How to Clean Aquarium Filter Sponge – 3 easy steps

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by Jason Matthews


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Aquarium filters are an essential part of keeping your fish happy and healthy. Not only do they keep the water clean, but they also provide a place for your fish to hide and play. One of the essential parts of the filter is the sponge, which can become clogged with dirt and algae if not cleaned regularly.

To clean your aquarium filter sponge, avoid using tap water and change it as often as possible. If you still have a lot of dirty tank-water residue on the sponges after all this time spent changing out filters with fresh ones several times per week or more, then just rinse them off in old-fashioned buckets or borrow someone else’s old tank garden hose for some outdoor showering.

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Last update on 2022-09-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

In this post, we’ll show you how to clean your aquarium filter sponge in just a few easy steps. So read on and get started.

Easy Ways of Cleaning Your Aquarium Filter Sponge

1.   Avoid Using Tap Water

The best way to clean your aquarium filter sponges is not by using running tap water. Don’t ever use any type of cleanser with chlorine or chloramine because it can kill off good bacteria that help keep things fresh around the aquarium.

Using tap water may be a bit risky, so you should verify that your tap water does not have any added chemicals or contaminants before using it for this purpose. You can boil them first to remove these substances from the mix or just let nature take its course and use fresh rainfall instead.

When you wash a filter under the tap, it’s like giving all of those beneficial bacteria a death sentence. You will lose all the beneficial bacteria on your sponge if you do this, so it can no longer convert ammonia.

The fish continue creating more of that stinky stuff, which builds up and kills them. Without enough good bacteria in the filter system, New Tank Syndrome may also occur.

Related article: How often should you change aquarium filter?

2.   Change the Water and Work With Old Tank Water

The easiest way to clean an aquarium filter sponge to get rid of brown water is by performing a simple water change, including removing 10-15% from your old tank and replacing it with fresh. Save some existing liquid in the bottom half when you do this, so there’s no loss.

This process should be done periodically as well – at least once every two weeks or three months, depending on how often they’re changed out completely.

When you’re done cleaning, get some more old tank water and wring out the sponge until it no longer has that brown tint. Depending on how much dirt was in there, you might need to repeat this process two or three times.

One caution note: make sure your filter sponge doesn’t dry out during these steps because if not, then bacteria can grow, which will lead us back towards having gross smelling tanks again, and that’s not what anyone wants.

3.   If Necessary, Reuse Old Tank Water

When you clean your filter, be sure to fill up the bucket with water from inside so that any bacteria collected during cleaning can go back into circulation. This will help keep things running smoothly in an aquarium by reinjecting good microbes.

When you have several sponge filters or a three-stage filter, it’s unnecessary to reuse old tank water because some other sponges and media can keep the nitrogen cycle running fully in your aquarium.

Make sure all of these items aren’t cleaned at once, though – just like how we don’t want our natural resources exhausted too quickly by human activity.

Related article: How to change aquarium filter without loosing bacteria

Frequently Asked Questions

Can You Clean a Sponge Filter?

To keep your filter sponges clean and healthy, only ever wash them in old fish tank water. First, vacuum up all of the gravel from around each bed, then use that same hose to siphon off any dirt or waste matter sitting on top while simultaneously vacuuming underneath so you can get at least some measure back for what was removed during cleaning sessions before performing this procedure every other week.

When Should I Clean My Sponge Filter In My Aquarium?

The sponge filter is like a trash can that needs to be emptied every once in a while. This helps keep your aquarium clean, but it’s not quite as good at cleaning the water since you need something with more power than just sponges for this job. I recommend monthly or sometimes daily scrubbing sessions if there are signs of debris buildup on its surface – which will happen sooner rather than later, depending on how often they’re used.

How Do You Get the Clear Water Out of a Sponge Filter?

When you want clean, clear water for your fish tank – just fill up a bucket with enough fresh filtered tank water and plunge the filter upside-down into it. The trapped dirt will start draining out immediately. You can then squeeze excess moisture from beneath before removing any residue by inverting back onto its base so that everything gets thoroughly rinsed off.

Why Does My Aquarium Sponge Filter Get Dirty So Fast?

The right tank size can make all the difference in how enjoyable your fishkeeping experience is. A bigger tank will get dirty slower compared to a smaller tank. Some species are experts at algae-eating and keeping their tanks clean. At the same time, others prefer not to get too big so they don’t feel stressed out by having too much space or being crowded into a small area with other similar-looking individuals who may be competing for food sources.


Your aquarium filter sponge is one of the essential pieces to your aquarium. When it starts to get dirty, you’ll need to clean it so that water can continue flowing smoothly through the system and not cause other problems in your aquarium. Here are some tips on doing just that without too much hassle.

First, avoid tap water because this will introduce chemicals into the mix, which may be harmful to fish or plants in your tank. Second, change old tank water with fresh new water from an outside source like a bucket or sink faucet. Third, if necessary, you can reuse old tank water by changing out filters before adding them back into the cleaned sponges.

We hope this post has enabled you to grasp the easy and quick ways you can use to clean your aquarium filter sponge.


Jason Matthews

My name is Jason Matthews, and welcome to my website. When other kids were bragging about how their dog could sit and roll over, I was bragging about my latest Betta Fish and the cool sea castle I just added to his aquarium. 

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