Basic Care: Veiled Chameleons
NOTE: Veiled chameleons are best housed alone due to aggression and territoriality.
We recommend screen cages such as the ZooMed ReptiBreeze which are taller than they are wide since chameleons are arboreal (they live and climb in trees). Glass aquariums also typically don't provide enough ventilation for this species.
Cage Size: 16" x 16" x 30"
Adults: Mimimum 18" x 18" x 3', but larger is better
Vines or branches for climbing
Live plants such as Ficus benjamina, golden pothos, or umbrella trees are good options. Ficus benjamina are excellent for climbing, but can produce irritating sap when they are pruned, so remove them from the cage for pruning until the sap has dried.
HEATING AND TEMPERATURE
Heating should be provided with an appropriately size heat lamp. Cage temperature should be 85-90 on the warm side and no lower than 75 on the cool side. A basking spot of 95-100 should be provided near the top of the cage. Be sure that climbing branches do not get too close to the bulb, or the chameleon may burn its casque or back. Monitor temperatures using a digital thermometer with a probe or an infrared laser thermometer. We also recommend using a reptile thermostat to allow for better, more accurate and safer control of cage temperatures.
UVB lighting is necessary for chameleons to properly absorb calcium from their diets in order to utilize it for hardening their bones. Reptiles living outdoors get their UVB directly from the sun. UVB cannot pass through normal glass, so placing an indoor reptile near a window will not supply them with the UVB they need. Reptiles housed indoors need to be provided artificial UVB light by the use of special bulbs specifically designed for reptiles.
We recommend Zoo Med brand UVB bulbs. Use the 10.0 for most chameleons. The Zoo Med Powersun UVB bulb is a mercury vapor bulb that produces both heat and UVB, but should only be used for reptiles living in large enclosures as it may cause higher temperatures than are safe and/or burns.
If you're using a fluorescent UVB bulb, make sure your reptile can get within 12-18" of the bulb. Use branches or logs if needed so they can climb closer. Conversely, mercury vapor bulbs produce a large amount of heat, place these bulbs a minimum of 12" away from your reptile's basking spot. Dense screening material can block as much as 50% of the UVB lighting. If your cage has a very dense screen, multiple bulbs may be recommended.
UVB reptile bulbs should be replaced every 6-12 months depending the model, even if they are still producing visible light. UVB bulbs have a coating inside the glass that allows them to emit UVB lighting. This coating wears off after about 6-12 months and the bulb will stop producing the UVB your reptile needs.
Please feel free to ask us if you need further assistance choosing the correct lighting options for your pet.
Veiled chameleons are for the most part insectivores, meaning the bulk of their diet is insects. However, this species is known to nibble on foliage (such as the golden pothos) from time to time. These lizards should be fed a variety of feeder insects daily. Select a variety of the following: crickets, mealworms, superworms, soldierfly larvae*, waxworms, horn worms, silkworms*, and dubia roaches*. Feeder insects should be smaller than the width between your chameleon's eyes in order to be swallowed easily.
* - highly nutritious
Captive reptile diets are notorious for being imbalanced in many vitamins and minerals. This is mostly just due to the fact that it's still very hard to completely simulate their natural food sources. It is extremely common for their diets to have too high phosphorus and not have enough calcium. This can lead to calcium deficiencies and serious condition called metabolic bone disease (a.k.a. nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism). We recommend chameleons' food be sprinkled with a calcium carbonate daily, such as Zoo Med's ReptiCal (without D3). We also recommend using a multivitamin 1-2 times a week. We recommend Zoo Med's Reptivite because vitamin A deficiencies are fairly common in many reptile species and Reptivite is one of the few reptile multivitamins which contain true vitamin A. If your reptile is housed indoors, make sure to choose Reptivite with Vitamin D3. Both calcium and multivitamin supplements come as a powder that can be sprinkled prey insects.
VITAMIN A SUPPLEMENTATION
Vitamin A is an important vitamin for reptiles and amphibians to have healthy eyes and eyelids, skin, mouth, trachea and lungs, muscles, bones, and reproductive system. Unfortunately, many insect-eating reptiles and amphibians do not get enough vitamin A in their diets.
Supplementing your reptile with a quality, powdered multivitamin can help prevent defences. Sprinkle this onto their food 1-2 times weekly. Make sure when choosing a multivitamin for your reptile to check to see what it is using as the source of vitamin A. Make sure that your multivitamin has actual vitamin A in the form of either retinol acetate or retinol palmitate, not beta-carotene only. Research suggests that many species of insect-eating reptiles and amphibians are not able to utilize beta-carotene as a source of vitamin A. We recommend Zoo Med's Reptivite.
In Arizona, it is difficult to hand-mist chameleons' enclosures enough to keep up with their humidity and droplet-drinking needs. Ideal humidity is between 40-60%. I recommend an automatic misting system set to go off intermittently throughout the day -- please monitor humidity closely and adjust your mister's settings as necessary for your species of chameleon. Examples of automatic misting systems include the ExoTerra Monsoon or the MistKing. You should aim the mister so that it causes droplets to form on perches, live plants, or artificial plants -- your chameleon will drink from these droplets.
Like most captive animals, reptiles can benefit from environmental enrichment and behavioral training. Enrichment is the process of enhancing an animal's environment to increase species-appropriate behaviors and to increase their choices. Simple examples include providing varied hides, substrates, or climbing structures. More complex examples include target training or puzzle feeding. Reptelligence or Reptile Enrichment and Training (RET) are Facebook groups for reptile owners, keepers, and veterinarians -- they are good resources for ideas for reptile behavior, enrichment, and training. The recommendations from that group come from owners and are not peer-reviewed -- if you have questions or concerns about implementing enrichment ideas for your pet, please give us a call.