Could jellyfish tanks be the next big interior decorating trend? Marine biologist Nancy Sowinski hopes so. After spending four years cultivating the frilly blobs for research purposes, she's decided to take them public.
A marine biologist trained at Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, the 34-year-old founded Sunset Marine Labs in her Alhambra home, where she lives among thousands of stingers.
It didn't take her long to tire of selling her pets to research facilities. (Too much killing.) So now she's offering them to the private sector--restaurants, offices, even home tanks.
She's had three customers: a movie studio; Las Palmas Mexican Restaurant in Hollywood; and, most recently, Rix restaurant in Santa Monica, where guests can snarf down sushi while they stare at a tank of ethereal-looking Moon jellyfish.
"People have been fascinated by them," said Rix owner Neal Morse. "The tank is like a living lava lamp." To complement his new pets, Morse has introduced a new specialty cocktail named (what else?) a Jellyfish Stinger.
Sowinski installed the $14,000 tank in Rix's second-floor bar area in March, and she stops by weekly to tend to the 26 undulating, bell-shaped jellies. She sells a large jellyfish for about $120; a small one for about $30.
Fascinating facts about jellyfish: "You can't go to a pet store and buy jellyfish food," she said. They eat sea monkeys, a.k.a. baby brine shrimp.
Jellyfish are 98% water. Leave them out of water and they evaporate. Poof!
They've been on the space shuttle, and they're considered a delicacy in some Asian cultures. "The thrill is that the tongue gets numb when you eat them," Sowinski explained. (They are also used medicinally.)
They live only six to seven months in the sea but in captivity can survive as long as two years. "We're doing our part for conservation," Morse added.
Sowinski's job carries a significant occupational hazard (she's been stung hundreds of times), but she says it's worth it.
"It's the most rewarding thing I've ever done. I grow and nurture them, and I get to design the tank, which is like a living piece of artwork."
It's nice to know Mayor Richard Riordan is a good sport. He's made a wager with Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson: If the Lakers win the NBA championship, Peterson has to fork over tickets to the Indianapolis 500 and wear a Laker jersey for an entire workday.
If the Pacers are victorious, Riordan has to wear their jersey for a day and pony up tickets to the Grammys.
But the agreement does not specify whether the jersey must be worn alone or with a suit jacket. Personally, I'd vote for a jacket. Sorry guys.
A photo caption in Wednesday's column was mislabeled. Eugenio Lopez was shown to the left of Gabriel Orozco.
E-mail Booth Moore at email@example.com.