Filtration Do Sponge Filters Work With Sand Substrate? (Yes, Here’s Why)

Do Sponge Filters Work With Sand Substrate? (Yes, Here’s Why)

Sponge filters are a great option for sand substrate aquariums. They will collect a small amount of sand over time or if you stir up a bunch of sand. But they will not actively suck up sand off the tank floor. You can clean the sand out of them easily by rinsing them monthly.

Sponge filter on top of sand substrate

Does sand substrate clog sponge filters?

A small amount of sand will collect inside your sponge filter over time. But not enough to completely clog it and cause it to fail. Let your sand substrate settle and clean your filter once per month to allow it to function properly.

How to clean your sponge filter

To clean our sponge filter we siphon out some aquarium water into a 5-gallon bucket. We then remove the plastic lid on the sponge filter and pull off the sponge. We then squeeze and rinse the sponge out in a 5-gallon bucket that has aquarium water in it.

It’s important that you don’t rinse your sponge in fresh tap water that contains chlorine. This will kill off beneficial bacteria colonies that are living in the sponge.

How often to clean your sponge filter

We clean our sponges about once per month during our weekly tank maintenance schedule. This will be more than adequate. You will find that your sponge contains some sand, but probably not too much.

Your sponge will not actively suck up sand from the bottom of the aquarium. Instead, the sponge will suck up sand that has been stirred up by other disturbances in the tank, such as a bottom dwelling fish.

Do air stones disrupt sand substrate?

You won’t have any issues putting an air stone or sponge filter on top of your sand substrate. Any disrupted sand will eventually settle to the bottom of your tank.

Sand displaces pretty easily. So placing an airstone at the very bottom of a tank will cause the sand to stir up a bit. But it will settle down after a few minutes. The air stone will most likely float a couple inches above the substrate anyways so you shouldn’t have any issues.

When should you turn your filter on after adding sand?

You can turn your filter on immediately after adding substrate if you have fish in the tank. This will ensure that the water is adequately aerated. If the tank is not stocked then you can wait a few hours until the sand and debris settle down a bit.

In reality, cloudy tank water will not pose many issues for your aquarium filter – at least not any serious issues. Worst case you may consider rinsing your filter more frequently during the first couple weeks to account for extra cloudiness upon setup.

Will sand ruin an aquarium filter?

Sand will not ruin an aquarium filter. A fine sand may clog a filter over time if a lot of it is drawn into the filter media. But this usually only occurs during setup when the sand substrate is disturbed and causes cloudiness in the water.

Ryan Ferguson

Founder, Rooted Tank

Ryan Ferguson, the founder of Rooted Tank, started fishkeeping in 2019. He has continued to level-up his planted aquarium skills and wanted to share his journey and knowledge with other aquarists.


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