Chestnut Cowrie - Cypraea spadicea
Chestnut Cowrie

Chestnut Cowrie - Cypraea spadicea

Chestnut Cowrie
Chestnut Cowrie - Cypraea spadicea.
Picture by Brett and Brett's Reef

Kingdom:      Animalia
Phylum:         Mollusca
Class:            Gastropoda
Order:           Neotaenioglossa
Family:          Cypraeidae
Genus:           Cypraea
Species: spadicea

The Chestnut cowrie is also known as the Chestnut cowry. The plural form is always Chestnut cowries.

The Chestnut cowrie Cypraea spadicea should not be confused with the Chestnut-Colored Cowrie Cypraea castanea.

Cypraea spadicea is not listed in CITES or on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Geographical range, habitat and habits

The geographical distribution of the Chestnut cowry stretches from Monterey, California in the U.S. to central Baja California in Mexico.

This snail is typically found under ledges or stones, from just below the low-tide line to a depth of 120 feet / 36 meters. It can sometimes be seen resting on soft corals. During the night, it will emerge from its hiding spot to search for food.  

Size and appearance

The Chestnut Cowrie can reach a size of about 1-2.5 in / 2.5-6.5 cm.

The shell is egg-shaped with an evenly rounded back and one end being narrower than the other. The back is of a pale pinkish to white shade and adorned with a very big, irregular spot with a chestnut coloured or grayish-brown centre. The spot is surrounded by a narrow, irregular, dark reddish-brown margin and can cover a substantial part of the shell.

The mantle normally extends out of the shell opening to cover the shell, but will be retracted back into the shell if the snail feels threatened. The opening of the shell is equipped with protective nail-like structures to keep predators away.  

Chestnut Cowrie care

The Chestnut Cowrie is easy to care for and young specimens are often added to aquariums where algae need to be kept in check. It is a peaceful species and considered reef safe with caution. Young specimens feed on algae only, but older snails may also eat sponges and soft corals and can therefore be unsuitable in certain reef tanks.

Live rock is recommended when housing a Chestnut Cowry and the snail must also be provided with suitable hiding spots in the aquarium, preferably in the form of rockwork or similar since this resembles its natural environment. This snail prefers to stay hidden in darkened place during the day, e.g. under a rock. The recommended water temperature is 72-78° F / 22-25.5° C. Keep the specific gravity in the 1.023-1.025 range, the pH-value from 8.1 to 8.4, and the water hardness at dKH 8-12.
Do not use copper-based medications in aquariums where you keep Chestnut cowries. This species is also sensitive to nitrate.

Feeding Chestnut Cowrie

Young specimens feed on algae, while older specimen may decide to supplement their herbivore diet with soft corals and sponges. The Chestnut Cowrie is known to devour almost any type of algae.

To ensure optimal nutrition, it may be necessary to combine naturally occurring food with other foods, e.g. sheets of dried seaweed and tablets for bottom feeding herbivores/omnivores.

Breeding Chestnut Cowrie

Breeding Chestnut cowries in aquaria is considered extremely difficult.

There are no known distinguishing outer characteristics that can be used for reliable sexing.