I never really understood why goldfish were in such high demand as pets. They are kind of boring, don't really look that cool, and die off way to quickly for one to really get to enjoy them. Jellyfish, on the other hand, are almost universally feared by kids for their potent stinging abilities, and general gooey-weirdness. I mean, are these things really alive? Will they sting even if they're clear? No, I don't want you to pee on me to cure this Jellyfish sting! However, somehow, Alex, the man behind the Desktop Jellyfish Tank has all but swept those beliefs under the proverbial rug by zoning in on what's truly amazing about the amoeba-like creatures— their gelatinous shape and radiant sheen. I spoke to Alex recently and found out how he first became enamored with jellyfish and, um, if urine is really a cure for a jellyfish sting.
When did you first become fascinated with jellyfish?
I first became fascinated by jellyfish when I saw them exhibited at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Their movements were completely mesmerizing. I stared at them for hours.
Where did you first find jellyfish to purchase?
I used to go out in a little rubber boat and catch the jellyfish myself in the ocean around San Francisco. There's an article about it here. Jellyfish populations are really fickle. They appear in massive swarms that cover an entire bay several miles wide one day, then disappear the next. They're completely at the whim of the currents.
That wasn't my original intention, but, yes, I like how the tank worked out to resemble a jellyfish. I also drew inspiration for the tank design from how anatomically simple jellyfish are. They have no central nervous system, have no organs, are 90% water, and are at the mercy of ocean currents for moving long distances. Yet they've been around for hundreds of millions of years. As I designed the tank, I constantly tried to remove any complications and make it as simple as possible. I've found the simpler it gets, the better it looks and functions.
How do jellyfish procreate? Can you breed them?
Yes, we breed some of our own jellyfish, but it's a complicated process (see). First males and females excrete sperm and egg respectively into the water. When those find each other they fuse to make a larvae called a planula. The microscopic planula swims around until it finds a suitable hard surface to settle on, where it metamorphoses into a polyp, which looks like a tiny sea anemone. A polyp can bud off clones of itself hundreds of times over. When the polyp feels it's time, which is usually in the spring, it becomes very long and segmented. Each one of its segments breaks free and starts swimming as a larval jellyfish called an ephyra. Finally, the ephyra continues swimming and grows into an adult jellyfish.