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The Benefits And Drawbacks Of A Sponge Filter

A sponge filter is the most basic type of aquarium filter. There are situations where this type of filtration is best used for and situations where it is not. Learn the benefits and drawbacks of using a sponge filter.


Aquarium filters come in a wide range of shapes and sizes and each type of filter functions in a slightly different way. Hang-on filters are one of the most popular types of aquarium filter because they incorporate both mechanical and chemical filtration – some models even incorporate biological filtration. One of the most complex filtration systems is the sump system which is often used to filter large or multiple tanks. The most basic type of aquarium filter, however, is the sponge filter. This type of filter is very straightforward and easy to use but it is not recommended for all types of aquariums.

What is a Sponge Filter?

sponge filterA sponge filter typically consists of little more than an air pump attached to an intake tube surrounded by a sponge. As water is sucked up through the intake tube, solid waste particles are trapped in the pores of the sponge so the water being returned to the tank is relatively clean. This type of filter is available in a variety of sizes so it can be used as either a main filter for a small tank or as a supplemental filter for a large tank. Because sponge filters have a limited range when it comes to water intake, they are not recommended as the main filter for large tanks.

Type of Filtration Offered By A Sponge Filter

Sponge filters are one of the most basic, inexpensive filters you can buy. Because they are so basic, however, their function is somewhat limited. This type of filter is designed to provide mechanical filtration but not chemical filtration. This simply means that a sponge filter can help to remove solid waste particles from the water in your tank but it cannot help with the removal of toxins or dissolved organic pollutants. On the plus side, a sponge filter can be an excellent biological filter. The sponge is a perfect place for beneficial bacteria to grow – bacteria which are an essential part of the nitrogen cycle which helps to convert harmful toxins like ammonia into less harmful substances called nitrates.

Recommended Uses For A Sponge Filter

discus fry xs 5820779Because sponge filters cannot provide chemical filtration, they are not recommended for use as the main source of filtration in freshwater tanks. If you have a large tank, however, and are looking for supplemental sources of filtration for the purpose of waste control, a sponge filter may be the right choice. The most appropriate use for a sponge filter is in a hospital/quarantine tank or in a nursery tank. Both newly-hatched fry and sick or injured fish need to be kept in a tank with relatively gentle water flow which is exactly what a sponge filter provides. The suction created by a sponge filter is not strong enough to put fry in danger or to cause stress in a sick or injured fish but it is adequate to remove solid waste particles from the water in your nursery or hospital tank.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Sponge Filters

One of the main benefits of a sponge filter is that they are incredibly easy to use. All you need to do is slide a sponge onto the end of the intake tube then place the filter in your tank and plug it in. Sponge filters are ideal for tanks with a small water volume because they provide the necessary aeration and mechanical filtration without creating an overly strong current. Another benefit of sponge filters is that they are one of the least expensive types of filter. Once you purchase the air pump the only recurring costs you will face is the cost of replacement sponges which may cost you as little as $3 to $5 per month. This small cost can even be avoided by washing the sponge filter with aquarium water to prevent killing the beneficial bacteria.

The most frequently-cited drawback of sponge filters is the lack of a chemical filtration component. Filter media like activated carbon is necessary in order to filter out harmful toxins and dissolved organic wastes from aquarium water – tasks which a sponge filter is unequipped to fulfill. While sponge filters do provide excellent biological filtration, they fall short in this regard. In order to take advantage of the benefits of a sponge filter, consider installing a sponge filter only as a supplemental source of filtration in your main tank or limit its use to your hospital or nursery tanks.

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