Chameleons Care Sheet

Scientific name

The scientific classification of this reptile follows some processes like class, order, family, genera, and species.

Class:  reptilia (they are categorized as reptiles)

Order: Squamata

Family: chamaeleonidae

Genera: 7

Species:   200

Chameleons are an exciting and distinctive animal with a prehensile tail, 360-degree field of vision, and an tongue that can extrude up to 2 times their body length. There are over 200 different types of chameleon living all over the world.

Chameleon Diet

Chameleons are insectivores and can be fed a regular diet of crickets. Crickets should be no longer than the width of your chameleon’s head. When the opportunity presents itself, your pet will also eat flies, tomato worms*, silkworms, and other small insects.

*Hornworms (aka Tomato Worms) should be farm raised not wild caught. Farm raised are fed a safe gutload, whereas wild caught have been feeding on wild plants making them potentially poisonous.

Some species will also eat fruit, vegetables, and plant leaves. These supplemental items should only make up a small portion of a chameleons diet. Large wild chameleons will also eat small birds, rodents, frogs, and other lizards.

Some chameleon owners feed their pet “pinky mice”. This is not recommended as young mice do not offer much nutritional value. The high fat content can lead to health concerns later in life and chameleons are not well suited to digest animal protein.

Waxworms and mealworms have a high fat content as well and harder to digest so should be used sparingly.

Recommended feeder insects:

  • Crickets
  • Dubia Roaches
  • Llocusts
  • Flies
  • Tomato Worms
  • Butterworms

Occasional Food Items:

  • Mealworms
  • Silkworms
  • Waxworms
  • Superworms
  • Pinky Mice
  • Supplements

Calcium and phosphorous are recommended at a ratio of 2:1. Calcium is not generally provided with the average chameleon diet. Minerals can be applied to feed insects by way of dusting them with a commercial vitamin powder.

One easy trick to help increase your pets nutrition is to give your feeder insects nutritious food. Crickets will eat greens, fruits, oats, and starches. Optionally available is commercial cricket feed designed specifically for gut loading.

Take care not to over supplement your pet. If you have set up UVB lighting than you should supplement D-3 much less frequently as the D-3 is provided. A typical D3 application frequency is between once a week to once every other week.

Vitamin-A is the final nutrient you might want to supplement into your chameleons diet. Vitamin-A aids in bone health, immune system, reproduction, vision, and other vital systems. Vitamin-A can be found in Sweet Potato, Carrots, Dark Leafy Greens (Kale, Spinach, Collards), and even Apricot. These items can be fed to your chameleon if your pet will take it. Otherwise these items can be fed to your feeder insects to pass on.

Heating and lighting equipment

Originally, chameleons live in warm climates located in the rainforests and deserts where they are exposed to full spectrum lighting provided by the sun. In order to provide a warm home similar to their native environment, an appropriate lighting using the right types of light bulbs is required; below I will describe the sorts and benefits of the heating and lighting equipment I most recommend, to bring your pet those nature luxuries into its enclosure.

UVB Bulb

UVB light is the Number one item any keeper should think about, this specific light in the ultraviolet-B range (UVB) is very important for chameleons in captivity to stay alive. It improves the production of vitamin D3, which is vital to the chameleon for proper metabolism of dietary calcium. To replicate the sun’s rays into your enclosure choose a special lamp like this Fluorescent 5.0 Uvb Lamp, the number (5.0) stands for the average amount of UVB, which is the best for chameleons. While 2.0 is recommended for animals expecting less sunlight and so on.

Place your UVB bulb into a Lamp Fixture oriented directly above the enclosure. And make sure your chameleon cannot come in direct contact with the bulb to avoid burn accidents. Only a single UVB bulb is needed per cage and don’t forget to change it every 6 months.

The basking bulb

A basking bulb is a common heat generating source for reptile enclosures. Since the chameleons (cold-blooded) can’t produce warmth for their own bodies, this item is essential to keep a good temperature where the reptile can digest food properly and go down the tank whenever it needs a cooler place. I have to repeat that the basking spot lamp should be placed on the outside of the enclosure.

The wattage on the bulb’s packaging corresponds to the amount of heat. Generally, 50w to 75w is appropriate but it will depend on which amount of heat your type of chameleon needs and also the distance between the lamp the top of your tank. If you have no idea, I recommend to purchase one like this 75w Basking Spot Lamp and then you can increase or decrease the heat by placing the bulb more than 12 inches above the tank or less.

Ideally, both of the heating and UVB sources should be suspended in one fixture a few inches above the enclosure’s top to ensure no burns accidents and provide the adequate heat. For that, I highly recommend this Double Lamp Fixture, it is a very useful item to hang both UVB and heat bulbs.

Quick Tip

And for those who wants to save time, make a good deal and purchase all three items at once, I recommend this beautiful UVB and Heat Lighting Kit which comes with exactly what I mentioned above, a 60w heating bulb and a UVB 5.0 bulb. Turn them on during the day and off at night to let your chameleon enjoy a total darkness.

Ceramic Heat Emitter are another great option to provide heat to your chameleon and I would say it’s ideal for their long life (up to 7 months) making a constant source of heat 24 hours a day. During winter and with their lack of light, your chameleon will still have good nights staying warm and enjoying darkness at the same time. Highly recommended if the temperatures at night drop down lower that 60F (15C).

Temperature

It is definitely a factor when it comes to the proper care of your chameleon. Heating is recommended for chameleons of any size. Jackson chameleons don’t get as big as some of the larger Panther and Veiled chameleons when they are fully grown, and so therefore may not require as much light. Light heating lamps may be placed over top the sanctuary where you’ll be keeping your pet for optimum efficiency. Make sure to adjust the temperature correctly so they won’t get too hot, and be sure to have some shady spots in the sanctuary where they can get away from the harsh beams of light if they need to. UVB lights work best for most chameleons and should be kept on about 10 or 12 hours per day max.

Tips

  • Lights should be on for at least 10 hours a day and total darkness at night for the chameleon to sleep fairly.
  • All light bulbs should be out reach of the chameleon.
  • Since they can’t sweat, chameleons sometimes need a cooler place to cool down, the ground level should be cooler than the top of the tank.
  • The lake of UVB leads to severe deformation, Metabolism Bone Disease, and eventual death.
  • The UVB provided by sunlight does not penetrate glass or plastic well.
  • Chameleons do not need the night light to sleep, they enjoy total darkness and even the red and blue lights disturb their sleep.

Watering and humidity

Rain forests, savannahs, plains, and semi-deserts are the original and natural chameleon habitats, but the tropical rainforest is the common favorite climate for most of the reptiles, they thrive in hot and rainy environments. which means that humidity is a major factor for a chameleon to survive. However, some types of chameleons could be domesticated if you can provide a suitable climate in your terrarium. You can buy a terrarium or a tank and provide it with some equipment and materials as you attempt to duplicate the chameleon’s natural habitat as much as possible.

Water

Water is the most important nutrient. For a healthy chameleon care, your pet needs enough water and a humid habitat in order to live, stays healthy, and prevents dehydration. Knowing that chameleons drink the drops of water in a particular way using their tongues, the standing water is usually not recognizable as a drinking source for them.

Humidity

Chameleons are pets which require a moist environment, maintaining a good humidification system is important to keep them healthy, prevent dehydration problems and chronic diseases.

Therefore, you will need to set up a balanced watering and misting mechanism to ensure that adequate quantity of water flows into the habitat. Below, I will interduce you to the most common supplies used for this cause.

Equipment and techniques:

Dripper:

By placing a dripper on the top of your enclosure, that will constantly drip water onto the leaves of the plants. This will make it easier for your pet to drink drops and also bathe itself in the dripping water. Try to get an instrument like this Zoo Med Labs Drip System – Little Dripper, Simply place the drop system on top of the cage. If there is no screen top, make a small hole to fit the included tube. you can also set the dripping speed and it will continue to drip on its own, as long as there is water of course.

Misting mechanism:

Misting is the best method to maintain a good humidity in the cage and chameleons really adore that! for a great automatic misting mechanism i highly recommend this Reptile Humidifier, it’s the best reptile fogger around the internet. Super easy to setup, It is basically vaporizing the water traveling through a tube to let out a fog looking smoke at the end of the tube, so you don’t have to spray down the tank everytime (manual method). You can adjust how much fog goes into the tank from light to heavy and It’s also super quiet. Mist your cage at least twice a day, it makes the tank looks so tropical, I simply love it!

Tips

  • During winter when you use the heater constantly, cover the screen top of your cage with a towel or any thick material to help to maintain humidity.
  • For a manual watering, you can still use the spray method to water and mist your cage by using a spray bottle or a mister. the thing i loved about this Exo Terra Spray Bottle is that there is a switching device that allows the bottle to spray by itself instead of having to manually press.
  • Keep a steady watering to ensure that the terrarium is not overtaken by dampness to avoid the bacteria and deadly insects that may attack your chameleon.
  • a well-hydrated chameleon has usually well-rounded eye turrets and white urates, sunken eyes and orange urates are signs of dehydration.
  • Having live plants around and into the terrarium is the best natural way to help keeping the humidity in good level.

Cleaning

I recommend cleaning the chameleon habitat periodically. The frequency could be weekly in order to avoid the growth of bacteria and other harmful organisms. This exercise will ensure removing the dead leaves and insects or the waste products from the cage. Do not forget to remove your pet from the terrarium to a safe place before cleaning, to avoid disinfectants harming the lizard but watch out not losing it from your sight!

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