AQQA Sponge Filter Review – A Great Budget-Friendly Filter!

The AQQA sponge filter offers a budget-friendly option with advanced features like a ceramic media compartment, providing efficient biological and mechanical filtration for aquariums.

There are many sponge filters on the market these days, but the AQQA sponge filter stood out to me due to its low price, ease of use, and the ceramic media compartment at the base of the filter.

After initially trying the filter in my Corydoras tank and having a great experience, I quickly purchased two more for my other tanks. It has now become my sponge filter of choice.

Given my positive experience with the AQQA sponge filter and the general popularity of sponge filters in the hobby, I decided to publish a dedicated review based on my experiences with it in multiple aquariums.

How The AQQA Sponge Filter Works

How The AQQA Sponge Filter Works
How The AQQA Sponge Filter Works

The AQQA sponge filter operates similarly to most other sponge filters but features an additional ceramic media compartment to enhance biological filtration.

Your air pump (not included) pushes air through the airline into the L connector of the filter, which then directs it into the internal air stone. The air stone releases small bubbles that wash over the ceramic media, pass into the outlet pipe, and move into the water column.

As the air travels up the outlet pipe, it pulls water through the filter sponge, creating a gentle water flow in your tank and providing mechanical filtration to remove debris from the water column. This process also releases air bubbles into the tank.

The circulating water around the ceramic media and sponge creates an optimal environment for beneficial bacteria to thrive, breaking down ammonia and nitrites, and helping to maintain suitable water parameters in your tank.

The AQQA Sponge Filter includes the following items:

  • Filter Material Container Base
  • Ceramic Filter Media
  • 2 Filter Sponges
  • Airstone
  • Outlet Pipe
  • Filter Base Plate
  • L Connector
  • Fixing Buckle

The filter comes pre-assembled, but we recommend rinsing it under a cold tap before adding it to your aquarium to remove any dust from the ceramic media that may have accumulated during shipping.

You will need to purchase an air pump separately. I use a cheap USB air pump with my AQQA sponge filters, and they work perfectly.

Price Of The Filter

AQQA Sponge Filter Review
AQQA Sponge Filter Fresh Out The Box

The AQQA sponge filter costs slightly more than most other sponge filters, but it includes a ceramic media bay, ceramic media, an efficient air stone, and a spare filter sponge.

When considering all of these features, as well as the fact that some competing sponge filters without the ceramic media bay retail at the same price, it becomes clear why this filter is such a popular option within the hobby.

Additionally, the smaller AQQA sponge filter is effective in tanks up to 40 US gallons (150 liters), while the larger model is effective in tanks up to 70 US gallons (250 liters).

Many cheaper sponge filters are only rated for tanks up to 20 US gallons (75 liters), which can be problematic for larger tanks. This makes the AQQA Sponge Filter the perfect option for people with medium-sized aquariums.

Multiple Filtration Methods

Multiple Filtration Methods On The AQQA Sponge Filter
Multiple Filtration Methods On The AQQA Sponge Filter

One of the main selling points of the AQQA sponge filter is its ability to provide multiple filtration methods in a single unit.

While other sponge filters can also offer some level of biological and mechanical filtration, the AQQA filter stands out due to its larger filter sponge and ceramic media bay.

Biological Filtration

Ceramic Media In The AQQA Sponge Filter
Ceramic Media In The AQQA Sponge Filter

The ceramic media bay and larger sponge give the AQQA sponge filter a clear advantage over competing sponge filters in terms of biological filtration.

Beneficial bacteria that convert ammonia to nitrite and nitrite to nitrate thrive in areas with good water flow, supporting a large bacteria colony that helps keep your ammonia and nitrite levels in check.

The ceramic media included with the filter is porous, increasing the available surface area, and you get enough to almost fill the media bay completely.

While it’s not necessary, you can replace the ceramic media in the filter with a different media of your choice, such as Biohome SuperBioGravel, if you prefer.

The Air Intake On The AQQA Sponge Filter
Ceramic Media Bay And Air Stone

You can see the ceramic media bay and air stone of the AQQA sponge filter in my photograph above.

Some reviews suggest that the substrate of your tank might get sucked into the filter through the small holes in the plastic base, but this has not been the case with my filters.

As shown in the photograph, there is a sealed passage for the air to travel from the L connector to the air stone, reducing any suction in the media bay.

Once the air reaches the air stone, it moves over the ceramic media in the bay before traveling up the outlet pipe and being released into your tank’s water column.

Mechanical Filtration

Mechanical Filtration Of The AQQA Sponge Filter

My video clip above demonstrates the effectiveness of the AQQA sponge filter in mechanical filtration, showcasing the volume of solid particles it has removed from my tank’s water column.

While it’s true that sponge filters are not as proficient in mechanical filtration compared to other types of filters in the hobby, they aren’t as ineffective as some people claim.

The larger surface area and height of the filter sponge allow it to draw in water and solid particles from a broader area of your tank’s water column, retaining them until the sponge is cleaned.

However, the mechanical filtration is primarily effective at removing solid particles in the lower and middle sections of your aquarium, so surface-level debris will not be affected.

Surface Agitation

Surface Agitation Of The AQQA Sponge Filter

The internal air stone in the AQQA sponge filter helps to break larger air bubbles into numerous smaller ones, enhancing the level of surface agitation the filter provides.

This maximizes gas exchange in your tank, helping convert carbon dioxide into oxygen, ensuring your tank’s inhabitants have an ample supply of oxygen.

I recently published an article discussing how the AQQA sponge filter helped me increase the oxygen levels in one of my tanks when my corydoras were constantly breathing rapidly and not moving around much.

A study by Radboud University found that marine fish were less tolerant of oxygen-depleted water than freshwater fish, but all fish require some level of dissolved oxygen in their tanks.

The previous sponge filter I had in that tank was rated for larger tanks but struggled to maintain oxygen levels, likely due to the lack of an air stone.

Another advantage of the AQQA Sponge Filter over some other sponge filters I’ve tried is that it is much quieter, avoiding the loud “glug glug glug” sound due to the air stone releasing smaller air bubbles.

I have two AQQA sponge filters running in my bedroom aquariums, and I can sleep without issue. However, the air pump you choose to power your filter will affect the noise level of your system.

This is another reason why I love the small USB air pumps—they are very quiet compared to other air pumps, making this combination perfect for people with bedroom aquariums.

Quality Of The Sponge

Quality Of The Sponge
Quality Of The AQQA Sponge

I own several sponge filters, and the quality of the AQQA sponge stands out as above average. It’s one of my favorites due to the abundance of fine holes in the sponge.

In the photo above, you can see the comparison between the “shrimp safe” Aquael sponge and the standard AQQA sponge. The AQQA sponge has a significantly reduced risk of trapping fry or shrimplets.

The fine holes in the AQQA sponge also allow it to capture smaller particles without sucking them through the sponge and releasing them back into the aquarium’s water column.

If you intend to breed fish or shrimp, I believe that using a finer sponge like the one that comes with the AQQA sponge filter will result in higher yields, as fry and shrimplets are less likely to be sucked into the sponge.

My Aquael shrimp tank came with their “shrimp safe” sponge filter, but I have seen several complaints online about it causing problems with shrimplets and fry.

Interestingly, AQQA doesn’t specifically market this filter as ideal for breeding shrimp or fish, but it’s an additional bonus that I noticed and have taken advantage of.

Setup And Installation

Attatching The Filter And Air Pump

The AQQA sponge filter is easy to set up for beginners, as it comes mostly pre-assembled. However, before starting the setup process, you should detach the fixing buckle to remove the spare sponge from the outlet pipe.

In the video clip above, you can see how easy it is to attach a USB air pump to the AQQA Sponge Filter and get it ready for use. The process literally takes a couple of seconds.

I find it easier to purchase some aftermarket airline tubing, as it is inexpensive but higher quality than the tubing that comes with most air pumps. This helps to quickly and securely connect the tubing to the pump and filter.

Squeezing The Air Out Of The Sponge

After connecting the pump and filter, place the filter in your aquarium. Take a few seconds to squeeze the air out of the sponge, as shown in the video clip above.

This simple step makes it much easier to position the filter in your tank without it floating away.

Once you’re confident that most of the air has been removed from the sponge, place the filter in your aquarium and turn on your air pump.

Available Sizes Of The AQQA Sponge Filter

Available Sizes Of The AQQA Sponge Filter
Available Sizes Of The AQQA Sponge Filter

The AQQA sponge filter is available in two sizes: the smaller version is suitable for aquariums up to 40 US gallons (150 liters), while the larger version is designed for tanks up to 70 US gallons (250 liters).

I own both sizes and have tested them in my 29-gallon tank. In my opinion, the smaller filter is the better option for small to medium-sized tanks.

The smaller filter provides all the necessary features for a smaller tank, occupies less space, and comes at a lower price, making it the obvious choice for most people.

However, if you have an aquarium over 40 US gallons (150 liters), it’s advisable to opt for the larger filter. Nonetheless, the majority of hobbyists tend to keep smaller tanks.

Maintenance And Cleaning

Cleaning The AQQA Sponge Filter In Tank Water

Cleaning the AQQA sponge filter is incredibly easy and takes just a minute each week.

Always clean the sponge using water from your tank to prevent chlorine in tap water from harming the beneficial bacteria living in the sponge.

I usually wait until I do a partial water change, then quickly remove the filter, take off the fixing buckle from the outlet pipe to remove the sponge, and clean it in the water I just removed from the tank.

This is the method I’ve used to clean my sponge filters over the past few months. I have checked my tank water parameters each time to ensure there were no issues with beneficial bacteria levels, and so far, there haven’t been any problems.

Works Well With Cheap Air Pumps

A Cheap USB Air Pump
A Cheap USB Air Pump

As mentioned earlier in the article, the AQQA sponge filter pairs seamlessly with a low-cost USB air pump in smaller tanks, helping to minimize your expenses.

Not only are these USB air pumps inexpensive to buy, but they also operate at just 1 watt, keeping running costs low as well.

I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of air pressure they produce despite being small and quiet. This is one of the primary reasons I’m transitioning all my smaller tanks to USB air pumps instead of traditional ones.

For larger tanks, you may need a higher-output air pump, but remember that this could also increase water flow in the tank, which might not be preferred by certain fish species that thrive in still or low-flow conditions.

Final Thoughts

The AQQA sponge filter stands out as a superior choice when looking for cheap sponge filters as it offers exceptional value for its price.

Its innovative design, which includes a ceramic media compartment, ensures efficient biological filtration while also being adept at mechanical filtration.

The filter’s versatility, ability to function well with economical air pumps, and its suitability for breeding setups make it a favorite among aquarium enthusiasts.

Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned hobbyist, the AQQA sponge filter promises quality performance and ease of use for a range of tank sizes.

AQQA Sponge Filter


Ease Of Use
Biological Filtration
Mechanical Filtration
Surface Agitation
Noise Level


The AQQA sponge filter is a cheap, easy-to-use option that is perfect for beginners or anyone on a budget who is looking to add mechanical and biological filtration to their aquarium.