This thread is with regard to fresh water, possibly planted. Sorry, I don't see how sloppy fish would negate using a sponge filter, unless you want a filter to suck up stuff and hide it from view. My point with this is there seems to be a trend to really large filtration, far exceeding what is necessary. That in itself is fine, but, it creates the impression that a larger filter needs less maintenance, whereas, what defines the amount/intervals of maintenance a tank needs it's is the bioload.
Hiding a lot of detritus in a cannister, gives the impression the tank is clean, but, everything in the filter needs to be considered to be still in the tank. As a far as the efficicy of a sponge, if you consider Hamburg style filters as sponge filters, they easily filter large tanks, with very little maintenance, as rarely as yearly. A friend is using air powered Hamburg filtration on his 350 gal
tank (actually all his 34 tanks). Again, I doubt he has 1
turnover, even though his homemade airlifts move a lot of water.