Introducing the Snowshine Seahorses
As the head seahorse nerd and proprietor of FusedJaw.com, most of my articles shy away from my own operations. However, I’ve had a project underway I’ve been quietly working on for while that I’m excited to share: The Snowshines, a new variety of Hippocampus erectus.
This new variety of seahorses, named Snowshines in honor of both the blustery state they were created (Wisconsin) a well as their unique coloration. Snowshines are still Lined Seahorses, H. erectus, but through selective breeding exhibit an unusual amount of pearlescent white markings, mixed with a base coloration that can manage a wide range of colors, all tinted with a glistening sheen.
There have been a few varieties of seahorses offered by breeders based on color; but seahorses can change colors, making breeding for color a daunting task. Pintos, pieds, and other piebald varieties are probably the most well known, bur aquarists are frequently disappointed in the finicky color changes that can obscure the prize markings.
The trouble with trying to breed for color with seahorses has always been that they are masters of camouflage and change to match their surrounding. But there is no set formula to encourage seahorses to display specific colors. There are certain tricks one can do, such as offer brightly colored holdfasts, but no one technique reliably guarantees color. And no one is quite sure of the extent that color is even an inheritable trait, as seahorses, like octopuses, use chromatophores (color-changing cells) to blend into their environment.
I’ve been pondering this problem for a while, and decided to approach it from a different direction. Instead of attempting to breed for the base colors, which change, I’ve been selecting for the white coloration that occurs in the saddles and stars. Saddles are white patches that occur on the dorsal side of many seahorses, and stars are the small white dots that appear on many seahorses skin when displaying dark coloration (sometimes confused with ich by novice aquarists.) My observation is that these markings and color are more ‘sticky’ than the wide range of other colors H. erectus can produce. In working on this, I also noticed these markings seem have a certain amount of pearlescent shine.
Snowshines are the results of using those observations to selectively breed a variety of seahorse that shows these traits amplified. Saddles merge to create large blocks of shiny white coloration. Many of them have masks much like certain clownfish varieties. And while the base color can change; black, green, yellow, and orange, brown are all color combinations I’ve seen underneath the white. My favorite, however, is when they display white on white – they not only show the white patches, but white coloration underneath, while displaying dark horizontal lines characteristic of H. erectus.
Just like all seahorses, their colors are flexible, but the pearlescent “shine” stays. For example, many aquarists tend to shy away from darker colored seahorses. But with Snowshines, a black seahorse becomes a dramatic contrast of brilliant white and stark black. And while the exact coloration, shape and appearance does still change as they age as it appears with all seahorses, they keep the most dramatic coloration, the shine.
The idea in selecting for these seahorses is partially based on the widespread interest in Hippocampus zebra, a rare deepwater seahorse that has only been found a handful of times. I’ve often wondered why someone doesn’t try to selectively breed H. erectus coloration to imitate H. zebra. H. erectus which has bold lines, but the distinctions between the lines and background colors of H. erectus isn’t very impressive. Eventually the idea brewed in my head long enough, and that someone became me. I didn’t end up with exactly what I set out to create, but I think I’ve created something much more interesting.
Snowshines will be available for the first time through Diver’s Den. For those of you not familiar with Diver’s Den, it’s LiveAquaria.com’s WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) shop that let’s you purchase the exact fish or invertebrate you see photographed. If you’re interested in a truly unique seahorse, keep your eyes glued to Diver’s Den.