Peanutbutter Jellyfish

peanutbutter jellyfish
Jellies after sixteen days of peanutbutterification.
Photo credit: Montoya and Christie

When you think jelly, don’t you naturally think peanut butter? So it’s conceivable that if you are someone who spends your days working with jellyfish, the wild idea to try to grow your brood on peanut butter might flit through your mind.

But the fact that aquarist Zelda Montoya tried it, and got it to work, well that’s a jellyfish of a different color. Literally. Her peanut butter jellyfish turned a buttery brown after feeding.

Montoya, a jellyfish aquarist at the Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park in Dallas, says her baby jellyfish usually eat brine shrimp, also known as Sea Monkeys. Once in a while, she feeds them a treat: a protein shake made of whatever frozen fish and shrimp she finds in the aquarium’s freezer.

“I tend to drink a lot of protein shakes myself. And peanut butter was one I was drinking often. So I thought, why not try it?” The idea wasn’t completely unprecedented. Peanut butter protein has been added to feed for other marine animals in the past, but never–as far as we know–for jellies.

Montoya searched out a creamy peanut butter with the fewest additives, and found it in the Wal-Mart brand. The recipe isn’t complicated. Add a scoop of peanut butter and some seawater to a blender. Mix and chill. Feed the salty smoothy to 250 baby moon jellies, no straws needed.

The peanut butter jellies grew five-times bigger during the month-long study. When they reached about an inch and a half in diameter, the peanutbutterified jellies were transferred to the aquarium’s huge display tank along with jellies raised on a normal diet. They are still swimming there today.

The downside of peanut butter jellies, says Montoya, is that she no longer enjoys peanut butter protein shakes herself. “I can’t tolerate the smell of peanut butter,” she says.

The upside, however, is something Americans making lunches have depended on for years. “If I ever run out of the food I usually use, peanut butter is a great backup.”

Montoya and Aquarium Supervisor Barrett Christie reported on their experiment in the 2014 edition of Drum and Croaker, A Highly Irregular Journal for the Public Aquarist.


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