Veiled Chameleon Care

History

The Veiled chameleon is indigenous to Yemen, in the southwestern region of the Saudi Arabian peninsula. This species is found in extreme environments ranging from arid desert to seasonal “wadis” or streams that form in the desert after rain. Chameleons are difficult animals to keep in captivity. In the past, most specimens in the pet trade were wild caught; however with changes in export regulations and better understanding of the care of the exquisite lizards, most are now captive-bred. These wild caught chameleons are also very difficult to acclimate to captivity and often do very poorly, even for experienced reptile keepers. However, captive bred chameleons purchased from a reputable breeder increase your success in receiving and keeping a healthy chameleon so if your heart is set on a chameleon, we recommend doing much research and finding a reputable breeder of chameleons.

Color & Size

Males are brightly colored, ranging from blue-green to green or yellow in appearance. Males are 18-24 inches (45-60 cm) long, while female “Veileds” typically measure up to 14 in (35 cm) long.

Diet

Veiled chameleons are typically fed a variety of gut-loaded insects such as crickets, mealworms, superworms, phoenix worms waxworms, grasshoppers, silkworms, and Madagascar roaches of appropriate size. Veiled chameleons also enjoy blossoms and leaves such as hibiscus, dandelions, ficus, romaine, and escarole. Dust the non-breeding adult’s diet with a calcium carbonate or calcium gluconate supplement once weekly. Calcium supplements should be devoid or low in phosphorus with a minimum Ca:P ratio of 2:1. Avoid products containing Vitamin D as this can lead to toxicity. A general vitamin/mineral supplement may also be offered once weekly. Lifespan Females typically live 3-5 years; the average male lifespan is 4-6 years. may live up to 6-7 years. Sexual maturity is reached between 4-8 months.

Housing

Cage Size & Design

House adults in a large, vertical all screen enclosure. Chameleons should never be housed in a glass aquarium. Minimum cage size is 2 x 2 x 3 feet (0.6 x 0.6 x 0.9 m) but much larger is recommended. Plastic-coated wire-welded mesh enclosures serve well. Cage furniture & supplies Provide multiple branches or twigs for climbing, potted plants (e.g. Ficus benjamina or hibiscus) to provide visual security, and a full-spectrum light source for normal absorption of dietary calcium

Temperature & Lighting

Chameleons need an ultraviolet (UVA/UVB) light source, so invest in a good bulb such as the Zoomed's Reptisun 5.0. Keep the UV light on for 10-12 hours per day. Remember these bulbs need to be replaced every 6 months. Chameleons also benefit from spending time outdoors in natural sunlight when the temperatures are warm enough (but beware of over heating -- make sure shade is always available). Maintain a temperature gradient of 70-95°F (20-35°C) using an overhead radiant heat source. Provide a 10-15°F (5-8°C) drop in temperature at night.

Water & Humidity

Veiled chameleons will not drink standing water from a bowl. Their natural source of water comes from dew drops that build up on leaves. To duplicate this in captivity use a dripper and/or mister to provide the water needed on the leaves. This should be done a by either by misting the plants twice daily or with an automatic watering system. This misting also replicates the moderate humidity level (around 50%) needed to house a chameleon.

Temperament

A mixed pair or two females can usually coexist well in a large cage with visual barriers. As for human contact, while they are usually quite docile towards people, handling tends to be stressful. As with other chameleons, they are pets that are better suited be being watched rather than handled a lot.

Handling

It is important to keep in mind that chameleons do best as primarily display animals. While they will tolerate handling to different degrees based on their individual personality, they tend to get stressed with excess handling. When you do handle your chameleon, do not restrain it but rather let the chameleon walk on you from hand to hand. You should be aware that panther chameleons are most comfortable when they are high up so often times when they are being held, they will attempt to walk up your arm and try to go onto your head. For long-term success with all chameleon species, limited handling is recommended.

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