Florida may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of jellyfish, but according to estimates, there are different types of jellyfish in Florida. There are millions of jellyfish swimming in state waters at any given time.
Whether they’re stinging you while you paddle your kayak through the intercoastal waterway or washing up on the beaches during summer high tides.
It’s important to know the types of jellyfish in Florida that you will be dealing with and how to handle them if you get stung by one.
Here are the types of jellyfish in Florida waters
1. Moon Jellyfish
This is the first on our list of types of jellyfish in Florida. The moon jellyfish is a common jellyfish found in northern, central, and southern Florida.
It’s easy to identify because it’s a round, blob-shaped creature. Moon jellies are translucent with blue or white edges.
In addition, they can grow up to 3 inches in diameter, but their bellies are usually an inch or less across.
Each one has four tentacles lined with venom-filled nematocysts; they use these stingers to catch small prey like zooplankton and larval fish and defend themselves against predators like mahi-mahi and barracuda.
2. Cannonball Jellyfish
As one of several types of jellyfish in Florida, cannonball jellies are often confused with their more dangerous look-alike: Portuguese Man O’ War.
Luckily, if you spot a large, translucent blob floating on top of shallow water in tropical Florida, it is most likely a harmless cannonball jellyfish.
The bell-shaped body typically measures between four and eight inches long and has broad stinging tentacles which hang down.
While they certainly can deliver an unpleasant sting to swimmers who accidentally brush against them, their venom isn’t considered dangerous to humans (unlike those pesky man o’ war).
These popular creatures are easy for divers and snorkelers to encounter around warm Atlantic beaches like Captiva Island.
3. Portuguese Man-of-War
These tentacles contain a very powerful venom, which can cause an extremely painful sting. If one lands on your skin, don’t try to remove it—doing so will only inject more poison into your body. Instead, soak it in vinegar or rub it with salt water, which helps draw out some of the poison.
Therefore, if you get stung, seek medical help as soon as possible—it could cause long-term muscle damage and kidney failure if left untreated.
In rare cases, it can be fatal. They are one of the common types of jellyfish in Florida.
4. Sea Nettle Jellyfish
The Sea Nettle (Chrysaora quinquecirrha) is one of several jellyfish species known to swim offshore around Cape Coral and Fort Myers. A member of the class Cubozoa, Sea Nettles have an umbrella-like bell up to 4 inches wide.
Also, they have many tentacles that radiate outward like spokes on a wheel. The tentacles are lined with thousands of cnidocytes — tiny stinging cells — armed with nematocysts, which serve as chemical and mechanical lances that deliver toxins triggered by touch or prey.
Sea nettle jellyfish is on the list of different types of jellyfish in Florida. These minuscule spears paralyze and kill small fish, crustaceans, and other invertebrates unlucky enough to become entangled in them.
5. Blue Button Jellyfish
The iridescent blue glowing bell of this sea creature is what makes it so easy to spot, even from a great distance.
The blue button jellyfish does not threaten humans and is most likely found floating just below surface level.
Though, they can sting if disturbed by boat propellers or swimmers who accidentally touch them with their hands or feet. Aside from that, these harmless creatures need to be respected and left alone.
6. By-the-Wind-Sailor Jellyfish
By-the-wind sailors (Velella velella) are one of the types of jellyfish in Florida. These species are commonly found off Florida’s coast.
Although they’re not considered dangerous, they do cause a burning sensation when they come into contact with the skin.
This phenomenon is caused by their tentacle’s stinging cells, which also cause allergic reactions in some people.
It’s best to avoid swimming near them or touching them, especially if you have sensitive skin or an allergy to their stings.
Meanwhile, they can be seen all year round but are more prevalent during warmer months and on calm days.
Depending on lighting conditions and depth, their colors vary from dark purple to reddish brown and sometimes yellowish green and blue.
7. Mushroom Cap Jellyfish
This type of jellyfish is not actually a true jellyfish, but it’s often mistaken as one. The cap-shaped body ranges in size from a few inches to two feet across and looks like a slice of mushroom with tentacles.
While their sting isn’t deadly or dangerous, their harpoon-like stingers are relatively large and can hurt if they brush up against their skin.
These squishy creatures tend to be a translucent reddish pink or brown color that blends into sandy beaches—making them all too easy to step on without realizing it.
8. Mauve Stinger (Purple Jellyfish)
The Mauve Stinger, formally known as Pelagia noctiluca, is a common species worldwide in tropical and subtropical oceans. They’re also quite poisonous.
Meanwhile, you’ll usually find them just below or at sea level, hiding among rocks, oyster beds, or other underwater structures.
The Mauve Stinger is one of the different types of jellyfish in Florida. They are small but have powerful stings that can cause pain for hours if not treated immediately.
9. Box Jellyfish
These jellies, which can reach up to a foot across and weigh more than two pounds, are extremely poisonous.
If their tentacles make contact with human skin—and they can grow up to 20 feet long—they cause excruciating pain, nerve damage, and blindness.
In extreme cases, a single sting from these water-dwelling monsters leads to death. The list of the different types of Jellyfish in Florida is not complete without mentioning Box Jellyfish.
10. Upside-Down Jellyfish
The upside-down jellyfish, also known as Turritopsis dohrnii, can revert back to its childlike stage when it’s under extreme stress. It’s no wonder why many mistakenly call it an immortal jellyfish.
Although it doesn’t truly live forever, once an upside-down grows old and weak, it will transform into its former youth, effectively reversing its aging process.
The downside is that predators eat them more easily due to their vulnerability at such stages.
Do you know there are different types of jellyfish in Florida? Jellyfish are an important part of our ecosystem, and it’s important that Floridians know how to prevent—and treat—jellyfish stings.
Remember, if you get stung by a jellyfish: rinse with vinegar or freshwater, remove any tentacles from your skin, and apply heat (hot water or a hot pack) to relieve pain.
If symptoms persist for more than 24 hours after treatment, seek medical attention immediately.