Marine Biotechnology

, Volume 11, Issue 6, pp 669–679 | Cite as

Farming Sponges to Supply Bioactive Metabolites and Bath Sponges: A Review

  • Alan DuckworthEmail author
Invited Review


Sponges have been experimentally farmed for over 100 years, with early attempts done in the sea to supply “bath sponges”. During the last 20 years, sponges have also been experimentally cultured both in the sea and in tanks on land for their biologically active metabolites, some of which have pharmaceutical potential. Sea-based farming studies have focused on developing good farming structures and identifying the optimal environmental conditions that promote production of bath sponges or bioactive metabolites. The ideal farming structure will vary between species and regions, but will generally involve threading sponges on rope or placing them inside mesh. For land-based sponge culture, most research has focused on determining the feeding requirements that promote growth. Many sea- and land-based studies have shown that sponges grow quickly, often doubling in size every few months. Other favorable results and interesting developments include partially harvesting farmed sponges to increase biomass yields, seeding sexually reproduced larvae on farming structures, using sponge farms as large biofilters to control microbial populations, and manipulating culture conditions to promote metabolite biosynthesis. Even though some results are promising, land-based culture needs further research and is not likely to be commercially feasible in the near future. Sea-based culture still holds great promise, with several small-scale farming operations producing bath sponges or metabolites. The greatest potential for commercial bath sponge culture is probably for underdeveloped coastal communities, where it can provide an alternative and environmentally friendly source of income.


Sponges Spongin Bioactive metabolites Farming methods Environmental conditions 



I would like to thank the many people who have supported my research into farming sponges, from providing guidance to helping out in the field. Specifically, I thank Chris Battershill, Dame Patricia Bergquist, Chris Woods, Pete Notman, Shirley Pomponi, Elizabeth Evans-Illidge, Carsten Wolff, John Morris, and Samson Lowatta. I also thank two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Blue Ocean InstituteEast NorwichUSA

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