Best Sponge Filter – Top 5 Reviews, Tests, Guide, FAQs, More

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Sponge filters are a great unobstructed way to keep your aquarium clean but you’ll agree with us when we say that with so many options out there, it can get quite difficult to choose the best one for you. 

This is why we rounded up all the popular sponge filters we could find on the market and tested them for months in order to bring you this comprehensive list. 

In this post, we will get a detailed look into the popular sponge filters out there and will look into how you can judge whether a certain sponge filter is suitable for you or not.

Top Pick

You can choose to get a 1-pack or a 4-pack. It’s cleverly designed so that smaller fish don’t get stuck in it and it’s perfect for beneficial bacterial growth in your aquarium.

Runner Up

This product is extremely easy to set up and comes with a ton of accessories that help you securely install it inside your aquarium. This makes it great for beginners.

Also Great

This product effectively traps debris floating in your tank, helps aerate and also prevents from getting sucked up into the filter. It’s easy to use and also to set up.

After months of heated debate, we’ve concluded these three to be the best of the best. 

Now, let’s look closer at what these products have to offer in our top 5 reviews for the best sponge filters.

Best Sponge Filter - Best 5 Reviews

1. Overall Best Sponge Filter - XINYOU XY-2822 Air Pump Double Sponge Water Filter Review

The XINYOU XY-2822 really provides you with the perfect blueprint of how an effective sponge filter should be designed. The sponge itself is of high-quality as it effectively traps all sizes of debris and particles floating inside your aquarium.

If you have smaller fish then this is the perfect filter for them as it is specifically designed so fish do not get stuck inside it as they do with most filters. 

This sponge filter can be used in a number of ways such as, as a breeding filter, as a secondary filter or even as a pre-filter for the encouragement of the nitrogen cycle inside a tank.

Features of XINYOU XY-2822 Air Pump Double Sponge Water Filter – Best Sponge Filter

  1. Dimensions: 11.5 inches by 8.8 inches by 0.6 inches
  2. Weight: 2.56 ounces
  3. Available in a 1-pack and a 4-pack
  4. Appropriate for aquariums up to 20 gallons
  5. Ideal for breeding tanks
  • Affordable
  • Compatible with many kinds of air pumps and air stones
  • Easy to mount
  • Lightweight
  • Doesn’t take up too much space
  • Not suitable for larger aquariums

If you want a reliable and effective sponge filter for your aquarium, this product is perfect for you. It’s incredibly lightweight, highly compact and very easy to use. 

2. Best Easy-Mounting Sponge Filter - Aquaneat Aquarium Bio Sponge Filter Review

With sponge filters needing the additional equipment of an air stone, air pump or powerhead in order to be effective, we can understand how its installation process might be a bit daunting for a novice fishkeeper. That’s where this product comes in. It comes with an easy-to-mount design and if that wasn’t enough, the instruction manual that comes with it makes it even simpler for you to easily install it onto your fish tank. 

The check valve that comes with it is a very welcome addition to this kit since a check valve helps protect your air pump from dirty water in the case of a power outage. 

Features of Aquaneat Aquarium Bio Sponge Filter

  1. Dimensions: 4.5 inches in diameter and 8 inches in height
  2. Weight: 11.2 ounces
  3. Comes with 4 suction cups and airline tubing
  4. Replacement filter sponges easily available
  5. Appropriate for aquariums up to 60 gallons
  • Appropriate for a wide variety of aquariums
  • Comes with many accessories
  • Easy to clean and maintain
  • Easy to mount
  • Easy to use
  • Takes up more space than most of its competitors
  • Relatively expensive

If you don’t want to spend too much time or effort mounting a sponge filter onto your aquarium, this product is ideal for you. It’s incredibly user-friendly and you’ll have no trouble installing it.

3. Best Low-Flow Sponge Filter - Upettools Aquarium Filter Review

Coming packed with ceramic bio-filter media which aids in the nurture and nourishment of beneficial nitrifying bacteria, the Upettools Aquarium Filter was a breath of fresh air for us since we’d been testing some very subpar sponge filters at the time. 

Upettools really proved to be an underdog among all the sponge filters we tested since it came from a manufacturer that none of us had heard but it was able to showcase performance that went head-to-head with sponge filters from the most reputable brands.

Not only this, this filter requires minimal water suction in order to be effective which is good news for your fish since they won’t be disturbed by the water being displaced. 

Features of Upettools Aquarium Filter

  1. Available in single sponge and double sponge varieties
  2. Weight: 6.4 ounces
  3. Contains ceramic bio-filter media
  4. Appropriate for aquariums up to 15 gallons
  5. Works for both freshwater and saltwater environments
  • Easy to hide with plants or ornaments
  • Sponge stays effective for a long time
  • Very compact
  • Easy to clean
  • Easy to assemble and disassemble
  • A bit pricey
  • Heavier than most sponge filters despite its small size

If you want your fish to be at peace and not be disturbed, this product is ideal for you. It’s very easy to install and requires little maintenance.

4. Best Inexpensive Sponge Filter - XINYOU XY-2835 Fish Aquarium Mini Cylinder Soft Sponge Water Filter Review

Although sponge filters are generally cheap to begin with, some variations of them can get pricey due to unnecessary features they might have. This product provides you with a barebones sponge filter that does all the necessary jobs that are required of a sponge filter and thus, it can be yours for a very reasonable price. 

It’s incredibly small in size which makes it very easy for you to hide in your aquarium. Its simple design also makes it very easy to install onto your aquarium.

Features of XINYOU XY-2835 Fish Aquarium Mini Cylinder Soft Sponge Water Filter

  1. Dimensions:  2.8 inches by 2.2 inches by 2.2 inches
  2. Weight: 3.2 ounces
  3. Appropriate for aquariums around 5 gallons
  4. Comes with airline tubing
  5. Air inlet diameter: 0.08 inches; Air outlet diameter: 0.6 inches
  • Very easy to hide
  • Easy installation
  • Lightweight
  • Incredibly small in size
  • Budget-friendly
  • Can get clogged if you have too many fish in your tank
  • Only suitable for smaller aquariums

If you want a clean environment inside your aquarium but don’t have a lot of money to spend, this is the product you’re looking for. It’s incredibly effective and works for a long time inside smaller aquariums without needing to be cleaned.

5. Best Fry-Safe Sponge Filter - XY-2831 Air Pump Sponge Filter for Aquarium Review

Of course, you don’t want a filter that harms the fish inside your aquarium and out of all the fish inside your aquarium, fish fry and shrimp are the ones that are most prone to get hurt by a filter due to their small size. This product is specially made for aquariums with such inhabitants and you can rest easy knowing that none of your fish fry will get stuck in this filter.

Other than that, you’ll find that you’ll have to spend close to no time while setting up this sponge filter as it comes with an already attached suction cup that you can utilize to mount it onto your aquarium wall.

Features of XY-2831 Air Pump Sponge Filter for Aquarium

  1. Dimensions: 8 inches by 2 inches by 7 inches
  2. Weight: 2.88 ounces
  3. Appropriate for aquariums up to 10 gallons
  4. Suction cup mounting
  5. Ideal for growing nitrifying bacteria
  • Small in size
  • Easy to install
  • Requires little maintenance
  • Lightweight
  • Inexpensive
  • Incompatible with a lot of air pumps
  • Not suitable for larger aquariums

If you have baby fish or other small inhabitants in your aquarium then this product is definitely for you. It’s small in size, it’s incredibly safe and it works very reliably.

best sponge filter

Buyers’ Guide

What is a sponge filter? 

A sponge filter generally consists of spongy material and an air tube through which water is pushed. The base of the sponge filter is usually weighted which prevents it from floating inside your aquarium. 

A sponge filter usually performs the tasks of mechanical and biological filtration inside an aquarium. 

Mechanical filtration is performed by the spongy material in that it traps debris, waste and any leftover food products onto itself when the water is circulated through the air tube. 

It performs biological filtration by providing a safe space for beneficial nitrifying bacteria to grow which go on to aid in biological filtration by neutralizing harmful toxins inside an aquarium. 

Note that sponge filters do not perform chemical filtration.

An airstone or powerhead is usually utilized to create suction which pushes water through the air tube of a sponge filter. This suction effect is sometimes known as uplift and it enables the sponge filter to sift through your aquarium water and then expel it back into your tank.

Does my aquarium need a sponge filter?

You may think that you don’t need a sponge filter since your primary filter does all three process of filtration for you and while that may be the case, you might be missing out on a lot of benefits for your fish and aquarium plants if you don’t have a sponge filter installed inside your tank. Sponge filters do a wonderful job of enhancing biological filtration inside a tank and if you have a smaller tank such as a fry or shrimp tank, you might not even need a bigger, expensive filter such as a HOB or a canister filter. Sometimes, all you need is a sponge filter to have a successfully running aquarium and a sponge filter is much less obtrusive than other types of filters and it doesn’t disturb the fish at all.

What are some aspects I should think about when purchasing a sponge filter?

There are many aspects you can think about that can help you decide which particular sponge filter would be perfect for you. Some aspects to think about before purchasing a sponge filter are: 

  • Aquarium Size 

Of course, you have to think about how big your aquarium is and get a sponge filter that is able to handle the size of your aquarium. Unlike conventional filters, you don’t have to worry about a sponge filter being too big for your aquarium since you can easily control the water circulation by buying an appropriate air stone. However, you should definitely be wary of whether a sponge filter is adequate enough for your aquarium. Don’t get a sponge filter that’s built for a 20-gallon aquarium if you have a 50-gallon tank. Your tank won’t be adequately cleaned and your fish and other aquatic life will suffer as a result. 

  • Price 

Sponge filters are often much cheaper compared to most conventional filters but you still have to think about whether you’re spending your money effectively. Avoid sponge filters with high price tags because of gimmicky features you don’t need. 

How do I clean my sponge filter? 

Here are some easy steps to follow to effectively clean your sponge filter: 

  • Start by straining out some of the water inside your aquarium into a clean bucket.
  • Remove your sponge filter and take off its strainer. 
  • Dip the sponge into the bucket and squeeze and rinse it until all the gunk has been squeezed out of it. You’ll be surprised at how much waste and debris is expelled from your sponge. 
  • Once you feel it’s adequately clean, discard the water in the bucket, reassemble your sponge filter and mount it back onto your aquarium. 

What are some benefits of having a sponge filter in my aquarium? 

Here are some of the benefits of having a sponge filter inside your aquarium:

  • Biological filtration is enhanced exponentially in tanks that have a sponge filter installed inside them. Aquariums with a sponge filter rarely ever have problems with increased ammonia and the fish inside these aquariums are normally much healthier and more alert. 
  • Sponge filters do a wonderful job of aerating your tank, i.e., making sure that every nook and cranny of your aquarium is adequately supplied with oxygen. This is especially important for all types of aquariums as some aquariums have a problem where some pockets form where there is a lack of oxygen. This can result in the creation of hydrogen sulfide which is extremely toxic to fish. 
  • Using a sponge filter in place of a canister or HOB filter if you have a fry or shrimp tank is a great idea. This is because smaller fish often get sucked into stronger filters so if you have a sponge filter, they won’t have anything to get sucked into. In fact, a lot of fish fry often hang around sponge filters to eat the leftover food that normally gets stuck onto its spongy material.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How frequently should I clean my sponges?

This varies greatly depending on how big your aquarium is, how big your sponge filter is and what type of fish, plants, and coral you have inside your aquarium. However, as a general rule of thumb, you should monitor and check your sponge filter every 2 weeks to see whether it needs cleaning or not. 

Can I just rinse my sponge underneath tap water? 

Definitely not. Please note that you should never use regular tap water to clean your sponge filter. Always use your aquarium’s water. Tap water contains chlorine which will kill all the beneficial nitrifying bacteria that are present on your sponge filter. Not only this, but chlorine is also toxic to fish so once you mount your sponge filter back onto your aquarium after it’s been cleaned with chlorinated water, you’re setting your aquarium up for disaster. 

Are sponge filters better than other more conventional aquarium filters

We wouldn’t say that sponge filters are better than conventional aquarium filters but they are certainly different and have a different set of advantages. For example, sponge filters are relatively cheaper, easier to mount and they don’t disturb your fish at all compared to other types of aquarium filters. However, sponge filters don’t provide chemical filtration as most other filters do. In the end, you have to look at your aquarium setup and decide whether it needs chemical filtration or not. 

Do I need an air pump for my sponge filter? 

Yes. Sponge filters require an air pump, air stone or a powerhead in order to be functional as they have no other way to push water through them. Without an air pump, air stone or powerhead, a sponge filter is useless. 

Does my sponge filter provide my fish with oxygen? 

Yes. As we mentioned earlier, sponge filters are used in conjunction with air pumps or powerheads which help circulate water throughout your aquarium. This helps keep your aquarium well-aerated and well-oxygenated.

Can fish get caught in my sponge filter? 

No. That’s a very big advantage of sponge filters over other types of filters. The way they’re designed makes it impossible for even extremely small fish such as fish fry to get stuck in them. If you have a breeding tank or a fish fry tank, a sponge filter is a great option for it. 

Does a sponge filter perform chemical filtration? 

No. As we discussed earlier, a sponge filter does not perform chemical filtration. However, it must be noted that chemical filtration is not essential to the successful running of an aquarium. Only biological filtration is essential and sponge filters perform that type of filtration extremely well. 

Where do I place my sponge filter in my aquarium? 

Your sponge filter really depends on where you want to place its respective air stone, air pump or powerhead. We usually suggest you do it in one corner of your aquarium where the sponge filter would be easy to hide with an ornament, aquarium plant or decoration piece since sponge filters are generally not very appealing to look at. 

What are some trusted brands when it comes to sponge filters? 

Some reputable brands which you can look to get your sponge filter from are: 

  • Aquaneat
  • Hygger
  • Upettools
  • Huijukon
  • Hikari

Can I use a sponge filter in my turtle tank? 

A turtle tank generally requires all three forms of filtration and since sponge filters are not able to provide an aquarium with chemical filtration, you might be better off investing in a canister filter for your turtle tank. 

Final Verdict

Sponge filters are an inconspicuous cleaning tool that many aquarists have fallen in love with over the years. However, it’s important to note that not all sponge filters are equally effective in different tanks so you need to be wary of whether the sponge filter you’re getting is appropriate for your particular tank.

After months of research, we’ve conclusively decided that the best sponge filter is the XINYOU XY-2822 Air Pump Double Sponge Water Filter. It provides incredible filtration and catches incredibly minute waste particles that its competitors never could. 

With that, we’ve reached the end of our post for the best sponge filters. 

Let us know in the comments which sponge filter you’re using for your aquarium.

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