Despite the ecological relevance of tropical reefs, information on species composition and coverage on sandstone reefs is very scarce. Most studies on reef systems have been conducted for true coral reefs, ecosystems that show calcareous formations with extensive coral cover and diversity. The aim of this study was to analyse the coverage of benthic assemblages in a submerged sandstone reef (22–24 m) in a relatively non-explored region (Tropical South-western Atlantic). In this area, filamentous algae (43.6%) and sponges (19.6%) are the main components of the benthic reef assemblages. Other benthic reef fauna (ascidians, corals and zoanthids) showed lower coverage, although their importance may vary depending on the area. A negative correlation between filamentous algae and slow-growing reef-building organisms (calcareous algae) was observed. High sand coverage (19.6%) over the reef revealed a high rate of silting. A low coral diversity (only two resilient species) was quantified, and most of the coral colonies were small-sized. The results provide a baseline assessment for a poorly known ecosystem with turbid-water benthic communities and higher sea-surface temperatures near the Earth's equator.