Monthly Archives - December 2015

Alec O'Brien Vet Tech

Ep 5: Alec O’Brien Veterinary Technician as a Career

Summary: Explore a career as a Veterinary Technician! We speak with Alec O'Brien who works as a vet tech and gives us an inside view of his job and life.  Have you considered a career with animals? Listen in and decide whether a Vet Tech is a direction for you!                                              .


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Briana Kammer

Ep 4: Briana Kammer Interview

Summary: Briana is the customer and social media interface for the most successful and long running chameleon breeding operation, Kammerflage Kreations. Of all the people in the chameleon world, she is likely the one that has the most experience helping first time chameleon keepers get started. In this episode we talk about the challenges and questions first time chameleon keepers are asking.                                                 .


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Show Notes

If you call Kammerflage Kreations with a question Briana is the one mostly likely to be taking your call.  Kammerflage is a family run business that has been dedicated to chameleons in general and Panther Chameleons in particular for over 20 years.  The refined bloodlines from Kammerflage have launched many of the panther breeders in the industry today.  If you are interested in a top quality panther chameleon and great customer service this is it.  I have known the Kammers for decades and can personally recommend them.  They earn their happy customers.

Kammerflage Banner 830

If you would like to join in Briana's very active Instagram page click here!

Kammerflage Instagram

Or check out Facebook!

Kammerflage Facebook


Interested in joining some of the digital community hang outs that Briana spoke about?  The Chameleon Forums can be found at the link below.  This is an established chameleon community that anyone can join.

Chameleon-Forums-300

It even has a number of threads dedicated to Kammerflage chameleons!

Chameleon-Forums-Kammer-babies-300

On Facebook you just type "Chameleon" into the search bar and you'll have numerous results.  There are a large number of Facebook groups regarding chameleons.  You have many choices to check out and find one that matches your personality.  The one I recommend is the Chameleon Enthusiasts which is a rare blend of beginner guidance with very experienced keepers/breeders and scientists on the moderator team. Both Briana and I frequent the group.  It is a great place to start making friends and learn more!

TCE logo


The product talked about at the end from our sponsor are the patent pending Dragon Ledges which are supports that can be added to most of the commercially available cages.  They transfer the weight of what you have on the inside to the frame and the screen has no stress.  They allow you to mount plants up high and firmly anchor horizontal branches.  They are the reason why this picture is possible.  See the horizontal bands on the screen panels?  Those are the Dragon Ledges holding up that large potted plant, the accent plants, and the branches!

For-Cham-Breeder

Check out the Dragon Ledges at the following link:

Dragon Strand Dragon Ledges

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Ep 3: Vacations & Chameleons at Home

Summary: Because chameleons need daily care we can feel like we are now anchored to the home.  While we love our chameleons, we still want to be able to visit family during the holidays!  In this podcast I discuss how to pull this off with you refreshed and your chameleon as happy as ever.                                                                     .


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Show notes

Setting up your misting reservoir

Here is a way to set up your misting reservoir for a simple change out for your pet sitter. The simpler you make it the more likely it will be done right! When the water jug runs low you just switch out jugs.  This has the added benefit that your jugs get cleaned on a regular basis.

Misting-set-up

Please note that this is conflict with the directions which say to keep the pump intake below your water level.  I do not know the effects of thumbing my nose at such advice.  But this system has worked for me for a couple years.  Copy at your own risk.  But, this been a superior set up to any other I have tried. Personal experience.

Great recipe for rat stew

I wasn't kidding about that rat stew thing! Here is a recipe if you think that actually sounded interesting.

Your welcome.

rat_meat_cooking

http://www.free-gourmet-recipes.com/rats-recipes.html

Sources for Misting Systems

If you are setting up an automatic misting  system there are two currently available that I can recommend: Climist and MistKing.

Climist &  mistking logo

Zombie-ism

Yes. The struggle is real.

Chameleon Shedding

Transcript (more or less)

Transcript (More or Less)

Note: The Chameleon Breeder Podcast changed the name to The Chameleon Academy Podcast in 2020. This ties together the outreach efforts that grew from this original podcast. Although the audio mentions the Chameleon Breeder name, the links here in the show notes have been updated.

H’llo Mate, You’ve taken a wrong turn at the alley, ain’t that right Bert? Oooh, yeah…and you’ve ended up at The Chameleon Breeder Podcast with a dodgy crew if I’ve ever seen one. Unless you are one of them Chameleon folk…in which case me and Joe might just be on our way. We’re not much for the likes of people who keep roaches for eating.

Yeah, clear out, you rabble….I got a show to do. Sorry about that folks, it can get rough here at the docks. What am I doing on a foggy night at the docks? Well, a much needed vacation, that’s what! The brochure said a quaint old London harbor atmosphere. Maybe I had better get a little more familiar with history. But, I am here now enjoying what appears to be some sort of rat stew. The proprietor called it a classic dish. And who am I to argue?

But I know the real question on your mind. How in the world was I able to get time off from taking care of the chameleons?

Vacations and holidays are wonderful things and we all need the down time to sample exotic cuisines, but for chameleon people there is always a stress that comes along with the excitement…how do I take care of my chameleon? Chameleons are wonderful, but they do take daily maintenance and, as hardy as they are, we do not like it when our friends go without. So, in honor of the coming holidays, we are, today, going to talk about leaving your chameleon for four days to two weeks and how to pull that off. If you do it right, the worst that will happen is that you’ll feel a low grade stress and your chameleon is still sitting on his same branch, a couple grams heavier, looking at you when you walk back in the door.

The biggest challenge we have whether we go away for a vacation or even just to work during the day is hydration. We chameleon wranglers can’t just put out a bowl of water. I’ve got to say that an automatic misting system solves so many problems in properly keeping chameleons. I know there are people that work at home and hand mist their chameleons throughout the day. And, oh, aren’t they so proud of themselves that they don’t need those new fangle dangled automatic misting systems – they say with their nose turned up at us poor commuting slobs. Well, be nice to them because they will be going nowhere for the holidays with their hand spraying ways and you are going to try and get them to come over and take care of your chameleons!

So we will talk about Lighting, Watering, Feeding, scheduling, and a number of miscellaneous items that just fit under the description of being prepared.

Lights are the most basic. Most keepers already have them on appliance timers so there is no change needed here. If you do this manually then now is the time to invest $10 on appliance timers that will turn your lights on and off. You’ll need two if you want the basking bulb to go on and then off when the morning is over. Check the prongs. In the USA, at least, basking bulbs are usually two prong and fluorescents are grounded with that third prong. Get the right timer.

Water is our first hurdle. Once we solve that the rest is not so challenging. And the only way is an automatic misting system which turns on and off with respect to a timer. This is the most important piece of husbandry equipment in my opinion whether you are away or at home. An automatic misting system makes sure you chameleon gets the hydration he needs, but also the hygiene. Drip systems will work for drinking, but chameleons need to wash out their eyes for optimal health.   They need a misting system or trips into the shower for that. I suggest you get a serious misting system. There are cheaper ones to be had, but you will get mediocre quality. At this time the only two I can recommend are Mist King and CliMist. The substantial advantages that come with these is 1) the pumps can run dry without overheating and breaking and 2) it is easy to provide your own water reservoir that the pump draws from and that becomes important for the purposes of this episode. And 3) The timers work off a clock and not a countdown. What that means is the cheap ones turn on every 4 hours or every 12 hours or such so you need to play games with your appliance timer to get it to run only during the day. The Mist King or CliMist have real clocks and allow you to have precise control over when and how long.

So to get ready to leave for a period of time you figure out how much water you use each day and make sure that is available for the length of time you will be gone. For a long term vacation you can have a friend come by and refill the system. Have a 5 gallon jug of water sitting right there so it is simple to do the refill. Or you can do what we do at Podcast Headquarters and put the pump intake tube directly into the 5 gallon jug. That way the switch out is just pulling the intake tubing into the next jug. Check the show notes on chameleonbreeder.com if you are not sure what I am describing. Now I have to disclose that the official directions for these pumps say that the pump intake should be below the water level, not above it. But we all have our subtle rebellions, don’t we? So, yeah, I live on the edge. Podcaster gone rouge! Follow at your own risk!

Our next step is to figure out what to do with the excess water. You probably already have a drainage tray. Figure out how often you have to empty it. Often evaporation takes care of that for us, but don’t forget to calculate that as you don’t need to come home to an overflow.

Food is our next consideration. First we are going to have a little talk about how much food is truly needed by a chameleon. A chameleon content with his cage does not move much and there aren’t a whole lot of calories being burned. As a community, we tend to over feed our chameleons. They really don’t need to eat every day. And they really don’t need to eat until they are totally stuffed. Especially veiled chameleons. Most chameleons eat until they are full and then just ignore you. Veiled chameleons do not have an internal off switch and will just eat because something moves. Or might move. Or doesn’t move. Your chameleon will be more healthy if you feed him every other day. Obesity is a problem in chameleons. Of course, I am talking about adult chameleons here. Babies need to get some size on them so that is different. I am talking about adults who are no longer growing and are just maintaining weight. The point is that you don’t have to get worried if your chameleon doesn’t eat for a day or even two. The only thing that will happen is that they are a little more appreciative the next time you put in that cricket. I have had chameleons go on hunger strikes for a week of longer. Deremensis, a three horn chameleon from Tanzania, love to do this occasionally. The way to know when they are just going off feed for a while or something is wrong is to get a gram scale and as long as they don’t lose more than 5% of their body weight don’t worry. If you see a downward progression and eyes start to sink you know this is something more serious. Well, if the eyes start to sink, no matter what else, you have an issue. The point is that if the chameleon is alert and acts normal, there may be no reason to worry about the not eating. But, let’s get back to vacation! I say all this just to ease your fears about your chameleon not having his daily feast. For adults: Every day is excessive. Every other day is healthy. Every third day is a weight loss program. More than that and you are putting your chameleon under hardship.

So with this in mind, a weekend get-away is actually easy.   Fill up his bowl after dark Thursday night or early Friday morning before you leave and he’ll have just entered into that appreciative stage by time you get back Monday evening. For a week long vacation you’ll want to have a friend, roommate, neighbor, family member, or even professional pet sitter come over for a checkup visit at least once in the middle, but preferably twice. You can have a quick change set-up to make it easy. Here is a suggestion for you.

Set up your chameleon cage so it can handle two feeding stations. It is much easier to have more food sitting in the cage if they are split up. Make sure there is a sizeable piece of carrot in each feeding bowl. It needs to be big enough that the chameleon won’t be able to bring it out with the cricket it snagged. The carrot will keep the feeders alive and hydrated for longer benefit. By the way, don’t worry about supplementation during your vacation. That just decreases your feeders’ lives. Right now, feeders living longer is more important than supplementation.

If you just have to prepare for one change out during your absence then make a complete duplicate of what you have in the cage ready and waiting. Have two clean feeding bowls ready for easy switch out. And have two ventilated Tupperware containers sitting nearby with the proper number of feeders with food in each. Put in parts of egg cartons so the holding containers are just as functional as the main bin. The better you outfit this temporary holding container the more healthy your crickets will be. This way, your helper can waltz in, remove the used feeding bowl which will have a dead cricket or two and maybe a poop, put in the new bowls and dump one Tupperware container in each feeding station. (without the egg cartons of course) And that is it for food!

If you get good at creating mini holding bins you can actually keep crickets alive in these for at least a week and you can repeat this for two or even three days. If you are feeding every third day then three refreshes just extended your vacation out to 12 days (you take the first and last feeding responsibilities). With two feeding station’s worth every third day your chameleon might even gain weight.

But extending it out this long requires a little more training and a friend willing to do some work. Because after a week the cricket bin will be in serious need of cleaning and food replacement. This goes for your holding bins as well. For a week’s absence I am actually more concerned about your feeders than the chameleon because the chameleon is the easy part. Getting someone to maintain a cricket bin is the tough part!

Here is a great idea for you. Do a practice run before you leave for vacation. Set things up as if you will be leaving and then follow the steps you envision your pet sitter to follow and you’ll soon see what needs to be changed. If you have a warm environment maybe you can’t keep as many crickets in that size Tupperware container holding cup. Maybe you need a bigger holding cup. Warm, hot, humid, cold…all these environmental conditions will require a slight tweak on the plan so try it out two weeks before you leave and work out the bugs before you have to do the real thing.

In case of feeder colony crash, make sure you have the phone number of your preferred cricket provider easily available where ever you are.

Temperature. If you need to heat or cool the house remember to leave the heater or Air Conditioner on. Sometimes we automatically turn off the environmental control when we leave the house to save energy costs. I am a dad. I do this. Just make sure you remember and you remind the dads that there is still a family member at home. Since this family member has his own heat lamp and can be comfortable with colder nights than the warm blooded ones maybe there can be less environmental control, but make sure you don’t let the house freeze or bake.

So those are the environmental considerations. What happens if something happens of a medical nature? If you are having a friend or family member come by and check on things then tape the phone numbers to your veterinarian and the after hours emergency veterinary service to the cage in an obvious location. The last thing you want is your friend to have no idea what to do if your chameleon is in trouble and they can’t get a hold of you right away. Make sure they have the medical care phone numbers and the assurance that you will pay for any vet bills…. even if your caretaker panics and rushes your chameleon to emergency room for zombie-ism. Just remember that they are doing you a favor and they were the best you could find. Maybe you should have explained the whole shedding thing before you left.

And here is something from left field. Make sure your heat lamp, cage, and appliances are strapped down. What if an earthquake happens while you are away? In some areas this can be an issue. I am from California and we have to think about these things. Your cage and appliances – especially the heat lamp – should already be anchored, but if they are not then this is the time to think about it. You don’t need a minor trembler to knock something over during the night and then have the heat lamp, now on the floor, start heating up something it shouldn’t. But this also goes for other pet activity. Make sure the big dog with his wagging tail or a house cat jumping on top the cage cannot knock things over. This is easy dealt with when you are home, but when the house is empty for days on end you have to be more vigilant for what could happen.

If you have a little tech insight and want to do something cool you can always set up an internet camera to show you your chameleon cage where ever you are and you can give directions to your helper remotely. This is a cool application of modern technology.

Now, what happens when we have a vacation planned and we have everything set up, documented and tested out and…your clutch of eggs start hatching out early. You should know that incubating chameleon eggs come with an internal clock that aligns with vacation schedules and business trips. It is a strange evolutionary development that science has yet to describe, but every hobbyist can attest this is a real thing. Eggs that have two months left in their incubation will usually accelerate their development to the couple days before your trip to France. And if any of the listenership does get into the biological sciences, please figure out why they do this and how they know the absolute least convenient time to hatch! So, what now? Do we cancel the trip? I mean, the Eiffel tower will be there next year, right? Dude..just letting you know… that is grounds for divorce and even if you are in a no-fault divorce state chances are the judge will make an exception. So eventhough I know you are thinking it, do NOT say that outloud! It is time to work quickly.

1) Weep and gnash your teeth at the mischievous chameleon gods that are, right now, laughing their butts off at you. Mutter those ancient anglo-saxon incantations that are inappropriately educational for the younger audience….and with that out of your system let’s get to productive work.

2) Hopefully you have caging set up and ready for hatchlings. Seriously, you should have all of this set up halfway through your expected incubation especially if you have a vacation planned or are in a profession where you may have to travel unexpectedly. You really don’t want to be pulling together caging while you are arguing about how many suitcases are going to Paris.

3) You need someone to visit every day. This person needs to have basic training in how to take care of things. If you have the misting system for the babies on an automatic mister then you can get away with every other day if you have a feeding station that can handle two days of food. But if you have that then it is big enough to collect a whole lot of baby poop along the way. A quick everyday visit is almost mandatory.

If you have babies that need to be taken care of while you are away the absolute best option is that you have a chameleon community friend you trust take care of the clutch while you are away. If you don’t have any friends in the chameleon community this is a good time to start!

At the every least you will need a trusted individual to help out. They don’t have to do much and sending video to you for real-time directions is a possibility in today’s world.

If the eggs do not hatch before your trip you know this is more than a joke and that the chameleon gods are angry with you. Be prepared for a hatching while you are away. Have everything set up and ready to go before you leave. Being fully prepared is the only way to ensure that it will not happen.

Let’s talk about communication. Experienced chameleon caretakers are a niche group and chances are you won’t have an experienced person available to you. So you will have to leave instructions behind even if you give your volunteer a basic run through. You will need to leave them a list of things to do each day and, if possible, a set of “If this happens, do this” answers. Pictures to go along with the instructions would be helpful. With today’s technology you can even make videos and leave them on a tablet computer for reference or send them to a dropbox folder that the pet care person has access to.

In addition to the directions, create an emergency phone list and tape it to the cage where it won’t get misted on. On this list have the following numbers:

1) Your number

2) A number to leave a message if you are out of range

3) Your veterinarian’s number

4) Veterinary Emergency after hours number

5) Feeder supply with what to order in case of a feeder colony crash

6) Neighbor or family member to contact in case of the unexpected (like what? I don’t know…that is why we call it unexpected!)

This is actually a great list to have for your reference. When there is a medical emergency imagine how much easier it will be if the numbers are easy to find.

Below are some simple checklists for a weekend getaway and a week mini vacation. Thee checklists will be in the show notes so you don’t have to pull the car over and take notes right now.

Four Day Get-Away.

Can be done without helper.

Night or Morning before departure:

1) Clean cage

2) Empty Drainage Tray

3) Fill Mister water reservoir

4) Put two feeder bowls with one day’s worth of feeders in each (and a carrot slice) in the cage. Try to find a place where the chameleon can’t poop in them.

1 Week Vacation

You’ll need someone to come in once in the middle of your trip. This person needs to know enough to refill water, refresh food and clean the cage. This is simple enough for family members, neighbors, or friends to be trained. But if that is not an option, then find a professional pet sitter to come for the one middle day. If you have it all organized then even if they are not experienced with reptiles they should be able to handle it.

Night before:

1) Clean cage

2) Empty Drainage Tray

3) Fill Mister water reservoir

4) Tape Vet phone numbers on cage

5) Prepare two plastic containers for feeder refresh.

Morning of departure:

4) Put two feeder bowls with one day’s worth of feeders each (and a carrot slice) in the cage. Try to find a place where the chameleon can’t poop in them.

For both scenarios you can put feeders in the night before, but I suggest that being the last thing you do as you walk out the door.

Greater than one week vacation

Have friend/family member/pet sitter come every two or three days.

Night before:

1) Clean cage

2) Empty Drainage Tray

3) Fill Mister water reservoir

4) Tape Vet phone numbers on cage

5) Prepare four plastic containers for feeder refresh. Two for use right before you leave and two to be left as a reminder to your pet sitter as to how much to feed for each bowl.

6) Make sure the to-do list is in plain sight with any how-to directions

Morning of departure:

1) Put two feeder bowls with one day’s worth of feeders each (and a carrot slice) in the cage. Try to find a place where the chameleon can’t poop in them.

So there is your vacation talk. We chameleon people have an extra challenge when it comes to vacations and we can’t just go down to the local kennel and check in Godzilla. But with the proper preparation a vacation can go off without a hitch.

If you have any other hints or tips that would be useful or just stories of your experiences share on Facebook or Instagram. You can also email it to me at Bill@chameleonacademy.com and I’ll share with the masses.

The sponsor for this episode is the Dragon Strand caging company. You find the most innovative caging for chameleons at dragonstrand.com. We have just released the new Atrium enclosure series with 45” wide and tall cages that come standard with the patent pending Dragon Ledges that allow you to mount plants and horizontal branches above the floor. This size is suitable for parsonii, melleri, or to just treat your panther like the king he is! The link is in the show notes. Visiting our sponsors helps us stay on the air.

The only thing left is for me to apologize for the horrible accents at the beginning of this podcast. I have no idea what dialect that was supposed to be or was butchering! Forgiven or not…that’s a wrap for today.

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surprise chameleons

Ep 2: Surprise! Chameleon Babies! Yay!…Yikes!

Summary: One of our greatest joys is finding baby chameleons hatched or born.  That is, unless it was totally unexpected and we are totally unprepared! Surprises are not uncommon - especially with livebearers like Jackson's Chameleons. In today's episode we discuss what to do when you come face to face with a cage full of little aliens looking for something good to eat!                                      .


You can listen here:

Show notes

Cold Brew Coffee

Because I love this stuff so much, here is a link to Chameleon Cold Brew Coffee.  Great Stuff. Seriously.

Chameleon Cold Brew

Supplementation

Calcium Supplement with low Vitamin D3

Repashy Calcium with LoD

I mentioned that Ed Kammer of Kammerflage Kreations had nutrition dialed in for his Panther colony.  Although he is more than willing to share much of what he has learned, it takes time to discuss.  He sells supplements that have worked for him.  If you'd like to pick his brain, ask him what of his supplements his is selling he recommends and how to use them.  It just isn't cool to pick someone's brain and then go off and buy from someone that invested zero time in you because you can get it a couple dollars cheaper.  Treat experience and the sharing of that experience with extreme respect.  If you are going to open a conversation with Ed, or anyone for that matter, who has decades of experience, do NOT go in as if they are obligated to spend an hour with you.  You are not entitled.  Treat it as a gift.  And if Ed tells me he just got flooded with rude people I'll have to take this link down and edit my podcast!  Don't make me do that!

Kammerflage Kreations

Crickets and Fruit Flies

I won't have a link of crickets and fruit fly providers.  Do a Google search for "crickets for sale" or "fruit flies for sale" to see the latest group of people offering those feeders at that time.

Community

The best community resource is http://www.chameleonforums.com.  There are also a number of chameleon themed Facebook pages.  The advantage the Chameleon Forums has is that it is a mature platform.  Every new platform starts in chaos with large personalities jockeying for attention and recognition.  After a maturing process and lots of name calling and threats things settle down.  The Chameleon Forums is under tight moderation so things will stay civil.  Facebook has just recently gone through the chaos stage and is starting to settle down so you are starting to find some pages that have emerged with their collection of various  member egos under control.

Transcript (more or less)

Transcript (More or Less)

Note: The Chameleon Breeder Podcast changed the name to The Chameleon Academy Podcast in 2020. This ties together the outreach efforts that grew from this original podcast. Although the audio mentions the Chameleon Breeder name, the links here in the show notes have been updated.

Welcome back to the Chameleon Breeder Podcast. This is episode 002. It is a quiet morning here at podcast headquarters. I am enjoying a nice cup of cold brew coffee. Cold brew is where there is no heat involved in the brewing process. It takes all night to produce a pot, but the flavors are much more pronounced. There are a couple of really good brands out there that produce ready made cold brew. My two favorites are Stumptown and, if you can believe this, Chameleon Cold Brew. I am serious about this. It’s a thing and it is really good!   I feel it highly appropriate that I am sipping Chameleon Cold Brew whilest recording this podcast. But you did not come here to listen to me talk about Chameleon Cold Brew! We have come together this day to speak of the real chameleons – their antics and characteristics.

Today’s episode is titled Surprise! Chameleon Babies!! Yay!...Yikes!! In honor of all the emotions we go through when baby chameleons hatch or are born. But, you ask, what is the Yikes in there for? Aren’t breeders all prepared for hatch date? Perhaps, but then there are the ones that are surprised by eggs hatching two months before estimated hatch date and then there are the livebearers that can give birth at any inconvenient time – such as 9 months after you have brought back a single female Jackson’s chameleon from the show with no intention of ever breeding her and you walk down the stairs one morning and instead of a nice cup of Chameleon Cold Brew waiting for you, you find a cage full of baby chameleons and one tired momma. Whoa! Talk about needing to find an accelerated crash course in baby chameleon care! So this is where we will start. Experienced breeders or even first time breeders who have researched baby care may end up surprised, but they at least know exactly what they need to do quickly. I am going to start off at the level of the person who doesn’t even know if the babies should be separated from their mother!

So let’s set the ideal scenario first. A prepared breeder will have caging ready long before hatch date. In fact they have purchased everything they need right about when the eggs were laid or the live bearer was bred. Half way into the incubation they started their fruit fly cultures to make sure the when the babies hatched out there would be plenty of food immediately available. And then it is just a waiting game for that joyous moment.

The scenario furthest from ideal is the family with their first chameleon enjoying learning about UVB and whose biggest challenge right now is deciding whether to let dubia cockroach feeders in the house coming face to face with 20 little aliens who have invaded their chameleon cage. Guess what, my fellow chameleon wranglers? Some chameleons are livebearers! And you know what is really cool? They have developed the ability to store sperm and impregnate themselves at a later date! So, no, you don’t have to have a male in your single chameleon household to have babies! Ain’t nature grand!

So, let’s talk about the basics of chameleon babyhood. First of all, most chameleons lay eggs, but there are respectable number that have live birth. Ones that are easy to find at the time of this podcast are Jackson’s Chameleons, Trioceros sternfeldi, Trioceros wernerii, and South African Bradypodion. Live birth is thought to be an adaptation of chameleons that live in areas that experience cold weather and so allows the chameleon to be more in control of the babies’ development conditions. The mother can bask to warm everything up. Chameleons are born/hatched fully ready to go out into the world as an independent bug exterminator. Neither egg hatched babies nor live birthed babies have a relationship with their mother. Both versions come into the world with their stomachs full which gives them a day or two to get orientated before they need to start eating. Chameleons disperse and find their own way about the world so, ideally, they would all be raised individually. But the sibling aggression usually starts out low and the competition between babies does not get overly physical for a month or two. There’s your ten sentence summary. Let’s get into actionable steps.

Let’s use the scenario of having a single female Jackson’s chameleon who has given birth to a surprise litter of 20 babies. So you walk downstairs and are greeted with 20 baby chameleons. First, take a second to be completely amazed at these incredible creatures! Chameleon babies are the cutest things ever! Next, we want to prepare a place for these little guys. The mothers do not seem to have a desire to eat their babies, but I am unaware of any study that tells us how long this grace period lasts. The only mother aggression I have observed was a mother that bit her baby because the baby crawled on her while she was completing the birthing process and this annoyed her. I have never seen a mother eat her young during the birthing time. This is not true for other adult chameleons who have no problem snapping up a baby. So although we will not panic, we will, with all reasonable haste, prepare an emergency holding container. All that is required initially is a container and plants or perching sticks. Make sure the sticks do not allow the chameleons to crawl out. Their initial instinct is to scatter and find foliage to hide in so know you have a bunch of nomads on your hands on the first day.   Plastic sweater boxes are perfect for the first holding tank. Take a big sweater box, put small plants and anchored sticks propped up and you are set. Chameleon babies will want to climb so give them sticks that are stuck in the pot so they go up at a diagonal angle. Make sure you have enough sticks and leaves on the plant that the babies are not climbing over each other. If you have high sided cereal bowls or large Tupperware containers or mixing bowl you can use them as well. We will go over a more permanent holding set-up later. Right now your job is to get them a place to stay that is not in the cage with mom. For the ultimate panic situation you can use a plugged up bathtub to hold the babies until you can gather a more appropriate set-up. Put sticks, houseplants, or even just a bunch of crumpled up newspaper at the tub bottom for them to hang onto. Make sure the tub drain is plugged, it is completely dry, and none of the leaves or sticks allow escape over the edge. Now and any time in the first few weeks, make sure there is no pooling water. Even a little bit! Babies have this habit of drowning themselves even in a water drop so small you were amazed they could get their head in it. I wish I were exaggerating about this.

Now the thought may cross your mind – wouldn’t it be easier to just move the chameleon mom and leave the babies in the already set-up cage? Kind of. You can make it really easy on yourself and put a tree in the shower and just move the mother chameleon there while you figure out a more permanent housing for the babies, but this only works if you are sure she has had all her babies and it isn’t always easy to tell when this is done. Though I suppose the worse thing that could happen is you move a baby from the shower into the cage. You’ll have to use your best judgment as to what is best in the situation you find yourself in.

The birthing process can take a while. Often you don’t know when it started or how much longer she will be dropping babies. The mother will be pacing the cage and be dropping babies at various locations. The babies come out in a sack. This sack is scraped onto a branch or dropped to the bottom of the cage. Do not worry about the drop hurting the baby. They are essentially blobs at this point and the drop is thought to help shock them into the real world. When they wake up the baby will work to crawl out of this sack. It may look complicated, but these babies know what they are doing. If a baby appears to be struggling with being born I suggest leaving it alone. Not all babies got all the nutrients they needed during gestation and some have birth defects. I believe it is best to let nature take its course and not help out ones that are not strong enough to complete the process themselves. Of course, that is just a guideline. Goodness knows I have not always listened to my own advice.

Let’s assume the initial panic is over with. You have a litter of baby chameleons sitting in a container or two or three and you have a chance to figure out your next move. Whew. Okay, here is your action item list.

1) The mother. You may have noticed that the mother started to go off feed for the last week or so. (“going off feed” means she ate less and less). That is because the babies were taking up so much space inside her. That space is now empty and she will be ravenous. We have a big job to do with the babies so let’s take a couple minutes here and fill up her feeding bowl with some big juicy crickets or other feeders for when she comes out of her birthing mode and her brain gets the signal telling her how hungry she is!

2) Evaluate your options. The babies are safe for the moment and mother is in recovery. Now is the time to figure out what you want to do with the babies. You have two options: Keep them and raise them up or give them away. Selling them is not a good option as they shouldn’t be sold until they are about three months old. If you decide this whole baby thing was not what you signed up for and want to give them to someone who can take care of them better than you then you can find chameleon people in your area by hopping onto chameleon themed Facebook pages or the chameleon forums (at chameleonforums.com) and sharing your situation. Raising up baby chameleons is a challenge. If you are giving them away I suggest finding someone experienced at those mentioned locations. The sooner you can pass them to an experienced chameleon person the better. Resist handing them out to inexperienced family members or co-workers. They are cute, but unless any of them happen to have fruit fly cultures going this probably relegates the babies to a short life. If you give them away then your action item list stops here. If you elect to raise them up then this action item list gets a bit longer! Let’s go on….

3) Food. The first thing you have to do is figure out how to feed these little guys. For newborns you have two options – pinhead crickets and fruitflies. Both of these options can be overnighted to you if you get your order in that afternoon. The advantage of crickets is that they are ready to eat when you receive them (although we will be discussing gutloading). Fruitflies are more tricky because usually you get starter cups which will take a week or two before they “bloom” or are “producing”.   You will end up with a cup with fruit fly food and a bunch of pupae which are useless in the immediate future. The key to avoiding disappointment is to call the fruit fly retailer and ask specifically if the fruit fly cups are producing. If they say no then you can still buy them as you will need food in a couple weeks as well. But you need to move to the next provider if you want the fruit flies to arrive ready to be fed. There are two varieties of fruit flies available to us. We call the smaller fruit fly “melanogaster” and the larger fruit fly “Hydei”. Chameleon babies can normally take in the larger one, but you can’t go wrong with the smaller one. If you have a choice get melanogaster as that is the safest. If you do not have a choice get whatever they have! If you live in an area where there are wild fruit flies you an also put a cup of fruit in the baby cage to attract fruit flies for free.

When the pin head crickets get in you can sprinkle a small amount in the baby chameleon cage and see if they are ready to eat yet, but make sure you put the rest in a Tupperware container where you have some vegetables for them to eat and fill their bellies so they are more nutritious for the babies.

A good estimate on how much to plan for is ten food items a day per baby. This gives you a little buffer to account for escapees and feeder deaths. So expect to be buying 1000 crickets every five days for a 20 baby litter.

4) Baby caging. Once food is lined up we will need to get your babies out of the bathtub and large mixing bowls and into something more long term appropriate. The simplest beginner baby container is a 66 quart Sterilite plastic sweater box. There are many sizes so you can just go to your department store and find a sweater box or two that has high enough sides that everything that is supposed to stay inside stays inside. In this box you can place a variety of 4” potted house plants and branches that are small enough for little chameleon feet to grasp. It is very important that you have a lot of space. Although baby chameleons may not overtly bite each other, the subtle dominance plays start almost immediately. You’ll see this starting with them crawling over each other. It starts with just wanting to get somewhere, but very soon you’ll see that there is a deliberate choice to go a certain direction that requires another to be walked over. So the more perching spots you can create and the more equal you can make these spots the better. Every clutch or litter is different as far as aggression towards each other. I have had panther chameleon clutches that seem to live in harmony in the same tub and quadricornis clutches that wanted to tear each other’s throats out at a couple days old. Most of the time I just saw a subtle progression of dominance contests. Somewhere around two months old they may start biting off tail tips. But let’s get you through the first week before we worry about all that!

5) Setting up Caging. Now is where there is some expense involved. And, make no mistake, raising chameleons up from babies is expensive. There is the initial equipment cost, but you won’t have time to think about this as you watch your money flow out the door for feeders. If you have ever complained about the prices of baby panther chameleons then you get the lucky chance to see for yourself how much it costs to raise a clutch.

Once we have the bins you will need to get appropriate lights in. There are two that you need. The first is a daylight bulb to provide seeing light and the second is a UVB bulb to provide UVB rays . Do not cut corners on these. These are critical to your chameleons’ health. The calcium in the supplements you will be buying soon cannot be used without Vitamin D3 in the chameleons’ body and UVB wavelengths are what the body uses to create vitamin D3. You have hopefully already gone through this with your adult chameleon so I don’t think we are breaking new ground here. Just know that the $20 UVB bulb is not negotiable when raising baby chameleons!

Heat lamps can be a simple reflector and incandescent bulb. You are just looking for something to create a warm-up spot for the little guys. You don’t need anything fancy here. A trip to the home improvement store is all that is needed for this. Just make sure that you don’t create too hot of an area. The low 90’s is a good maximum. If you don’t have a thermometer just place your hand on the perching spot under the light. If it feel like a comfortable warming to your hand then you are good. If it gets uncomfortably hot to your hand then it will dehydrate and heat stress a baby chameleon.

6) Watering. Chameleons drink water off of leaves so you will need a spray bottle that can generate a fine mist. I suggest lightly misting your babies a couple times a day for the first weeks. But a big warning here is to not let pools of water gather. You can line the floor with paper towels to avoid pools of water or just wipe it all up. Babies drowning is a real problem even if you think that little bit is really not enough for a baby to get stuck. Those are big heads on those little bodies and pulling it out of the water may not be as easy as getting it in and, for all we know, they may not even understand what is going on before it is too late. I am not sure why this is a problem. Just beware of water gathering into a pool. They get stronger very quickly so just be on the lookout for the first week or two. After that they have their wits about them.

7) Supplements. Growing bodies need calcium. The food we feed them, like crickets, are often high in phosphorus which negates calcium so we have to dust the food items with calcium powder. If you have a species like a panther chameleon or veiled you can get the regular calcium with D3. I use both calcium without vitamin D3 in concert with Calcium with D3. So I have two bottles. If you have a montane species like jacksons and other livebearers I suggest calcium with low D3. Repashey has a supplement like this. It has worked well for me so far for my montanes.

Whoops, Term alert! We will get periodic interruptions to this podcast like this everytime I catch myself using a chameleon world term that may not be obvious to new comers. Not promising I will catch them all, but I will try! When we talk of “Montanes” we are talking about chameleons that come from higher altitudes and experience some pretty cold nights. They typically want to be kept in cooler temperatures than veileds and panthers. The most famous montane is the Jackson’s chameleon. Live birth was developed to adapt to colder weather so I believe all live bearers are montanes. No warm area live bearer comes to mind at the moment. But there are egg layers like deremensis, quadricornis and montium which fall into the montane category as well. As you would expect, these chameleons would have different captive conditions necessary and they also have different nutritional needs. Unfortunately, we in the community are still working out just what those needs are. We battle with edema, which is excess fluids under the skin, that could be caused by oversupplementation. And the proper nutrition supplement changes between chameleon species, too. There is soooooo much work that needs to be done in this area. If you are truly smitten by chameleons and want to make a difference. You only need to pick one species and work with it consistently over the years developing a proper nutrition regimen and you will have moved us all forward. Seriously. At this time, we have a solid nutritional regimen for panther chameleons, but only shreds of ideas for all the other chameleon species!

And, just a reminder, I will be using the Latin name for most chameleons only because the common names are long and sometimes confusing. May as well bite the bullet and learn the scientific names because that is what we all use. I make exceptions for Veiled, Panther, and Jackson’s chameleons and any other where there is a common name that works well.

Anyway, one thing we have found, at least anecdotally, is that montanes seem to want less supplementation than other chameleons. I say anecdotally because there really isn’t solid science on this yet. Hint, hint. Please, I’d love it if someone in my chameleon wrangling listenership would grow up in biology and continue serious work in this field!

There are also vitamin supplements and you can spend a lifetime reading and analyzing nutrition and putting together regimens. There are so many variables that it is difficult to say that what works for one person will work for others. Just the distance to the UVB bulb which depends on how often you change out your bulbs and where your perching branches are affects the effectiveness of your supplementation. Is the window by your chameleon cage open on the weekends? Well, you have just changed the parameters! The absolute best example of a long term study in nutritional supplements under controlled conditions has been by Ed Kammer of Kammerflage Kreations for his colony of Panther Chameleons. He is pretty free about sharing his results and regimen with the community so that is a great place to start your research. His nutritional regimen is the result of two decades of research and is the cornerstone of why his panthers show such strength and vigor. As his panthers are his livelihood you know this is more than just a hobby. And since any of the panthers he sells having a long and healthy life is paramount to the Kammerflage brand reputation you know he has no problem making sure his customers have the best information. Just realize that he can do what he does because he obsessively controls more parameters in his breeding colony than most people know exist. You will not get the exact same results, but it is the most solid start you can get at this time.

Okay, time to steer this wandering ship back on course!

8) Feeding: Feed the little guys once a day. If you can’t get over how cute it is to watch them all clamor over and shoot their tongues then don’t worry about feeding them twice a day just for entertainment value. In the first weeks it is a race to put on weight and get big and healthy. Dust your feeders with calcium and no D3 every other day and dust with Calcium and D3 once a week. A dusting schedule is approximate at best as you can’t control how much powder remains on the feeder when it is finally eaten. And by “dusting” I mean we lightly coat the feeders with powder. This is preferred over “caking” which is creating a snowball out of your cricket from the powder. That is going a bit overboard. You can dust your feeders by putting a pinch of powder in a bag or cup and then dumping the day’s feeders in. A light shake will coat the feeders with a thin layer and they are ready to be fed. You can present them in bowls to keep the feeders from escaping and hiding under pots and such or else you can sprinkle them on the leaves. Lightly misting the leaves helps small feeders stay on the leaves instead of sliding off to the floor. It also removes some of the powder so you just have to find the right balance of how much to mist. If you use bowls then have a number of feeding stations so there isn’t a bottleneck jam on the few perching spots near the food. If you feed them in a group then make sure there are always some feeders in the bowl. Every group will have the aggressive individuals that will run over to the food and snap up all they want and then there will be the more passive individuals that get their food once the Type A personalities are done. By making sure there is always a few feeders in the bowl you don’t have to worry about the aggressive ones eating everything and the passive ones going hungry. Even if the aggressive ones are eating just to show they are the alpha ones there is only so much they can fit in their stomach and eventually they will back off and let the others eat. Multiple feeding stations helps with this situation as well. This is where individual raising shines. If they are individually raised then you can monitor each chameleon’s food intake and they do not have to worry about competition. But if this is a first surprise litter of babies individual raising may be a bit out of reach. So we’ll work around that as best as possible! Although, if your surprise came from a small species such as a sternfeldi (commonly mislabeled “rudis”) then you may have only seven babies and maybe you could pull it off without too much trouble.

The purpose of this podcast episode is to get you through the first couple days and set for the first couple weeks. Once you get the situation stabilized you need to dive into your online chameleon community whether it be your favorite Facebook page or the forums at chameleonforums.com and get yourself in touch with some people that can help you through the first three months. If you do not have those community connections already then check the show notes for a link to the Chameleon Forums where you will find a number of knowledgeable chameleon people that can help you in more detail with your particular challenges. Just make sure you have the babies out of the bathtub before you go online, okay?

Once the dust settles, you will need to put together a plan for what you will do with the babies when they get older. We generally recognize three months as the time where they are ready to go to new homes. Unfortunately, the competition and dominance contests in some clutches of babies can get so bad that there will be nipped tails and bite and claw scars before the three month mark. And for most groups of babies any time after the three month mark you are more and more asking for trouble. Chameleons generally do not get along so make sure you have a plan as to where those babies are going before you come home and find them mangling each other. This is the usual next panic milestone for new breeders. The first standard panic is being surprised by babies and figuring out how to house them. The second is the challenge of finding appropriate food items and the third is when the babies overtly turn on each other. The battles were waged long before this, but beginning breeders don’t always pick up on the signs. It is only when it spills into overt physical damage that it is noticed as a “sudden change of events”. You have already weathered the first two panics. Have a plan and implement it before the third happens to you. If you start now you have time to make contacts in the chameleon community, get plugged into what is going on, and make a plan that works for your particular situation.

Whew! That was a lot! I remember a couple of surprise litters that happened to me over the years. The housing was just an exercise in creativity, but the food items were the big thing. I work with Bradypodion thamnobates, a South African livebearer, so, eventhough I keep a close eye on what is going on with my females, surprises can happen. But it is no problem because I now also own dart frogs. That is my secret to always having fruit flies around. Since the dart frogs always need a constant supply of fruit flies it wasn’t an issue when my thamnobates surprised me with a bunch of babies. I now recommend that anyone who keeps livebearers keep a group of dart frogs around just so you always have producing fruit fly cultures! It is an immensely enjoyable and fulfilling early preparation system! My favorite frogs are in the show notes. Mainly to show off cause I love them so much. If you want to see them or any of the miscellaneous helpful links then find the show notes under Episode 002 on chameleonacademy.com.

As always, if you liked what you heard today then you can support it by going to iTunes and leaving a review and star rating. It really does make a difference. Can you imagine if we got a chameleon themed podcast in the New and Noteworthy section of iTunes? What a blast that would be! Stand back, the Chameleon Wranglers are on the move! You can also email me at bill@chameleonacademy.com or hang out on social media. Another way you can help the podcast is to visit our sponsors. They keep this podcast on the air! This episode is made possible by the DragonStrand caging company. I am sure there is little surprise there as the owner has great enthusiasm for this podcast. At dragonstrand.com you’ll find cages and innovations designed specifically for the needs of chameleon keepers. There is a link in the show notes. Go and see the latest in what is available like the new Atrium enclosure series with sizes suitable for melleri or just to treat your panther like the king he is!

And that..is a wrap for today!

Season 1 Archive
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microclimates and gradients

Ep 1: Microclimates and Gradients

Summary: In this introductory episode we discuss the strategy to create a successful chameleon environment. By combining the correct caging with carefully planned placement of branches, plants, lights, and misting nozzles we can construct an environment with microclimates and gradients that give our chameleons the choices they need to regulate their own conditions for a happy life.                                               .


You can listen here:

Show Notes

Cages mentioned in this episode:

We discuss different cages which are appropriate for different environments.  I specifically addressed the controversy over glass cages.  Listen to the podcast for the details on this. The bottom line is that glass cages come with the advantage that they can hold in heat and humidity and mist very well.  That was their black eye early on but with special vents that are installed in some terrariums glass cages can be used.  Glass cages have the disadvantages of 1) weight, 2) breakage, and 3) no external drainage easily had.  If you need the heat insulation then you'll have to figure out a way around these disadvantages.  The glass terrariums mentioned in the podcast were from Zoo-med and Exo-Terra.  The challenge with glass is that is does not commercially come in sizes appropriate for most chameleons, but these two companies have 36" tall terrariums which is the bare minimum for most adults.

Zoo-Med 36" tall Skyscraper Terrarium

Exo-Terra 36" x 18" x 36" Large, X-Tall Terrarium

If you do not need the heat insulation, but you want to hold in the humidity and the misting from getting on the walls and furniture, the Dragon Strand Clearside cage line is the way to go.  It is 48" tall and is made from a clear PVC material pulled taut like screen, but clear.  This has the advantage of retaining the light weight of the cages which allows us to make larger cages which are more chameleon appropriate.  These cages have the option of external drainage which is a huge deal in chameleon keeping.

Dragon Strand Large Clearside Enclosure

I do not understand caging companies that offer only a substrate tray (a tray that goes on the inside of the cage).  Have these people ever kept chameleons?  Mixing water, poop, and feeders together is a hygienic nightmare.  I know their marketing strategy is cheap price, but I cannot figure out why they took that short cut.

Do-It-Yourself Mist Retention Walls for Screen Cages

(That don't look hokey)

We in the community have long done the kludge where we keep mist and humidity inside a screen cage by wrapping it with a shower curtain or plastic wrap.  This is effective, but looks pretty hacked together.  If you would rather make your screen cages work instead of buying a cage designed to hold in humidity and mist and you would like it to look less hacked together then consider these reed fence panels found at home improvement stores.  Glue/attach your plastic to the outside of this reed fence panel cut to size.  Then when you wrap it around your cage you have a naturalistic scene.  Here is a link to one of many products that will fulfill this task.

Reed Fencing 

Transcript (more or less)

Transcript (More or Less)

Note: The Chameleon Breeder Podcast changed the name to The Chameleon Academy Podcast in 2020. This ties together the outreach efforts that grew from this original podcast. Although the audio mentions the Chameleon Breeder name, the links here in the show notes have been updated.

Welcome to the Chameleon Breeder Podcast, the only podcast dedicated to chameleons. This is episode 001. If you are new to podcasts then you are in for a treat. This is essentially radio on demand. Have you ever wished that you could learn about chameleons while you were driving or doing gardening? Well, that is the beauty of podcasts. Now you can! Of course, we chameleon keepers have regular duties of cleaning cages and taking care of feeders. Make it a cage and feeder cleaning date every weekend when this podcast comes out. Structure is a good thing for completing chores! And, by he way, if you are new to the world of chameleons when we use the term “feeders” we are talking about the insects that we feed to our chameleons. You’ll find that we are just as fastidious with our feeders as we are with our chameleons. Our chameleons are what they eat!

We have our Facebook page “Chameleon Academy Podcast” and are on instagram. You can interact with us in between episodes on social media. I’ll post show snippets and announcements there so you can always know what is going on. You can find the links to the social media spots at our website chameleonacademy.com.

To kick this off I’d like to talk about how we should approach cage set-ups for our chameleons. We all want to do what is best for our chameleons, but it is a challenge, and takes some practice, to look at the world through a chameleon’s eyes. Luckily, our chameleons will communicate through their actions as to how happy they are with their cages. It is pretty simple. If your chameleon is climbing the sides of the cage or hanging from the top panel there is something they are not content with going on. If they are constantly “exploring” the cage, there is something to switch up there. It could be something physical such as an uncomfortable temperature. It could be psychological such as a sense of insecurity. A content chameleon will find a couple of favorite spots and settle in. They develop a standard routine with a favorite sleeping spot or two, basking area and day time hang out. Give them a couple days to get used to a new cage, but after that, constant restlessness is a warning sign.

So how do we make for a content chameleon? The answer is to create not only microclimates, but also gradients between them. We want to give our chameleons the most choices in different temperature, humidity, and such as possible.

But let’s define some terms first here. A microclimate is a small area that has a certain temperature, humidity, UVB exposure, and protection from wind, rain, or prying eyes. For example, in my heavily planted outdoor cages it can be a toasty 90 degrees Fahrenheit outside, but down by the heavily shaded moist dirt floor the shade and humid ground it can be downright cool. This is a microclimate I created to give my chameleons a choice between warming and basking in the sun or retreating to a leafy cave to wait out the afternoon heat. Which one does my chameleon like best? Well…Both! Just at different times. In the morning he wants to warm up so will venture out into the direct sun. Once warmed up, he wants to be protected from the blasting sun so he retreats into the foliage. The important thing is that you provide a number of these spots so your chameleon can choose which microclimate they want to be in at any given time.

As a side note, microclimates are one reason why you need to be careful if you are investigating the natural conditions of your chameleon by referencing the official temperature of the nearest city. The weather report gives very generalized information so do not take it for more than that. If the temperature in Ambanja, Madagascar says it is 95 degrees, be careful not to think your cage needs to be 95 degrees to accurately reflect your panther chameleon’s home conditions. Those chameleons in the wild may very well have found some microclimate 10 degrees cooler or found a pocket of high humidity which helps chameleons weather higher temperatures. Or you could be seeing a weather pattern that is thinning out the population of weaker members.   It is good and educational to reference weather patterns from the home town. Just understand what the numbers are – a small piece of the big picture – and use them appropriately.

Gradients. A gradient is a progression from one extreme to another. The most obvious is temperature. If you have a heat lamp in the top corner of your cage your temperature gradient goes from the temperature of the closest perching spot to that bulb to the perching spot furthest away from the bulb. In a large enough cage, outfitted with branches to take advantage of the space, that lowest temperature level will be the ambient room temperature. By the way, do not consider the screen walls of your cage to be perching or climbing areas. Screen walls are poor climbing or perching surfaces. Don’t make your chameleon use them to get what he (or she) needs. So your temperature gradient may be, for example, from 95 to 75.

The power behind giving your chameleon this range to choose from is that you give the chameleon the opportunity to regulate his own temperature. As the day and night temperatures fluctuate your chameleon will need to find different temperatures in his cage to be content. Remember that your gradient will change with the day and nighttime temperatures as well!

Now, I do have to bring up a note about more extreme conditions. If you are living in ambient conditions which are too cold for the species you are keeping then you have to consider solid side cages to hold in the heat. The colder the ambient temperature is the less space your gradient will be in. Having a 6 inch gradient from 95 to 75 obviously gives the chameleon only two choices and is like being by a campfire on a very cold night. Being close to the fire is too hot, but moving one foot back is too cold. You’ll need to lengthen your gradient using glass or other solid side cages which hold in heat.

If this is your situation you can either construct your own cage or look into Zoo-Med and Exo-Terra who have glass terrariums that have ventilation. At the time of this podcast, ZooMed has one and Exo-Terra has two chameleon appropriate sizes at 36” tall. I’ll link to these in the show notes. You’ll have solid glass sides which can hold in the heat. These are valuable characteristics in northern climates where it can be cold and dry.

Time for a quick side note: You have heard that chameleons need screen cages and anything else, especially glass will result in agonizing death of both your chameleon and anyone foolish enough to talk about it on social media. We can talk about this in more detail later, but the abridged edition is this. Stagnant air and trapped heat will stress a chameleon, result in a compromised immune system, and open the door to health issues including upper respiratory infections. These conditions are much harder to create in a screen cage which has led to the advice to use screen cages. Unfortunately, that advice has turned into a black and white sound bite which has demonized glass as a caging material. While aquariums were the culprit in the early days, there are many ways to ensure that a solid side enclosure does not result in stagnant air. Do-it-yourselfers hook up computer fans, ZooMed and Exo-Terra have vents at the bottom front of their terrariums creating convection currents and at Dragon Strand we use screen panels running the entire length of a wall. All these methods are used to incorporate the definite benefits of solids walls without the disadvantages. Solid walls and screen walls are just tools for us to use in different combinations to produce certain environmental conditions that allow chameleons to live in different geographical areas. Please don’t advise anyone on caging until you learn what their environmental conditions are. The internet has many advantages, but one trap is you have advisor nor advisee realizing that Florida advise is being given to someone in Canada.

Now, all this may be starting to sound overwhelming and complicated, but the execution of it is pretty simple. A nice perching branch in the upper right hand corner which has a heat lamp above it and a network of perching branches that end up in a leafy hiding spot outside the effective range of that heat lamp. Pretty simple. The commonly available Veiled and Panther chameleons do quite well with the ambient temperatures that we humans are comfortable with so if you are comfortable, they will be as well…with the option of the basking bulb during the mornings, at least.

But I don’t want to get too far into the details as to execution. That is another episode of its own! Let’s talk about the other gradients that are important to a happy chameleon.

First we have temperature which we have already covered. The second is humidity. Humidity is a very important element and, unfortunately, takes a bit more planning to get right. Chameleons have a higher tolerance to higher temperature with higher humidity so areas with hot, dry summers need to really pay attention. It would be great to create a sliding gradient of humidity for your chameleon to choose the perfect spot, but in the relatively small area of a cage, the best we can usually do is shoot for humidity pockets. These can be created by live plants, solid walls, and, for more experienced keepers, a substrate. And I say “more experienced keepers” as creating and maintaining a proper substrate for a chameleon adds another level of complication that a beginner shouldn’t mess with. Live plants give off humidity and creating a “glen” of sorts with plants can produce a humidity pocket. Especially if you create this with a large, thick hanging vine like a pothos suspended high up in the cage. Having a perching branch behind that wall of leaves underneath the drainage of the pot will give a nice humid retreat. The biggest challenge with humidity is our all screen cages. You just can’t hold in humidity in a screen cage.   You’ll either have to go with a premade cage with solid sides or make your own solid sides. If you want a solid side on a screen cage then hanging a plastic tarp or shower curtain cut to size over two or three sides of your cage will do it. If you would like something a bit more aesthetic then line one of those reed fences with the plastic tarp and you’ll create a more natural looking humidity barrier. There will be a picture in the show notes if you aren’t sure what I am talking about. You can also hang cork bark panels, but you’ll have to construct a support wall and we are starting to get complicated! But I would be very interested in the different ways you all have retrofitted a solid wall to your screen cage. Send me images to bill@chameleonbreeder.com or post them to our Facebook and I’ll include them with the show notes so future listeners can get ideas.

If all that sounds like a lot of work or you want a more professional looking presentation you can go with production solid side cages.

The glass terrariums from Zoo-med or Exo-Terra discussed before will do the job quite nicely of holding in humidity and misting spray. The ability to line the glass walls with cork panels further helps the humidity issue. But if you do not need the heat insulating properties of glass I would steer you towards the Dragon Strand Breeder series with white PVC walls or the Clearside clear PVC walls. Glass has the advantage of being better at holding in heat, but glass terrariums have the following three major disadvantages:

1) Weight: Glass gets VERY heavy. The 18” x 36” x 36” Large, Extra Tall ExoTerra terrarium weighs a whooping 92 pounds.

2) Breakage: Shipping is difficult and prone to having to return a number of times, but that one time inconvenience shouldn’t sway a decision if you need glass.   You do retain the danger of breaking the glass anytime you have to move the terrarium so be careful.

3) The most serious long term issue is Drainage: You have none. You will have to create a drainage layer to deal with water and since there is no external drainage you are having to deal with water and poop together. Poop soup is a serious hygiene problem. Adding drainage to a glass bottom is tricky, risky and labor intensive. Soaking up the water with a substrate adds a level of complexity that requires an additional skill that you should probably save for later.

Here is where the Dragon Strand Clearside enclosures should be considered as the 48” tall cage comes in around 14 pounds, is easily moved without fear of shattering, and comes with a number of external drainage options. The Dragon Strand cages have one entire side as a screen panel so you have a balance of sufficient ventilation versus humidity retention for most areas. And special orders are easy if you desire all clearsides. If you are in extreme temperature areas, you will have to bite the bullet and go for glass (or build your own cage). Most of you won’t have to do this though. As I said before, if you are comfortable in your home – meaning daytime temperatures get into at least the 70s - you can use the standard screen cages with retrofit plastic wrap or Dragon Strand Clearside cages.

Once you have a cage, or area of the cage, that can hold in humidity you can either create humidity pockets or you can add humidity using an external humidifier and direct it towards the cage direction.

So, in the end, I suggest creating a pocket of higher humidity in the enclosure and then work on the ambient humidity using humidifiers if you need to. As with all these parameters, each species will have its own humidity comfort level. Research your species. Veileds are much different than quadricornis. Remember that chameleon species come from areas as diverse as the sand dunes of the Namibia desert to traipsing across snow 13000 feet above sea level on Mt. Elgon. Figure out what your species needs!

So we have temperature and humidity. The next is UVB. This will be a short one. UVB doesn’t need to be a strict gradient, but it is good to make sure there is an area that chameleons can get out of it. In indoor caging this is usually not an issue. The effective range of our standard UVB bulbs is all of 12” and is crippled by simply going through the top screen panel. Your challenge in an indoor cage is to make sure there is a perching branch in the effective range of the UVB bulb. And as a side note, do yourself a favor and stick with well known UVB bulbs. UVB is dangerous and it is too easy to create new lamps which turn out to be dangerous. The T-8 tube lamps by Zoo-med and Exo-terra are pretty established.

This UVB gradient becomes much more of a serious enclosure design issue when placing your chameleon outdoors. All the temperature, humidity, and UVB gradients nicely laid out while your cage was sitting indoors just got blasted out of the water when you move that cage outdoors. The strength of the sun blasting down and now bouncing off the floor of your cage can cook your chameleon from top and bottom and be too much of a good thing. We do not know how much UVB is too much, but your chameleon does know. Make sure your chameleon can get out of the sunlight when the internal signals say to lay low. In indoor caging you’ll run into this issue with baby caging where the entire cage is fully within the effective range of your bulb and any time outdoors.

The fourth gradient is psychological. And that is the gradient of exposure or privacy. All animals need to have a place where they feel safe. We need to create an environment where our chameleon is able to escape constant scrutiny. This is a gradient which is unfortunately often overlooked. We tend to set-up our cages to our own desires which, in this case, is to enjoy our chameleon anytime we want to. It kind of defeats the purpose of having a chameleon if he hides in the plants, right? Well, kind of, but not really. If we bypass for a moment that a hiding place is vitally important to the health of your chameleon consider that allowing your chameleon to decide whether he is seen or not means that when he comes out it means that you have conquered his instinctual fear of anything bigger than he is. That is an accomplishment worthy of respect. But regardless of how much you desire a chameleon-on-demand set-up, your chameleon’s health requires a leafy retreat where he can feel hidden and secure. Even if he gets comfortable enough with you that he never uses it, the fact that he knows it exists helps him be that comfortable.

In the end, the often quoted mantra “get the biggest cage you can” is not because chameleons generally like to wander. It is because the bigger the cage the more and better microclimates you can create. The best thing you can do for your chameleon’s health is to give him a wide variety of choices regarding, temperature, humidity, UVB, and exposure. Within a properly set-up enclosure with these gradients and microclimates in place your chameleon will basically take care of itself. Add food, water and remove waste and you got it.

As far as podcasts go, the system is run by reviews and star ratings. If you liked what you heard today then you can support it by going to iTunes and leaving a review and star rating. It really makes a difference in how we are ranked and I love the feedback. You can also email me at bill@chameleonacademy.com and you can find show notes at chameleonacademy.com for the links we talked about. And that’s a wrap for today.

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