Tyrannosaurus Pets

Chameleon Care Sheet



Chameleons are fascinating creatures found throughout Africa, Madagascar, and the Middle East.  They range in size from a couple of inches to over two feet.  The most commonly kept species are the veiled chameleon (Chamaeleo calyptratus) and the panther chameleon (Furcifer pardalis).  Both of these are readily available as captive bred specimens.  Wild caught chameleons are often loaded with parasites, or other health problems, and should be avoided by all but the most experienced keepers. Female chameleons are prone to egg binding, a condition where the lizard produces infertile eggs and then has difficulty laying them.  Correct diet and housing including offering several nesting sites reduce the risk of a problem arising, but it is much simpler for a novice to buy a male.  Veiled chameleons are easy to sex as the male has a spur on his hind feet.  This is located on the base of the ankle pointing out towards his tail.  They are born with this so can be accurately sexed straight out of the egg.  Although these two animals come from different countries, their care requirements are remarkably similar.


Housing


Chameleons need plenty of room to move about, veiled chameleons should be housed in a vivarium measuring at least 36” x 24” x 36” high.  Panther Chameleons are larger and more active, their enclosure should be 48” x 24” x 48”.  These tanks are for males.  Females may be housed in a slightly smaller tank.


Mesh Vivariums


Many people use mesh tanks as the chameleons don’t like the reflective qualities of glass.  These mesh tanks work really well as long as the room that the animal is housed in is independently heated.   If the room is cold then the basking spot is easy to achieve, but the temperature in the rest of the tank will be too low.  If the background temperature of the room is high enough (24’c – 26’c) then that will act as the background temperature in the mesh enclosure and a basking lamp controlled by a thermostat can then be used to create a gradient and a basking hot spot.


Wooden Vivariums


If you have a cold room then you are left with no option but to use a wooden vivarium with glass doors.  These are well insulated so can be easily heated to create a gradient with a cool end and a basking spot.


Heating the tank


If you are using a mesh type vivarium


Mount a basking light in a clamp style fitting outside the vivarium.  These either come with a stand to attach them to, or they can be mounted on to any convenient point near the tank.  Angle the lamp so it is pointing into the vivarium, and lighting up a basking perch near the top of the tank. Plug the lamp fitting into a thermostat and plug the thermostat into the mains.  The sensor from the thermostat needs to come into the vivarium.  This measures temperature and allows the thermostat to control.  Position the sensor so that it can read the temperature near the basking spot.  Make sure that the chameleon won’t be able to sit on the sensor as this will give a false reading to the thermostat, and may cause the tank to over heat.  Set the thermostat to about 32’c.  This should allow a basking temperature of about 35’c


If you are using a wooden vivarium


The easiest way to heat the tank is to use a ceramic heating system.  These emit heat but no light so can be used to heat the tank at night with out disturbing the lizards sleep.  They are also more efficient at heating than incandescent lamps so the tank will cost less to run.  As these are hotter than incandescent bulbs you need to use a fitting designed for use with ceramic heaters.  Porcelain hanging pendant fittings are the safest.  These allow plenty of airflow around the fitting and stop the top of the tank from overheating.  When wiring a fitting for a ceramic heater always use heat resistant cable.  Normal cable will go brown and crispy over time and can cause lamp failures etc.  Mount a picture hook in the roof of the tank, and then hang the fitting from it.  Put a plug on the other end of the cable.  Plug this into your thermostat.  Plug the thermostat into the mains.  The sensor from the thermostat needs to come into the tank.  For a chameleon the sensor needs to be mounted in about the middle of the back of the tank.  It is easiest to make a small hole in the middle of the back of the tank at the top.  Feed the sensor through the hole and let it hang about midway down the back of the tank.  Set the thermostat to 27’c.  The temperature at the point where the probe is should then warm to 27’c.  On a basking platform underneath the heater the temperature should be significantly higher at around 35’c.  At night the temperature can be allowed to drop to around 22 – 24’c. This can be achieved by using a day night thermostat with a built in facility to drop the temperature at night, or by simply turning down the thermostat to a lower setting when you go to bed and turning it back up again in the morning.


Maintenance


Fresh water should be provided for your chameleon at all times.  We always provide a water dish as some animals will learn to drink from a bowl, however in the wild they drink droplets of dew from the plants on which they live.  Give the tank a good spray with luke warm water in the morning.  This will increase the humidity in the tank, and also allows your pet to have a drink.  A lot of people have success with a dripper system.  This consists of a plastic container mounted at the top of the tank fitted with a tap and attached to a length of pipe.  The pipe can be positioned to drip water down the tank décor and into a dish on the floor.  Adjusting the tap adjusts the speed of the flow.  You may need to play with this to get the right level, as you don’t want the container to empty in the first hour.  Make sure that the dish you use to collect the drips is large enough other wise the tank base may get flooded.  Most chameleons don’t swim very well so any large water containers should have some means of escape for your lizard.  Trailing some fake plants into the water or a couple of stones at the edge of the dish will allow him to climb out easily.


When you change the lizard’s water, spot clean the tank.  If there is any obvious mess then remove this now.  If you spot clean regularly you will only need to clean out the tank fully every four weeks.  When you do a full clean put the lizard some where safe and secure.  Remove and clean any dishes and décor.  Remove the old substrate.  Clean and dry the tank then replace clean substrate and the décor.  Do not use any household detergents or disinfectants as these can be harmful to reptiles.  If the tank needs to be cleaned then any good pet shop will carry a range of reptile specific disinfectants.  After resetting the décor it is a good idea to recheck the temperatures in the tank to make sure nothing has been moved while you were cleaning out the tank.


Feeding


Chameleons are predominately insectivorous, but they will also eat a small amount of leafy vegetables and salad.  In order to make sure that the lizard will grow into a healthy animal you need to add supplements to his food.


Each morning place a fresh dish of salad in the vivarium.  The easiest sort to use is a bag of mixed leaf salad (endive, escarole, lollo rosso, radicchio, lambs lettuce) are all suitable.  Avoid any bag that contains iceberg lettuce as this is mainly water and has little nutritional value.


Feeder insects should be no bigger than the chameleons head.  Place about six appropriately sized prey items in a jug add a pinch of powder and shake to coat them.  We use two different supplements a full spectrum vitamin and mineral supplement such as Nutrobal, and a pure calcium supplement.  To get a good balance with the supplements we use a four feed cycle.



  • On feed 1 use Nutrobal

  • On feed 2 use calcium

  • On feed 3 use calcium

  • On feed 4 use no powder


Baby chameleons should be fed every day.  If they are being housed in a large vivarium you can put the food into a dish mounted near the basking site, angled so the lizard can see the food.  If the chameleon eats all the dusted food offer him another couple.  As he eats these continue offering until he is full.  Any additional food does not need to be dusted with powder.  When the chameleon reaches about five months old, he only needs to be fed five or six times each week.  Every three months after that drop off another days feed until he is eating insects two to three times per week.  

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Tyrannosaurus Pets