If sponges are to be effective biomonitors we require a better understanding of the spatial scales over which metals vary in these organisms. We determined how concentration of Cd, Zn, Cu, Pb, Hg and Se varied over four spatial scales for two common estuarine sponge species in the Sydney region. We examined variability with a fully nested sampling design; between coastal lakes, within coastal lakes, between sponges and within sponges. Calculation of variance components confirmed that ‘within-sponge’ variation in Cd, Zn, Cu, Pb and Se concentrations were low (1–14%) relative to the two largest spatial scales (49–98%) examined. In contrast, Hg concentrations exhibited marked variability ‘between-sponges’ and were below detection at one location. There was little evidence that sponge size was a good predictor of metal concentration. Taken together, these outcomes confirm that fragments of these sponges could be successfully transplanted and therefore show promise as biomonitors of metal contamination.