Species group: Sponges
Other common names: Lightening Sponge; White Stripe Sponge
Scientific name: Ptilocaulis spp.
One of the only sponges to exhibit visible polyps, the Australian White Lightening Sponge is much in demand due to its unusual shape and striking coloration.
Individuals in the pet trade are harvested from Australian waters, where they live on rocks and coral reefs.
Appearance / health:
The Australian White Lightening Sponges is one of the well-named Tree Sponges. With its “trunk” and “branches”, it is easily mistaken for a coral. Its brilliant red arms are encircled by pure white tubes from which are extruded sizable white polyps.
Exposure to air, inadequate lighting, starvation, and a lack of suitably-strong currents are the most common causes of sponge deaths. Air trapped within the cells prevents food and oxygen from circulating, while low light levels inhibit the growth of symbiotic algae and bacteria. Sponges may release toxic chemicals in order to kill competing sponges, anemones and coral.
Behavior / temperament:
Sponges are stationary and feed continuously by filtering water through their bodies.
They are aggressive towards one another, corals, anemones and other sessile invertebrates, and may poison fish which attempt to eat them.
The Australian White Lightening Sponge requires moderately-strong lighting so that the symbiotic algae and bacteria which provide it with important nutrients can thrive. The water should be well-oxygenated, ammonia and nitrite-free, and in the range of 22-25.5 C (72-78 F). It is critical that Sponges be positioned so that they receive indirect flow from moderate to strong water currents. The aquarium should be provisioned with live sand and live rock, which will provide supplementary food in the form of micro-organisms.
The following water quality parameters should be maintained in order to assure long-term health: Specific Gravity (Salinity): 1.023-1.025; pH: 8.1-8.4; Alkalinity 8-12 dKH.
In addition to the nutrients provided by symbiotic algae and bacteria, Australian White Lightening Sponges require daily feedings of commercial liquid plankton preparations…products that provide the smallest particle size should be utilized. Important supplements include calcium, magnesium and marine trace elements.
Reproduction in the aquarium, if it occurs, will most often be by asexual budding. Free-living Sponges can also reproduce sexually.
Written by Frank Indiviglio