The association between the red macroalga Jania adhaerens J. V. Lamour. and the sponge Haliclona caerulea is the most successful life-form between 2 and 4 m depth in Mazatlán Bay (Mexican Pacific). J. adhaerens colonizes the rocky intertidal area and penetrates into deeper areas only when it lives in association with H. caerulea. The aposymbiotic form of the sponge has not been reported in the bay. To understand the ecological success of this association, we examined the capacity of J. adhaerens to acclimate in Mazatlán Bay using transplant experiments. The transplanted aposymbiotic J. adhaerens did not survive the first 2 weeks; however, J. adhaerens when living in association with H. caerulea, acclimated easily to depth, showing no sign of mortality during the 103 d of the experiment. We conclude that the ability of J. adhaerens to colonize in deeper areas in this hydrodynamic environment may in part rely on the protection provided by the sponge to the algal canopy. Both species contribute to the shape of the associated form. Nevertheless, the morphological variation in the association appears to be dominated by the variation in J. adhaerens canopy to regulate pigment self-shading under light-limited conditions and/or tissue resistance under high hydrodynamics. Consequently, our results are consistent with light as the abiotic controlling factor, which regulates the lower depth distribution of the association in Mazatlán Bay, through limiting the growth rate of J. adhaerens. Hydrodynamics may determine the upper limit of the association by imposing high mass losses.