. Because of their makeup, you don’t have to worry about the filter sucking up your shrimp and their babies. Sponge filters will also grow biofilm on the surface of the foam making it food producing resource for your shrimp. It’s no wonder sponge filters are used so much in shrimp tanks!

4. Betta Fish Tanks

Betta Fish need calm waters. They also have long fins that can be sucked up by more powerful filters. Betta fish prefer light currents and will usually be housed in smaller tanks. This makes a sponge filter an attractive filtration choice for them.

5. Small Fish Tanks

Any aquarium 20 gallons and under is ideal for a sponge filter. This makes maintainance and filteration easy. A good quality sponge filter will have plently of surface area to support the small fish appropriate for a smaller fish tank. 

The Best Sponge Filter – The Reviews 

Below is a list of the best sponge filters you can purchase today. I will discuss the pros and cons of each filter below. 

In a hurry? I recommend the Hikari Bacto Surge Sponge Filter!

ImageNameFeaturesLink
Editor’s Choice
Hikari Bacto Surge Sponge Filter
Hikari Bacto Surge Sponge Filter

Name Brand

Buy On ChewyBuy On Amazon
Best Value
Hygger Aquarium Double Sponge Filter
Hygger Aquarium Double Sponge Filter

Chemical Filtration

Buy On Amazon
Budget Option
Uxcell Biochemcial Sponge Filter
Uxcell Biochemcial Sponge Filter

Best price for value

Buy On Amazon
Aquarium Technology Hydro-Sponge Filter Aquarium Technology Hydro-Sponge Filter

American Made

Buy On Amazon
AquaNet Sponge Filter AquaNet Sponge Filter

Chemical Filtration

Buy On Amazon
Huijukon Air Drive Sponge Filter Huijukon Air Drive Sponge Filter

Dual Sponges

Buy On Amazon
Huijukon Sponge Filter Kit Huijukon Sponge Filter Kit

Includes Air Pump

Buy On Amazon

1. Hikari Bacto Surge Sponge Filter – High Quality Name Brand Filter

Editor's Choice
Hikari Bacto Surge Sponge Filter

The Best Sponge Filter

With a name brand and high quality reputation, the Bacto Surge separates itself from the pack

Buy On Chewy Buy On Amazon

The Hikari Bacto Surge Sponge Filter is the name brand sponge filter on this list. Hikari is a highly quality name brand in the industry. They did not cheap out on this filter. The bacto surge filter uses a highly porous sponge filter that maximizes biological filtration for beneficial bacteria that is better than most filters on this list. Because of their construction, it is easy to modify these filters to make them more silent by inserting an air stone inside them.

Like the Aquarium Technology filter, the Bacto Surge is more expensive than most on this list. Unlike the aquarium technology filter though, this one is more readily available in fish stores.

Pros

  • Top grade foam material
  • Can be modified to be make more silent
  • Hikari Name

Cons

  • Expensive
  • No Chemical filtration

2. Hygger Aquarium Double Sponge Filter – A 3 Stage Sponge Filter

Best Value
Hygger Aquarium Double Sponge Filter

Best Value

Sponge and chemical filtration in one. The Hygger offers great value with their sponge filter

Buy On Amazon

Hygger has really grown on me. When I did the best aquarium heater post a while back I had mentioned that they were a new player in the aquarium game and they did not have a lot of reviews. Since then, they have sold a lot of product and have a lot of positive reviews. They put in a lot of work supporting their product, which I would say is surprising from the value priced vendors out there.

This double sponge filter from Hygger has a lot of great features. It has a media chamber that comes with surprisingly good ceramic media. This allows you to use the sponges as a mechanical and the ceramic media as your biological. You can also replace it with carbon and have a 3 stage filter. The telescoping lift tube allows you to quiet down the filter a little. That very welcome considering that you cannot modify these with an airstone. The color is more naturally being dark.

Overall, this is one of the better buys for a sponge filter.

Pros

  • Telescoping lift tube
  • Sponge filter can hold chemical media
  • Dual sponge filter

Cons

  • Can’t be modified

3. Uxcell Biochemical Sponge Filter – A Cheap Hikari Clone

Budget Option
Uxcell Biochemcial Sponge Filter

Budget Option

A value priced version of the Hikari. This is great for folks looking for a cheap yet quality sponge filter

Buy On Amazon

Hikari and Aquarium Technology sponge filters are well constructed and great filtration units. However, they are pricey. What if you could get a similar unit for less? This is where Uxcell comes in with their sponge filter. This is among the cheapest sponge filters on our list and it is well made. It starts off with its superior foam, easily the best among all the value priced brands on our list. You get the advantages of modification with this filter. Dropping in an air stone in the bull eye makes them very quiet 

The downfalls with this sponge filter? It doesn’t offer an option for chemical filtration and the weighted base is on the cheap. 

Pros

  • Cheap!
  • Can be modified to be make more silent
  • Best foam among all value priced brands

Cons

  • No Chemical filtration
  • Lower quality base

4. Aquarium Technology Hydro-Sponge Filter – Top Grade Sponge Filter

Aquarium Technology Hydro-Sponge Filter

An American made, high quality sponge filter. A great choice for those wanting to support a family business

Buy On Amazon

Aquarium Technology Hydro-Sponge Filters are one of the best sponge filters available on the market. Founded in 1991 , this Atlanta based company has continued to make high quality sponge filters that can work on small aquariums, large aquariums, and even ponds. It all starts with the patented foam and superior construction. The foam is unique to Aquarium Technologies with a ideal density for both mechanical and biological filtration. This density provides maximum surface area for beneficial bacteria. The construction is american made and expertly engineered with a free standing heavy base that locks securely in place. The base is also easy to take apart so you can accommodate in other spots.

This construction allows for great flexibility on how you implement filtration. You can modify the install by inserting an air stone to make it extra quiet. If want to increase the flow on the sponge filter, you can power it with an aquarium powerhead instead of an air pump. 

This well constructed product made by a family based business only has one downfall I can think of. It’s expensive compared to other sponge filters here.

Pros

  • Top grade foam material
  • Can be modified to be make more silent
  • Larger models can operate via powerhead 

Cons

  • Expensive
  • No Chemical filtration 

5. AquaNet Sponge Filter – Dual BioMedia Filter

Aquaneat Sponge Filter

A value priced combo sponge filter. Good for those looking for a cheap sponge filter with chemical filtration

Buy On Amazon

AquaNet’s Sponge Filter is a unique design as it features a dual media design. It comes with biomedia for these media chambers, but you can switch those out with chemical media and have a full 3 stage filtration unit. The lift tube can be turned 360 degrees as well.

The suction cups are not the best quality. Several users complained that the unit tends to fall down. They also can’t be modified to be made quieter. 

Pros

  • Dual biological media
  • Media chamber can hold chemical media
  • Lift tube can be turned 

Cons

  • Suction cups not the best quality
  • Can’t be modified
  • Odd colors

6. Huijukon Sponge Filter – Dual BioMedia Filter

Huijukon Air Driven Sponge Filter

Dual Sponges to make it easier for you clean and maintain. The Huijukon offers excellent value

Buy On Amazon

The Huijukon Air Driven Sponge Filter is a great value price sponge filter to consider. The dual sponge filter construction allows you to clean one sponge instead of both which keeps your bacterial losses less during maintenance. I also like the telescoping lift tube that gives you an extra 4 inches. It is small enough to fit in smaller tanks and provides a good amount of filtration.

Because of its construction, it cannot be modified with an airstone to be made more silent. It also lacks chemical filtration. I’ve seen this sponge filter used a lot in quarantine and breeder tanks. It’s a great sponge filter to consider.

Pros

  • Telescoping lift tube
  • Dual sponge filter

Cons

  • Can’t be modified
  • No Chemical filtration

7. Huijukon Sponge Filter Kit – A Great Combo Value

Huijukon Sponge Filter Kit

A sponge filter that comes with an air pump

Buy On Amazon

Sponge filters are cheap, but somethings getting the air pump is also an added cost that can price you out. Fortunately Huijukon has a great package that addresses this. This combo kit includes an air pump, airline hose and air stone to get you start. To top it off, the sponge filter has a media chamber that allows you to convert the filter to a 3 stage unit.

Like all suction cup style sponge filters, this cannot be modified. The air pump is also a dual outlet. Given the output of the air pump, I feel it was more appropriate for it to be a single outlet. I do like that it comes with all the accessories though. This is a well priced and competent package.

Pros

  • Air Pump Included
  • Sponge filter can hold chemical media
  • Dual sponge filter

Cons

  • Can’t be modified
  • Air pump should be single outlet

The Best Sponge Filter (Our Expert’s Choice)

So among all the sponge filters we reviewed which one is the best sponge filter? We have several category winners in this review. They are:

How To Make Your Sponge Filter Quiet

So I kept mentioning that sponge filters can be modified to be made quieter. This is true for models with weighted bases like the Uxcell, Aquarium Technologies, and Hikari sponge filters. All you need to do is take it apart and insert an air stone in the bull eye. This video by BairCichlids shows you how to make the modification. Once done, your sponge filter will be more quiet and more effective in oxygen delivery.

Sponge Filter Maintenance (How To Clean a Sponge Filter)

Sponge filters are super easy to maintain. Because the main piece of the filtration unit is the sponge itself, it is a permanent media. This ends up saving you media on disposable media and mechanical filtration cartridge that you might spend otherwise with an Aquarium Power Filter. The main thing you have to maintain is the sponge. Every month, take it out of of your fish tank and wash it in your aquarium water. DO NOT use tap water when cleaning a sponge filter. Doing so will kill the beneficial bacteria on the sponge.

The main thing you have to be careful of when removing your sponge is all the particles trapped in the sponge getting released. It is a great idea to take our your sponge when doing a water change so you can get what escapes out of the sponge cleaned out. I would recommend that you get a cover on the sponge when pulling it out. You can use a fish bag or a zip-lock bag when doing this. 

Once you have your sponge and some of your aquarium water in a separate container put the sponge that and squeeze it several times. This will release all the particles out of the sponge. Replace the water in the container several times only you have fairly clear water after squeezing the sponge. 

Sponge Filter Tips and Tricks

Here are some more tips and tricks regarding sponge filters.

Your Aquarium Air Pump Matters A Lot!

Aquarium air pumps are a huge deal when it comes to the effectiveness of your sponge filter. An air pump is the engine of your sponge filter. You do not want to cheap out on a low quality air pump. Check out our Best Aquarium Air Pump post for details on the best out there. For a value priced air pump, I would recommend the Tetra Whisper. Tetra is best known for their air pump models and the Whisper is a great buy to get your going.

Consider a Sponge Filter For Power Back Up Purposes

Aquarium power outages suck. They are the #2 tank killer in our hobby. A sponge filter and battery powered air pump can save your livestock in a pitch. If you aren’t in the market for a sponge filter as your main filter, consider it for your power outage plan. Just have a sponge cycled and ready to go.

Your Sponge Material Matters

The better the sponge material the better the surface area for your beneficial bacteria. All the sponge filters here were selected for a reason.

Best Sponge Filter – Closing Thoughts

Sponge filters are cheap aquarium filters, get the job done, and are very easy to use. It’s not wonder they are one of the most popular filtration units on the market. I hope today’s post helped you make an informed decision on what sponge filter to buy. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comment below. Thanks for reading!

by Mark

Mark is the founder of Aquarium Store Depot. He started in the aquarium hobby at the age of 11 and along the way worked at local fish stores. He has kept freshwater tanks, ponds, and reef tanks for over 25 years. His site was created to share his knowledge and unique teaching style on a larger scale. He has worked on making aquarium and pond keeping approachable. Mark has been featured in two books about aquarium keeping - both best sellers on Amazon. Each year, he continues to help his readers and clients with knowledge, professional builds, and troubleshooting.

2 COMMENTS

  1. It depends on your budget. Canister filters will be the quietest. If you aren’t in the budget for those, a power filter would be the next solution. Biowheels can be noisy. The seachem tidals are the quietest you can get with a power filter. Just make sure you transaction smoothly. Run both in the tank for a couple of months than transition the biowheel out so you don’t have an ammonia spike.

    Reply
  2. What filter do you recommend for 29gal community tank? Any type. You mentioned quit tank set up. Our is in the bedroom and rather noisy with our biowheel filter..

    Reply

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