Everything You Need to Know About Supplies and Care
How big will my chameleon get? How important is the lighting I choose for my pet? Is there anything I need to know when it comes to chameleon hygiene? These are all common questions when it comes to owning and caring for these friendly color changing reptiles. That’s why we put together this comprehensive guide!
This guide will help you
Table of Contents
There are many species of chameleons - some that you may not have even heard of! While not all of them are commonly used as pets, there are some specific care guidelines to be followed with each type.
Currently, there are more than 160 different species, mostly found in Africa, Madagascar, Asia and Europe. Here is a list of some of the most common different species.
·Veiled chameleons- Mostly found in Saudi Arabia and Yemeni, these chameleons can live up to 5 years. They require a relative humidity of 70% and a day time temperature of 75-85* F. Apart from insects, they also feed on some plant matter. These are easy pets to care for if you’re a beginner!
Carpet chameleon- Found mainly in Madagascar, these smaller species of chameleons have a shorter life span compared to other chameleons. In fact, they usually only live for 3 years. They need a relative humidity of 65% and are hardy and active chameleons which make them great pets if the short lifespan won’t make you too sad.
Panther chameleon- These guys originated from the northern part of Madagascar. As compared to females the males are larger. They have a lifespan of 7 years. They need a daytime temperature of 75-85* F. and 70% relative humidity. Since they do well with people they are another common and great choice as a pet! They're also popular because they are a visually appealing species.
Fischer's chameleon- This is a very special type of chameleon that is not easily found in pet stores. As compared to the Jacksons, they have two horns and are moderately sized. They need a humidity of 85% and day time temperature of 75* F. When given the best care they can do very well as pets.
Graceful chameleon- This amazing speciesthrives in Ethiopia, Senegal, and sub-Saharan Africa. They come in different colors including brown, green, and yellow. Although their average length is 12 inches, they can grow up to 15 inches.
Oustalet chameleon- Oustalets are mostly found in Madagascar. They are very large and have a lifespan of over 12 years. They require a relative humidity of 70% and daytime temperature of 80* F. While not as common as pets, they are the best option if you want a larger chameleon. To put it in perspective, they can get as large as 27 inches!
Fourhorned chameleon- This species can naturally be found in Cameroon. They have a life span of 5 years. They need a humidity of 70% and a day time temperature of 75* F. They have a very distinct look, which makes them a common choice for pet owners who want a pal with a unique style. They do fine in captivity as long as they have a well designed and equipped habitat.
Meller chameleon- This very interesting creatures resembles a Parson’s chameleon and is believed to be the largest chameleon in Madagascar. They require a humidity of 70% and temperature of 75* F. These aren’t as common as pets but they can do fine in captivity.
Jackson chameleon- This "horny" little critter can be found in East Africa. They can live up to 8 years and can grow up to 13 inches long. They require a 65% humidity level and daytime temperature of 75* F. Jacksons are great pets because of their exotic look, which includes two creepy horns, and varying colors. Along with Veiled and Panther, these are some of the most common and loved pets.
Different species all grow to different sizes and as such, have different living requirements and necessities. In fact, certain species will even grow to different sizes based on their gender. Knowing how large your pet will grow can help you prepare appropriately and give it the living space it needs!
Veiled chameleon- As a hatchling, a veiled chameleon is approximately 4 inches. Although an adult female can grow up to 18 inches, a male may only reach 2 feet.
Carpet chameleon- While the hatchlings are approximately 1 inch, adults can grow up to 6 inches in overall length.
Panther chameleon- This species can grow even up to 20 inches while a baby panther is usually 2 inches in length.
Fischer chameleon- When they first hatch, they are 1 inch long but they can get up to 15 inches.
Graceful chameleon- These chameleons starts at approximately 2 inches but can grow up to 15 inches when fully mature.
Oustalet chameleon- Oustalet’s start at about 3 inches long but can reach 27 inches or larger.
Four horned chameleon- Adults are approximately 14 inches, while hatchlings start at 2 inches
Meller chameleon- Healthy hatchlings start at 4 inches, while adults are approximately 12 inches.
Jackson chameleon- Their hatchlings measures around 4 inches, while adults can grow up to 8 inches.
Generally, most chameleons need big enclosures and a good air circulation. Because they are arboreal, they also need large plants that they can climb. While some require a high humidity they all require some sort of a constant water supply to drink. They also need a light fixture that provides warm spectrum of light or an access to natural sunlight. Compared to other reptiles, they definitely have a lot of requirements to pay attention to! However, some of their needs can be met with simple items that you can acquire easily from your own backyard. Every habitat needs to be sure to include:
· Lighting- As exothermic cold blooded creatures, these reptiles depend on the outside heat to digest their food, have a healthy immune system, and be active. They need a UVB bulb and basking bulbs to provide the heat and lighting needed to synthesize vitamin D3 and maintain strong bones and healthy vitamins in their bloodstream.
· Misting system- Misting system will enable you to provide them with water at set intervals. An access to plenty of water through the day is very important for the pet. You can go cheap and use a spray bottle, but this requires that you be available to spray their cage 3-6 times a day. If you go for a misting system, you can pre-set the machine to run at intervals throughout the day which takes a lot of the work out of keeping a chameleon. Make sure to use a reptile water conditioner to ensure the water is clean and harmless.
· Basking spot- Make sure that you design an area inside their terrarium or enclosure that is designated as their basking spot to absorb energy from light. While this can be at the top of the plant, ensure that it is at least 8 inches away from both the UVB and heat lamps. There have been cases of allowing pet chameleons to get too close to the UVB bulb, which in turn causes serious eye problems and even blindness.
· Drainage- Since chameleons are not amphibious, they need to have adequate drainage in their homes. This will depend on the type of habitat that you have. If you have a glass vivarium, you may require a different strategy. You can also strategically drill drainage holes in the bottom.
· Plants- Although it’s recommended to have live plants, if you cannot, fake plants will do the trick. Live plants will not only provide better cover but will also provide good surfaces for drinking water. Make sure to have enough foliage to provide a basking spot, but also have a lower portion of the cage that is shaded and much cooler. This will allow your chameleon to escape the heat and remain comfortable.
· Branches- Adding branches to the habitat will provide your pet with pathways and walkways to move around. If these are not there, they may climb the screen sides which can rip out their nails. Even if there are plenty of plants you need to provide these. When the Chameleon is young, provide it with many different sized branches. As it grows and moves around the cage, branches for climbing promote muscle growth and health. You can find branches outside your home or you can purchase specially designed ones.
· Foods- It’s also important to have a large enough supply of feeders to ensure that your pet has enough food. Most chameleons diets can consist almost entirely of gut-loaded crickets. It is good to vary their diet from time to time though. The more broad their diet is, the more balanced their diet will be which will ensure that your pet does not get sick. Some other foods may be, live plants, super worms, phoenix worms, meal worms, fruit and vegetables, locusts, Horn worms, Silk worms, flies, and roaches. Some larger species have even been known to eat Mice, other reptiles, and birds.
Also known as bedding, this is typically required at the bottom of the enclosure. The best substrate to use is shredded newspapers. This is because it’s cheap and it can be easily disposed. However, if you intend to use a natural substrate, avoid cedar, corn cob, sand, kitty litter, and beddings that retain a lot of moisture. Remember, too much moisture trapped in the beddings can be a breeding ground for bacteria.
If you want your pet to stay healthy and enjoy a long life, it’s very important to provide them with appropriate lighting. This not only makes them a lot more comfortable, but is necessary for their survival, since they don’t produce heat internally. Lighting supplies that you need to have for your chameleon include:
UVB light- When it comes to indoor chameleons, this is one of the most important forms of lighting. Although UVB cannot be seen it’s important in the manufacture of vitamin D3. This enables your pet to absorb calcium. Lack of this can lead to severe deformation, metabolic bone disease and even death. The UVB bulbs available for purchase usually only last for 6 months before they need to be replaced. You only need to have one bulb for your pet’s habitat. Some of the most popular brands are:
Basking Light- This can be any bulb that generates heat. Since chameleons are cold blooded, they must absorb heat from their environment to regulate their body temperature. In order to digest their food well, they need a warm place to bask. Basking bulbs will provide them with warmer temperatures but should not produce so much heat that your pet's health is interfered with. Depending on your reptile's metabolic needs, it will utilize different temperatures throughout the day
The common types of bulbs, include compact fluorescent bulbs, linear fluorescent bulbs, night lights, and mercury vapor lights.
As a new keeper, one of the worst things you can do is to keep your chameleon in overly high tropical temperatures. It’s true that chameleons like to bask and the temperature in their home should be high. However, having a basking temperature of 95 degrees is a bit high for the pet. More so, if you have a young pet, you should equally provide it with a less hot spot. For chameleons that are 3 months old and younger, you need a basking temperature of 80 degrees. Remember, young ones are not good at thermo-regulation and may not know when to move to a cooler place in the cage. Instead of moving to cooler spots they will just open their mouths and pant.
This means it's important to provide your chameleon with a good temperature gradient to allow it to warm and cool itself when it needs to. While the basking spot should be at the top of the enclosure of up to 90 degrees, you should also have the coolest temperature at the bottom. This should come as low as 70 degrees. Believe it or not, chameleons can withstand temperatures as low as 50 degrees at night! While they can handle these low temperatures, they're the most comfortable in 60-70 degree weather while they sleep.
When it comes to keeping a chameleon as a pet, hydration is very important. It’s actually the primary factor that causes deaths when chameleons are in captivity. As compared to other pets, hydrating chameleons is rather involving. For instance, most can not take water from stagnant points. This means putting a bowl of water inside the cage is not sufficient to keep your pet hydrated. Chameleons, whether pets or wild, drink water that falls from branches or leaves. This is why getting your pet chameleon to drink water is a hard task. some of these pets may slow down their daily misting consumption and this can leave them dehydrated. This can be hard to understand especially if you are misting the enclosure 3 times a day. Some common hydration requirements and supplies include:
· Dripper- While these are available at most pet stores, you can also create them by simply poking small holes at the bottom of cup. Once you have one, place it at the top of the branches and leaves to allow water to drop down.
· Spray bottle- You can also use a spray bottle to mist your chameleon. The aim is copy what their natural environment may look like immediately after the rain. Since some chameleons might take time to get used to this you might end up with excess water in the first few days. Most chameleons do not appreciate being sprayed by the water. It took one of my veiled-chameleons up to 2 months to really be comfortable with water being sprayed into his enclosure.
· Shower- This is also another method of providing water especially when you have a dehydrated chameleon. Just place a large plant at the top and direct the shower towards the wall so that only fine mist reaches the pet. While using this method, ensure that you carry on close supervision.
· Automated misting- This refers to the use of a timer and electric pump used to automatically mist the cage at specific intervals of the day. The duration can be programmed and the misting heads strategically placed. This is very convenient and recommended for convenience and so your chameleon will start learning and getting used to regular watering times.
Some of the best feeders to give your pet include silk worms, horn worms, super worms, butter worms, grasshoppers, crickets, roaches among others. However, you should avoid catching the insects in the wild unless you are sure that they have not been subjected to insecticides and pesticides. Wild caught insects that you can use include dragon flies, locusts, certain pantry pests, and moths. Some of the insects to avoid include centipedes, ladybugs, spiders, fireflies, and scorpions.
· Babies- Although you can feed them up to 12 crickets per day, avoid over-feeding your chameleon. Some of these guys are very gluttonous and will keep eating until they are over weight and unhealthy. Find out how many crickets your chameleon will eat in one sitting. Use that number to either feed half that in the morning and half in the afternoon, or all in the morning. Most babies between 2-4 months eat about 10-15 small crickets daily, though some can eat up to 30. chameleons are very adaptable to their environment, so if you do not feed your pet enough when he or she is young, it will have a stunted growth. On the other hand, If you over-feed your chameleon it will mature too quickly and likely have health problems as it gets older.
· Juveniles- These are 5-12 months. You need to feed them on 6-10 crickets the size of the gap between their eyes. Proper cricket sizes for a juvenile chameleon are at the low end ½ inch, 5/8 inch , then ¾ inch a day. If you feed your chameleon crickets that are much too large such as adult crickets, your chameleon may choke. since overfeeding can lead to the development of MBD, as the chameleon grows older you need to keep an eye on how much they eat. When offering large quantities of food, it’s very hard to manage your supplementation. By feeding them consistently and with good quantities, you are likely to help them develop strong, dense bones that can support them well. You can only do this if you regulate the quantity of food.
· Adults- Chameleons that are more than a year old should be fed on only about 3-6 large crickets. However, at this stage, supplementing them is very important. This should be the major method of delivering vitamins, nutrients, and minerals to the pet. When it comes to supplementation, there is a way to ensure that your pet maintains a healthy body.
As compared to other animals, chameleons are fascinating and complex pets. Since you can't collect the over 50,000 insects that chameleons feed on, you must depend on supplements to ensure that your pet stays healthy. While dusting is important, too much of it can cause problems such as kidney failure, tongue and eye problems, gout and liver toxicity. When it comes to supplementing, gut loading should be the most important thing. By feeding your feeders a nutritious diet, you will ensure that the same diet is available for your pet chameleon to feed on. Here are the most important supplements:
· Calcium- This should be dusted in moderation daily. After dusting, it should only be slightly visible on the insects’ body.
· Vitamin D3- Giving this supplement depends on the pet’s exposure to light. If you expose it regularly, then giving the supplement is not important. However, if kept indoors then vitamin D3 is necessary. However, this should only be done once per week.
· Multivitamins- You also need to add a good dose of multivitamins at least 2-4 times a month.
**Just like the other supplements, avoid too many vitamins since this can cause a buildup which is not healthy for the vital organs of your pet**
Chameleons are a great pet to breed, but you need to know the signs that your reptile is ready. Males and females behave differently and have different displays of fertility and readiness to mate.
Male chameleons are usually ready to mate at 8 months old. This is believed to be best time for their reproductive life.
Females are usually ready to mate when they are 1 year old. The first sign that a female chameleon is ready for breeding is her color. She will have begin to take on a dull orange hue.
When these criteria are met, you can perch a male chameleon on your hand and move it towards the female. If the female is ready you will witness a complete change of demeanor. The male chameleon will then head-bob while moving towards the female. Once copulation starts, breeding can go on for several hours. You might keep them together for up to two days until the female starts rejecting the male.
After breeding, gestation period takes 20 days, 15 days after mating. The female will stop eating until it finishes laying eggs. You can keep it in a laying bin lined with dirt and soil, so that it can dig a tunnel to lay it's eggs. An important tip is to not watch too closely while the female is digging and laying her eggs, due to the fact that stress will complicate the reproduction process. Once it has finished, it will fill the hole. At this point it’s important to provide her with more water and calcium.
Carefully dig to the eggs and keep them in a sealed container that is about the size of a shoe box, that has a damp vermiculite or perlite, preferably mixed with 40% tepid water. Both of these are suitable for the process of incubation, but I prefer a mix of both. You can then keep these in a dark closet that remains at a constant 80 degrees Fahrenheit, leave them until they hatch.
If everything is fine, baby chameleons will come out after 6 months. Once eggs hatch, chameleons sit with their yolk for up to 2 days in order to absorb excess nutrients After one successful mating, females may produce more additional clutches without breeding.
Different species all have different standard temperaments. This is further compounded by the fact that each individual reptile will have it's own personality as well! Fortunately, there are some basic guidelines to follow to help keep your pet comfortable.
While keeping a chameleon as a pet, avoid handling it as much as possible. Chameleons are not only shy animals, they also move very slowly. Before reading the rest of this though, keep in mind there are cases of extremely friendly chameleons that do not mind getting touched or picked up.
When first getting a chameleon try not to handle it too much when it is young. As it gets older, be very patient and cautious when your chameleon starts getting used to you. Chameleons are very trust-oriented, so if you grab them off their branch or make surprising sudden movements while handling your chameleon you may lose his or her trust.
When frightened, chameleons will puff up and hiss loudly. They will often change colors into a dark shade of grey/black. Handling them too much might also increase their chances of getting sick. In case you have to handle your pet, do not pick it up, but rather place your hand and allow it to climb on it's own. Also, you should avoid holding its back, neck, tail or feet unless it’s very important to restrain it from hurting itself further.
As solitary animals, chameleons are very sensitive to stress. They are usually very aggressive and territorial towards other chameleons. The best way to keep more than one is by using separate cages. The presence of other animals or chameleons in the same enclosure or within sight can cause stress and even make them fall ill. Interestingly, even the sight of its own reflection is enough to make it stop eating. Some of the signs of temperament and attitude include not eating, feeling sick, and hiding.
Chameleons have different behaviors that should be watched. For instance, they are solitary animals and are very shy. Understanding this can help you know how to take good care of them. This means they do not thrive in places where there is lot of activity. Similarly, they don not like any constant interaction with humans even if you are their keeper. They react poorly to unneeded observation and frequent handing. To hide from disturbances, they tend to lean around branches.
Your pet's main method of communication is through color change. This can indicate good health, stress or even reproductive condition. Understanding this can greatly assist you when caring for them.
Abnormally dark color is a big stress indicator. Sleeping posture and lack of eating may also indicate something. Patterning and vivid coloring can also be used to show stress. Chameleons can also use low frequency sounds to communicate. This is usually used in defense, courtship, and territorial displays. While chameleons cannot hear our sounds, avoid low frequency noises around their habitats. To hide from predators, they tend to mimic branches in the wind. They do this by walking slowly while rocking back and forth
Keeping your pet and it's environment clean and hygienic is important for it's overall health. There are some important cleaning supplies that you should always have on hand and some important factors to pay attention to when it comes to their overall grooming.
To maintain their cleanliness, chameleons require routine care to make for a healthy and safe home that is also odor free. Since they are very susceptible to skin and bacterial infections, their cages and housing must be kept clean. To make sure that cleanliness is maintained you need to have cleaning tools such as sponges, brushes, rubber gloves, and disinfectant. You need to carry out a full cage cleaning at a least once a month. However, daily cleaning such as removing shed skin, uneaten food, and waste should not be forgotten.
You should begin the process by removing any solid waste including sand. You can use sand filter to ensure that sand cleaning is done in an easier way. You can then use a disinfectant to clean out the remaining items found in the cage. After cleaning, give the cage time to dry while giving the branches, rocks and sand time to cool, before returning the pet. Before and after touching the cage ensure that you clean your hands with soap and water. This will help you prevent contracting infectious diseases. Do not forget to remove feces from the habitat everyday.
Although animals can handle short term stressor, chronic situations can make them sick. If you are keeping a chameleon as a pet, too much stress will not only cause illness but will also make them less social and dampen their spirits. Stress can also greatly decrease your chances of breeding them.
While living in the wild, chameleons have a lot to worry about. This includes getting attacked, eaten, and not getting enough of their daily necessities. That's why it's your job to ensure that your pet doesn't have to deal with any of these issues in your home. When chameleons are in bad shape or look hurt it often means they are suffering from psychological stress.
When they are stressed they may show discomfort with their surroundings or even look for an escape route. Especially if you want to breed chameleons, you need to eliminate all the stress factors that might affect your pet. When you manage it's stress well, your pet is likely to stay healthy. The main stressors that you should be aware of include strangers, handling, other animals, reflections, lack of water/food, and anything that it could perceive of as a predator.
Chameleons are very sensitive animals that need specialized care. Without proper care, your pet chameleon can quickly become ill. The most important thing for your designated caretaker to know is what can make it ill and how to keep it comfortable.
If you are only going to be away for a short period of time you should get a timer for your lights to ensure that your daily schedule remains the same. You should make sure that your designated caretaker knows to check that this is functioning correctly.
If you will only be away for a day, your pet will not be without regular misting and food since it may be on an every other day feeding schedule. However, if you will be gone for several days or if you are keeping a baby, you need someone to come and feed your pet. This person needs to be trustworthy and not afraid of insects! When you are going out of town, the more automated your system the better. It’s also very important to educate your secondary caretaker well about your specific chameleon's personality.