Darwin Tank: The jellyfish aquarium as objet d'art

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High-tech jellyfish habitat – The Darwin Tank

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Jellyfish would probably rank just ahead of bonsai trees when it comes to calming things to have around the home. Unfortunately, tanks for keeping jellyfish in a home are a bit tricky and tend to lack a certain flair. Belgium's Darwin Sect design house has made a foray onto the field with the Darwin Tank jellyfish aquarium – a high-tech habitat with a touch of old-world charm thrown in.

Founded by Florence Samain and Dave Monfort, Darwin Sect core business is creating preserved insect displays using Napoleonic era globes, but designing a similar work of art that's also a home for jellyfish involved more of an engineering challenge. The result is a bubble-topped, cylindrical habitat that acts as a lens, producing a magnifying effect and also turning the aquarium into a shadow show with the right lighting.

The Darwin Tank is designed to house a number of species of jellyfish, such as the moon jelly, spotted jelly, Mediterranean jelly, flame jellyfish, blue blubbers, and others. The 375 mm (14.7 in) high. 10 l (2.6 gal) prototype is lit by a ring of programmable LEDs and is large enough for three adult moon jellies. When set in its base, it looks as if it's made of one solid piece of glass even through the tumble of the jellies indicate that water is somehow circulating.

The Boro 3.3 borosilicate glass used on the prototype is fabricated in Belgium by Pierreglas and incorporates advice on fluid dynamics from Professor Jeroen van Beeck from the von Karman Institut.

Unlike conventional aquaria, the Darwin Tank is nearly sealed at the top and opens at the bottom for maintenance using an adjustable Inox clasp that exerts even pressure on the bevelled sides of the hatch flange to provide a watertight seal with the aid of a rubber O-ring. Two self-locking, leakproof inlets allow for filling or draining the tank, as well as for operating the filter and circulating systems. Feeding the jellyfish is done by means of a syringe through a 5 mm (0.2 in) hole at the top of the dome or the filter inlet port.

The bottom of the tank contains the StreamMaker unit, which is designed to safely and gently circulate the water to keep the jellyfish mobile and in good condition. The filter system is optional, as is the 20 kg (44 lb) base for housing the external filter system, lighting system, and filling pump.

The team says that the original handmade StreamMaker prototype had a cloudy appearance, so they've turned to crowdfunding platform Kickstarter to raise money for a 3D plan and an aluminum thermoforming mold to make a completely transparent production version. With that in mind, the company is trying to attract at least 20 preorders and additional funds to raise the needed €31,500 (US$$35,517). The premiums for contributors reflect this strategy, with pledges for the tank starting at €1,500 (US$1,700).

The campaign runs through October 18.

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