Fish Tank Filter Showdown: Under Gravel Filter vs Sponge Filter!

Hello Everyone,
In this video we compare the under gravel filter to a sponge filter. Let us know which one you like better. Thanks for watching!


Eric Webb says:

I’ve used them before yeah they are sort of a pain to clean you have to break down the whole tank as you said. If I ever use one again I think I’m going to go ahead and drill a hole to put a bulkhead and a cut off valve so I could drain underneath.

Catfish Cave says:

Hotrodding your UGs:
1. Use power heads instead of an airpump. (way more flow)
2. Direct the flow DOWN the lift tube, with a sponge on the powerhead. (gravel stays clean, as water is pushing stuff up into the water column to be caught by the sponge)
3. For digging fish, place egg crate light diffuser material on top of the UG plate. (fish can’t get to the bottom)

ada205mi says:

Grest video… really liking your channel currently.
I’ve got sponge filters in many tanks currently but I’ve had success in the past with u/g filters. Thing i noticed with u/g filters most though was always seemed harder to keep more sensitive species. I’ve kept, bred, and reared literally thousands of German Blue Rams, but I always struggled to keep them alive in tanks with u/g no matter how much I kept on top of water changes. For me it’s canisters with inline heaters for my show tanks and sponges in all my others.

Sunk3n8 * says:

I have an underground filtration system in my small tank with red cherry shrimp and two otocinclus catfish. I’ve had this tank for 7 years now. For the first 5 years I didn’t worry much about vacuuming, everyone seemed happy just with water changes. However now for the last 2 years my shrimp have stopped breeding and one by one they have died off and I don’t know why. Sometimes they swim erratically for a day before dying 🙁 I’ve added minerals and tested all parameters in my water. The only one that seems a miss is nitrate – which is caused from dead plant matter and poop. Since learning this I’m doing regular vacuums to remove the build up under the gravel, of which there is heaps! My water is less nitrate but still not great. Has anyone else experienced this before with underground systems, or with shrimp not breeding? Are the two related? Usually RCS breed like rabbits so something is up!

Mark Ho says:

Sponge filter is more versatile. I use multiple sponge filters in each tank, but if I need an emergency or another tank quickly, I can just move one sponge filter over, no need to wait for it to cycle. Also, sometimes a tank may be overstocked for a period, I just add more sponge filters. Under gravel filter requires substrate, sponge does not. Which mean it can work with any kind of tanks and most types of fish. But the best part is the ease of cleaning. It only takes me about 5 minutes to clean 3 sponge filter in a 55 gallon community tank. A few squeezes every month and you are done!

Wolf Herzen says:

I like a gravel filter it’s like a sponge but instead of a sponge it’s just gravel in a plastic circler triangle that goes into a corner of the tank so the tank with fry the filter could be used as a hiding place as well as a place to eat easy to clean you just dump the water in the filter out and put it back into your tank

Marcin Siwek says:

i love your video’s, you give so much information.. sometimes i wish you could go a little slower as i am really learning a lot here 🙂

EJ Fishes 76 says:

Nice video Jason. I prefer sponge filters. As you’ve mentioned the waste the collects under the plate of the underground filter was a huge problem for me.

TM Aquatics says:

Love my sponges filters. I also toss on Aquaclear HOB’s on all my pleco tanks. Which brand sponge filters do you find to be the most efficient and effective?

Trek Wars says:

I can’t stand underground filter. After years of us the pH get so hi and so hard to fix.

Cheenu Nats says:

by personal experience i kept big chichlids with an under gravel system with deep gravel bed, lots of rocks for them to hide and not once did i have any issues. in-fact even the mechanical filtration was spot on! it worked out perfectly!

Janet Whittenburg-batchelor says:

I am currently using both. One underground for pea puffer tank. 7 sponge filters, 3 hob. The only problem I every had with undergravel filter was years ago I kept guppies in the tank. I don’t know how they managed it but the babies would get under the filter. When they got bigger the guppies would turn up back on top. Never figured out how they were going from above to below and back again.

JH Aquatics says:

If your interested in helping share the interview with Luke I posted last That would be cool. 🙂

Dokumashin says:

So, I like the sound of the ugf but guess I would like an opinion. I’m looking to change my tanks around. I’m planning on upgrading my betta to a 15g hexagon tank with some new tank mates. Still haven’t decided yet but I’m thinking celestial pearl danios. I was thinking I could do a gravel bottom along with a structure in the middle for plants so it’s not bare and has hiding places. Could also add little pots with taller plants on the gravel areas. Would this type of filter be a good fit? For a filter I’m mostly looking for easy maintenance and low noise.

Robert Fletcher says:

When I came back to the hobby a couple of years ago I was surprised the UGF was still around. One thing we were told back then is you cannot have a planted tank as the roots will block the holes in the plate. The sponge filter is the best for shrimp and fry.

DUB.REXY21 says:

Righto, I’m going to trial the UGF I’ve got in storage for my goldfish Tank. Sounds like it’s something I should at least have a go with. I highly doubt they’ll dig my gravel (it’s roughly 3-4inch) . The time will just be getting the gravel out to start. Project Coldwater is all part of experimenting. They have a sponge but not exactly happy with the filtration system, Under-Gravel Filter will hopefully provide another filtration system that can be used off the same air pump.

MacManifest says:

Ahh. I have never heard of under graval filters before.But from your description, I’ll take a pass. I also like to change fish out, so I’ll stick with Sponge and hang on the back filters.

Huy Huy says:

Aaaaaaand, how do you clean it?

pancudowny says:

In my last tank (20-gal.) I employed an under-gravel system with a pair powerheads, and a AquaClear-50 with a Aquatop CAF-25 on the intake. The powerheads were just powerful enough to pull more than the bubbles from air stones could, yet not disturb the fish. And when it came time for a water change, I followed a trick I’ve seen on YouTube: Remove the head from a lift-tube, and use a wet-dry vacuum to draw the water out… cycling the suction to avoid collapsing the grating of the under-gravel.

When I setup my current tank, I re-employed the under-gravel and AquaClear… with just one minor difference: I attached the AquaClear’s intake to a lift-tube, and mounted it on the under-gravel’s grating, midway between the two powerheads on the ends. I also run a in-tank filter stuffed halfway with inexpensive poly-fil floss, and topped with a knee-high stocking filled with bio-media. In addition to the piece of poly-fil in the AquaClear, I have minimized the work needed to maintain the tank, have some of the clearest water I’ve ever seen in any tank I’ve kept, and managed to keep my nitrates in check. And since there’s room for it, I’m considering adding a second in-tank filter setup the same way as the first, in addition to adding a sack of bio-media to the AquaClear.

Do I believe in overkill? When it comes to filtration: Yes.

Fish Keeping Jamaica says:

very interesting, however issues do exist with both. Undergravel filtration system requires more work. Sponge filter not recommended for fish with heavy waste load…. the issue about fries are a plus for sponge filter. Powerheads works the best, these can be structured uniquely to manage fries and heavy waste deposition. Truth be told I normally use plants for filtration. Yep i focus mainly on ponds. Powerheads filters my ponds with fish with heavy waste deposits. Nice material, very assessment but none of those filter types swings to my likings,,,,lolol

Murkerr says:


amy marie says:

I just took apart a 30 gallon that had an undergraduate filter. I was really really surprised to see all the muck underneath the UGF!! It makes sense to me now why I could never get my nitrates down. The tank is still sitting empty and I’ll probably put the UGF back in but only to run some tests on it … We’ll see. Thanks for the video!! It’s perfect timing for me!! =)

Sonder Cichlids says:

Very good topic. Both have their place, u.g if used properly are superb filters with a powerhead. I use sponges on fry tanks and for starting new tanks

colinbarsby says:

As mentioned already, running UGs in reverse flow is time proven, 100% flow for fish only tanks or 5% trickle flow for planted tanks like mine. Combine that with a dedicated water filter, and you have a low maintenance, high performance tank.

Bob Caylor's Fish Hobby says:

I run HOBs and Sponges both, in all tanks. Thanks for the vid!

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