Barrel Sponge : Facts You Won’t Believe!

One of the best giant barrel sponge facts about the sponge that grows on the coral reef of the Caribbean Sea is that it is typically red and brown in color.

Barrel sponges are one of the oldest existing marine creatures on earth. Their main habitat is the coral reef in the Caribbean Sea. These sponges are also found in places like the Bahamas, Bermuda, Florida, and the Gulf of Mexico. Most extensive studies on giant barrel sponges have been performed off the Florida Keys islands.

Barrel sponges grow in marine water at a depth of anywhere between 33-390 ft (10-120 m). The colors of the sponge change given how deep it is. At a shallow height, closer to the surface, barrel sponge populations are brown-red or brown-gray. But at a greater depth, populations change color to salmon pink and purple due to the proximity to bacteria known as 'cyanobacteria symbionts'. Barrel sponges have porous bodies and this comes in handy when filter-feeding, wherein they filter water through their bodies and trap the suspended food particles. They form an important part of the coral reef ecosystem, helping the microscopic bacteria with carbon fixation and nitrification processes. The giant barrel sponge, itself one of many invertebrates, is a food source to other invertebrates like the parrotfish and to other fish such as cardinalfish and gobies.

Learn more about other fish, such as freshwater mussels and shrimp here on Kidadl!

Barrel Sponge

Fact File

What do they prey on?

Suspended food particles in water

What do they eat?

Filter-feeder, planktivores

Average litter size?


How much do they weigh?

Up to 180 lb (80 kg) with retained water

How long are they?

Diameter: 6 ft (1.8 m)

How tall are they?

8 ft (2.5 m)

What do they look like?

Brownish-red, brownish-gray, purple, and salmon pink

Skin Type

Hard and stony

What are their main threats?

Humans, sea urchins, turtles, fish, nudibranchs, parrotfish, and echinoids

What is their conservation status?

Not Listed

Where you'll find them

Oceans and coral reefs


The Caribbean Sea





Scientific Name

Xestospongia muta





Barrel Sponge Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a barrel sponge?

The barrel sponge (Xestospongia muta) or the giant barrel sponge is a sponge.

What class of animal does a barrel sponge belong to?

The giant barrel sponge belongs to the 'sponge' or 'Demospongiae' class of animals.

How many barrel sponges are there in the world?

The exact number of barrel sponge (Xestospongia muta) organisms in the world is unknown, but it is one of the oldest species to exist, having been around for more than 500 million years!

Where does a barrel sponge live?

The giant barrel sponge (Xestospongia muta) lives mainly in the seas and oceans, predominantly in the coral reef of the Caribbean Sea.

What is a barrel sponge's habitat?

The giant barrel sponge (Xestospongia muta) lives on the coral reefs of oceans, mainly in the Caribbean Sea. It may be found at 33 ft (10 m) below the surface of the sea, or as deep as 390 ft (120 m). Barrel sponges are very common in coral reefs off the Florida Keys islands as well as in coral reefs in the Pacific and Indian oceans. Also, in the coral reefs of the Pacific and Indian oceans, two adjacent barrel sponges may be found that are exactly identical to each other. Barrel sponges and giant barrel sponges can grow on any tough and hard surface in the coral reefs.

Who does a barrel sponge live with?

Barrel sponges live mostly in solitude, but it is not uncommon to find clusters of them together.

How long does a barrel sponge live?

Barrel sponges can stay alive for a very long time, even centuries and millennia. Average giant barrel sponges are typically 150-200 years old. On the Conch Reefs (coral reefs near the Florida Keys), giant barrel sponges are at least 130 years old. The single biggest sponge, which is now known to be dead was 2,300 years old!

How does it reproduce?

A giant barrel sponge (Xestospongia) has a singular method of reproducing. The sponges emit considerable quantities of eggs and sperm into the water column from their osculum, and these sperm and eggs meet on the reef and spawn. Their larvae are taken away in different directions by the currents of the sea or ocean.

What is its conservation status?

The conservation status of giant barrel sponges is unclear since they haven't been evaluated by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature for their Red List.

Barrel Sponge Fun Facts

What does a barrel sponge look like?

Barrel sponges are underwater organisms, typically seen growing on a coral reef in the marine waters of the Caribbean Sea.  They are shaped like a barrel, a cylindrical one, and are very big in size, with an average diameter of 6 ft (1.8 m) and a height of 8 ft (2.5m). The giant barrel sponge species is known by the moniker 'redwood of the ocean', due to evidence of them being really large and as old as hundreds and thousands of years.

A giant barrel sponge usually thrives alone and is called 'the redwood of the ocean'.

How cute is it?

Giant barrel sponges can be considered cute, as they are strikingly beautiful in appearance. They are stationary beings that eat suspended food particles in water and they exist in multiple colors such as brown-gray, brown-red, and even a stunning purple.

How does it communicate?

Barrel sponges do not communicate with each other, since they don't have a nervous system.

How big is a barrel sponge?

Giant barrel sponges can grow to be very big, as big as 8 ft (2.5 m), which is 25-35 times bigger than a typical sea urchin.

Can a barrel sponge move?

Barrel sponges are bound to the reef and cannot move.

How much does a barrel sponge weigh?

Considering the weight of the water that they retain at any given time, barrel sponges can weigh up to 180 lb (80 kg).

What are their male and female names of the species?

Barrel sponges do not have specific names for males and females.

What would you call a baby barrel sponge?

There is no particular name for young of the barrel sponge species, but the male sperm and the female eggs do meet to form larvae, which mature into adult sponges.

What does it eat?

Barrel sponges are filter feeders, meaning they filter marine water through their highly porous bodies, and they retain the suspended particles in the water and use them for food. The water is then discarded through the top of their bodies, through their osculum.

Is it harmful?

Barrel sponges have no discernable harmful effects on the human body.

Would it make a good pet?

Since barrel sponges live latched onto the reef, it is not possible to have these marine creatures as pets.

Did you know...

Giant barrel sponges may filter as much water as 50,000 times the volume of its body!

It is possible for a giant barrel sponge to catch a disease known as 'sponge orange band', the cause of which remains unidentified. The oldest known giant barrel sponge (2300 years old) died from this disease.

The growth rate of a giant barrel sponge may be anywhere between 2% to 400%.

Giant barrel sponges are mostly asymmetrical, but some are radially symmetric.

The default barrel sponge worth in 'Animal Jam' is uncertain or unknown since their rarity changes a lot. It is also said that there is no actual value to the barrel sponge in 'AJ'.

What type of water does a barrel sponge live in?

Although some other sponge species live in freshwater bodies, barrel sponges mainly live in the marine waters of the Caribbean Sea.

Where does a barrel sponge get its energy from?

Barrel sponges get their energy from the food particles they filter through their bodies, mainly phytoplankton and zooplankton. Hence, these sponges are known to be 'planktivores', which is the term used to describe organisms that feed on other microscopic or 'planktonic' organisms.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other arthropods including red rock crabs, or hermit crabs.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our Barrel Sponge coloring pages.



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