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Sponge Filter Use, Cleaning and Extra Tips

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Sponge Filter Use Summary

Sponge filters are one of the many different types of filtration systems used in aquariums. They are often used for breeding fish tanks, oddly shaped aquariums that cannot use other filters, low tech tanks, hospital/quarantine tanks and much more. They’re a great filter system with just a few limitations. They will take up space in the fish tank, so you will need to consider where you want to place your sponge filter. Also, the sponge filter provides mechanical and biological filtration for your aquarium. Overall, this filter type is great to use but if you’re looking for more customizable filters check out hang on the back filters, canister filters, and/or sump systems.

An aquarium sponge filter is more commonly used in freshwater but it can also be used as a supplemental form of water movement in smaller saltwater fish tanks. They are often used as living spaces for beneficial bacteria and are fairly cheap and easy to maintain. This article will discuss how a sponge filter works in a fish tank, cleaning, and it will recommend sponge filters for different fish tanks.

How Does a Sponge Filter Work in a Fish Tank?

A sponge filter for a fish tank will consist of an air pump, airline tubing, and sponge as a filter. The air pump is connected to the sponge through tubing. Air flows from the pump, through the tube, and up through the center of the sponge. This causes water to flow through the sponge which traps debris, food, and fish waste. The air floats up to the top of the aquarium and breaks the surface of the water which provides oxygen for the fish tank.

Sponge Filter Use Advice

There are a few things I will cover which may be redundant for more experienced aquarium keepers but beneficial for newcomers. Certain air pumps will come with check valves. These valves prevent water from coming back through the tube and into the air pump. If your pump does not come included with this, I highly recommend purchasing one. You can follow this link to purchase a check valve off Amazon. It’s a good safety feature. Also, the air pump does NOT belong on the water. It stays on the outside of the fish tank. The tube and sponge are the only things that should touch water. Also, be mindful of the different size pumps because many are rated for different sized aquariums. Air pumps almost always must be purchased separately from the sponge. Adjustable air pumps, like this one from Amazon, are some of my favorite to use because you can change the flow that goes through the tube.

How to Clean a Filter Sponge in Fish Tank

Cleaning a fish tank filter sponge is fairly simple but not everyone does it correctly. A lot of people will take it to the sink and rinse the sponge thoroughly with tap water. This is something I do not recommend because it will strip the sponge of all the built up beneficial bacteria living within. The best and probably easiest way to clean an aquarium sponge filter is to kill two birds with one stone and clean it during your water changes.

Water changes require you to remove water from your fish tank. We normally take the water out and drain it into a bucket. Once the water is in the bucket, use that to clean the sponge filter. All you have to do is disconnect the sponge from the airline tubing, put it in the bucket water, squeeze it a few times, and shake it around to remove debris that may be built up in there. Once that is completed, reconnect the sponge to the airline tubing and place it back into your fish tank. This will prevent losing all of your beneficial bacteria but still does a good job of removing debris from the sponge.

Aquarium Sponge Filter Sizes

Sponge filters and air pumps come in different sizes, shapes and styles. The table below has provides information on different sized sponge filters, air pumps and tubing (if needed). Different sponges and air pump brands can be purchased and used but this is a general list of each you can use. There are also accessories that may not come included with your sponge filter kit. As stated above, check valves are highly recommended. If you’re using your air pump to simply provide water movement and oxygenation, you can use an air stone instead of a sponge.

10 Gallon Fish Tank Sponge10 Gallon Air PumpAirline Tubing (if needed)
20 Gallon Fish Tank Sponge 20 Gallon Air Pump Airline Tubing (if needed)
30 Gallon Fish Tank Sponge 30 Gallon Air Pump Airline Tubing (if needed)
40 Gallon Fish Tank Sponge 40 Gallon Air Pump Airline Tubing (if needed)
55 Gallon Fish Tank Sponge 55 Gallon Air Pump Airline Tubing (if needed)
75 Gallon Fish Tank Sponge 75 Gallon Air Pump Airline Tubing (if needed)

Final Notes

Sponge filters are a very versatile and useful form of filtration for fish tanks. Although they are not often used with larger fish, they’re a great way to filter water with fish, shrimp, and other inverts that have a low bioload. They’re also fantastic for providing additional oxygen and water movement into an aquarium. If you’re looking to setup a new fish tank consider an aquarium sponge filter!

Image by Ofkun on wikiMedia

1 thought on “Sponge Filter Use, Cleaning and Extra Tips”

  1. Pingback: 7 Best Hang On the Back Power Filters for Freshwater Aquariums ATParium -

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