Filter Max Aquarium Pre-Filters
For improved bio filtration, improved aquarium filter efficiency. I strongly suggest the use of the Filter Max #2 or #3 with a Smart HOB Filter (as well as many others), especially with high bio loads to prevent premature clogging of the filter Cartridges
Power-Head Submersible Pump
For aquarium water circulation, use with Sponge or Undergravel Filters.
Superior to Hagen or Marineland, yet lower cost!
Sponge filtration is an often overlooked type of filtration for both large and small freshwater tanks and bowls, and even ponds or marine aquariums. Many look past their simplicity, but therein lies their quality.
I have used these filters for my aquarium maintenance business for 32 plus years with excellent results in freshwater, saltwater and ponds. (The picture to the left is a Hydro Sponge #1 in a 6 x 6 x 6 Betta tank)
The best Sponge Filters (such as the Patented Hydro Sponge Filters) can be used as a compliment to another filter such as Power (HOB) or canister filter or even as a stand alone filter as per controlled tests (with only Fluidized Filters out performing Sponge Filters for aerobic bio filtration).
In fact I and many other aquarium professionals have used Sponge Filters as the only source of aquarium filtration. Persons with one of the many 'Aquarium Kits' sold at Walmart and elsewhere would be much better off with a superior bio-filtration Sponge Filter Kit.
As a bio filter, most premium Sponge Filters are vastly superior to Under Gravel Filters as per extensive controlled tests performed in the 1990s.
This is due to the very porous nature of a sponge filter that allows for extensive colonization of nitrifying bacteria, assuming an adequately circulated aquarium or pond. Please note that many 'knock off' Sponge Filters sold by many (such as Lees, Tetra, SF-XY, AquaTop) are NOT made of the same patented sponge material as ATI's patented Hydro sponges and thus do not perform to the same level of nitrification).
A couple of the reasons for better test results when compared to an under gravel filter, is that a well designed sponge filter does not have the “dead” spots, nor do sponge filters trap decomposing organic mulm in pockets, such as the case with under gravel filter plates (which can lower KH/pH, increase nitrates and even promote Aeromonas or Saprolegnia pathogen)
As well, these tests also showed these filters superior to most popular power (HOB) filters for bio filtration (such as the Marineland Bio Wheel; Please see this article for more: Bio Wheels; Do they Work).
*Sponge filters are a much better choice for bio filtration for planted aquariums over popular canister or HOB filters as they strip less CO2. As noted earlier, only the Fluidized Filter exceeds the Sponge filter for aerobic bio filtration without as much CO2 stripping for planted aquariums.
*Sponge filters are the clear choice for Shrimp aquariums, especially where shrimp are breeding.
The reason is the gentle current when mated with an air pump and diffuser and more importantly there is no way a baby shrimp can get "sucked" into the filter as with most other filters with the exception of an under gravel filter (which is a poor choice for other reasons).
*Sponge Filters are probably the best choice for Betta Bowls or tanks due to their bio efficiency, lack of turbidity, and low risk of fin damage. Sponge Filters are also the filter of choice among breeders (including use in their display aquariums), especially high value discus breeders.
*Even for large aquariums sponge filters such as the Hydro Sponge #5 PRO often provide superior biological filtration (as per tests) as compared to popular HOB filters such as the Aqua Clear 70, and this is not to say the AC 70 is a bad filter either.
With some HOB Filters such as the Penguin Bio Wheel filter, the results of controlled biological filtration tests were even more dramatic in favor of Sponge filters (such as tests I conducted with a Penguin 170 vs. a Hydro Sponge #3)
Finally, although many aquariums keepers are convinced that many wet/dry and canister filters are the "end all" for aerobic bio filtration, again these tests often showed otherwise with many canister filters in particular when compared to larger Sponge Filters such as the Hydro Pond models (which are often used for large aquariums or aquarium wet/dry systems). When one considers the simplicity of a Sponge Filter over most canister filters, this is a no-brainer for savvy aquarium keepers that find canister filters too cumbersome! Only the Fluidized Sand Bed Filter out perform Sponge Filters. In fact, some FB Filters outperform even the most pricey canister filters such as the Fluval FX5 for aerobic bio filtration!
*Sponge Filter also are available as Pre-Filters.
This extends the time between cartridge changes in Hang-On (HOB) filters, slows the accumulation of organic debris buildup inside a canister filter, and prevents fish fry from being sucked up many intake tubes.
More importantly a Sponge Pre-Filter can add very essential bio filtration redundancy to often woefully inadequate HOB filters that often loose much of their bio capacity with each filter change.
*Sponge filters perform mechanical filtration (removal of debris), however this is not their primary strength. Biological filtration is their strength, which is why the best filtration would be a combination of a sponge filter and a HOB (power filter) such as the Rena Smart Filter or SunSun Value HOB Filters along with a sponge filter or Pre-filter. When a separate sponge filter is employed with an aquarium power filter, canister filter, etc, this improves redundancy of filtration in the case of one filter failing or accidentally being "over cleaned" (where beneficial bio filtering bacteria are destroyed)
The only aspect of aquarium/pond filtration where the Sponge filter falls short is in chemical filtration. This can be added with the use of carbon or other absorbent, however even if the Sponge filter is the only means of filtration, it is noteworthy that most established/healthy aquariums do not need constant chemical filtration. As well the aquarium keeper can place a nylon bag with Carbon, Purigen or other chemical filter media at the base of the sponge filter and the movement of water around/through the sponge filter will allow for some chemical filtration. The picture to the left demonstrates the use of a prescription bottle for a DIY carbon filter, which can be placed under or behind a sponge filter where water current is stronger. I have found this very useful where the Sponge Filter is the primary filter in a small aquarium such as a Betta Tank. In this picture API AmmoCarb is used.
Also regular water changes somewhat negate the need for chemical filtration and of course the addition of a good filter such as the Via Aqua Vita Life. This would allow for chemical filtration and provides a good compliment to your Sponge Filter.
Another more obvious negative to Sponge Filters is purely aesthetics. While the ATI Sponge Filters are about the best aerobic nitrifying bio filters you can buy at any price, the one notable negative is the often ugly sponge in your aquarium. That said, many aquarium keepers simply use rocks, plants and other décor to hide these sponge filters or pre-filters, and for many breeders, fish farms, etc, this negative aesthetic aspect of the sponge filter is easily overridden by their inexpensive high biological filtration capacities.
Back to positive Sponge Filter Attributes/Applications; often aquarium filter kits that are made up of quality sponge filters along with air pumps or power heads are superior to many Aquarium Kits that are sold with often very basic Aquarium Power Filters with little bio filtration capacity, as well as commonly sold kits with basic corner filters or similar. This is especially true of big box department store or chain pet store kits that rarely have the bio capacity of a sponge filter kit such as one that utilizes a ATI Hydro Sponge.
Testimonial to the facts of Sponge Filtration: "The sponge filtration was inspired by Carl more than 2 years ago when I started into the hobby. Since then, I have progressed to using sponge filtration as the only filtration in my 210 gallon planted freshwater tank. The seeded sponges were used when combining 5 fish tanks into one tank. Two weeks later, I am enjoying my aquarium.
My fish include a 2 yr old scat fish( was in fresh water at lfs), 8 Bolivian rams( just laid eggs again), 2 German rams( new male in the pair), 5 angels( have laid eggs, no fry), 7 adult dollar fish ( 2 yrs old) and 5 juveniles), a 2yr old dinosaur bischer, 30 cardinals and assorted neon tetras, 1 cory(left), 1 curviceps,4 platys(had fry).
I discarded the canister filter, biowheel filter, and use sponge filtration exclusively. Thank you for diligent,intelligent, and thoughtful sharing of your knowledge."
Jacqueline A., Florida Back To Top
Here are some Basics about Aquarium Sponge Filtration:
Sponge filters work by aquarium water being drawn thru the porous sponge where debris is trapped mechanically. As well aerobic bacteria remove nitrogenous wastes such as ammonia and nitrites.
Water is moved thru the sponge media via a lift caused by air bubbles form an air pump attached to the filter via air line tubing or by a power head attached to the top of the lift tube.
Simply put, a Sponge Filter uses a water pump to pull or push water through the pores in the sponge or an air pump to create a suction that does similar.
The pores then trap debris of varying size where it can be rinsed or squeezed out (see more on this in the maintenance section) & also these pores have a a considerable amount of area where aerobic bacteria eventually propagate.
The size and quality of the pores will determine flow and how much debris can be trapped and how large of bacterial colonies can exist within the filter. Meaning knock offs are of poor design that have very little internal space, collapse quickly, and allow poor internal flow.
With sponge pre- filters the concept is similar; water is drawn thru the sponge media by the suction of the filter such as a HOB, power head, water pump, or canisters motor unit.
The type of sponge material can affect both mechanical and biological filtration.
This is where many of the cheap knock offs or even name brand sponge filters such as the Lees Sponge filter do not perform as well. These utilize too fine and dense a foam material resulting in poor flow, clogging, and far less than desirable biological function.
The reverse problem can be a problem with certain reticulated sponges when used in the wrong flow environment. Although ATI Hydro Sponge makes the best in sponge filters, their patented reticulated sponge material is best used in higher flow rate environments over their patented standard sponges.
As an example, I do NOT recommend the Hydro Sponge PRO Filters in small sizes such as the #2. While the #5 PRO is an excellent filter for the environment and flow rates for which they were designed, we have found the Hydro Sponge #2 & #3 PRO to not work as well in both flow rates and bacterial loads for the smaller tanks a #2 are designed for, thus in the end the #2 Standard out performed the #2 PRO in a smaller tank (10-20 gallon).
The end results of both examples is a slower response to spikes in bio load resulting in slower toxic ammonia removal.
Seeding the sponge media biologically:
To “seed” the sponge media you can use the sponge from an established aquarium or leave a sponge in the water column of an established aquarium. This can be sped up by placing the Sponge Filter directly in contact with other established filter media or moving gravel around the Sponge Filter. The reason is that nitrifying bacteria are not found in high numbers in the water column (open water), however gravel and even more so other filter media are like to have these bacteria in VASTLY higher numbers.
The use a of a Stackable Sponge Filter (pictured to the upper left) in an established aquarium can then provide a second (or 3rd if 3 are "stacked") sponge for seeding another aquarium you may be starting (or exchanging with a friend or local aquarium store).
Another un-related advantage of a Stackable Sponge Filter is these create a space for fry to hide in breeding tanks and also allow for expanding your filter to fit expanded bio loads, especially for larger aquariums or breeding tank systems.
You also can simply place the filter in your aquarium and allow the sponge filter media to establish itself biologically. There are many other methods that work well, some are discussed here: "The Aquarium Nitrogen Cycle"
USE: FURTHER SPONGE FILTRATION INFORMATION;
How a Sponge Filter Works/Functions (Air Pump or Power Head Methods):
When your Sponge Filter is attached to an air pump, the rising column of air in the tube pulls water with it. A larger diameter lift tube allows for a higher flow rate (this is where Hydro Sponge filters excel).
You can measure the water flow (which can be useful to know) by slightly tilting the filter with the top of the outflow just above the aquarium water line and timing the fill rate into a pitcher or gallon jug. If it fills the jug in 30 seconds, you multiply 2 times per minute times 60 or 120 gallons per hour.
You can also add an air stone to the end of your tubing in the outflow tube to produce more bubbles and more lift. Click on picture to the left to enlarge
The air pump method is generally the better choice for these reasons:
• For use in a hospital tank
• For a breeder tank or fry rearing tank
• Any tank where the fish prefer a more quiet flow such as Discus
• For simplicity of set up for the aquarium keeper
Sponge Filter/Air Pump Combinations Suggestions:
Please note that these suggestions are far from an exhaustive list, so matching similar sponge filters and similar air pumps should yield similar results (although it is noteworthy that there are no equals to the patented Hydro sponge Filter, even though most air pumps are quite similar in quality and design)
When attached to a power head, the pump pulls the water thru the sponge. With this method I recommend using an air diffuser that generally comes with most power heads to improve dissolved oxygen levels (unless used in a planted freshwater aquarium).
Even if you cannot or choose not to use an air diffuser (not all power heads have this feature), you can still aerate the aquarium by increasing “surface tension” by either any directional control that your power head has or by placing the Power head (pump) outlet near the surface so as to cause ripples on the surface.
With a power head, you will not see any bubbles flowing up the lift tube as with an air pump, however with both methods there is a rising column of water through this tube that in turn is pulling water through the sponge filter material.
The Hydro Sponge #5 can handle flows up to 400 gph (depending on bio load), if a higher flow is required, the Hydro Pond Filter #2 or #4 can also be used in an aquarium (I have often used the Hydro Pond #4 as a pre-filter for high gph pumps in wet dry sumps). The Hydro Pond #4 is pump driven and can handle flows up to 1500 gph. Hydro Pond #2 is air driven and can handle flows up to 1000 gph.
And of course the Hydro Pond Filters can be used in ponds where they are excellent complimentary filters or even stand alone filters (usually in low bio load ponds).
The power head method is generally the better choice for these reasons:
• Higher flow rates are desired
• Cross current is necessary, especially for long tanks
• Generally larger fish that are more “destructive”, Although I still recommend protecting the sponge filter/ power head set up from these fish (such as many Cichlids) by leaning large rocks next to the sponge filter and power head to keep them in place.
• Marine Reef applications
With both air pump or power head methods, the water is pulled through the sponge filter media where debris is mechanically trapped and aerobic bacteria remove nitrogenous waste such as ammonia and nitrites. For ponds, a more porous sponge media is better to allow a better flow rate and less accumulation of debris from mechanical filtration. For aquariums with internal, pre-filter, or standard sponge filters a medium porous sponge media with many tiny pores to trap bacteria is best (again this is where the Hydro Sponge Filter excels with its patented design).
With a new Sponge Filter your filter primarily operates mechanically (trapping debris in the sponge which can be rinsed/squeezed out in de-chlorinated water), while the more important bio feature of utilizing nitrifying bacteria to remove toxic ammonia & nitrites takes 4-8 weeks to be fully functional. Tthis can vary due to the age of the aquarium or new tank cycling methods, please see this excellent article for further information on this subject: “Aquarium Nitrogen Cycle; Cycling Methods”.
*I should note from my experience, even though a power head may move more water, I prefer connecting Sponge Filters to air pumps over water pumps as I find this application more simple, less messy, with less problems of fish knocking power heads off the lift tubes.
When deciding on how high the lift tube should go (whether air driven or pump driven), consider the flow pattern you would like to achieve in your aquarium. I recommend as large a pattern as possible, therefore I cut the lift tubes (they can be easily cut with a hacksaw) as close to the water surface as will allow for evaporation and other minor changes in tank level and remain submerged.
With some very small tanks (such as Betta Tanks), I run these Sponge Filters on air power and I do not use the clear lift tube at all and only attach the air diffuser to the bulls-eye.
Even when air powered, the air lifts the water through the filter to the top of the lift tube where the water then exits, even thought the air bubbles continue to the surface. The picture to the left (click to enlarge) shows these differences.
For tall/deep aquariums; the use of lift tube extensions can be used to provide a better flow pattern.
The Hydro-Lift can be used with the 1 inch high flow outlets found on the Hydro Sponge Filter. As well these lifts work for both air driven or power head (water pump) driven applications.
Generally the use of lift tube extensions can be an advantage for flow patterns, but not always, especially if upper level HOB filters are used. A deep aquarium would be just fine with short lift tube combined with a "Hang on the Back" Power Filter providing upper circulation.
However if the Sponge Filters are your primary source of filtration I would suggest the use of lift tube extensions for deep aquariums.
Use with Other Filters;
If other filters are present, such as a "Hang on power filter"; generally your best results will be achieved by placing the Sponge Filter on one side and the Hang Power Filter or other filter on the other side (such as the return from a canister filter).
Since Hang-On Power Filters have a water fall effect, these have less horizontal water movement, so in tanks over 36 inches in length the use of a power head on your sponge filter is suggested for better horizontal circulation.
For tanks under 24 inches in length, generally the air pump method will achieve a good circulation pattern.
If power heads or related circulation pumps are already present (such as those on many internal filters too), the use of a air pump driven sponge filter with its superior vertical circulation would generally be most complementary.
If you desire less agitation when using an air pump to power your Sponge Filter, I recommend cutting the top of the lift tube as close to the surface as possible, as well I recommend using an optional air diffuser with your sponge filter which will produce a smaller bubble than a sponge filter used without a diffuser, thus resulting in less agitation of the water. Please note that air diffusers are sold separately with most brands of Sponge Filters.
If further agitation reduction is desired/required (especially with small fish bowls), the use of air line control valves of valve kits can be used (a valve kit can be used to bleed off excess air pressure).
Air Pump Attachment
*Diagram for sponge filter with an air pump installation (click to enlarge):
Power Head Water Pump Attachment:
*Directions for use with a multi purpose power head/submersible pump (such as the Via Aqua 480): Attach the power head to the lift tube.
*The second picture specifically shows the wide Hydro Sponge #5 or #5 PRO which is too wide to allow most power heads to utilize their suction holders to secure the power head to the aquarium wall. For this or other extra wide Sponge Filters it is important to secure the power head by other means; as shown in the second diagram.
I should also note that while this diagram shows a secure fitting for many aquariums from my experience, for large fish (such as adult South American Cichlids), I would suggest using an air pump to power your Hydro Sponge #5 as these fish will often knock the power head off the lift tube.
These next two pictures show sponge filters set up with basic power head pumps such as the newer generation SunSun JP-23 (similar to many other older generation basic power heads such as the Marineland, Maxi-Jet or AquaClear)
Please Click on the pictures to enlarge for a better view
The Picture to the left pictorially displays how to utilize a Hydro Sponge #2 to make a Mini Hydro Sponge for use in small bowls (such as 1 quart, 1 liter) or small 1-2 gallon aquariums where the Hydro Sponge 1 is not desired.
The beauty of this idea is that not only do you get a nice compact Sponge Filter, but you get a spare sponge too at no cost!
As already noted earlier, Hydro Sponge Stackables can be used for adding additional filtration in breeding tanks and also to provide safe areas to hide for fish babies (fry).
The use of these stables, especially the Hydro Sponge 5 Stackable also allows for expansion for larger tanks, often with surpassed bio efficiency and ease of maintenance over often overly touted canister or wet-dry filters.
As well, when a #5 stackable is added to a #5 PRO filter, this will provide different levels of mechanical filtration (as well as flow rates), which further increases the viability of the Sponge Filters as the primary aquarium filter. Please click on the picture to the left for an example.
Although mechanical filtration is not the main strength of a sponge filter, it still can remove copious amounts of debris from the water column when properly connected.
If not connected properly, you will see little if any mechanical filtration and even biological filtration will suffer.
The picture to the left (Please click to enlarge) shows water flow through a sponge filter depending upon air diffuser, airline tubing, and lift tube placement.
As you can see a sponge filter with no lift tube and with no extension of tubing (or air diffuser) has a poor flow through the sponge material (if any flow at all).
The reason is the air bubbles rising in column will create a vacuum, however if there is no lift tube (or very little) no vacuum is produced and the water will simply flow upward with the current of water, mostly avoiding the sponge (which will have more resistance).
The point is to overcome the resistance of the sponge material with a stronger vacuum produced in the lift tube, as well a an extension of airline tubing into the sponge filter and/or the use of an air diffuser or air stone can extend this vacuum deeper into the sponge filter, thus providing a better flow.
When new, sponge filters have a tendency to float. You can correct this with several squeezes of the sponge. You should be able to clear most fine air bubbles that can cause floating.
Over time, nitrifying aerobic bacteria (& other organics) will add weight that will make the sponge much heavier, thus sponge filter floating will be less of an issue.
However some lower quality sponge filters such as the Lees or Tetra tend to trap more fine air bubbles and also have poorly weighted bases (if any) and floating can be a major issue that requires placing a rock or similar weight to deal with this problem. Back To Top
UV STERILIZER SPONGE FILTER APPLICATIONS
Although not a common application, it is possible to connect a sponge Filter to a UV Sterilizer (unlike a hang on the back aquarium power filter). In fact this makes a relatively easy way to utilize the benefits of UV Sterilization in an aquarium that either has a Sponge filter or a HOB Filter and do not want to spend more money for a filter that connects easily to UV Sterilizers. The addition of a Sponge Filter with a UV Sterilizer to an aquarium with an existing filter (such as an Aqua Clear, Penguin, etc.) will also improve bio filtration, mechanical filtration and insure redundancy.
See these pictures (click to enlarge).
*The first shows a ReSun King 1 Pump connected horizontally to a Hydro Sponge #3 Filter. You will note the use of Teflon Tape or Vinyl Tape to make a more solid connection. 1" Vinyl Tubing can also be used between the pump and lift tubing.
The Rio 1000 or many others can work, as well the Via Aqua 480 with the more slim Hydro Sponge #2 filter).
*The second shows a Via Aqua 480 also connected to a Hydro Sponge #3 Filter mounted vertically.
Other ideas would include a larger Hydro Pond #4 connected to a higher flow pump, such as a SunSun JBQ-3500 Pump for a larger tank such as a 100 gallon aquarium.
Besides the more common stand alone Sponge filter, the Sponge Pre Filter is also a viable sponge filtration option. These are especially useful in preserving viable nitrifying bacterial colonies in HOB Filters during changes of filter media, especially with cartridge filters that have not other means of maintaining bacteria. This is especially true with economy HOB power filters sold at Walmart, PetMart, etc. such as the Top Fin Filter.
This is a common problem with beginner aquarium keepers that have single cartridge filters, in that every time they dispose of a filter cartridge, they throw away the majority of their viable aerobic nitrifying bacterial colonies, resulting in toxic ammonia spikes!
Sponge Pre-Filters such as the Filter Max can be attached to the intake of most canister or aquarium power (HOB) filters.
In fact the use of premium sponge pre filters such as the Filter Max can cut down on the need to change filter cartridges in power HOB filters by 200-300%, saving money, and time. This is especially effective for high efficiency power filters such as the Rena Smart Filter which tend to clog faster than some aquarium HOB filters.
As well a sponge pre-filter preserves bio capacity when cartridges are changed; this is especially helpful with many of the economy Aqua-Tech HOB filters sold at Walmart and elsewhere with no additional bio chamber capacity that loose their bio filtration with each filter cartridge change.
The only draw backs are that your filter must have a cylindrical intake tube (which rules out some Marineland filters) and you do not achieve the filter redundancy in the same way as having a separate Sponge Filter.
However these Sponge Pre Filters also add protection for fish getting trapped against the intake strainer or literally “sucked up” as with fish fry (babies).
The type of sponge material also affects the flow rate, as the Filter Max #3 uses a patented reticulated sponge material that only traps larger debris and clogs much slower, while the Filter Max #1 and #2 have the original ATI Sponge material that traps smaller debris, but also does not allow as much current and clogs more quickly.
Other Sponge Filter Uses
Another use of Sponge Filters is as a basic Pond Filter or using this same Hydro Pond Sponge Filter as an excellent and efficient large flow pre-filters in aquarium sumps for both salt and freshwater aquarium systems.
See the picture to the left as an example which also includes a Filter Max over the intake to the sump.
These have the advantage of being easy to tuck up high in an aquarium corner more out of the way than a standard sponge filter.
As well with the SunSun HJ-752 Filter pictured here you can cut the sponge in half to allow more room, and then add other filter media such as carbon or Matrix. Although a small bag or other means of blocking the carbon from being ingested into the motor should be provided.
Some of these filters also have multiple chambers where other filter media could be placed (example the SunSun HJ-952 (210 gph))
The disadvantage, especially when compared to the patented Hydro Sponge filter line is their sponge capacity is much lower based on size and efficiency of the sponge material.
The sponges (foam inserts) found in filters such as the Aqua Clear Filter also qualify as a Sponge too. Although not a sponge filter in the classic sense and as well these “foam inserts” do NOT have nearly the same pore capacity as comparably sized Hydro Sponge Filters. Care and use should be considered the same for this type of sponge inserts. One little “trick” I like to do with these sponge inserts is to cut them in half or even thirds so as to “seed” multiple sponges for use in helping jump start the nitrogen cycle in other tanks or as back ups to other tanks under treatment.
The main problem with sponge filter media of any type is clogging due to mechanical filtration.
The better designed sponge filter media is one that maximizes the amount of time between cleaning that the sponge media will not clog under normal use. This of course will vary even by the same manufacturer due to what the sponge Filter Media was designed for.
For instance a Filter Max #2 is a fine sponge media that traps smaller debris and will thus slow much quicker in a tank with high bio load than a Filter Max #3, often requiring more frequent rinses in de-chlorinated water.
When the flow slows or water begins to flow around the sponge media (such as in many Aqua Clear Filters), you need to rinse/clean your sponge filter media.
The best method is to use used aquarium water from a water change and squeeze the sponge several times until nothing more is expelled from the sponge. This water is then disposed of and new water can be added to the aquarium to replace this water used for sponge cleaning.
You also may use de-chlorinated tap water or well water (without added chemicals) for rinsing your sponge media. I often will use both methods and I will use the de-chlorinated tap water for the final rinses until the rinse water in no longer dirty.
The reason to rinse with used tank water or de-chlorinated tap or well water is to NOT destroy beneficial aerobic bacterial colonies that form in the pores of the sponge media over time.
Depending upon your aquarium (or pond) bio load, as well as the pore size of your sponge material, the frequency of rinses can vary.
Generally a well “mated” sponge filter or other filter that employs a sponge, assuming some quality, will need to be rinsed every two weeks. Although once per week or as long as once per month are not unusual either. Often in aquariums or ponds with multiple filters, the frequency of rinses is less due to the redundancy of filtration, which is what I recommend.
When your sponge media starts to degrade or does not “spring” back from rinsing, the sponge needs to be changed.
At this time it is best to add an additional sponge to your aquarium ahead of time to allow this sponge to “seed” with aerobic bacteria.
This can be achieved by simply placing the new sponge in an area of high water flow and high dissolved oxygen or adding a second sponge filter, pre filter, HOB filter, etc. in your aquarium an allowing the sponge media to “seed”. The time I generally allow is from 14-21 days for proper bacterial “seeding”.
• Simple to use, most run on very basic air pumps or power heads. One of the best beginner aquarist filters due to simplicity and cost. But sponge filters are also popular with breeders and research facilities, as they are very efficient yet simple filters, EVEN for large aquariums with Sponge Filters such as the Hydro Sponge #5 PRO.
• Excellent biological filtration, they are very porous and can maintain very large aerobic bacterial colonies in proportion to the space they occupy.
• Easily the filter of choice for hospital aquariums/tanks.
• In hospital aquariums Sponge Filters will NOT remove medications like filters that contain chemical medias such as carbon.
Sponge filters also allow for bare bottom tanks eliminating the problems of potentially disease harboring and sometimes medication absorbing sand/gravel in hospital/breeding tanks (some gravels will absorb chemical treatments such as copper, Methylene blue, Malachite green).
As well, Sponge filters will not “suck” weak fish into filter intakes as many others can.
• Mechanical filtration, although they are not the best mechanical filters, they still do a good job for their small size and make excellent secondary or primary filters when used in combination with other filters such as HOB, canister, or internal filters.
• Very few “dead” areas trapping pockets of noxious bacteria, unlike under gravel filters and even wet/dry filters (which in my experience, many are over rated). Quality sponge filters are superior to also over rated Bio wheelsfor bio filtration as per my own tests performed at many of my multiple aquarium clients.
• Simple to clean, simply remove the sponge and squeeze or rinse in old aquarium water or de-chlorinated tap water. The advantage here is the aquarist is less likely to ignore cleaning the filter (unlike many complex filters), which can lead to organic build up, increasing nitrates and lowering KH and ph.
• Sponge filters are great in Marine aquariums in a few of different ways;
*One way is in a sump using a Hydro Pond Filter IV or similar attached to a high flow pump as a pre-filter (this is a very efficient application!), or with a small power head pump run separately in the sump as a bio filter.
*The other (usually in a reef application) was inside the aquarium with either an air pump or power head. The beauty of either application is they are simple to rinse out with used aquarium water, which in the reef application was especially useful in that I could dispose of allot of debris before it cycled and produced Nitrates. They are an excellent compliment to “live rock” filtered reef aquariums.
*Sponge filters used in reef aquariums are easily rinsed which keeps them from becoming the so-called “Nitrate Factories” that many other mechanical/ bio filters can become such as canister filters or even bio balls which are much more difficult to quickly and frequently rinse.
Sponge filters or sponge Pre-Filters (including the Hydro Pond IV) work great in conjunction to the Berlin Filter method due to their ease of cleaning and simplicity of set up. I have used them here as additional in tank filters for Nano Reefs, Pre Filter before entering a sump, or very often inside the sump of Refugium or Mud filter attached to the pump for added bio/mechanical filtration (make sure to rinse every week for maximum efficiency and for low nitrates.
“For more about the Berlin Filter Method and Mud filters.”
The ease of rinsing is why Sponge Filters are useful for this application, however if the aquarium keeper ignores regular cleaning of the sponge, the sponge filter will fail in this application as it too can become a nitrate factory if not rinsed.
• Probably the best choice of filtration for delicate Discus or Angel tanks due to the fact that they do not attract noxious bacteria when used in a bare bottom tank.
• Easily the best filter for a Betta housed in a small tank or bowl. Bettas, with their long fins can get caught on intakes of HOB or other filters. They excel over UGF in bowls or small tanks in that they are easier maintenance, attract noxious bacteria, and more efficient biologically and mechanically.
• For cichlid breeding they excel, as they are not easily disturbed by cichlids tendency to dig.
• Inexpensive and cost effective.
• Now available in larger sizes for aquariums over 60 gallons. These sponge filters are a great compliment to canister or HOB filters.
Sponge filters can even be used in ponds.
With the "Hydro Pond Filter", simply attach a power head pump (such as a Via Aqua 2600), then run your return line wherever you like (waterfall, etc.), or the Hydro Pond II can be run off a simple air pump. These filters can work on ponds up to 1500 gallons (or more with additional units).
These Hydro Pond Filters (the #4 in particular) also work well in large aquariums or in the sumps of large filtration systems, especially when you need flows in excess of 400 gph.
• There also are sponge filters that are used as a "Pre-Filter" for intakes of canister, wet/dry, power filters and more.
They offer increased bio-filtration to your existing system, as well as protection from baby fish, plants, or anemones from being sucked into the intake of your existing filter.
It is also important to note, that not all sponge pre-filters are the same (including Hydro sponge). A Filter Max #1 is NOT going to allow the efficient use of a filter such as a Whisper 30, where as a Filter Max #3 with the higher flow, more porous sponge will.
I should also be noted that the Hydro Pond Filter #4 can be used as a pre-filter in large aquariums as well and actually improves filtration on many canister filters, especially micron filters such as a Magnum (they also decrease frequency of cleaning and mulm build-up within canister filters).
These pre-filter sponges are especially useful for HOB (power filters) as they increase the bio capacity (far more than bio wheels in experiments I have done) and retain the aerobic bio filtering bacteria during filter media changes.
Without these Sponge pre-filters, many HOB filters are poor to fair bio filters.
• Sponge filters are great for planted aquariums, they do not interfere with root structures and maintain a biological balance ideal for planted aquariums.
• Sponge Internal Filters or pre filter attached to a power head are great for powering UV Sterilizers in small aquariums or Nano Reefs.
They are also useful for acting as a pre-filter for the often incorrectly under rated yet superior Fluidized filters.
• Bio Wheels and Wet Dry filters are superior to sponge filters. -MYTH
In theory the added oxygen or bio wheels and wet dry filters is great, but in practicality the channeling of wet dry filters and the deposit build up of Bio Wheels lowers bacteria surface area, while the fact remains that with the proper dissolved oxygen levels your fish should have is more than adequate for a healthy sponge filter to maintain proper bio colonies. Compare a Wet Dry filter to a marine tank with live rock and other means of mechanical filtration, and you will find the live rock superior even though it is under water.
• All sponge filters are the same and only for small aquariums. –MYTH
The flow design, sponge media material, and sponge size all are important. A large sponge filter with sponge media of a high and proper sized pore count is and extremely efficient filter.
Compare the sponge design of the patented Hydro Sponge to a cheaper Lees, AquaTop, or Tetra sponge and it is obvious, as these cheaper sponges clog faster and do not have the pore density of Hydro Sponge filters.
In fact in tests comparing the Hydro Sponge #5 PRO with Aqua Clear 70 and 110 filters, the HS #5 beat the Aqua Clear 70 and was at least as good as a Aqua Clear 110, and for the price the Hydro Sponge #5 PRO is the clear winner as compared to either. Unfortunately the aquarium hobby is full of anecdotal information knocking sponge filters as low tech, out dated, too small, etc which is all not true when apples to apples comparisons are made.
It is also noteworthy that an undersized sponge filter (including a Hydro Sponge or Filter Max) will work no better than an under sized filter of any other type, especially when not cared for regularly.
• Sponge Pre-Filter lower efficiency of power filters or canister filters- MYTH
Only if you attach a low flow dense-pore sponge filter to a higher flow power filter or use one of the “cheapie” brands available. A sponge pre-filter is certainly not for everyone, but they do have their place and with proper installation can actually improve filtration via pre-filtration of larger debris and prevention of baby fish being trapped.
Hydro Sponge Review from Renee (goldenpuon) from “Everything Aquatic”
"I thought I'd write a review of the Hydro Sponge filters I purchase from Carl a while back. The results are excellent too.
Better than any sponge filter I've ever owned. It picks up fish waste very well and now I have to do less than half the cleaning for my tank. I had a guppy tank I was cleaning every two days with a micro filter installed. Now I all I have to do is clean it every 1 1/2 weeks!
The Hydro Sponge also creates a good amount of water disturbance with very few bubbles produced making it a great for providing oxygen for fish. Its quality is just as good, if not better than most power filters out there. It is also small and doesn't take up much space while providing a great place for beneficial bacteria to grow. This makes it much more useful than really any other filter for tanks with high ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates. It is also much less expensive than filters that require a carbon.
All you have to do is replace the sponge every 6 months and it costs little more than a dollar while carbons in power filter must be changed at least every month each costs a few dollars. One of the best filters I've ever owned, I highly recommend it for aquariums of all sizes!
Hope you guys like my review. I'm not just pointing out the positives here, they really are true."
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