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Veiled Chameleon - Chamaeleo calyptorarus

Veiled chameleons are “true” chameleons. They have cone shaped eyes that are able to move independent of the other. This is a pet that really is not for the beginner. If you choose this species as a pet, you need to know how to care for them. They stress out very easy. They do not do well in communal cages. They need to be misted regularly and will generally not drink from a bowl. They will drink from moisture on leaves and cage walls. They are tropical reptiles and as such you will need to care for their needs. Appropriate temperature gradients will need to be maintained - so several thermometers spaced out in the cage areas is a good idea. 

Average Size - 6 to 12 inches long

Life Span - Up to 5 or more years with proper care

Diet - Provide a variety of live insects, including crickets, mealworms, and waxworms. Vegetables such as: collard greens; pothos and ficus leaves should also be fed to your veiled chameleon. Make sure to provide fresh greens. Do not overdo it with iceberg lettuce since it has little nutritional value. Remember to "gut load" crickets a day before offering to your pet. This can be done by feeding with any of the commercial insect foods available at pet shops. You should also dust crickets or other insects about twice each week with a calcium and vitamin supplement.


Feeding - Feed adults every other day; juveniles daily – mealworms, waxworms and all vegetables should be removed daily. I am not one for leaving in the worms to crawl around. Crickets should not be left the enclosure once the chameleon is finished eating. These are one of the more interesting reptiles to watch eat. They stalk their prey. The tongue, which is sticky, is flicked out fast and the insect is grabbed and brought back to be eaten.

Housing - Due to the varied sizes and growth rates and individualized needs, you should consult your qualified reptile veterinarian and a book on this species to determine it's specific housing requirements. Appropriate size enclosure of at least 30 gallons for an adult will accommodate normal behavior and exercise. The enclosure should be vertically oriented since veiled chameleons are climbers. A screened top is a must. A screened enclosure would also be appropriate, however make sure it will accomodate a full spectrum lighting system.I have maintained a healthy chameleon in a 29 gallon tank and I recommend that as the minimum housing facility. Screened cages work well but you need to be careful of drafts.
Substrate  - No specific substrate is needed, they are arboreal dwellers and reside on branches and in plants exclusively; use leaf litter, sphagnum moss, and mulch-type substrates such as crushed nuts. Mature females can be given a bowl filled with sand – to lay eggs. This is important because even if you never mate them, eggs can form and if your chameleon does not have a place to nest and deposit her eggs, she can become egg bound and die.
Temperature - Temperature gradient (100 degrees F. for the warm end, 70 degrees F. for the cool end – I have also found a temperature of around 78 – 84 degrees F. to be sufficient); recommend radiant heat; use an incandescent light or ceramic heater as primary heat source.

Lighting - Provide full spectrum fluorescent light for 10 to 12 hours a day – your pet does need “dark” time so do not leave lights on all the time; ceramic heater for basking area 24-hours a day. The UV is important – do not skimp out here. This is very important, it provides the spectrum of light rays they would get from the sun and it helps them get the all important calcium that reptiles need. Also, if the habitat is positioned in a window that has full sunlight – YOU MUST PROVIDE A SAFE SHADE SPOT THAT MAINTAINS A TEMPERATURE IN THE HIGH 70’S TO LOW 80’S.

Water - Veiled chameleons will not (at least I have not witnessed them)  drink from a bowl; rely on moisture on non-toxic plants and collecting pools in the tank for drinking; consider using a drip system with chlorine-free water for constant moisture; maintain humidity at 30-60%; mist enclosure – avoid spraying water on chameleon all the time. As chameleons mature, they become territorial so keep them in separate habitats.
Habitat - Create a dense area of non-toxic plants to one side for hiding – yes you can use silk/plastic plants (I actually found that to be best because you can take them out clean them and then replace them); create a more open, exposed area of branches for basking to the other side

Recommended Supplies:

  • Habitat with secure lid 
  • Full spectrum fluorescent light 
  • Drip system 
  • Humidity gauge 
  • Vitamin/mineral supplement 
  • Hide area
  • Mist bottle
  • Thermometer – actually one for each side of the cage   
  • Non-toxic plants; branches 
  • Book about chameleons 
  • Incandescent light or ceramic heater

Normal Healthy Behavior · Veiled chameleons change color, depending on temperature and mood. Unlike other reptiles, males are generally larger, more vibrant and colorful than females · Veiled chameleons become highly stressed when handled; regular handling is not recommended.

Habitat Maintenance Remove feces from habitat daily; mist frequently – I recommend at least three times a day - to maintain water supply.  Thoroughly clean the habitat at least once a week: set veiled chameleon aside in a secure habitat; scrub the habitat with a 3% bleach solution; rinse thoroughly with water, removing all smell of bleach; rinse all plants with clean water

Grooming and Hygiene Always wash your hands before and after touching your chameleon or habitat contents to help prevent Salmonella and other infectious diseases. Chameleons regularly shed their skin; ensure humidity of habitat is appropriate to allow proper shedding; to facilitate shedding

Signs of a Healthy Pet: 

  • Active and alert
  • Healthy skin
  • Clear eyes
  • Eats regularly
  • Clear nose and vent
  • Body and tail are rounded and full  
Common Health Issues and Red Flags:

  • Mucus in mouth or nose
  • Lethargic
  • Swelling
  • Labored breathing
  • Paralysis of limbs or tail
  • Abnormal feces 
  • Bumps, sores or abrasions on skin 
  • Weight loss or decreased appetite 

If you notice any of these signs, please contact your exotic animal veterinarian.

As with all pets in this category, it is important that you find a veterinarian that practices in EXOTICS – this is critical. The typical small animal practitioner may not have sufficient knowledge in this area. Even this guide is general in nature and should not be used to diagnose your pet. 

Page Last Updated: Wednesday, June 8, 2011 21:28 EST
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