Sponge Filter vs HOB Filter, Which Is The Most Recommended

There are many types and styles of filters that you can purchase for your aquarium. The many types include; canister, trickle, algae, undergravel, and others. But, which one is the best? What filter is more efficient and recommended. We are going to take a look at the Sponge Filter and the HOB (hang on back) filter. Which one is the most recommended for your tank?

Sponge filters are more efficient, reliable, and easy to use. A hang on back filter uses an electric water pump and it hangs on the back of your tank, normally on the outside. Aesthetically people like these because they do not take up tank space or hinder the view of the fish. It is basically split down the middle on which one is most popular and most recommended.

Because the recommendation is almost a 50/50 split we are going to provide you with all of the in-depth information that we can find on each type of filter. What they are, how they work, and much more. In the end, you can decide which filter type is going to be more useful and efficient for your aquarium set-up.

Sponge Filter, What Are They

This type of filter is exactly what the name implies, it is a sponge. As the water is drawn through the sponge, it collects the debris from the tank. This filter is used with an air pump. Sponge filters are mainly used by the more avid or experienced hobbyist.

A lot of beginners to the aquarium scene do not even realize that these types of filters exist, because they are not promoted or suggested as much as the other types of filters. 

The sponge filter is going to provide you with 2 types of filtration; mechanical is when the debris gets trapped in the sponge. The other takes place when the sponge begins to grow bacteria. This will provide a large surface for the good bacteria to grow. 

How Does the Sponge Filter Work

Most fish stores, breeding tanks, and fish rooms choose to use the sponge filter because of its reliability and efficiency. This is one of the most basic filters. There are only 3 parts to this particular filter; sponge filter, air pump, and the airline tubing.

Your sponge is going to sit down inside the tank on a small stand. Your air pump sits outside of your tank and the tubing is what connects the 2 components together.

The air pump is going to push air through the tubing. This will flow through a hollow cavity inside the sponge. Bubbles will then rise and draw water through the sponge walls. This process collects debris from the tank and provides good bacteria an environment to grow. 

Because the sponge filter continually bubbles you will have outstanding circulation and surface agitation. But, it is gentle enough not to suck up any of the slower moving creatures; shrimp, fish fry, or other small fish.

How Do You Clean Your Sponge Filter

The sponge filter helps to keep your tank clean, acting as a trash can for your fish/tank. Just like your kitchen trash needs taken out, so does the trash in the sponge filter. You should clean your sponge filter once a month, sooner if you see a decrease in the air bubbles.

  1. Take off the whole top part of the filter
  2. Use plastic or large Ziploc bag to scoop out the foam
  3. Wring out the foam several times
  4. Reassemble the sponge filter and place back into your tank
  5. If you have a lot of floating particles the sponge filter should collect them within an hour

Top Reasons Sponge Filters Are Great

There are many reasons why sponge filters are awesome for your tank, whether you are a beginner or you have had multiple tanks in the past. Here are just a handful of reasons why you should choose the sponge filter.

  1. They make awesome pre-filters if you are adamant about a canister or HOB filter, why not add a sponge filter? You can still achieve good chemical filtration if you place a simple block of foam over the intake. This also means you will not need to run a separate unit and it will help preserve small fish. After a while, the block will be inhabited with beneficial bacteria. 
  1. Sponge filters work very well with other filters, mentioned above. There is no such thing as overdoing mechanical or biological filtration. Place the sponge filter behind one of your larger decorations, like driftwood or a rock. The extra bacteria will break down leftover food and ammonia faster.
  1. These filters are the fastest to clean and work with all aquarium types. Freshwater, planted aquarium, saltwater, brackish….. It works perfectly for all. Cleaning your sponge filter is as easy as removing enough material without harming your bacterial colony. Use a small bucket of tank water to clean the sponge. 

Top 2 Sponge Filters

We are going to be oddballs today and give you the top 2 sponge filters, instead of the top 3 or 5. Mixing it up a little bit adds excitement and never hurts.

On the top of our list is the Aqua Papa Bio Sponge: for $20 you can get this sponge filter, which works great for a tank up to 55 gallons. It is a 3 pack, so you are essentially paying $6 per sponge filter. Can we say BARGAIN!? It provides biological and mechanical filtration.

The sponge will trap large waste particles without trapping baby fish. The pore size is very fine, but you do have to purchase the air pump separately, and you can not use an airstone with this brand. They are perfect for shrimp, do an amazing cleaning job, and the water stays clear.
Check Fluval Aqua Papa Bio Sponge on Amazon here.
The 2nd, and final one, Hygger Aquarium Double Sponge: this model will come with 2 spare sponges, a quiet submersible foam filter, and 1 bag of bioceramic media balls. All of this for under $20!! It has multi-function filtration, removable fine sponges, and it is very easy to use. It also has the following features; 
a)-2 strong suction cups
b)-Can be used in freshwater or saltwater tank
c)-Any air pump over 5w can run this filter
d)-Detachable filter parts, easy to install
Check Hygger Aquarium Double Sponge on Amazon here.

Now that we have thoroughly covered the sponge filter, we will give you information on the hang on back (HOB) filter.

What Is A HOB Filter

his type of filter is going to hang on the back of your fish tank. They are classified as an external filter and can be used with a large variety of tanks. 

Most people choose this type of filter because it is the most marketed and suggested at a pet store. Some of your less expensive tanks will actually come with one. They filter and keep your tank clean, quite well.

The filtering material, mechanisms, and pump are all housed in an enclosed case, usually clear. Some HOB filters have the option to regulate the flow of the water, which will help make the tank a little bit quieter.

HOB filters are super easy to install, affordable, and low maintenance. If you want to spend just a little bit more cash you can get a HOB that has built-in functions, adjustable sliders, and interchangeable chutes. This makes them even more user-friendly. 

How Does a HOB Filter Work

The HOB filter is easy to install and use. They are silent and efficient and one of the best options for your tank. The HOB filter works in a very simple straightforward way. They will suck in the water through what is called the intake tube. Then your filter will move the water through the media.

The first filter stage is called mechanical media. Then you will have stages 2 and 3 in the filtration process, which is chemical and biological. After the water goes through the 3 stages of filtration it is returned back into your tank. 

Some HOB filters only work with 1 type of filtration media and others may combine 2 or more. The 3 main types, as listed in the description above; mechanical, chemical, and biological. To get the most out of your HOB filter you should ideally choose one with all 3 stages of filtration. Some even come with 5 stages. So do a little research and question asking, at the pet store.

How To Reduce HOB Filter Noise

In the beginning the HOB filters were very noisy. But, as with everything else, things evolve. New discoveries are made on ways to make products better. Currently, HOB filters run fairly smoothly and are more quiet than in the past.

If your hang on back (HOB) filter does get noisy, there are a couple of reasons why:

  • The loud sound of water splashing back into your tank. You can either add filter floss, which will slow the water down or you can raise the water level in your tank. 
  • Could end up having issues accepting water into the tank. Check and make sure all tubes are in place and tight and check that the water level is high enough. 
  • If the noise seems to be coming from the motor compartment, clean the engine. Just take your filter apart and clean out the dust and debris. 

Top Things to Consider Before HOB Purchase

There are a dozen varieties of filters on the market. They are all described differently and in their own way, they work amazing. Sometimes it can be a bit overwhelming or even confusing to figure out which one is going to work best. We are going to give you a few things to consider to make the decision easier.

Filtration Flow Rate:Too much filtration may lead to faster water flow. This can harm smaller or placid fish. It also makes the tank noisier. If you have too little filtration then the waste builds up and can cause sickness in your fish.
If you have a 20-gallon tank then the optimal filter will move 80 gallons of water in an hour (4x the volume of your tank). Check the manufacturer specifications carefully. Some filters are adjustable.
Quality of your filter:There are 2 main HOB designs; the chamber filter uses sponges and filter floss inserted into the chamber, and the cartridge filter takes only the manufacturer’s cartridges.
The chamber type HOB filter offers you more filter media area for the bacteria and more contact time with the water during filtration. Depending on the brand, the chamber filter will be severest times thicker than the cartridge filter.
Extra functions added:Adjustable flow rate, clog indicator, self-priming, and loudness. They may cost a few more dollars but it is well worth “seeing” your tank and not “hearing” your tank. 

How to Clean Your HOB Filter

You should clean your HOB filter once a month, unless you have a clogged indicator light flashing. It should only take approximately 15-20 minutes for the process. 

The supplies you are going to need: fresh media, small pitcher, and a bucket (preferably one that is only used for your fish tank). Use the water straight out of the tank and put 2 quarts into the pitcher.

Unplug your filter and lift it out of the tank, placing it in the bucket. You will need to then remove the sponge or the media insert. If it is disposable, toss it. If it is refillable then throw away the media inside. 

Take part of the tank water out of your pitcher and rinse the sponge or media in the water. After you rinse out the media you can refill it and set it to the side. Next you are going to want to rinse the filter housing, removing any lime deposit or algae. 

Now you can place the rinsed sponge or new media back into the filter housing and hang it back on your tank. Take a small cup, partially filling the filter with tank water, plug it back in, and turn it on. You will want to use an aquarium tube cleaning kit, every so often to clean the pump on your lift tubes.

Two Most Recommended HOB Filters

There is a large variety of wonderful HOB filters on the market. You’re more than welcome to do some extra or your own research. You may find a HOB filter that you prefer over the 2 we are going to share with you.

Marineland Penguin 350: for under $25 you can purchase this Bio-wheel power filter. It works perfectly for 50-75 gallon tanks and has a gallon per hour (gph) of 350. It also features multi-stage filtration, comes in 5 sizes, and has a rotating bio-wheel.

This wheel provides wet/dry biological filtration. You do have to use manufacture specific cartridges with this filter It has 3 stage filtration, a 2 piece vented cover, and an adjustable intake.

With 5 gph sizes, you can pick the very best one for your tank set-up. There is no hassle with air-pumps, valves, air stones, or tubing. The bio-wheel is prime for removing nitrate and ammonia. Check Marineland Penguin 350 on Amazon here. 
Tetra Whisper EX Silent Multi-Stage Filter: depending on the size you choose, it will cost you just over $10 or just under $30 for one of these filters. This is fast and easy to set-up, has a continuous flow, multi-stage filtration, and no-mess cartridge changes.
 This filter comes with a cartridge carrier eliminating dripping. It has a time-strip feature. This tells you when your cartridge needs to be changed. It will turn from white to red when all of the carbon (chemical) has been used.
Multi-stage filtration with a bio-scrubber is another feature of this HOB 
filter. The bio-scrubber removes the ammonia and nitrites during the filtration stages. Check Tetra Whisper EX Silent Multi-Stage Filter on Amazon here.

Conclusion-Most Recommended

HOB filters are more popular because they are highly suggested if you go into a pet store, because they cost more. Not many people, including myself, know about the sponge filters. So from that standpoint you could say that the HOB Filters are most recommended. If you do research on the internet, it is almost a split of 50/50 on which is most recommended.

HOB’s are more at risk during a power outage. But, they hang on the back of the tank (outside) so they do not take up room in the tank. HOB’s also offer the carbon (chemical) filtration which many people love.

Sponge filters take up a little space inside the tank but are extremely easy to clean. They are shrimp, betta, and placid fish safe. Sponge filters have a quiet flow, better aeration, and cost less.

If you can not decide, go with both! You get the best of both filters, an extra clean tank, and even a place for your fish (or shrimp) to sit on and eat.

You can also get a small sponge and just attach it to your HOB intake. If you get large rocks or even drift wood, you can carefully and strategically hide the sponge so that your tank is still appealing to look at. 

In the end, the choice is up to you and which one you are going to work best for your tank set-up and size. After all the research and information that we have just given you, I hope it has helped you in choosing between the 2 filters or sealed the deal on using them together. 

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