The Shrimp Habitat

by | Feb 7, 2022

Nine years ago, while working for a friend who provided a progressive brunch tour for cruise ship visitors, I noticed a hand-painted glass jar sitting on the kitchen counter of one of our home owners. “What is that?” I asked. She told me to look closer. Sure enough…tiny fish, bright red shrimp, were swimming around amidst small pieces of sea glass, rocks and coral. I was mezmerized! She explained that this was a Shrimp Habitat, the perfect eco system for these tiny, almost translucent swimmers found in tide pools of our island. This eco system meant that they required no additional food or specific care; just a re-filling of the brakish water from time to time.

When asked how she came to own this Shrimp Habitat, she shared with me that an artist friend painted the vintage candy jar, assembled the necessary elements inside, added the brakish water (a combination of salt and fresh water found in tide pools), then the tiny shrimp. “How can I get one?” I asked.

This began my own journey of finding the perfect tall jar, with lid, contacting the artist, and then patiently waiting until I was able to pick it up from her and place it on my own kitchen counter. For over eight years, my custom Shrimp Habitat was part of my daily enjoyment. I admired the little swimmers, and how happy they were. Sometimes I even noticed babies added to the mix. Wow, I had families in there. And, when people came over, they almost always inquired about this novelty. Only once did I see another one offered for sale in a store in Honokaa. But, it wasn’t like mine, with its delicate, hand painted pink and yellow dots along the top and bottom of the jar, as well as on the lid. Mine was unique to my home décor and personality.

Some time in September or October of 2021, I decided to move the Shrimp Habitat to what seemed to me a safer location…on the wide ledge above the kitchen sink. Hubby, Pat, loves to cook and would often move the Habitat to make more space for his ingredients, pots and lids, etc. The new location seemed like a wise move on my part. Now, let’s jump to last November…

I had been in California on vacation. After two weeks with family and friends, I was heading home the next morning. Pat called for our regular evening chat, and at some point revealed that he had knocked the Shrimp Habitat off the ledge. I asked how this could possibly happen, but I won’t bore you with the ridiculous details. It was an accident, but it easily could have been prevented. In thinking I had found a safer place for my precious display, in truth, it was their demise!

I was so upset with Pat that I ended the conversation abruptly. All I saw before me were my shrimpy families dying on my kitchen counter, never to be enjoyed again! I was heartbroken. When I shared this reality with my life long girlfriend she could not understand my feelings. She just didn’t get it. Try as I might to explain how important these tiny creatures were to me, she just didn’t get it!

After a week or so, I finally calmed down long enough to try to figure out what it would take to get a new Shrimp Habitat. I had to remember how it all came to be, track down the original artist, send her a photo of my kitchen rug so she would get a good idea of color and design motif, figure out how to get my new shrimp family, locate the right jar…it was all overwhelming. But within a month or so I had found the jar in England, and got it to the artist. But what about the shrimp? I didn’t know their official name. But, a real estate client I had sold a home to in 2019, had mentioned that they had a shrimp business but had lost everything during the volcano eruption. So, I contacted her and she gave me their official name – Opae Ulas. So I Googled this and actually found a company in Orange County, CA who would ship them to me. (This was interesting because I am from Orange County!!!) Then, a few weeks later, my client let me know that they had some left from the move and would gift me what I needed to start over. I was so excited and grateful!

In mid-January, all my efforts came to fruition! I picked up the newly painted jar with its colorful seaglass, shells, coral and greenery, along with a 5-gallon bucket of tiny Opae Ulas, came home and very carefully made the transfer from bucke to jar. This was not easy! Now, my new Shrimp Habitat sits in the original spot on my counter, and I happily greet them every morning and periodically throughout the day. Just last night, we had some clients over to help them understand off-grid living. When they entered the kitchen the wife went immediately to the Habitat and asked, “What is this?” It was deja vu! We were back in business!!!

PS – Coincidence??? When I opened the January/February 2022 issue of Ke Ola Magazine, there was a fabulous article, Pages 44 – 47, featuring the Opae Ula… complete with color photos and fascinating information about these tiny sea creatures. Pick up your free copy of this wonderful Big Island Magazine, or read the story online to learn more.

Would you like your own custom Shrimp Habitat? Here is how you can create one…

Jar: Etsy or Ebay. Mine is called Ravenhead Glass Candy/Sweet Storage Jar $89.46 with shipping. (Marie may also have a suitable jar. It needs to be sturdy, not tip over easily, with a lid.)

Painting of jar plus inside goodies: Marie Isom [email protected]

Shrimp: Ebay – Got Shrimp

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Jen McGeehan

Phone: 808.747.2365
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I am an adventurer by heart, never letting too much dust settle under my feet. But, I am also a nester, a woman who loves her home, garden, animals, family, and whatever career I happen to be in. In my latest adventure, I’ve successfully merged over 46 years of varied work and life experience into a real estate career that focuses on the goals and dreams of my clients. Are you interested in moving to the Big Island of Hawaiʻi? I’d love to talk with you about your dream goal, and help you achieve it!

Integrity is the cornerstone of my business! 

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