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Sponge Filter VS Canister Filter

While setting up an aquarium at home, a lot of things require thought and research.

When it comes to choosing an aquarium filter, everyone goes through the dilemma of sponge filter vs. canister filter. However, the decision can only be made when you know what both of these filters are, what they provide, and where they lack.

When you learn more about your choices, you’re able to understand which serves your purpose better.

The first thing you should do is do your research. Understand what an aquarium filter is and what options you have. Then, learn more about each of these types of filters.

Make your own criteria of requirements and preferences. This criterion should include your personal likes and dislikes as well as the total budget you’re willing to spend on an aquarium filter.

Once you have this list of requirements ready, figure out which option fits best to what you want and need.

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What Are Aquarium Filters?

Before we talk about the different types of aquarium filters, let’s start this discussion from the basics.

As the name suggests, an aquarium filter, like any other filter, helps clean the water inside the aquarium. They are essential for both marine aquariums and freshwater.

These filters help remove soluble chemical and physical waste from the water to simplify maintenance and support life inside the aquarium.

Furthermore, an aquarium filter removes nitrates and ammonia and prevents them from building up in the tank.

Excessive amounts of these substances in the water can be toxic and hinder the fish from breathing.

Excess ammonia can also burn the fish’s gills and fins, which is why a filter is necessary.

The Different Kinds Of Aquarium Filtration Methods Included


Mechanical Filtration

Physically removes solid waste from the water. This type of garbage would include algae, fish feces, leftover food, etc.

Mechanical filters are mostly in the form of mesh networks and sponges.


Chemical Filtration

Commonly uses active carbon to episode noxious dyes and chemicals from the tank.


Biological Filtration

Is more of a natural process involving nitrifying bacteria. These bacteria take responsibility for filtering the entire tank once the aquarium is set up.

What Are Sponge Filters?

Video: “How Do Sponge Filters Work?”

A sponge filter comprises an air pump and a porous sponge; the pump pushes the air through the sponge, creating a stream of bubbles that slip into the water. This mechanism provides two different kinds of filtration.

The first mechanical filtering occurs through the movement of water around the sponge, through which dirt and ammonia come into contact with the sponge and get stuck there.

The second filtration takes place when the sponge grows bacteria. Since they have a large surface area to grow on, this active bacterial colony provides a natural form of filtration for the entire aquarium.

Using and maintaining sponge filters is relatively easy. The best way to clean your sponge filter is by removing it from the tank and putting it in a bucket full of old water from the tank.

Now, squeeze the filter sponge very gently and make sure you don’t rinse it in tap water.

The reason for avoiding tap water is that it contains chloramines and chlorine, killing the sponge’s good bacteria.

Once you get rid of all the debris, carefully put the filter back inside the tank. You should clean a sponge filter every two or three weeks.

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  • You get two different kinds of efficient filtrations through one filter.
  • Sponge filters are cheap to buy and maintain.
  • They are also great places for the fish to hide and swim around.
  • Fry fish can usually feed on sponge filters as well.
  • They have a larger surface area, so they clean more water and allow more bacteria to grow.


  • Sponge filters are bulky, and they are not pretty to look at, especially if you are into neat, aesthetically pleasing aquariums.
  • These filters do not provide chemical filtration.
  • You cannot put these filters in the bedroom since they can be loud sometimes.

What Are Canister Filters?

Video: “Aquarium Canister Filters Pros and Cons: Are They a Good Fit For You?”

A canister filter is an aquarium filter that removes the water from your aquarium, cleans it, and then pours it back inside the fish tank.

The filter includes a tube that sucks the water out of the tank and runs it through a filter. Once the water passes through the filter and becomes clean, the machine pumps it back into the aquarium through a spray bar or a spillway.

Taking care of canister filters is relatively easy too. Ideally, you should clean these filters every one to three months. Unplug the filter and carefully remove the hoses.

Put them in warm water and let them sit for about 30 minutes. Doing this will loosen any debris or waste inside the tubes and make them easy to clean.

It’s a good idea to lay down a towel or a mat where you’re working so it would catch all the gunk and water leaking out.

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  • Canister filters are easier to maintain since you don’t have to clean them very often.
  • These filters are also good at reducing nitrate levels.
  • Since they spray the water back inside the tank, there is less chance of evaporation and aquarium water loss.
  • Canister filters can hold a lot of media and clean more water without the need for cleaning.
  • Canister filters are relatively quiet, so you can put them in your bedrooms.


  • Canister filters can be quite expensive sometimes.
  • They also take more effort to clean since they’re larger.

Sponge Filter VS Canister Filter – The Conclusion

The discussion about sponge filter vs. canister filter doesn’t necessarily have a winner, and what is better for you depends on the criteria you made in the beginning.

Since both of these filters have their pros and cons, most people decide based on their budget, convenience, and tanks’ size. In fact, sponge filters can be an excellent pre-filter for your canister filter.

The sponge efficiently filters out the larger materials in the water and then moves it to the canister filter that further cleans the water. Also, the sponge helps prevent larger waste from clogging the canister.

Thus, they’re both pretty great individually and as a team!

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Aaron Boyd
Aaron Boyd

Hello, I’m Aaron Boyd, the proud owner and author behind Aqua Movement. I hope my article was able to answer your questions. If you want to learn more about me, click the home icon above.

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