Species group: Sponges
Other common names: Caribbean Chicken Liver Sponge
Scientific name: Chondrilla nucula
Although the Chicken Liver Sponge’s appearance does live up to its unappealing name, it is quite hardy, and so makes an excellent introduction to the care of this group of notoriously-delicate creatures.
It is found in the Caribbean and Mediterranean Seas, attached to corals, mangrove roots and wood pilings. Cave-dwelling populations have also been documented.
Appearance / health:
The Chicken Liver Sponge is an encrusting species that may appear as a thin or thick mat or be lumpy and bulbous in shape. Its coloration ranges from greenish-brown to light yellow, with cave-dwelling specimens being white.
Exposure to air, starvation, and a lack of suitably-strong currents are the most common causes of sponge deaths.
Behavior / temperament:
Sponges are stationary and feed continuously by filtering water through their bodies. The Chicken Liver Sponge is especially are aggressive towards other sponges, corals, and anemones, which it will overgrow or poison. It is also toxic to most fish.
The Chicken Liver Sponge does best with moderate to strong lighting, as it supports symbiotic, nutrient-producing bacteria. The existence of cave-dwelling populations indicates that it may be able to tolerate low light levels in captivity as well. 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 bacteria, Chicken Liver Sponges require daily feedings of commercial liquid plankton preparations…products that provide the smallest particle size should be selected. Important supplements include calcium, magnesium and marine trace elements.
Reproduction in the aquarium is by asexual budding. Free-living Sponges can also reproduce sexually.
Written by Frank Indiviglio