sponges text index | photo index
Phylum Porifera
Barrel sponge
Xestospongia testudinaria*
Family Petrosiidae
updated Sep 2019

Where seen? This maroon barrel-shaped sponge is sometimes seen on many of our shores, near and in reefs.

Features: Large ones have a deep cavity in the centre so they are generally vase- or barrel-shaped. The inside of the cavity has an uneven and rough texture. The outside may be smooth, bumpy or with regular fingers, ridges or 'wings'. Younger, smaller ones may be tall hollow tubes. Often several 'vases' of various sizes and shapes are found together emerging from what appears to be a common base. Those on the intertidal are about 10-20cm in diameter and about 10-20cm tall. But it is said that those found in deeper waters can grow to more than 1m tall. It is maroon to pinkish and the 'opening' of the
barrel may be paler to white.

The outside of the sponge is often covered with tiny beige Spionid sponge worms (Family Spionidae). Sometimes synaptid sea cucumbers are also seen draped on the outside.

It it not correct to refer to this sponge as the Neptune's cup sponge (Cliona patera), which is usually found in deep water and often much larger.

Shapes range from fingers, tubes, branching roots to large vase shapes.
Chek Jawa, Jan 02

St. John's Island, Apr 12

Inside the cavity, texture is uneven and rough.

Large animals find shelter inside the 'vase'
Beting Bronok, Jun 03

Sponge synaptid sea cucumbers
on the outside of the sponge.
Tuas, Aug 04

Coated with Spionid sponge worms on the outside.
Chek Jawa, Jun 06

*Species are difficult to positively identify without close examination.
On this website, they are grouped by external features for convenience of display.

Barrel sponges on Singapore shores
On wildsingapore flickr

Other sightings on Singapore shores

Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal, Jun 22
Photo shared by Loh Kok Sheng on facebook.

Terumbu Bemban, Jun 10
Photo shared by Loh Kok Sheng on his blog.

Pulau Senang, Jun 10
Photo shared by Loh Kok Sheng on his flickr.

St. John's Island, May 10
Photo shared by Loh Kok Sheng on his blog.

Pulau Jong, Apr 11
Photo shared by Sam Yeo on facebook.

Terumbu Pempang Laut, Apr 11

Pulau Hantu, May 08

Photo shared by Loh Kok Sheng on his blog.

Pulau Salu, Apr 21
Photo shared by Loh Kok Sheng on facebook.



  • Lim Swee Cheng, Nicole de Voogd and Tan Koh Siang. 2008. A Guide to Sponges of Singapore. Singapore Science Centre. 173pp.
  • Chou, L. M., 1998. A Guide to the Coral Reef Life of Singapore. Singapore Science Centre. 128 pages.
  • Gosliner, Terrence M., David W. Behrens and Gary C. Williams. 1996. Coral Reef Animals of the Indo-Pacific: Animal life from Africa to Hawaii exclusive of the vertebrates Sea Challengers. 314pp.
  • Allen, Gerald R and Roger Steene. 2002. Indo-Pacific Coral Reef Field Guide. Tropical Reef Research. 378pp.
  • Lim, S., P. Ng, L. Tan, & W. Y. Chin, 1994. Rhythm of the Sea: The Life and Times of Labrador Beach. Division of Biology, School of Science, Nanyang Technological University & Department of Zoology, the National University of Singapore. 160 pp.
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