By Matt Richtel March 14, 2009 12:39 am March 14, 2009 12:39 am
Jellyfish are 95 percent water. They have no bones. They drift along at the mercy of the current. So guess what happens when you put them into a traditional fish tank?
“They’re going to get sucked up into the filter and liquefied,” said Alex Andon, the founder of a start-up company called Jellyfish Art.
Jim Wilson/The New York Times Alex Andon, checking jellyfish food in his San Francisco apartment.
Mr. Andon’s company makes specialized aquariums that allow people to keep jellyfish in tanks — sans liquefication. He pops up in our story about recession-era entrepreneurs, prompting us to veer away from the usual lineup of Internet obsessions and learn more about the technology of jellyfish tanks.
Mr. Andon says that a couple of decades ago, scientists figured out how to build tanks – known as Kreisel tanks – that use a special water-flow process to protect jellyfish. When the creatures drift near the pumps and filters, the tank delivers a current of water that washes the jellyfish in the other direction.
Sounds simple, and it can be — relatively. But Mr. Andon says that the technology can take getting used to, and that hobbyist discussion groups on the Internet often include conversations about tank-building efforts gone awry.
“It ends in frustration and people killing tons of jellyfish,” he said.
Only in the last few years have there been efforts to take the jellyfish out of research labs and public aquariums and create take-home versions of this technology.
Another key challenge, Mr. Andon says, is getting the proper food for jellyfish. Research labs and the like feed them live plankton. But that’s impractical for domesticated jellyfish, he says. So he’s been growing algae — on his roof and in his bedroom — and freezing it to provide his customers with frozen jellyfish snacks.
“It’s a huge pain for people to feed their jellyfish,” he said. “I’m growing it for them.”
hey, i remember alex andon! berkeley carroll school in bklyn, right? this is AWESOME, alex. what a heartening thing to read, that you’ve achieved this, and are moving forward with it all. have you seen the jellyfish room at the monterey bay aquarium? breathtaking. all best to you – ms. murphy, 5th grade.
Greetings We have enjoyed our tank and Pacific Nettles from Alex for months now. I have supported Alex’s effort with details on fluid movement (plumbing) ideas to help reduce the efforts needed to care for your Jellies and with lighting ideas; key to a really knock-out tank experience. Alex is a great resource, has seemingly unending energy, and has a lot of Jelly knowledge. We wish him well with his unique business.
Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. The world has enough problems with invasive exotic species wrecking the environment without adding a new pathway for another class of pest species. Keeping jelly fish for research is a necessity for the scientists that do the work. Keeping them as a hobby may be satisfying for some, but how long until aquaria jelly fish are accidently (or purposely) released due to a careless cleaning or somebody simply dumping the tank? A few years ago an exotic jelly fish from Australia(Phyllorhiza punctata) appeared in the Gulf of Mexico and had a devastating effect on the planktonic community. It most likely got there by ballast water, but the point is that jelly fish can cause significant ecological damage. Creating new, and more efficient, pathways will only add fuel to the fire. Enabling amateurs to keep yet another exotic is a bad idea. Mr. Andon, in is search to make a profit, is ignoring the what will certainly be the consequences of his actions. Perhaps if Mr. Andon and other purveyors and enablers of exotics were required to pay to full costs of the control, or serve jail time until any problems they were responsible for are resolved, they would be less enthusiastic about making these things available to the hobby community.
Why would anyone want to keep jellyfish in a tank?If you’ve ever seen these creatures at sea floating along with their tentacles extending a foot or more into the water the idea of keeping them in a tank is positively perverse. Weird!
They look beautiful and I’ve seen them in public aquariums. But keeping marine aquariums in general is HARD, and I think even with a nice set-up like this, your pet jellies could die easily.
As JC said, the fact that certain jellyfish can become invasive and wreck big swathes of ocean is also something that we should be concerned about. People should be told to kill their jellyfish in bleach or something before discarding.
The nice part is, since they don’t have brains I guess animal cruelty isn’t an issue!
I think its an innovative idea and it has inspired me to be more resourceful in the hunt for my own entreprenurial breakthrough. However I am inclined to agree with some about the potential for environmental damage if the jellyfish are released. Though the fact they have no brains and are easily liquified would imply they are not necessarily the most resistant to changing environments. But hey I think it would look pretty cool as a backdrop in a nightclub and is possibly less cruel than keeping fish.
When jellyfish hobbyists get bored, which is not too hard to imagine, will they relase their “pets” into the wild? How will these feral species affect the ecology of our waterways vis-a-vis native species? It is hard to imagine someone having pity on these creatures but all it takes is a few to wreak havoc.
hmmm. it is not news that jellyfish displays are extremely popular with the public, nor that companies are trying to “provide” them, and the biggest concerns always remain. Where/how are the specimens acquired? and how is waste water treated? First: Some states (definitely CA) regulate what can be collected from the ocean and who can perform these tasks. Two species are local and whether they are collected or cultured specimens, then at the very least gonads have been harvested, hopefully all permits are in place. Second: Jellyfish are designated as aquatic nuisance species (ANS) and any public aquarium that wishes to display them, is required to sterilize any waste water; this is challenging but absolutely necessary and should also apply to private enterprises. This is especially important because two of the group’s offered species are non-native and one could certainly thrive in the coastal waters if care is not taken to avoid introduction. My advice… leave it to the professionals.