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Sponge Filter vs Hang on Back

sponge filter vs hang on back

There is no denying the importance of what a filter brings to your fish tank. The filter basically cleans the water of debris while removing the toxic buildup and providing water aeration in the aquarium. The two most popular filtration systems today are sponge filters and hang on back filters.

But what is the difference between sponge filter vs hang on back or HOB? Sponge filters are known for their reliability and efficiency, while HOB filters are popular with their aesthetics as they do not take up too much space in the aquarium. Other related information comparing these two filters will be listed below.

Features Sponge Filter Hang on Back Filter
Power Source Air Pump Electric Motor
Installation and Usage Easy Complicated
Flow Rate Less Stronger Stronger
Maintenance Frequent Less
Pricing Affordable Expensive


Power Source

One of the main differences between a sponge filter and a hang on back (HOB) filter is their primary power source. A normal sponge filter is powered by an air pump which is responsible for providing a limited amount of biological filtration.

On the other hand, the HOB filter uses an electric motor to provide filtration in the aquarium. Using a HOB filter will give the benefit of using a media to chemically filter the water of your fish tank.

Installation and Usage

These two filtration systems can also be compared by the way they are being used and the type of installation needed in setting up in the aquarium. I can say that the sponge filter is easier to set up compared to the HOB filter.

When setting up a sponge filter, you will need a separate external air pump and plastic tubing as part of the installation process. The initial step is to hook the air tubing to the filter while securing it inside the tank. Once done, you will only need to connect the tube to the pump to start the filter to work.

On the other hand, the hang on back filter comes with a more complicated installation process. You will need to have a little planning since you will need to have a space for the filter to hang at the back of the aquarium.

With the HOB filter, you must make constant adjustments to set up the proper gap between these two parts of the filter. It is also necessary to manually fill with water to start the impeller after a maintenance routine or a power outage.

Flower Rate and Filtration

Another factor that can differentiate between a sponge filter and a hang on back filter is the flow rate and the type of filtration they bring to the fish tank. When comparing hang on back filters vs sponge filters, it is essential to know the type of filtration they can provide to the aquarium.

For sponge filters, this filtration system mainly collects all the debris in the aquarium. There is a fine sponge filter that normally is clogged quickly with all the debris. Then, there is a coarse sponge filter which does not clog quickly compared to the fine sponge filter.

On the other hand, the HOB filter uses filter pads to remove debris. However, these pads also tend to clog quickly, which means they also need maintenance. Also, the flow rate of the HOB filter, which is the flow of water through the surface area of the filter, is more robust and consistent compared to the sponge filter.

Maintenance Requirements

There is also a big difference between the maintenance requirements of a sponge filter and a hang on back filter. With the way the sponge filter works, it requires more maintenance compared to HOB filters.

As mentioned earlier, the sponge tip used in the filter can get clogged quickly, making the maintenance cleaning essential. As to how often you clean the sponge, it will all depend on how quickly your aquarium gets dirty.

Meanwhile, HOB filters do need to be maintained regularly compared to the sponge filter. You will only need to check on the filter pads from time to time to see if it gets clogged. Otherwise, you can check the filter pads once in a while, especially when you are feeding your fish.

From my experience, when the filter pads get clogged, the filter usually starts to leak. But it will take some time to notice the leakage. The maintenance of the HOB filter usually happens once a month when you are doing your regular water change.

Aquarium Capacity and Occupancy

Another factor that differentiates between the sponge filter and hang on back filter is the aquarium capacity and occupancy. A sponge filter is perfect for smaller tanks with smaller occupants.

A sponge filter can also support another filtration system, such as the HOB or the canister system. The sponge filter is an excellent choice if you are making a hospital tank or setting up a breeding or fry tank.

On the other hand, the HOB filter is perfect for medium or large aquariums. When buying a HOB filter, it usually indicates the ideal tank capacity and the maximum flow rate, which will help you in identifying the right filter for your aquarium.

HOB filters also work best on planted aquariums and those with a lot of critters. This type of filter is also perfect for community tanks since it has the ability to control a large amount of water quickly.


You can also compare these two filters by their price. The sponge filter is more affordable compared to the HOB filter. The pricing is the reason why a sponge filter is perfect for those who are new to fish keeping. Premium and large HOB filters are more expensive compared to sponge filters.


Comparing the sponge filter vs hand on back filter will give you an idea of the type of filter you will use for your aquarium. Both of these filters can work best in a particular aquarium, depending on the owner’s needs and preference. If you are just starting, you can use the sponge filter first, then move to the HOB filters if you’re ready to use a larger fish tank.

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