Veiled Chameleon Care and Information
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1. Caring for your Veiled Chameleon
Once Chameleons become adults... they become territorial. Therefore, you should only house one chameleon per cage. Chameleons are solitary in the wild and do not get lonely if kept alone.
Veiled Chameleons require a screened cage (the top and all sides should be screened... not glass). Veiled Chameleons get pretty big. My adult male Veiled Chameleon is 9 inches and my female is 6.5 inches (not including tail). Adult Veiled Chameleons will need either a 24x24x48 inch or a 36x18x36 inch screened cage. You can choose to start with a big cage from the beginning or you can start with a smaller cage for your baby chameleon with the knowledge that within the next six months you will need to upsize.
Once you have your cage, fill it with lots of branches, vines and fake plants. I have fake plants hanging down the back of my cage with lots of real tree branches and fake vines for climbing placed both vertically and horizontally. You can also choose to use real plants but make sure you research appropriate non-poisonous plants for your chameleon cage. You don't need to place any substrate on the floor of your cage because your Veiled Chameleon will rarely approach the cage floor unless it is on the hunt for crickets or looking for a place to lay eggs (if female). If you choose to use wood chips or bark on your cage floor, be aware that the crickets will burrow into the substrate to hide from your chameleon.
Make sure to place horizontal branches towards the top of your cage near your UVB lighting and heat lamp so that your chameleon can thermoregulate its temperature. However, don't make the branches so high that the chameleon scrapes the top of its Casque against the top screen while walking.
Click here to see a photo of one of my Veiled Chameleon cages.
It is very important that you provide UVB lighting to enable proper calcium absorption for your Veiled Chameleon. I use a straight Zoo Med T8 Reptisun 10.0 UVB Fluorescent 18 inch light for my chameleons and have had good results. Some folks recommend using a straight T5HO (high output) UVB bulb instead. In my opinion, either option is fine and would provide sufficient UVB for your chameleon. It is important to replace your UVB bulb every six months since the amount of UVB produced by the bulb diminishes after that time period. Also, make sure the UVB light does not pass through plastic or glass before it reaches your chameleon. If the light fixture or top of your cage has a plastic or glass shield, you must remove it. A screen top is okay since UVB can pass through it.
Your heat bulb and UVB lighting should be on a cycle of 12 hours on and 12 hours off. There is no need to provide any lighting or heat source during the night. I suggest connecting your heat and UVB lights to a light timer to simplify this process.
The proper basking temperature for a Veiled Chameleon is 85-95 degrees Fahrenheit. The ambient temperature for the rest of the cage should range from 72-80 degrees. At night, the temperature can drop to low 60s.
For heat, I use a 60 or 70 watt regular white incandescent light bulb in a dome fixture. You don't need anything with higher wattage than that especially if you have branches where your chameleon can bask close enough to the bulb. Make sure to use an incandescent bulb which generates heat... the newer lower watt bulbs won't generate enough heat. Also, don't use one of those red or blue heat bulbs that they sell in the pet stores... they can hurt the chameleon's eyes and cause stress. (Imagine being stuck in a room with red or blue lights shining down on you all day...)
In nature, chameleons live in a humid environment and drink the dew (water) that forms on leaves due to condensation. You can mimic this environment by misting your chameleon and leaves early in the morning and once at night after the lights have turned off. You can also mist several times throughout the day if you choose. You can mist by hand or you can purchase an automatic mister to make this easier. I use a Zoo Med ReptiRain automatic mister which just hangs on the side of the cage. However, don't just rely on the automatic mister unless you actually see it misting the cage. They can break and of course, make sure you keep it full of water.
In addition to misting, I recommend that you drip water onto a leaf so that your chameleon can drink the water off the leaf. To accomplish this, you can either poke a pin hole into the bottom of a plastic cup or jug or you can buy something like Fluker’s Reptile Dripper and place it on top of the cage. The store bought dripper lets you adjust the drip flow. You will want to place a cup under the leaf to catch the dripping water. Place a thin twig into the cup which extends out of the cup so the chameleon can climb out of the cup if it falls in. ***It is important to place a twig into any container that you put in the cage so that the chameleon has a way to climb out if it falls in.***
If you think your chameleon may be dehydrated, look for sunken eyes or dry poop. A normal poop should have a white portion (urates) which is moist and has some clear liquid around it and also, a brown "tubular shaped" portion.
Crickets!!! If you can't deal with live crickets don't buy a chameleon. :)
I recommend that you start by feeding your baby Veiled Chameleon 3/8 inch crickets every day. Feed your chameleon in the morning and try to provide only as many crickets as your chameleon will eat within 5 minutes of feeding. Typically, my baby Veiled Chameleons will eat 4-5 crickets each morning. If you want to try a second feeding in the afternoon, I would only provide 1 or 2 crickets at a time to see if your Chameleon goes after them. It will take some trial and error to get a feel for how many crickets your Chameleon will eat. Try not to have left over crickets roaming the cage at night because they could bite your sleeping Chameleon.
You can move up to 1/2 inch crickets when you feel your chameleon is large enough to handle that size. Some people say that the "distance between the eyes" is a good rule of thumb to determine the appropriate size of cricket. Once your chameleon gets bigger, you can also offer additional bug/worm options such as meal worms, wax worms (only occasionally), super worms, dubia roaches, etc.
Veiled Chameleons are omnivores (which means they also eat vegetables matter). Typically, young chameleons show no interest in anything that doesn't move. However, as your chameleon gets older (or you even try now), start to offer vegetables and fruit. Just make sure the pieces are size appropriate for your chameleon. If you google "vegetables and fruit suitable for a chameleon", you will find lists of acceptable items to feed your chameleon.
Crickets and worms should always be gut loaded before feeding them to your chameleon. Gut loading is the process in which crickets and worms are fed nutritious foods with the intention of passing those nutrients to the chameleon. I gut load with Fluker's High-Calcium Cricket Diet which is a powder I just sprinkle on the bottom of the crickets' storage container. In addition, I supply fruit and vegetables for gut loading which serves to provide both nutrition and hydration for the crickets. I think of a cricket or worm like it is an empty shell... it is only as nutritious for your Chameleon as the food you put in it.
It is important to feed "dusted" crickets to your chameleon several times per week. I alternate between dusting with Reptivite and dusting with Calcium w/D3. Dusting simply means you pour some Reptivite or Calcium powder into a plastic bag or container, add some crickets... and shake. The powder will coat the crickets which should immediately be fed to your chameleon before the dust falls off the cricket.
There is some discussion amongst reptile hobbyists whether it is better to use Calcium w/D3 or Calcium without D3. Chameleons utilize Vitamin D3 to metabolize Calcium. However, if a chameleon is provided with sufficient UVB light, it can produce its own Vitamin D3. Since we merely mimick natural sunlight with our UVB bulbs, I choose to use Calcium w/D3 and have had good results especially with my gravid females. However, be aware that some sources say it is possible to overdose vitamin D, causing problems with your chameleons' kidneys and liver. You can alternate dusting with Calcium w/D3 and Calcium without D3 if you want to be more conservative.
2. What to do once your baby Veiled Chameleon arrives
Typically, your chameleon will be a bit stressed upon arrival. Try to provide some quiet time without handling to let it become accommodated to its' new surroundings. Make sure your chameleon has water available by either misting or dripping water on leaves around it or by dripping a little water on its snout.
After a few hours, you can try putting one or two crickets in the cage to see if your chameleon will eat them. Personally, I think it is a good idea to initially put a few crickets into a five-inch high clear container with the cap on and place the container into the cage to see if your chameleon shows interest in the crickets. If not, you can keep the container closed until the chameleon shows interest. Once you open the container, place a thin twig into the container which extends out of the container. The crickets will climb up the twig and the chameleon will also climb down the twig to get to the crickets.
Don't worry if your chameleon doesn't eat for a day or two when it first arrives. As long as the chameleon is hydrated, it'll be fine.
Please don't just rely on my advice. There are many informative websites and Chameleon Forums to check out. In addition, there are several Facebook groups devoted to Veiled Chameleons. Obtaining information from numerous sources, reading about other hobbyists' experiences, and sharing your own experiences are all part of the fun!!!
3. Differences between Male and Female Veiled Chameleons
The gender of a Veiled Chameleons is easy to determine right after hatching because males are born with a spur (a little bump) on the back of their hind legs. Females do not have the spurs.
Male Adult Veiled Chameleons typically become larger than females as they mature, with a larger casque (crest on his head), and a wider range of coloration. My male displays yellows, browns and green coloration depending on his mood. Males can become more aggressive than females (although my male is a big docile teddy bear who loves to hang out on my shoulder).
Female Adult Veiled Chameleons typically remain smaller than males (more manageable for smaller kids), with a smaller casque. My female displays various shades of green, brown and blue coloration depending on her mood. Also, Female Veiled Chameleons lay eggs 3-4 times per year once sexually mature (even without a male present... although those eggs will be unfertilized).
When a female is ready to lay her eggs, provide a bucket filled half-way with moist dirt. (I use a kids' beach bucket.) She will dig to the bottom of the bucket, deposit her eggs and then cover them up. It is a pretty cool process to observe. Once she has finished, you can then discard her unfertilized eggs. A female is ready to lay her eggs when she appears fatter than usual and you see her roaming the bottom of her cage searching for a suitable place to lay them. It is important that you provide her with the bucket of dirt at that time because if not, she'll either lay the eggs randomly around the cage, or she could become egg bound which is potentially fatal.
4. Chameleon Behavior and Salmonella
As I mentioned previously, once Chameleons become adults... they become territorial. Therefore, you should only house one chameleon per cage.
A healthy and happy Chameleon will explore every inch of its cage, eat daily and poop daily. If your Chameleon is not eating and pooping or it sits still with its eyes closed during the day, that is a sign that it is stressed and something is not right... could be temperature, improper lighting, dehydration or maybe it was handled too much that day.
It is important to understand and respect your chameleon's behavior. A chameleon will gape its mouth, arch its back and flatten its body when it feels threatened. If your chameleon does this, respect its wishes and leave it be. An adult Chameleon has sharp teeth and its bite can break the skin.
Chameleons change their coloration based on their mood or temperature. If your baby Veiled Chameleon is showing very dark green or brown coloration, it is most likely stressed or cold. When your baby Veiled Chameleon is sleeping, it will often be light green. If your baby Veiled Chameleon is happy, it will be a medium green. As your Veiled Chameleon gets older, it will start to show a wider range of coloration. If you look at the photos and videos of my adult male and female Veiled Chameleon, you will get a good idea of what your baby chameleon will look like in about six months. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree...
***I feel it is the responsible thing to warn you that Chameleons can carry salmonella. I have raised both my adult Veiled Chameleons from babies and I have never had any issues. However, you should always wash your hands after handling and cleaning up after your chameleon (especially children). This is one of the reasons why it is important to buy reptiles from a breeder. Reptiles from pet stores or on-line stores are often wild-caught. Wild-caught reptiles more often carry salmonella, have internal and external parasites, and can often have difficulty adapting to captivity. If you have ever heard of someone complaining that their Veiled Chameleon is always mean and aggressive towards them... it was probably wild-caught.
In order to ensure a successful experience for both you and your new pet Chameleon, I am available via email, chat (bottom right corner of this page), or text (914-874-9777) to provide advice and answer questions about preparing for and caring for your new chameleon.
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