Most jellyfish go through two life history stages during their life cycle. The first is the polypoid stage, when the animal takes the form of a small stalk with feeding tentacles. Very often, this polyp is attached to the sea floor, or to another hard surface; it rarely moves around. A polyp that lives that way is called sessile. In some cases, the polyp is free-floating. Polyps generally have a mouth surrounded by upward-facing tentacles. Polyps may be on their own or in groups, and some bud asexually, making more polyps. Most are very small, measured in millimeters.
In the second stage, the tiny polyps asexually produce jellyfish, each of which is known as a medusa. Tiny jellyfish swim away from the polyp and then grow and feed in the plankton. Jellyfish reproduce both sexually and asexually. Well-fed adult jellyfish spawn daily. In most species, spawning is controlled by light, so the entire population spawns at about the same time of day, often at either dusk or dawn. Jellyfish are usually either male or female (with occasional hermaphrodites). In most cases, adults release sperm and eggs into the surrounding water, where the (unprotected) eggs are fertilized and mature into new organisms.
Jellyfish eat plankton and small fish, which they catch using their venomous tentacles. Jellyfish may live in symbiosis with algae. The jellyfish transports them into sunlight and get nutrients from the algae's photosynthesis. Both forms of jelly fish have small tentacles with nematocysts (stinging cells) that sting and can hurt people on contact.