Excavating sponges often compete with reef-building corals. To study sponge–coral interactions, we devised a design of hybrid cores that allows sponges and corals to be arranged side by side with similar size and shape, mimicking the situation of neighbouring organisms. Compared to earlier methods that attached sponge cores onto coral surfaces, hybrid cores provide an opportunity to study organism interactions under conditions more equal to the interacting partners. The use of hybrid cores was demonstrated for the excavating sponge Cliona orientalis and the massive coral Porites, which commonly interact on the Great Barrier Reef. Cliona orientalis and massive Porites were cut into half-moon shaped explants and combined as hybrid cores under replicate conditions. After 90 days in an aquarium setting, positive growth of Cl. orientalis along with net bioerosion were observed in sponge control cores that combined Cl. orientalis with blank substrate. However, when Cl. orientalis and massive Porites were in contact in interaction cores, the sponge displayed negative growth and undetectable bioerosion, and was slightly overgrown by the coral. Cliona orientalis may have developed tissue extension beneath the living coral tissue, but growth and net calcification rates of massive Porites were apparently not affected by Cl. orientalis when comparing the interaction cores to coral control cores that combined massive Porites with blank substrate. Overall, the present work demonstrated that hybrid cores can be used to generate conditions suitable for studying sponge–coral interactions in the laboratory, which can also be applied in the field.