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Veiled chameleons are large, colorful, hardy chameleons that are ideal for first-time enthusiasts. Adult males are considerably larger than the females, ranging between 17" - 24" in length. Females generally only grow 10" - 14" long. Depending on their mood and surroundings, they can change their colors from a vivid mint-green to a dark chocolate-brown, with brightly contrasting speckled color bands circling their bodies. They fare best in very warm climates.
Chameleons eat crickets, superworms, fruit flies, grasshoppers, flowers, and leaves. Try to vary your chameleon's diet. You wouldn't want to eat the same boring thing day after day...neither do they! More importantly, chameleons need high levels of calcium which can only be gained by serving a variety of foods. (Always be sure to "gut-load" your insects by feeding them high-calcium food before dropping them in your chameleon's cage.)
Selecting The Proper Habitat
The veiled chameleon's natural behavior includes basking, hunting, drinking, and feeding. Glass aquariums trap stagnant air, provide an opportunity for fungus and bacteria to grow, and are difficult to clean and disinfect. Respiratory infections (often fatal for baby chameleons), eye infections, and skin infections are common diseases for chameleons housed in solid-walled enclosures. A properly designed and furnished screen cage will allow good ventilation on all sides, including the top and bottom of the enclosure.
Provide your chameleon with plenty of natural or simulated sunlight. To save money and eliminate multiple light fixtures, use a ZooMed PowerSun bulb, which combines UVA, UVB, and heat all in one bulb. Remember, veiled chameleons like it HOT! They also enjoy basking in direct sunlight, though you should always keep one corner of their cage shaded so that they won't overheat.
Chameleons like to lick moisture from the leaves in their cage. If possible, use a drip system or misting system in your chameleon's cage. They will enjoy the airborne humidity. Note: Never use a mister inside a glass tank. Excessive moisture can cause fungal growth inside the tank, which is hazardous to your chameleon's health.
Chameleons are arboreal creatures, and normally perch several feet off the ground. Place your chameleon's cage above your eye level. This will give it a sense of security, especially if their environment is shared by other animals such as birds, cats, dogs, or other potential predators.
Picking The Right Furnishings
No question about it, chameleons love to climb. Don't be surprised if your pet spends most of its time clinging to the top of its cage, or balancing on a high vine. But don't forget to hang vines up and down the entire cage, so that your chameleon can descend to the bottom to hunt. Provide at least one basking site where the temperature will reach 90º - 105º F, and other comfortable perching sites that are cooler. Chameleons are cold-blooded, so they thermo-regulate themselves--which means that they will travel from a hotter spot to a cooler one when they feel too warm. At night, the temperature should remain between 75º - 80º F.
Live plants provide security, hiding places, and a surface from which to lap drinking water. They also add to the enclosure's beauty. Many chameleons are known to eat vegetation, so only non-toxic plants should be used in their enclosures. Hibiscus is an ideal non-toxic plant for chameleon cages. They are beautiful plants that provide nutritional plant matter (blossoms and leaves) and good navigation. The Ficus plant is frequently recommended by so-called experts, but should be avoided because it is mildly toxic, and excretes a white milky sap that can cause skin or eye irritation.
Bottoms Up - Glug, Glug, Glug!
One of the most important aspects of keeping your chameleon healthy is making sure it drinks enough water. Most chameleons come from areas of the world that receive between 60" - 120" of rainfall annually. In the wild, they lick dew and rain droplets from leaves. To keep your chameleon properly hydrated, and avoid dangerous health problems like dehydration and kidney failure, use an in-cage rain system, a drip system, or a misting system to coat your chameleon's leaves with water. If you have the time, you can also manually mist the cage 2 or 3 times daily.
You're In My Space!
Adult male chameleons can be quite territorial toward other males and even adult females, and may become aggressive if they feel their territory is being threatened. If you have more than one chameleon, keep them widely separated...especially during mating season. Stressed chameleons are more susceptible to disease.
Chameleons do require more care than many reptiles--but their unusual appearance and ever-changing beauty makes them a favorite among both novices and experienced handlers. Use basic common sense in dealing with these slow-moving, elegant creatures...and you will have a unique pet for many years to come.