But, as CBS News Correspondent John Blackstone reports, the spotted comb jelly is now being seen in all its glory.
"Oh, they're beautiful," admires one visitor.
It's the first time spotted comb jellies have ever been displayed in captivity.
Visitors are engrossed with the lights, but the lights aren't its only trick. Scientists, using green dye, discovered it employs jet propulsion, forcing water through its body to move up like a rocket.
The spotted comb jellies drift into Monterey Bay each winter, but it's rare these delicate creatures are caught alive. They are so fragile they can disintegrate with little more than a touch
Researchers study the jelly very carefully.
George Matsumoto of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute tells Blackstone, "The water currents from my hand motion would actually almost rip it apart. Tear it in two so it is very difficult animal to collect and the fact that it's on exhibit is just amazing."
Keeping them on exhibit is Bruce Upton's job. He's an expert in the care and feeding of all the jelly species in the aquarium's collection.
But none has captured his heart like the spotted comb jelly.
"They're one of the most awesome marine animals I've ever seen," he says.
And now lots of others are being impressed.
"Coolest thing I've ever seen in my entire life," says a young observer.
Watching a few ounces of jelly transform itself into a work of art.