Veiled Chameleon Care Sheet
Nearly all chameleon species are solitary and intolerant of other chameleons being housed with them. For this reason, the rule of thumb is always one ADULT per a cage. Veiled Chameleons have distinctive personalities, trust me when I say that no two veiled chameleons are the same. While some veiled chameleons are very tame and will even climb towards the cage door to greet people, some come veiled chameleons will rarely come out or interact with people. It’s always a good idea to allow your chameleon out of its cage to walk around (supervised of course). It allows your chameleon to exercise that bit more, it can interact with different textures in your room.
Want to tame your Chameleon? Yes tame your Chameleon, it can be done.
Try to feed your chameleon using your hand, when it is around 12 weeks old. You could feed a wax worm from your palm for the first time as Chameleons love these worms, be careful though not to get carried away and over feed with wax worms, they are very fatty indeed. Make sure you at lest 10” from your Chameleon and there is nothing going on behind you. You will know if your Chameleon is interested as its head will turn towards the wax worm and both eyes will lock on. If this is not the case, nudge the worm so it moves a bit.
When the Chameleon is ready to eat it will fire its tongue out to catch the worm at lightning speed.
While it could take a while initially, your Chameleon will become more confident with time. Then, it will take out food from your palm quicker. You can then slowly introduce other foods.
Do not however rush this process some Chameleons will take to this pretty quickly, others may not. The key is not to harass or stress the chameleon.
Chameleons can be housed in both Chameleon enclosures that are specially built or in vivarium’s (height should be around 20” for housing an adult). We tend to use either all screen vivarium’s or glass vivariums and replace a glass door with mesh panel for extra ventilation.
Chameleons need lots of ventilation and poor ventilation from the likes of a fish aquarium will promote stagnation of air and growth of bacteria, fungus or molds. As a result, your Chameleon could become vulnerable to infections, repertory problems or even perish!
Furnish the cage with branches of different lengths and widths so your chameleon can scale the all parts of the cage. If you house real plans, it will function as hiding havens, added humidity and beauty. Many Chameleons will eat vegetable matter, so, non-toxic plants are a must. Most Chameleon breeders choose Umbrella plants, Pothos, hibiscus, Ficus “Alii”, Ficus benjamani and Ficus natidia. You can also use plastic plants, as they’re easy to clean. We use both live plants and fake plants and vines together.
Plants, branches and lights should be arranged in a way to allow a minimum of one basking site for temperature regulation. The basking site should reach the upper limit of the comfortable temperature range. The temperature in other parts of the enclosure should have lower temperature to allow the Chameleon to thermoregulate (pick its temperature) by moving up and down in the enclosure. We never use substrate with chameleons since it “could” get stuck in their throat or digestive track and trigger life threatening issues.
Veiled chameleons, originate from Yemen or Saudi Arabia should be kept in hotter temperatures during daytime. Sunbathing or basking areas should be a good 30C – 35C. The area right opposite to basking area should be approximately 6C) cooler than the basking area, which can be done using a mesh door. You could use any 40/60 watt light bulb for the basking spot and change the watts to get adequate temperature. Instead, the bulb can be attached to dimmer thermostat that has heat a sensitive probe near basking spot.
Baby chameleons don’t need higher temperatures like adults, during daytime. Veiled chameleons can endure diversely distinct temperatures, being hard animals. Even so, they need an approximate drop in temperature of 12-14C at nights. When chameleons are kept in normal houses even in the UK they don’t need heating at nights and all lights should be off at nights. This way, they sleep better and their natural habitat is simulated, where temperature drops at nights.
Don’t cover the heat source using wire cage as Chameleons have a habit of climbing on everything and you don’t want them to climb the cage and burn themselves on the underside. It is ideal to keep the heat source farther, to prevent contact. Basking spot light must be on for a good twelve hours in a day.
Just like other chameleons, lighting is very important for veiled chameleons too. Veiled chameleons need UVB/UVA generating light source, along with a basking/heat light. Exposure to UVB and UVA lets chameleons to synthesize Vitamin D3, which allows calcium absorption, which is impertinent for chameleons. Without this light the chameleon will quickly succumb to MDB (Metabolic Bone Disease) and will die a very painful death.
Suggested lights that offer enough UVA / UVB exposure include Arcadia D3 Reptile Light, ZooMed’s ReptiSun 5.0, ZooMed’s Iguana Light 5.0, Repti-glow 8.0 Reptile Light and Interpet Triton Reptile D3 Light. The strength of the bulb will be dependent as to where the bulb is located i.e. you will need a stronger UV bulb if it outside the chameleon cage over a mesh roof.
Chameleons need the light on for at least 12 – 14 hours during the day and it is essential to keep the lighting times constant. Chameleons do of course love sunlight. So when it is hot out there, it is a good idea to put your chameleon to bask. We all know artificial light is no match for the sun, so let them bask in sun rays whenever possible. For the sun-loving reptile like veiled chameleon, it will be a treat.
We place ours (individually) in a pop up mesh cage which is staked to the ground. We place several plants within the mesh enclosure so the chameleon can retreat from the sun should they choose to do and we also spray the chameleon a couple of times to keep them hydrated. Please though do not leave your chameleon unattended in these situations. They are masters of escape and your neighbours cat might take a fancy to your chameleon.
Veiled chameleons are insectivorous, so their main diet will be live insects like locusts and crickets. Several Veiled Chameleons will also eat vegetable matter and fruit, not all chameleons eat fruit and veg though so don’t worry if yours doesn’t. That’s one reason why enclosure plants are being eaten and destroyed. Grated carrots or sweet potato, watercress and spring greens (chopped) are ideal food choices. They also consume Dandelion leaves, an option if you don’t get watercress or spring greens. However, only pick leaves that have not been spray with weed killer, lawn food etc etc. These are not only good foods for your chameleon to eat directly they are also perfect for gut loading your chameleon’s food.
Captive chameleons need Vitamin and Calcium supplements. Though we can’t really explain the reason in detail, they need Vitamin D3 for nerve functioning and metabolism of calcium, while calcium is needed for growth. While basking, their body does produce Vitamin D3, since they’re exposed to sunlight and UV rays. However, since they’re not much under direct sunlight for basking and often under spectrum lights that are manufactured to radiate UV rays, additional supplementation becomes a necessity, without supplementing correctly your chameleon will rapidly become ill and will die.
You can feed you Chameleons live insects and fresh vegetables. We tend to use an empty tub that the insects come in and 24 to 48 hours before they are to be fed, place them in the tub with fresh water or water gel, fresh veg, fruit and we use bug grub. Before they are read to be fed take out the food and water and take a pinch of calcium powder and sprinkle it over the insects, put the lid on and gently shake to ensure that all insects have a light dusting of powder on them.
How to feed your chameleon will be a trial and error process until you know how your chameleon feeds. You can try just letting the insects hop around in the enclosure. This allows the chameleon to hunt properly and stalk its prey as if it were in the wild. Great method but you need to ensure you collect up all the uneaten insects before the lights go out.
You can also try cup feeding. This is where you suspend a plastic cup (not see through) from somewhere in your chameleons’ enclosure. It must be where the chameleon can see them though. Put the insects in the cup with some fresh veg, insects might feed on the vegetables too, but they’re indirectly going to your Chameleon anyways!
For younger chameleons, baby food jar is an ideal food dish. The insects that are fed to your chameleons should be fed the same veggies as the chameleon. This way, they’re nutritious and healthy when your chameleon feeds on them. Here’s a list of insects you can consider feeding your Chameleon with:
Tip: All insects should be fed well for a day, before being served as food. Kale, shredded Carrot or other food should be added to the insects tub. You could leave them at least 24 hours before feeding them to your chameleon.
Do you know brown crickets are better than black ones? Yes, that’s because black ones can bite your chameleons when they’re sleeping and yes we have been bite a few times from the larger black crickets. They can also chew through the polystyrene background in your chameleons’ enclosure.
When crickets are being fed with carrot or sweet potato and greens, they become very nutritious and can make up 80% of your chameleon’s diet. However, they’re low on phosphorous/calcium, necessitating additional supplements when feeding crickets. Using pure calcium powder is ideal, instead of the ones that also include vitamins.
You can feed adults crickets that are 2 – 3 weeks old, since they’re not very large and suit younger chameleons too.
An ideal food for veiled Chameleons, feed them with greens, grated carrots, dandelion leaves or kale before feeding them to your Chameleons. You can choose small hoppers for young ones and adults for adults. Harmless to you and your chameleon but can be destructive if left in the enclosure as they can strip your plants.
These little worms can be fed up making them very high in nutrition before turning them into a high quality meal for your chameleon, and they’re very cheap too. You can feed them with vegetables and fruits, though off the counter gut loaders like bug grub are also OK. However, feed occasionally, since the hard chitin shell that mealworms come with isn’t digestible and can block the gut of your favorite pet if overfed.
Though these super worms look akin to mealworms, they’re bigger and come in a different color. However, only when your chameleon is large enough, these make ideal meal. Exactly the same gut loading procedure as the other feeders. Feed them with vegetables and fruits or off the counter gut loaders. Since they have more mass as compared to mealworms, they make better meals. It is an ideal feed when they get rid of their hard shell (when they’re white colored).
Waxworms are nutritious, rich in moisture and storing them is easy and the best place to keep these is in your fridge. Your Chameleon will absolutely LOVE them. You can make the waxworms more nutritious by having them fed with Bee Pollen Granules from any food store. However, Chameleons do tend to get addicted to them at times and won’t take anything else for food! To ensure this doesn’t happen with your Chameleon, make sure there’s a healthy balance of other foods too. If you want to get your Chameleon eat from your hand, this is the best food for trial.
Many Chameleon owners have insect traps setup through summer, so they can have their own supply of insects. Not really something we do as you have no idea where the insect has been, what it’s landed on or what it’s eaten.
Some love to add pinkie mice to their Chameleon’s diet. Though not all Chameleons will like them, it is more to do with what your Chameleon likes and if or not they should be fed with pinkie mice once a week. If they like them, they add more nutrients and calcium to your Chameleon’s diet.
When veiled Chameleons are young, you should feed them more, as much as they can eat and young chameleons love fruit flies, small crickets and small locusts. When your chameleon gets older, you should opt for a more standard diet like adult locusts, large mealworms, large crickets, waxworms, marioworms etc. If you let your Chameleon eat too much, it will likely become unhealthy and obese. When young, they can eat anywhere between 5 – 15 small crickets or similar sized insects every day and 3 – 10 grown adults or larger insects as adults every other day.
Now there are so many different options and variations and everyone has their own way of doing things so to keep things really simply here is what we do:
Below given supplements are needed for an adult Veiled Chameleon:
Calcium: In most feeds, although if feeders are gut loaded and you are have your UV setup correctly you can dust every other day. Make sure its Pure Calcium with NO D3
Multivitamins: Dusting Nutrobal Multivitamin and Calcium Powder with D3 twice a month to their meal, is
Very few chameleons learn to consume water from standing water dish. We have seen it though so it’s not impossible, but none of ours have ever drank water from a water dish.
When out in the wild, chameleons lick raindrops and dew from leaves and prefer movnig water. For this reason, when they’re kept in captivity, you must adopt different techniques to ensure they stay hydrated and healthy by consuming enough water. Naturally, chameleons are drawn to water droplets that reflect light. Chameleon keepers can consider this natural character and opt for drip systems, which is often adopted for watering chameleons. This system comes with a container that houses water and a plastic tube through which water can be transported into the chameleon’s cage. Water drips from the tube opening. Pre-made drip systems are also available and come with adjustments to control water flow rate or drip rate. Simple drip systems can also be used. For example, a tub filled with water can be used after puncturing a hole in the bottom and then, suspending it from the ceiling. If you are using drip system for watering the chameleon, make sure the cage doesn’t become wet and soggy. This can also be accomplished by putting a container in the cage, to ensure dripping water doesn’t spill over. However, choose a container that won’t get tipped over by your chameleon. You can also cover the container with mesh to ensure crickets or other insects don’t fall in.Water should be emptied at the end of the day.
The most effective and efficient way to get water to your chameleon is misting the enclosure insides twice a day, once in the morning and once in the late afternoon/early evening. Chameleons will lick off the water eagerly, from the enclosure and plants. Several of our chameleons will walk towards to the hand sprayer and drink the spray directly. Each misting should be between 5 and 10 mins a time but please ensure the enclosure is dry before misting again.
Chameleons need clean drinking water, preferably warm. There are several options here. Expensive RO (Reverse Osmosis) not worth looking into unless you have several chameleon enclosures set up with an automatic mister. Mineral water slightly warmed by adding a little boiling water is also perfect. We however, simply boil the kettle and let the water cool it so the chlorine disburses.
The temperature of water falls dramatically when it is being sprayed so be careful not to give your chameleon a blast of cold water, it will not like it. It is a good idea to keep the spray your hand first so you know how hot or cold the water is. If it is warm to touch, the temperature is right (the sprayer should have hot water, to get the temperature right when spraying from about 10”). However, if your Chameleon tries to drink directly from the spray nozzle, be careful, as the water can be very hot if your chameleon gets too close to the nozzle.
Female Chameleons – Egg Laying
Like any egg laying lizard, female chameleons can get killed when they’re not cared for enough while retaining eggs. Another popular myth is that when a female Chameleon doesn’t mate, it will die egg bound. This is not strictly true! However, when not given the correct place to lay eggs, it is still possible for a female chameleon to die. Female Chameleons produce eggs 2 – 3 times in a year, irrespective of whether they mate or not!
A good egg-laying site could be a plastic box (ideal size being 15”*8”*8 height) with damp bird sand or equivalents (don’t however use builders’ sand or lime-laden sands). When ready, the female Chameleon will dig tunnel and lay eggs, then fill the tunnel again. Make sure they’re adequately hydrated during this period as they tend to get dehydrated quickly, when their bodies expand to accommodate eggs. Expansions needs more water for moisture. Also, more effort will be required around the time eggs are laid, so females are usually tamer and interact more with you, than their male counterparts.
Sexing Veiled Chameleons
Veiled Chameleons can mate or have sex anytime, age no bar. You can differentiate the male with a spur in the heel, and the female doesn’t have it.
Chameleons: Health Considerations
Chameleons are a small old-world lizard; a slow-moving lizard with protruding eyes which are capable of rotating independently: they have a long extensible tongue, prehensile tail, and the amazing ability to change colour. Below we’ve listed some of the health considerations of Chameleons.
Don’t Stress Your Chameleon out
Stress is a very common health issue for Chameleons. Possible causes of stress might include keeping more than one chameleon in an enclosure, improper lighting and/or heating, or over-interaction by humans around their enclosure.
Usually, stress can be determined by the colour of your Chameleon. One indicator of stress might be a darker-than-normal coloration for an extended period of time: another obvious factor will be the Chameleon’s posture: if you notice your Chameleon is spending more and more time tightly holding closely to the branches in its enclosure (as in a sleeping position) this would be another indicator of stress.
The treatment for stress is actually very simple: determine the source (or sources) of the stress and remove it! Your Chameleon may refuse to eat while stressed, or after suffering from stress, but this is not a serious situation: the situation should remedy itself once the stress has been removed. It’s very important, however, to ensure your Chameleon stays well-hydrated.
Metabolic Bone Disease (MDB)
Metabolic Bone Disease is easily the most common illness amongst captive Chameleons. Symptoms of this condition include tremors or shaky movements, bent casque, bowed limbs, soft lower jaw, spinal deformity, inability to chew, inability to properly use tongue, and inability to feed.
We now know that the cause of Metabolic Bone Disease in Chameleons is often a lack of Calcium, UV-B light or Vitamin D3. It’s imperative that your Chameleon is exposed to a full spectrum light or unfiltered sunlight, ensuring adequate heat. Be careful to not expose your Chameleon to sunlight whilst in a glass enclosure. Treatment will also include daily supplementation of Calcium and Vitamin D3. If your Chameleon has become very weak we advise you to immediately consult your qualified veterinarian.
Respiratory infections in Chameleons can be caused by various factors; however it’s usually related to the enclosure and environment of the Chameleon. Symptoms of a respiratory infection might include forced exhalation, weakness, swollen or puffy eyes, loss of appetite, audible breathing, and/or an inflated body. Ensure that the temperature of the Chameleon’s enclosure be maintained at the correct levels, and check with your veterinarian to see if antibiotics are required.
Eye infections are quite a common problem with Chameleons, and if you’re lucky enough to catch it in its early you might be able to treat the condition yourself. Inspect the eye to locate any foreign matter, either in or around the eye. Try giving the eye a thorough misting to see if this might help flush out any dirt or other matter. It might be possible to use an oral syringe or small catheter to flush the eye out with water, but always, ALWAYS check with your veterinarian first to see if this is appropriate treatment. If the problem continues unchecked then you should make an appointment to seek medical assistance.
A mouth infection can be indicated by difficulty with feeding, infection and/or swelling along the gum-line, yellow puss -filled matter inside the mouth, or dark/black scabs along the gum-line and/or along the mouth. As with all infections it’s advisable to speak with your veterinarian prior to treatment: treatment may include cleaning the infection site (providing the matter is easily removed) and applying a topical antibiotic.
Symptoms of a tongue infection in a Chameleon might include enlarging of the tongue. You Chameleon may be incapable of fully extend its tongue whilst feeding, and/or a swollen gular area. Other symptoms include difficulties using their tongue when feeding, or even the inability to feed at all. In all these example’s we seriously advise you to contact your qualified veterinarian as quickly as possible.
Hyperextension of the Tongue
The key symptom of Hyperextension of the Tongue is when your Chameleon fails to fully retract its tongue back into its mouth. It’s rather horrific to witness and is very awkward for your Chameleon, however, it’s very simple to treat.
Place your Chameleon in a tank containing one low-climbing branch or vine for your Chameleon to hang onto. Be very VERY careful when moving your Chameleon with its protracted tongue, ensuring you adequately support your Chameleon and its tongue, thus preventing any kind of damage to the tongue. Line the bottom of the tank with damp paper towels or a damp lint free cloth to prevent drying out of the tongue. If all goes well, within 24-hours your Chameleon will have retracted its tongue without any assistance or interference. If this does not occur with a day or two, then you must consult your veterinarian for further advice.
Not particularly common in captive Chameleons. The sign of Subcutaneous Worms in your Chameleon will be noticing the outline of the worm just beneath the surface of the skin. It’s true that subcutaneous worms are generally found in imported, wild-caught chameleons, however there are known cases in domestically raised Chameleons.
The treatment for Subcutaneous Worms requires that a tiny incision be made in the chameleon’s skin: then, using a set of very fine tweezers the worm is carefully removed. While some more-experienced keepers and/or breeders are confident enough to attempt this extraction we seriously advise that you seek the services of a qualified veterinarian.