A sponge's body is hollow and is held in shape by the mesohyl, a jelly-like substance made mainly of collagen and reinforced by a dense network of fibers also made of collagen. The inner surface is covered with choanocytes, cells with cylindrical or conical collars surrounding one flagellum per choanocyte. The wave-like motion of the whip-like flagella drives water through the sponge's body. All sponges have ostia, channels leading to the interior through the mesohyl, and in most sponges these are controlled by tube-like porocytes that form closable inlet valves. Pinacocytes, plate-like cells, form a single-layered external skin over all other parts of the mesohyl that are not covered by choanocytes, and the pinacocytes also digest food particles that are too large to enter the ostia,[3][4] while those at the base of the animal are responsible for anchoring it.[4] Other types of cell live and move within the mesohyl:[3][4] Lophocytes are amoeba-like cells that move slowly through the mesohyl and secrete collagen fibres. Collencytes are another type of collagen-producing cell. Rhabdiferous cells secrete polysaccharides that also form part of the mesohyl. Oocytes and spermatocytes are reproductive cells.

Sclerocytes secrete the mineralized spicules ("little spines") that form the skeletons of many sponges and in some species provide some defense against predators. In addition to or instead of sclerocytes, demosponges have spongocytes that secrete a form of collagen that polymerizes into spongin, a thick fibrous material that stiffens the mesohyl. Myocytes ("muscle cells") conduct signals and cause parts of the animal to contract. "Grey cells" act as sponges' equivalent of an immune system. Archaeocytes (or amoebocytes) are amoeba-like cells that are totipotent, in other words each is capable of transformation into any other type of cell. They also have important roles in feeding and in clearing debris that block the ostia. Porocytes are tubular cells which make up the pores of a sponge. Covering the sponge is a layer of cells, very similar to skin, but it's slightly different. To scientists, these cells are known as pinacocytes. In a sponge, pinacocytes are a thin, elastic layer which keeps water out. Between the pinacocytes, there are the porocytes. These let water into the sponge. Myocytes, little muscular cells, open up the porocytes and close them. Once through the pores, water travels down canals. Using the food and oxygen in the water the sponge cells stay alive and carry out other processes such as making new sponges and repairing cells. The opening porocytes surround is called an ostium.