Introducing the Snowshine Seahorses

By: | Date: 12/04/2013 | 20 Comments |
Black and white Snowshine variety seahorse

Introducing H. erectus var. Snowshine.


As the head seahorse nerd and proprietor of, 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.

light snowshine H. erectus

Light colored Snowshine H. erectus

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.

Snowshine and wild-type H. erectus comparison

Comparing Snowshines to wild-type H. erectus. Left shows a normal wild-type H. erectus at the bottom, and Snowshine var H. erectus above. Right image shows a wild-type H. erectus in the foreground, and Snowshine H. erectus behind it.

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.

Showing a seahorses staddles and stars

“Saddles” highlighted in yellow, “Stars” highlighted in blue on a wild-type H. erectus. Photo courtesy of Brian Gratwicke

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.

Snowshine age comparison

Snowshine brother and sister from two different broods. Large male is 13 months and small female is 5 months in photo.

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.

Double white snowshine seahorse

A white-on-white Snowshine seahorse with bold horizontal stripes H. erectus is known for.

Snowshines will be available for the first time through Diver’s Den. For those of you not familiar with Diver’s Den, it’s’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.

Snowshine and Normal H. erectus

Snowshines compared to normal H. erectus

Snowshine White and Brown

Snowshine showing white and brown coloration

mottled snowshine seahorse pair

Snowshine seahorse pair showing mottled coloration

20 Responses to “Introducing the Snowshine Seahorses”

  1. christofian Says:

    This article was really interesting: since there haven’t been a lot of new articles recently, it would be great if we could here more about what you’re doing with your own seahorses.

  2. Momo Says:

    Gimme gimme gimme!

  3. steffie78 Says:

    These are absolutely beatutiful Tami!! Well Done, and such a keen eye for the details. It must have been quite a project!

  4. AmyW Says:

    I agree! Beautiful and so interesting. How many generations did you work through to produce these striking results?

  5. Lizz Says:

    THEY ARE GORGEOUS!! Didn’t see anything noting approx max size. Definately going to be checking in The Divers Den

  6. chris Says:

    Way to go Tami
    I deffinately want a pair
    why are you not selling them yourself?
    Got a clue what kind of price they are going to bring?

  7. sue Says:

    What lovey seahorses,if you would ship to uk,i think a lot of us would want to buy from you.

  8. Shasta Kuehl Says:

    Tami, please contact me. I didn’t get a chance to talk to you during the open house in November at the coral farm.

  9. Angela Says:

    Hi Tami! Saw the pair of Snowshines on Diver’s Den! They were beautiful but I didn’t get there in time–sold fast apparently. Good for you!

  10. Lanie Says:

    Hi Tami,

    I also saw your Snowshine’s on Diver’s Den! I was trying to decide if I should jump at them or wait for a pair that had a black Snowshine, but before I could make up my mind they were gone. I’ll be on the lookout for more! 🙂

  11. April Says:

    Do you know if Snowshine available for sale anywhere?

  12. admin Says:

    Hi April, Tami here. I’m in the process of moving, so haven’t been raising any new seahorses. I don’t know of anyone else who’s taken to breeding them yet. Many sold through Divers Den as pairs, so someone might have offspring, but I don’t know who.

  13. Mitch diehl Says:

    Hey there,
    Do you have an availability date for snowshine seahorses?
    I want some personally and would like to see if I can order to resale in my marine shop.
    Thank you

  14. walterhaas99@gmail Says:

    good job and a great idea keep breeding them please

  15. TamiW Says:

    No I don’t. I’ve not raised any in the past year. A variety of reasons, but now I’m in the process of revamping my fish room. I’m hoping to have the new broodstock tanks done in Jan, and larval rearing by Feb. So most optimistic estimate would be spring. I did give a few to a friend, if he has babies before then, I’ll let you know.

  16. walterhaas99@gmail Says:

    revamping my fish room set me back 1 year but it was worth it, Im helping my friend Dave Willmore revamp for 3 years and he will need another year, he has met you and says you are a nice person

  17. TamiW Says:

    I have met Dave, that was a very nice thing of him to say. Yes, I feel the work is worth it even though it’s been frustrating and has taken longer than I planned. But it will also make things much easier once the work is done. Electrical upgrade was done this weekend, so I’m one step further along!

  18. Kacie Says:

    I was wondering if there was any word on a new generation of snowshines

  19. TamiW Says:

    Hi Kacie! Thanks for asking. Finishing revamping the fish room has taken longer than expected and is still on going; so no new news. I’ve given a few pairs to other breeders somewhat recently, but haven’t heard of any pregnancies yet.

    If there is anyone out there reading this who purchased Snowshine seahorses, either directly from me or from Live Aquaria, can you comment on this thread? I’d love to know how they are doing!

  20. Andy Says:

    Any updates on the Snowshines?

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