The effects of ocean acidification on lower invertebrates such as sponges may be pronounced because of their low capacity for acid–base regulation. However, so far, most studies have focused on calcifiers. We present the first study of the effects of ocean acidification on the Porifera. Sponge species composition and cover along pH gradients at CO2 vents off Ischia (Tyrrhenian Sea, Italy) was measured at sites with normal pH (8.1–8.2), lowered pH (mean 7.8–7.9, min 7.4–7.5) and extremely low pH (6.6). There was a strong correlation between pH and both sponge cover and species composition. Crambe crambe was the only species present in any abundance in the areas with mean pH 6.6, seven species were present at mean pH 7.8–7.9 and four species (Phorbas tenacior, Petrosia ficiformis, Chondrilla nucula and Hemimycale columella) were restricted to sites with normal pH. Sponge percentage cover decreased significantly from normal to acidified sites. No significant effect of increasing CO2 levels and decreasing pH was found on spicule form in Crambe crambe. This study indicates that increasing CO2 concentrations will likely affect sponge community composition as some demosponge species appear to be more vulnerable than others. Further research into the mechanisms by which acidification affects sponges would be useful in predicting likely effects on sessile marine communities.