Porifera / Sponges

Once considered ‘sea vegetables’, sponges are animals made up with simple arrangements of cells that lack organs. They grow from tiny encrusting colonies a few cells thick to massive boulders with a dazzling array of form and color. Some species are living habitats with numerous commensal anemones, polychaete worms, brittle stars, crabs, shrimps, and nudibranchs living deep within their protective canal systems partaking of the food and oxygen-bearing currents that are pumped throughout the colonies. They provide shelter for smaller organisms in the tank. Because sponges are natural suspension feeders, they help filter aquarium water. Generally, sponges are best kept in cooler water, 60F to 70F.

Watch sponge videos on youtube: Porifera-estrutura (French)

They are a sleek saltwater catfish that cleans up the bottom. Adult males carry and hatch the eggs in their mouths. Size 10-30 cm.


Since there are no fresh water echinoderms, this is one of the most popular phylogenetic assortments, with collections of writhing brittlestars lashing their snaky arms, bristling sea urchins and burrowing sand dollars. Sea cucumbers, shaped as their name implies, tunnel through the sediments like earthworms taking up nutrients and starfish creep up the aquarium glass, wrapping their arms around tunicates, or chopped clams. Sand stars emerge from sand and “speed” along the bottom, on raised tubed feet when a bit of food is dropped in the tank. These assortments usually include two or three of every listing, and sometimes there are surprises such as sea biscuits and other echinoderms.


Included are amphipods, isopods, barnacles, crabs, shrimp, hermit crabs, and horseshoe crabs.


Includes colorful anemones from our tanks, hydroid, corals, gorgonians, sea pansies and if scyphozoan jellyfish are pulsating in our bay, they are included along with shimmering examples of the phylum Ctenophora.


Includes an array of brightly colored sponges that can range from different shades of green, blue, pink or yellow. Species may include red beard, yellow ball, devil’s finger and crumb of bread sponge.


  • Included are chitons, clams, mussels, whelks, snails, and nudibranchs. When abundant, scaphopods and/or frilled sea hares may be included.


Create your own botanical gardens with our collection of semi-tropical macroscopic benthic marine algae. Phyla represented include Chlorophyta, Rhodophyta, Phaeophyta, and Cyanophyta.


The greatest diversity of fish form and function is found among marine species. Here the flat fishes, flounders, hog chokers, tonguefish, represent the epitomy of depression, and eels are the most elongate. Blowfish inflate themselves, and pipefish, looking like blades of grass, are perfect in camouflage. While these examples are likely to turn up in our fish assortment, there is no predicting the diversity and variety that will be provided. It is always a pleasant surprise.


Includes non-vertebrate chordates: solitary, colonial, and encrusting tunicates and amphioxus


Colorful anemones from our tanks, hydroid, corals, gorgonians, sea pansies and if scyphozoan jellyfish are pulsating in our bay, they are included along with shimmering examples of the phylum Ctenophora.


Arius felis

They are a sleek saltwater catfish that cleans up the bottom. Adult males carry and hatch the eggs in their mouths. Size 10-30 cm.

Each Dozzen small ---123

Each Dozzen small ---123

Each Dozzen small ---123

Each Dozzen small ---123


Hardhead sea catfish (Arius felis)

Spheroides nephelus

A drab smooth-skinned fish that will inflate itself into a tight, buoyant, impregnable ball when handled. Size: 10-14 cm.


Southern puffer (Spheroides nephelus)

Lactophrys tricornis

It has a fused armor giving it a hard-shelled, triangular un-fishlike body. Colorful blue, green and yellow fish with two prominent horns over its eyes.


A cowfish (Lactophrys tricornis)

Balistes capriscus

Known mostly for their sharp “triggered” dorsal spine, these territorial grey triggerfish are a sight to see both locally in the Gulf of Mexico and ranging throughout the western Atlantic Ocean.


Grey triggerfish (Balistes capriscus) at Gulf Specimen Marine Lab and Aquarium.

Monacanthus hispidus

Their names come from their sandpapery skin, fishermen once used their hides to strike matches. Their dorsal spine has a trigger-like mechanism that makes it spring erect when they are threatened. Size: 4-8 cm.


Gobiesox strumosus

Small fish shaped like a skillet; with a broad head and narrow body. The pelvic fins are actually a large, broad suction disc. Clingfish are usually found hiding in or on the shells around oyster bars and seagrass beds. Size: 4-6 cm.


Clingfish or skilletfish (Gobiesox strumosus)

Symphurus plagiusa

Small, flat, left-eyed fishes that taper to a point — “tongue-shaped” — hence the name. They are bottom-dwelling fish, common in the muddy bottoms of bays and estuaries feeding on small crustaceans and polychaete worms. Size 6-12 cm.


Trinectes maculatus

This flatfish stays buried and looks like a baby flounder but seldom grows larger than six inches. Probably named from the days when hogs roamed the beaches and gobbled up fish as fast as seine fishermen dragged their catches up on the beaches. The scales, which make the fish stick to the deck, also could lodge in a hog’s throat. Very hardy and vigorous. Size: 6-12 cm.


Hogchoker (Trinectes maculatus)

Paralichthys oblongus

Unlike the common gulf flounders, these flatfishes have four large, dark and round spots on their bodies.


Four-spotted flounder (Paralichthys oblongus)

Paralichthys albigutta

Flounders belong to the group of fishes known as “flat fishes.” Their most unique feature is the placement of their eyes. As the young larvae develop, one eye migrates across the head toward the other. Depending on the species, flounders and other flatfishes are “right-eyed” or “left-eyed.” Lying flat on the sea bottom, flounders are masters of camouflage, changing their coloration to blend in with the substrate; hiding from predators or aggressively ambushing small fishes and crustaceans with their mighty tooth-studded jaws.


Mugil cephalus.

Often seen jumping out of the water, mullet are the cows of the fish world, and are the main food fish of the northern Gulf Coast. They browse along the bottom, feeding on algae and tiny creatures that live in mud.


Serranus subligarius

The smallest of the Sea Basses they are 5 inches long at maximum, but mature at 2 inches. Common in warm Atlantic and Caribbean waters to depths of 60 feet. Found around rocky jetties and over sand flats. Their common name comes from the large white patch on their belly. Size: 3-6 cm.


Belted sandfish (Serranus subligarius)

Chasmodes saburrae and other species

A large group of small, fish (2-4 inches), common along the shells of oyster bars. Also found on shallow flats and seagrass beds. Females lay hundreds of tiny golden colored eggs in empty shells, which the males aggressively guard. Size: 3-8 cm.


Feather blennie (Hypsoblennius henzi)

Halichoeres bivittatus

Has beautiful green coloration. Will bury itself in the sand substrate to hide. Size 6-10cm.


Green wrasse (Halichoeres bivittatus) at Gulf Specimen Marine Lab in Panacea, FL.

Prionotus scitulus, P. tribulus

Swims along the sand bottoms with its wing-like pectoral fins expanded. The modified ventral fins act like fingers, feeling the bottom for prey. Size: 6-12 cm.


Bighead searobin (Prionotus tribulus)

Scorpaena brasiliensis

Red, orange, and brown, they blend into the sea bottom, and ambush passing shrimp. Although bristling with poisonous spines, they are a popular aquarium specimen.


A scorpionfish (Scorpaena brasiliensis)

Chaetodipterus faber

Common to Florida and Caribbean water, schools of spadefish are frequently seen nibbling on jellyfish, hydroids, and feeding on small crabs and shrimp when the fish matures.


Atlantic spadefish (Chaetodipterus faber)

Diplodus holbrookii

Less common than the regular pinfish but still very common. Found in coastal grass beds. Size 6 to 12 cm


Lagodon rhomboides

3 inches to 6 inches, a very common aggressive fish available throughout the year. Hardy species that does well in aquariums.


Lagodon rhomboides

A bright yellow, corn-cob shaped sponge that exhibits pumping of water through prominent osculum. In juvenile stages, the Cliona sponge hollows out a system of cavities and canals in the dead shell, removing small fragments of material with amebocytes. Adult Cliona provides shelter for other aquarium animals and makes a striking focal point. They are also known as “Sulphur sponge.” Size: 9-12 cm.


Empty mollusk shells riddled with tiny round holes of boring sponges are selected to demonstrate the process of how the shell is broken down into rubble and calcareous sands. The eroded and deteriorated shells are easily broken apart to demonstrate the internal encrustation of yellow or red sponge tissues.


A brick red encrusting, lamellate sponge. Microciona along with Cliona celata, the boring sponge, is used to demonstrate cellular reaggregation, However, there appear to be significant biochemical differences between the Gulf of Mexico form and Microciona prolifera at Woods Hole. Some researchers have found the aggregation of the Gulf form to be superior to the North Atlantic red beard. Size variable: 2-4 cm.


. There are two color forms for this species: Spheciospongia vesparium pallida a bright yellow, and the typical black coloration. Spheciospongia vesparium Excellent for demonstrating liquid transport through flagellated chambers. Spheciospongia is host to the pink snapping shrimp, Synalpheus longicarpus, which because of its modified form and habits is a good illustration of specialization and commensalism.


It is a hardy, commensal orange and green sponge that engulfs hermit crabs or snail shells, building up layers of sponge tissue called “false shells.” When the sponge colony is small, the crab or snail moves freely around the tide flats, but when Pseudospongosorites grows too large the host becomes a trapped prisoner. Paguristes hummi, the filter-feeding hermit, or Cantharus cancellarius, the ribbed snail are the original hosts. Size: 3-6 cm.


A round yellowish sponge honey-combed with the small commensal oyster, Ostrea permollis. Stelletta usually survives well in aquariums. Sporadically available. Size: 10 cm. in diameter.


Axinella is no ordinary looking sponge, with its thick, fleshy orange fingers rising from the aquarium floor. Its core is made of densely packed spicules which demonstrates distinctive axial specialization. A single sponge provides abundant material for cellular reaggregation demonstrations. Size: 20-30 cm.


This sponge is similar to the orange devil’s finger sponge. It tends to be smaller in size than the orange devil’s finger. Size: 10-20cm 


A bright orange, amorphus sponge with conical elevations, living attached to Tampa limestone outcrops. Xytopsene can be used for reaggregation. Size: Variable, 6-10 cm.