Chameleons for Pets
Chameleons for Pets
by Robert Hudson
Chameleons are fascinating creatures. They have both a prehistoric look and one of mythical imagination with magical powers and the ability to change colors over their entire body.
I had a nice chat with my internet buddy Frank the Tank who has a passion for these fanciful animals.
“I became interested in chameleons from a young age, seeing a Jacksons chameleon at Petsmart. Frogs and snakes and such creatures fascinated me from a young age. It was my primary bonding activity with my Dad. My Dad refused to buy me one, so I didn’t get one until I was 19 or 20 and could buy one myself.”
Chameleons are not a cuddly pet. You might have a one that will sit on your hand, but for the most part they tend to prefer to be left alone.
“They can be active, and prefer to move when there is a breeze, to simulate the flowing of branches in the wind. They are slow but deliberate walkers/climbers (spending 95% of their time in trees, arboreally). Their hands and feet are shaped like folding mittens almost, so they are equipped primarily to grip branches and bark, rather than walk along the ground. Though they will come down to move between trees, and females especially to look for a place to lay eggs or give live birth. They do sit still much of the day, moving mostly to find food or take cover from the sun or predators.”
Not For Beginners
“I would say they are not for beginners. The water requirements, misting/fogging at night is tough to pull off without the right technology. You can and many people do spray them, the plants and leaves with a spray bottle, but in my opinion this is impractical over the long term. A misting or fogging system (cool mist humidifier) is the way to go, automated on a timer.”
Special Care Requirements for Chameleons
- Temperature-basking spots up to 80F for some species and 90 degrees Fahrenheit for other species. At night the temp should not go below 60 degrees F. Ambient temperature of mid 70’s is fine during the day. A heat basking bulb light is needed for a hot spot.
- Enclosure with a water drip system, misting-fogging system (cool mist humidifier) Cage should be 3ft x 3ft x 4ft
- A perching area and a hiding spot should be available in the enclosure, preferably behind dense leaves, that is completely hidden from view and can block light.
- Screen cages are preferred though glass-screen hybrids also work
- Veiled chameleons thrive in a “forest edge” type of foliage arrangement, with one area of the enclosure dense with plants and the other serving as an open basking spot. Others may prefer more dense flora.
- Live plants and branches for them to climb on- ground level and upper levels
- Can only drink water from drops on leaves, which is where the drip system comes in.
- UV light- (ultraviolet-B emitting fluoride bulb) to produce Vitamin D, mimicking sunlight. 10 hours a day
- Diet of insects, worms, leaves, various greens, berries and fruit
|Standard reptile care|
|General reptile care such as providing a source of UVB light, heat, and the correct humidity levels applies to chameleons. It is important to create a temperature gradient in the enclosure where one side is hotter, brighter, and more humid than the other because reptiles thermoregulate through their environment. Chameleons require more frequent and longer misting than other reptiles because they are only able to drink drops from leaves. You should also pay attention to keeping surfaces dry to prevent fungal or bacterial growth.|
|Chameleons are a distinctive and highly specialized clade of Old World lizards with 202 species described as of June 2015. The members of this family are most known for their distinct range of colors as they are able to shift in different hues and brightness. Wikipedia|
Family: Chamaeleonidae; Rafinesque, 1815
Lifespan: Veiled chameleon: 6 – 8 years, Panther chameleon: 5 – 7 years, Jackson’s chameleon: 5 – 10 years
Common Species Kept as Pets
The veiled chameleon, Chamaeleo calyptratus from Arabia, is insectivorous, but eats leaves when other sources of water are not available. It can be maintained on a diet of crickets. They can eat as many as 15–50 large crickets a day.
Jackson’s chameleon (Trioceros jacksonii) from Kenya and northern Tanzania eat a wide variety of small animals including ants, butterflies, caterpillars, snails, worms, lizards, geckos, amphibians, and other chameleons, as well as plant material, such as leaves, tender shoots, and berries. It can be maintained on a mixed diet including kale, dandelion leaves, lettuce, bananas, tomatoes, apples, crickets, and waxworms.
The common chameleon of Europe, North Africa, and the Near East, Chamaeleo chamaeleon, mainly eats wasps and mantises; such arthropods form over three-quarters of its diet. Some experts advise that the common chameleon should not be fed exclusively on crickets; these should make up no more than half the diet, with the rest a mixture of waxworms, earthworms, grasshoppers, flies, and plant materials such as green leaves, oats, and fruit.
Some chameleons like the Panther chameleon of Madagascar regulate their vitamin D3 levels, of which their insect diet is a poor source, by exposing themselves to sunlight since its UV component increases internal production.
All photos by Frank the Tank Click on any pic to open the Gallery
One of Frank’s favorite Chameleons is the pygmy Brookesia species. Brookesia is a genus of chameleons that live in Madagascar, (an African island) and are one of the smallest of all reptiles. They are known as leaf chameleons. They are mostly brown in color and considered terrestrial, (living on ground level rather than in trees).
Another is the Helmeted chameleon (Trioceros hoehnelii). Trioceros hoehnelli is a small to medium-size chameleon, growing up to 10 inches in total length (including tail). Coloration varies considerably with bright colors.. During morning hours, it may be seen basking in the sunlight, almost completely black in color to capture heat energy from the sunlight. This species has a single horn on the rostrum, a serrated back crest, and a spiny throat crest. Males are typically larger than females with a larger casque, horn, and enlarged tail base.
Take the Plunge
Still want a chameleon in your life? Having a chameleon as a pet is really just re-creating a natural habitat display to observe these animals. If you have an artistic flair and creative imagination, you can have the time of your life building a replica habitat. Plants, wood, sand, rock. Driftwood, Manzanita wood, Ghost wood are all suitable, Grape vines will look much like vines in the jungle. Chollo wood has a unique looking texture. These natural woods are often cleaned and sanitized by sandblasting to be sterile-parasite and fungus free.
Josh’s Frogs– tons of information on reptile and amphibian habitat enclosures, care info, wood and decoration, and various supplies.