Are Box Filters / Corner Filters Better Than Sponge Filters?

Are box filters better than sponge filters? It’s a good question, because these two filters occupy a similar niche in the aquarium hobby. Specifically, they’re both relatively cheap, air pump-driven aquarium filters. Furthermore, they both offer mechanical and biological filtration.

What Is A Box Filter?

A box filter, also known as a corner filter, is a small aquarium filter with none of its own moving parts. It works by having an air line connected to it from an air pump. Then, water is sucked into the filter and driven across filter media via the motion of the air bubbles.

are box filters  corner filters better than sponge filters

The box part of the filter is what makes it stand out. While many box filters come pre-equipped with filter media, you can actually take that media out and put whatever filter media you want inside this box.

Are Box Filters Better Than Sponge Filters?

As you can imagine, the answer isn’t black or white.

bacto surge sponge filter

In some ways, box filters have advantages over sponge filters. While, in others, sponge filters edge it.

Box Filter Vs. Sponge Filter: Filter Media

Sponge filters have a large surface area provided by the sponge itself. If the sponge has a larger PPI (pores per inch) then it has a larger surface area for beneficial bacteria to colonize. Some sponge filters have a lower PPI (i.e. more coarse) whereas other sponge filters have a higher PPI (i.e. more fine).

aquarium box filter corner filter

Box filters, on the other hand, allow you customize the filter media that goes inside the box. If you need to add some activated carbon for chemical filtration, then you can. If you’re on a budget and want to throw in some cheap polyfil to polish the water a bit, then you’re free to do so.

Box Filter Vs. Sponge Filter: Protection From Fish

I’ve noticed with my own sponge filters that, over time, the sponge tends to get picked at by the fish. While this causes the sponge to degrade, that isn’t the main concern. When it comes to my plecos specifically, they spend time on the sponge filter chewing at it. I’m certain that, if they do eat some sponge, that it passes through their system harmlessly, but still I’d rather that they weren’t able to eat it!

bristlenose plecos can chew the sponge on your sponge filter
My bristlenose plecos tend to munch on my sponge filters!

That’s where the box filter comes in. With its plastic casing around the filter media, the fish are unable to peck at any sponge or other filter media contained inside the filter box.

Box Filter Vs. Sponge Filter: Price

Price is always a difficult thing to compare because it’s always changing. Although, at the time of writing, the Bacto-Surge, my favorite sponge filter on Amazon, is a couple of dollars less than my favorite corner filter (the Aquapapa)! But, generally, I find that to be the case: box filters can cost a touch more.

Click on the affiliate links below to find out the latest prices.

Further Reading