I’ve been keeping my current colony of Ramshorn snails since 2014, and in that time I have seen some variations in shell pattern, color, and body color pop up now and then. Mostly these were shells in shades of brown, some with spots and some without. The flesh color of the snails has shown either red, brown, or dark brown with a “cool” color cast.
I recently introduced a new line of snails to the colony. My intention was to “freshen up” the gene pool, and introduce some possible variation in color. These snails were sold to me as “blue ramshorn snails.” It’s true that they did have a somewhat cool color cast to them, but their shells seemed mostly pale, almost white with dark colored bodies. It was apparent from the condition of their shells that they were kept in acidic water and likely did not have adequate calcium in their diet. Because of this, it was difficult to determine what their true shell color and pattern was.
After spending some time in my tanks, and growing out new sections of shell, it looked like some had a spotted or “leopard” pattern shell and a somewhat blue color cast. Their body (foot) color was that dark, almost blue color I mentioned above.
Most of these new snails were added to the tanks in which my other snails were already living, but I kept a few isolated in a small, 1 gallon jarrarium to see what comes of them. The result was offspring that have a nearly transparent, pale-colored shell and a bright pink body. There were no “blue” offspring or any other variation at all! This has inspired me to do a little research into Ramshorn snail color morphs, and here is what I’ve found.
There are two shell patterns: Solid Color and Spotted or Leopard patterned. In snails with a low calcium diet or which live in acidic water, this distinction can be hard to observe due to shell pitting.
Foot Color (body)
There are two distinct color variations: Red and Brown. These color variations can come in different degrees of intensity. My feeling about these color variations is that it comes down to skin pigmentation. Like in humans there can be individuals with very dark skin due to high concentrations of melanin and individuals with very pale skin due to a lack of melanin. Ramshorn snails are somewhat unique among mollusks in that their blood contains red hemoglobin instead of the typical blue hemocyanin. If the snail’s skin has little or no pigmentation, then the red blood is visible through the flesh, giving it a reddish color. If the snail’s skin is rich in pigmentation, it appears brown. The amount of skin pigmentation can cause the flesh of the snail to appear red, orange, yellow, tan, brown, dark brown, or nearly black or even blue.
This is where the majority of variation seems to be. There appears to be at least five color variations that I can identify: Red, Yellow, Brown, Milky, and Transparent. My feeling is that shell color has a similar relation that skin color does, though it appears to be a different mechanism, because there can be mix-matched combinations of flesh color and shell color.
Combinations of Features
As you can imagine, there are a lot of different combinations of these colors and patterns. Like with shrimp and fish, there are some common names for the different combinations. Here are a few:
I’m still trying to piece together all the variations and permutations. So if you know of anything not represented in this article or you see something you know to be incorrect, please let me know. I would love to hear from you.