In my fish room I only use sponge & box filters with the exception of a couple of HOB filters for certain tanks. All the sponge filters run off of one single Linear Piston pump which feeds into a PVC pipe loop with valves tapped into the pipes. This gives me a consistent and quiet level of air.
For a long time I used some of the cheaper Chinese XY filters and the better alternative the Hydra Aquatics filters. Both of those do a good job and quality is decent but they fail soon enough. The XY sponges are cheap and fall apart after less then one year, same goes with the Hydra but a little longer lasting. Both also dont allow use of an air stone. Using and air stone gives a better flow and is also quieter. The only draw back is that the stone tends to clog up after a while, but I just clean them when cleaning the sponges.
Hydro Sponge Filters
I decided to test out Hydro sponge filters by Aquarium Technology which allow more flexibility with height adjustment, use of an air stone and interchangeable coarse sponge that is readily available. I have been using these filters for many months now and I really like them! They are heavier and the quality is great! (made in the USA) and with the use of an air stone the bubbles are smaller and quieter. The best thing about these filters is that there is an option for a coarse sponge (black). Coarse sponge will not clog as much as the fine sponge (grey) which is also great for fry and shrimp to feed off of. So i use the fine sponges in fry tanks, since the load is smaller and they can feed more from them.
Here is the link to the company website.
Here is how i setup my air stone. It needs to be as close as possible to the top to create the best upward pull. Probably the best airstone to use is the now is Ziss Air Diffuser. I have since started using those!
Poret Sponge Filters
The other type of sponge filter that I also use and tend to use more now are the the Poret filters from Swiss Tropicals. I use the 4” poret cube filter in either 20ppi or 30ppi. The sponge filters consists of a 5.5″ long cubelifter and a 4″ x 4″ x 4″ poret foam sponge that is glued with silicone onto an UN-glazed porcelain tile.
Poret sponge is widely known in the fishkeeping hobby as the best foam and is often used in Hamburg Mattenfilter setups using large sheets. The cube Poret filter is a little pricey but they seem to be the best performance and quality for the long run, easy to clean and very effective. Certainly my favourite sponge filter so far!
I buy all my filters from Angelfins in Ontario, Canada.
Sponge Filters link : https://angelfins.ca/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=28309_28295