These 5 Marine Organisms Will Destroy Your Boat in Florida. 

Sep 21, 2023

Boating on the Florida coast is a dream for many seafarers, offering unparalleled opportunities for fishing, sailing, and enjoying shimmering pristine waters. However, beneath the surface of the Sunshine State’s waterways lie an abundance of marine organisms that can shatter this dream and a boater’s precious vessel. These unwelcome sea pests can not only compromise a boat’s performance but can also inflict substantial damage if left unattended. In this article, we’ll delve into the five prevalent species of marine organisms found on Florida’s Gulf Coast, explore the havoc they can wreak on boat bottoms, and provide essential prevention tips to keep them at bay.

5 Common Species of Marine Growth on Boats in Florida

1. Barnacles (Cirripedia)

Barnacles are notorious for their ability to cling to boat hulls, posing a significant challenge for vessel owners. Their razor-sharp shells and cement-like adhesive form dense colonies that increase a boat’s drag, ultimately affecting fuel efficiency and speed. Furthermore, barnacles can cause pitting and erosion on a boat’s surface, potentially weakening the hull and running gear over time. 

2. Algae (Chlorophyta, Phaeophyta, Rhodophyta)

Algae, a diverse group of marine organisms, can quickly coat a boat’s submerged underbelly with a green, brown, or red film. Though not as menacing as barnacles, algae can still pose problems, particularly for boat bottoms. Excessive algae growth can affect a boat’s hydrodynamics, slowing it down and reducing fuel efficiency. Additionally, algae can trap moisture, leading to corrosion and rust on metal components such as propellers and zincs/anodes, a common issue in Tampa Bay’s warm, saline waters. A simple scrub of a boat’s hull on a regular basis is essential to prevent damaging algae accumulation over time.

3. Tunicates (Ascidiacea)

Tunicates, also known as sea squirts, are gelatinous filter feeders that form slimy colonies on boat hulls throughout the Florida coast. Resembling spongey corals, their mucus-like secretions can be challenging to remove and contribute to biofouling of essential boat parts. Tunicates can obstruct intakes and thru-hulls, causing engine overheating or decreased performance. While these colorful organisms might be visually stunning, it’s best to not let them form a coral reef beneath your boat.

4. Hydroids (Hydrozoa)

Hydroids are another common threat to sea-vessels on both the Gulf and Atlantic Florida coasts. These small, tentacle-bearing creatures attach themselves to surfaces and can resemble miniature, translucent sea anemones. Hydroids can obstruct water intakes, disrupt the smooth water flow around a boat while underway, and even damage antifouling bottom paint or gelcoat. Forget to remove these creatures and your boat might need some new detailing work sooner than later.

5. Sponges (Porifera)

Sponges, famously abundant in the waters off of Pinellas County and Tarpon Springs, can be problematic species of marine growth. Sponges attach themselves to boat bottoms and can grow to great sizes, potentially causing biofouling and decreased boat performance. Regular inspection and prompt removal of sponge growth are essential to avoid costly damage to your vessel.

How to Prevent Biofouling.

Preventing marine biofouling is essential for boats that spend prolonged periods of time on the water. To ensure optimal boating performance and your boat’s integrity, follow these preventive measures:

Apply Antifouling Paint:

Antifouling paint is one of the most effective barriers to deter marine growth. These protective paints release chemicals that discourage organisms from attaching to the boat’s hull in warm and high salinity waters.

Regular Hull Cleaning:

Routinely inspect and clean the boat’s hull to remove any marine growth before it becomes a problem. To clean the submerged surface of a boat, the use of scuba diving gear is often necessary. Given the dangerous nature of scuba diving beneath a boat, it is recommended that private boat owners without diving experience call their local Hull Cleaning or Dive Services experts for help. For boat hull maintenance needs in Clearwater, St. Petersburg, or Tampa areas, call Tampa Bay Hull Cleaning!

Boat Lifts and Dry Storage:

Storing your boat out of the water when not in use can significantly reduce the risk of marine growth.

Maintain Zincs & Anodes:

Installing sacrificial zinc anodes on your boat can help protect metal parts from corrosion caused by marine growth.


While boating in Florida might feel like a worry-free paradise for some, boat owners must still remain vigilant against the persistent threat of marine growth and biofouling on their vessels. Barnacles, algae, tunicates, hydroids, and sponges are just a few of the marine organisms that can damage or even destroy a boat’s structural integrity if left uncontrolled. However, with regular dive services, use of preventive measures, ongoing maintenance, and bottom cleaning expertise, boat owners can say farewell to these uninvited pests and enjoy smoother, more enjoyable journeys on the water.

More Articles