Red Barrel Sponge

This a great example of a Red Barrel Sponge, it stands about 6 feet high (2 meters) which means it is around 150 years old as these sponges grow at the rate of about 1/2 inches a year. To put this in perspective it started growing around the time of the American Civil War.

This sponge feeds by filtration, pulling in water through its outer walls, filtering out the nutrients and expelling the water through its inner walls. It is not a single organism but a collection of organisms working in cooperation.

Because it filters water, there is usually a lot of debris on its outer walls which you can wave off with your hands. This is more fun at night because this debris usually contains a lot of bio-luminescent organisms which light up as you wave them off. Of course you need to turn off your dive light to see them, but it is worth it as it looks like a swarm of stars.

The outer wall of this sponge also serves as a habit for all kinds of small fishes, brittle stars and yellow line arrow crabs. The inside of the sponge also serves as a refuge for fishes and crabs.


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