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Easy Sponge Filter Setup & Modification (Less Noise, More Oxygen)

So you’re ready to do a sponge filter setup in your aquarium, but you’re also concerned about the noise it will make once it’s installed. No worries! 

We’ll show you more than just how to do a sponge filter setup – we’ll include a simple modification that will make the sponge filter quieter and help produce more oxygen. 

In this article, we’ll give you step-by-step instructions (with a video), so you can follow along. 

Follow along with this video if you’re in a hurry: 

What Is a Sponge Filter?

A sponge filter is the simplest form of all aquarium filters. It is considered both a mechanical and biological filter – two of the most important types of filters. 

Sponge Filters

It consists of three main components: 

  1. Sponge filter 
  2. Air pump 
  3. Airline tubing 

Some fishkeepers add an airstone as a nice little extra to, you’ve guessed it, lessen the noise and increase the oxygen levels. For the purposes of this article, you’ll need a small enough airstone. 

Sponge filters are easy to use, budget-friendly, and reliable compared to other filter types. Want to know more about sponge filters? Here’s all you need to know

How To Setup a Sponge Filter

Step 1: Get The Materials 

Get all your materials ready for the sponge filter setup and modification. All you need are the following items: 

  • Sponge filter 
  • Airline tubing 
  • Airstone 
  • Scissors 
  • Check valve 
The materials needed to do a sponge filter setup: a sponge filter, airline tubing, airstone, scissors, check valve

Step 2: Take Apart The Sponge Filter

Now that you have everything ready, start by taking the sponge filter apart: 

  • Remove the lift tube from the top of the sponge filter. 
  • Remove the cap off the top of the sponge filter. 
  • Remove the sponge.  
  • Remove the base from the bottom of the sponge filter. 

All that will be left are two separate columns attached to each other. 

A sponge filter that has been taken apart as step two of a sponge filter setup process

Step 3: Modify The Columns 

Both of the columns have centerpieces and spokes – we’re going to cut them out: 

  • Detach the two columns from each other. 
  • With the scissors, cut out the spokes which will also remove the centerpieces. 
  • Once the centerpiece is removed, set it aside. 
  • You will then have the two columns with clean openings

By modifying the two columns, we’ll be able to add the airstone into a secured space. 

A modified sponge filter column with its spokes cut off as part of the sponge filter setup

Step 4: Setup The Air Tubing 

Next, you’ll need to measure and cut the air tubing that will connect with the airstone: 

  • Measure the length of the sponge with the air tubing. 
  • Take that measurement and cut the air tubing
  • Grab your airstone and connect it to one end of the air tubing. 
  • Put the airstone into the newly cut opening of one of the columns. 
  • Connect the second column to the one containing the airstone. 

Now your airstone is tightly secured between the two columns. 

A fully setup up and modified air tubing mechanism as step four of a sponge filter setup process

Step 5: Setup The Sponge Filter 

Now that the air tubing is set up and connected to the secured airstone, you can start with the sponge filter setup: 

  • Connect the columns to the sponge filter’s base. 
  • Slide the sponge back on with the air tubing sticking out of the top opening. 
  • Grab your scissors and cut the remaining part of the air tubing – allow a breathing space of a quarter of an inch. 
  • Take one of the cut-off centerpieces and cut about half an inch of the tip (be careful to not cut yourself) – the tip serves as an adapter. 
  • Connect the centerpiece’s tip to the air tubing that’s attached to the airstone (it will help to slide the sponge and columns off). 
  • Once connected, ensure that the airstone is secure in the two columns and that the sponge is slid back on. 
  • Now you can connect the air tubing to the sponge filter’s cap. 
A setted up sponge filter

Step 6: Connect The Air Tubing 

Now that you’re sponge filter is setup, you can connect the sponge filter to the rest of the air tubing: 

  • Take the excess tubing and put it through the lift tube
  • Connect the air tubing to the cap of your sponge filter. 
  • Slide the lift tube down and connect it to your sponge filter. 

Congrats! You’ve set up a modified sponge filter that will make less noise and produce more oxygen. 

The airline tubing connected to the sponge filter while someone is holding the check valve

Step 7: Add The Sponge Filter To The Aquarium 

Your modified sponge filter is ready to be added to the aquarium: 

  • Place the sponge filter into the aquarium and squeeze out any bubbles from the sponge to keep it from floating. 
  • Place the air pump in its final position outside the tank. 
  • Cut the airline tubing roll (connected to the sponge filter) to the proper length to reach the air pump. 
  • Connect the air pump to the newly cut air tubing from the sponge filter. 
  • If the air pump is located below the top of the aquarium, you need to add a check valve to prevent water from flowing into the airline tubing whenever the air pump is turned off or the power is out. 
  • Cut the airline tubing (between the sponge filter and air pump) a few inches outside of the aquarium. 
  • Attach the check valve in between so that the end of the check valve with the flapper (looks like a colored or horizontal bar usually) is facing the air pump. 
  • Make a drip loop with the air pump’s power cable (to prevent moisture from coming into contact with the plug), and then plug in the air pump. 
  • Bubbles will start flowing out of your sponge filter. 

And you’re done! An easy sponge filter setup with a small modification to reduce the large bubbly sound and to create more oxygen. 

A fully submerged sponge filter in an African cichlid tank, the last step of the sponge filter setup process


Setting up a sponge filter is a simple task that you can complete in about an hour. There are many different varieties of sponge filters on the market, so do your research to find the one that will work best for your tank. 

If you have any other concerns and require a more personal touch to your fishkeeping journey, KaveMan Aquatics offer 1-on-1 consulting services

KaveMan Aquatics 1-on-1 consulting services
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