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I had to set up a hospital tank yesterday and tossed in a sponge filter I've had in a tank for a while, so I'm not concerned with it not being seeded. The question is will the bacteria die if the air pump is not active? its kind of noisy and can't sleep with it on. I think the point of the air pump is just to help with water movement.
 

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I believe the bacteria need oxygen to survive, I'm not sure what concentration they need though, there may be enough O2 dissolved in the water to keep some of the bacteria alive. I'd suspect the bacteria in the center of the sponge where the water is stagnant will suffocate though.
 

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If you don't keep oxygenated water flowing through it you will indeed have a massive die off of the beneficial bacteria colonies. You can always run them with a powerhead for a quieter solution though ;).

Barbie
 
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