Yearly Archives - 2019

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Welcome to the Chameleon Academy!

The Chameleon Academy has been created to be the center hub for the latest in chameleon husbandry information. This is a multi-media experience with an active weekly podcast and YouTube video outreach.

My name is Bill Strand and I have been working with keepers, breeders, and scientists around the globe to gather together the latest in husbandry techniques. I have been working with and studying chameleons for four decades and have been involved in public education of chameleons since 2002.

In 2015 I started the Chameleon Breeder Podcast as a new and innovative way of  being able to bring the findings of the community together in one place. While a strictly audio medium has enormous advantages, it is difficult to browse. And after over 125 episodes there needed to be a way to access the information easier than scrolling through episodes. Thus was born the Chameleon Academy where you are able to search for topics and do research that includes podcast audio, transcripts, video, and new content. The Chameleon Academy is designed to be a multi-media chameleon research tool.

The Chameleon Academy will be actively updated on a weekly basis and will be the store of my personal drive to discover the most I can about these incredible creatures. Through the podcast, video channel, and this Chameleon Academy I invite you along on my journey.

Sincerely,

Bill Strand

Jackson's Chameleon male
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making UVB work for chameleons

Ep 131: Making UVB Work For Chameleons

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There is a lot of information about using UVB with chameleons bouncing around the internet. But how is it in execution? Today I bring you a discussion with Pete Hawkins who has raised a female veiled chameleon with UVB light and completely without dietary Vitamin D3.

Check out the links below to learn more about Pete!

Pete Hawkins' Website
Chameleon Network Facebook
Pete Hawkins Facebook

Transcript (More or Less)

The whole purpose of providing UVB light is to allow your chameleon to make vitamin D3 naturally through their skin. Although it is common to give D3 through the diet, this is not natural and we can overdose if we give too much. How much is too much is unknown. But instead of researching to figure that out, we are going to focus on researching how much UVB a chameleon needs to do D3 synthesis. As with every exploration there needs to be a starting point. For this starting point I talk with Pete Hawkins who was helping test the Arcadia EarthPro-A supplement which has no vitamin D3. His task was to raise a chameleon completely on UVB with no dietary D3.

Now, I want to give an introduction to what constitutes data in the search for UVB answers. Because there is enormous ambiguity and almost no hard data people in the social media echo chambers have become quite attached to their personal views, which, frankly, are based on nothing more than ideas pulled out of the air. Hard data is very difficult to come by as it takes years to pull together. So, let’s lay the ground rules for what constitutes solid information in the realm of UVB. For us to have a valid test as to whether a certain level of UVB is effective a female chameleon must be raised with no dietary D3 and then lay calcified eggs. That would be the top test as to whether the UVB level was sufficient. And, I am reporting today that we have a data point that fulfills that requirement. It is only one data point and we in the community must continue to test. Although, I will say before I bring on the interview with Pete, I have duplicated his findings with a test of my own. So, like any thing we accept as fact, it must be repeatable. Perhaps after listening in you would be interested in validating the test yourself.

And this is what we need to do to slowly crawl forward. We put together a feasible hypothesis and test it. Pete decided UVI3 was a valid level and proved it out. Building on this I did a test with two pairs of veiled chameleons with one pair being raised up with UVI 3 and one pair with UVI 6 to see if there was any difference. There was none and I am raising up the babies from that test right now. In addition to the test I ran, I validated the test Pete ran.

And what is the significance of these findings?

Well, within our UVB husbandry there are two important levels. The first is the minimum effective level which is the minimum level at which the chameleon can successfully synthesize enough D3 to not only grow up strong, but create calcified eggs. The next level is the maximum safe level. UVB will kill your chameleon. It burns and will produce cancers just like in humans so we  do NOT want to give them more than we need to. Between the tests that both Pete and I ran we can tentatively place UVI 3 to UVI 6 between the minimum effective and maximum safe levels for Veiled Chameleons.

Since there was no benefit to increasing from 3 to 6 we should now turn our minds to refining the minimum effective level. Could we get the same results with UVI 2? Maybe UVI 1? And this is where we can grow as a community. Of course, this is where I am placing my efforts and will let you know what I find out!

At this point we experiment more. If this interests you at all then please contact me. The more experiments we have running the better our data. But it is a touchy topic to test. Failure to synthesize D3 results in Metabolic Bone Disease. So anyone working with this should be ready to spend the money for blood tests to verify D3 levels and have an experienced keen eye to identify when things are not working out.

For the rest of the community, thanks to Pete, we know that UVI 3 is a safe level for veiled chameleons to live without dietary D3. I have duplicated that result in two animals so our confidence can grow. It is true that any scientific study would scoff at using three animals as an indication of anything. But, I will say that our community has gotten into the most heated battles being 100% sure of UVB husbandry even with the loudest voices not even having the benefit of a UVB meter so I think we can agree this is a step in the right direction.

So, where do we go from here? I give you no action item. At this point I am just making you aware of what is going on that is pushing us forward. You are welcome to use this information however it most benefits you. And, for my part, I will continue to bring you the latest advancements from every corner of the chameleon world.

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making the chameleon kit to work

Ep 132: Making the Chameleon Kit Work

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Transcript (More or Less)

You just got home from the pet store or reptile expo with your chameleon and chameleon kit and the online community has passionately informed you of the things that need to change. You tally them all up and they amount to,…well, everything. And with ten voices chiming in from every corner, including that crazy guy who keeps telling you to go back in time and research more, what do you do first? In this episode you have one voice and we will get things sorted out in a orderly and logical fashion with a little learning fun thrown it!

Today my episode will be very specific. I am talking to the people who have purchased the Chameleon Kit from ZooMed. This is the set-up which is the most commonly brought home. It is not meant to be the final cage set-up for your chameleon even if that is the way it was presented to you at point of sale. I am sorry for how that works. We in the chameleon community welcome a great many people who are now having to deal with the realization that the advice they got upon purchase wasn’t the most solid.

ZooMed Chameleon Kit

If you were linked to this podcast it was probably from someone who wants to help make the transition from this simple set-up to something that will last for the chameleon’s long life time. After listening to this podcast episode I’d like to send you back to that person or group so you can continue the process. In this episode I am going to specifically work with what is in the kit and help you get it set-up as good as possible for your chameleon to be taken care of while you work on all the upgrades.

If you found this on your own then at the end of the episode I will refer you to other episodes of the podcast that will take you the next steps.

Chameleon are not that simple to set up. But if they are set up properly they are very hardy and enjoyable pets. The problem is that for pet stores and reptile show vendors to sell their chameleons it would really help if there was a cheap all-in-one boxed kit with a chameleon on the front that they could sell to you with your chameleon to get that money exchange and you on your merry way.

Enter the mechanisms of capitalism and lo and behold that product appeared.

Today I am going to talk about the one set-up the majority of new keepers are sent home with from pet stores and even reptile shows. The Zoo Med Chameleon Kit is a box that suggests it has everything you need and that is the way it is sold. So it may be a cold surprise when you are told that everything needs to change and then the advised expenses start climbing. And you are left confused as to what to do. Even if money was not an issue, who should you listen to? Pet store employee, who is trained to know the right stuff, tells you one thing and then internet mob screams something different.

It is not uncommon for people to have changed up their set-up three times and just gotten sick of hearing so many different opinions.

So that is what this podcast episode is about. Just me and you, your chameleon and the Chameleon Kit. And I will go through what is important and when so your little guy or girl can have the healthiest life possible. And, who am I that you should listen to me? Excellent question and definitely one you should be asking whenever accepting advice. That will help filter the cacophony of voices wanting the pleasure of your attention. My name is Bill Strand and I have been involved with chameleons for about 40 years and active in chameleon community education for 20 of those years. Part of that is continually diving into what we don’t know and challenging what we do know. And, with this podcast, you have found my main outreach to share chameleon related information. So, assuming that has passed the test for being worth the time to listen, let’s get on to helping you sort out that kit you have been sent home with.

 

First, Let’s go over what comes out of the box:

  1. Cage
  2. Vine
  3. Carpet
  4. Plant sprig
  5. Repticalcium
  6. Reptivite
  7. Thermometer
  8. Light fixture
  9. UVB bulb (13 Watt)
  10. Daylight Blue heat bulb (60 Watt)
  11. Reptisafe sample

 

Cage:

The cage is a 16”x16”x30” screen cage. This is an excellent cage to start off with and is appropriate for a single chameleon up to about 4” in body length, or, what we call snout-to-vent. This doesn’t count the tail which tends to break the curve. There comes an issue if you purchased a chameleon larger than this or you have come home with a pair. Yes, the sales person should have known better, but here we are. We’ll look into this more after we go through all the other goodies in the box.

Lights:

The next thing we have is an innovative light fixture which holds two lights. The lights included are the Daylight Blue 60 Watt basking bulb and a Reptisun 5.0 13 watt mini compact fluorescent bulb. This will be the subject of great discussion in a little while. For now, it is enough to know that chameleons need light to see, light to bask in for warmth, and UVB rays so their skin can create vitamin D3 just like ours does. Without vitamin D3 they can’t absorb calcium, their bones do not harden and they die a slow painful death so this particular issue raises a great deal of passion and urgency in the community. So, yes, we will discuss this in detail coming up.

Cage Accessories:

We have a handful of cage accessories including a nice long twisty vine, a spring of plastic plant, and not one, but two, carpets for the bottom of the cage. So we will have fun putting that together I am sure

Nutrition:

Next we have some sample packs of powders. The first is Calcium without D3, Reptivite vitamin powder that does have D3, and a water conditioner.

Thermometer:

And finally, we have a thermometer with a probe that can get wet. Party on, dudes!

And I have to mention that chameleons cannot be kept together in this cage. If they are old enough to be sold at the retail level then they are beyond the age that you can get away with keeping them together because they are babies. And there is no such thing as a bonded pair. This is just the inexperience, or greed, of the pet store employee talking. So if you have two either take one back or else prepare to set up two enclosures. This is beyond opinion. If you are unsure what to believe because the pet store person said they can be kept together (and deep down you want this to be true) I have to just pull rank here and say they are wrong. Absolutely wrong and I’d be happy to say it to their faces. I have an entire episode on co-habitation if you want details on this. Episode 107.

Okay, so you put this all together, throw some crickets in the cage, and life is good! But, there is a lot more to this podcast so this is the part of the movie where the hero finds out that all is not good and that a complete transformation is necessary. And like that hero, at the end of this movie, you will have travelled a fascinating road. So let’s take that first step.

First of all, let’s set up the cage you have and explain the equipment you are dealing with.

To start with setting up the cage, you assemble it according to instructions and then we have to do something with the inside. Just set the carpet aside. I have no idea why that is in this kit. A solid floor is a much better bottom for a chameleon cage. The floor to the cage is fine.

Inside the cage, the included vine will come in handy, but the sprig of plastic leaves is of very little use. In a chameleon cage we need to create a forest edge which means a open area for basking and an area with dense plant leaves that the chameleon can feel safe and hidden. There is no way to do that with what is included in this kit. So your first mission is to put a plant inside this cage that has leaves the chameleon can hide in and feel safe. Luckily, these kinds of plants are found in most indoor plant retailers. You are looking for one that, with its pot, reaches almost 30”, which is the height of your cage and has a lot of leaf cover. Specific species to look for that would do this are the Umbrella Plant (Schefflera arboricola), the Weeping Fig (Ficus benjamina), or the China Doll plant (Radermachera sinica). But it has to have a good head of leaves on it to be of use. So you may be spending $30 for a good size plant. This is worth it for what it does for the chameleon so budget for that amount. If you are unable to find a plant that is tall enough you can make a trailing vine like a pothos work by also buying a plant stand that will move the plant up and let it trail down. The plant species isn’t critical. It is the leaf density and if it is enough for the chameleon to hide in or behind. This will also be your drinking surface. Once the plant is in you can use that vine and wrap it around in side to give as much access to the cage corners as possible. And the plastic plant sprig? Hopefully you don’t need it, but it can provide extra coverage if your live plant is light on leaves in a certain area.

For branching you can get sticks from outside. How you mount these sticks depends on how long you intend to use this cage. If you have a carpet chameleon then you’ll be able to use this cage for its entire life and we can talk about permanent solutions to trick out the cage. If you have a  Veiled, Panther, or Jackson’s you will be growing out of that cage within single digit number of months so it would be best to simply buy the equipment you would need for the upgrade cage. For temporary set-up you can jam a stick in between the screen sides so the screen tension holds the stick in place and you can use push pins through the screen to hold the stick in place. Anything that puts stress on the screen which was not meant to be  lo0ad bearing is a hack and you would want to steer away from it for a set-up you intend to keep around for years.

Okay, now we get to the trickiest part of this and we will have to be clever as to how we execute this. The lighting included in this kit has a 13 watt compact fluorescent UVB bulb and a basking bulb. We need to arrange for the chameleon to have a basking branch that runs under both of these at a somewhat precise distance.

Here is a quick introduction to UVB and UVB lamps. UVB is the wavelength of sunlight we use to create vitamin D3. It is also the wavelength that causes sunburn and cancers. So there is a thin slice of amount of UVB which we want our chameleon to bask in. Not too high of numbers and not too low of numbers. Artificial UVB lamps need to be used with care because each one has a different gradient that they produce. This refers to how quickly they change value. If I wanted my chameleon to bask in the UV Index level of 2 to 3, but not more than 6, I need to find a lamp which has a big enough space for my chameleon to fit its body. So the technology that really works well for us is the linear T5 UVB Fluorescent lights. I can raise it above the cage so that my basking branch starts at 2 to 3 and the top of the cage 6” up is still under UV Index 6. So I
have a gradient of 6 to 9 inches that I can use. The reason that the Compact Fluorescent Bulb that is included in this chameleon kit is so despised is because the top of the cage, right under the bulb, can be UVI 33 which is blisteringly strong. 1 inch down it is 9 which is still too strong. 2 inches down it is 4 which is starting to be useful. 3 inches down it is UV index of 2 which is good for babies. And 4 inches down it is UV Index of 1. So, yes, I can get my range of UVI 2 to 3, but it literally is only with a half inch slice of space three inches under the screen. And above that is at dangerous levels. So these compact bulbs do have a UVB gradient. It is just packed in such a small physical space that it really can’t be used effectively. So, until we get to the upgrade part, run and bend your vine so that the top of your chameleons head can be 3 inches from the screen top where the UVB bulb is. This will give you one small space in the cage where the UVB is good. Luckily, chameleons seem to be able to search out and bask in UVB so we will rely on our little friend to find that one sweet spot in the cage and get what he or she needs.

The heat bulb is also in the same situation. With 60W the useful distance is where you can hold the back of your hand under the light and it is warm and comfortable to you without being painful or uncomfortable due to heat. And you will need to run a vine at the distance that feels the best to you.

A word about the blue light. It is a daylight bulb, not necessarily a blue light bulb, but we really want white light. This blue light can be kept as a heat bulb for future use, but we will definitely be adding a fixture that has white light daylight bulbs in it.

And now we get to nutrition and those powders. The reptisafe water conditioner is…well, I have never used it. I don’t know why it needs to be there. You can use it by following the instructions or not. That won’t have an effect on your chameleon. Beyond that, you have two powders. The first is the ReptiCalcium without D3. This is just calcium powder. This is vitally important because our chameleons need calcium to grow their bones and for proper organ function. Our feeder insects, like crickets, are not only poor in calcium, but they are high in phosphorus. Our chameleons need a 2:1 calcium to phosphorus ratio meaning we need to put enough calcium powder on the crickets to counteract the phosphorus levels. Now you next question is how much you need to dust. And this is not an exact answer and can’t be. With all the variables in how much is dusted, how much sticks, and how much as fallen off by time it is eaten there isn’t a good solid way to measure how much is needed. But, so far, us dusting our feeders every feeding with calcium has worked to raise healthy chameleons. So don’t worry so much about amount. The only thing you have to worry about is how much you feed your chameleon. If it is a growing baby then you can feed as much as they want every other day. If it is an adult you need to back off to 3 to 5 feeders every other day. As cool as they are when they eat and as much as they seem to just want to keep eating – especially the veileds- they are prone to obesity if we let them so we don’t let them.

The Reptivite with D3 is a vitamin powder. This is a tricky beast. It has vitamin A and vitamin D3. Both of those vitamins are fat soluble so there is possibility of overdose. So we want to give enough, but not too much. Now, because no one knows and our information is full of holes, it leaves room for people to have passionate opinions that are contradicting with warnings of horrible death if you listen to anyone else. So pick a routine that makes sense and stick with it even though other people are going to weep and gnash their teeth. I am sorry, but no one agrees so you will just have to pick one voice to listen to. Here is the difficulty. Your chameleon gets D3 from the UVB. Since the UVB is difficult to work with we don’t know if our chameleon is getting enough. We can use the Reptivite with D3 to supplement what he gets from the light, but with D3 from the light, his body will stop making it when he has enough. The body regulates how much it makes to keep it in the safe zone. When we give it through the diet we bypass the regulation and he can get too much. So how much more do we need to give? That is unknown so we have to make a guess. For veiled and panther chameleons, I am going to suggest you use the Reptivite once a week if this is a growing chameleon. I am more concerned with your chameleon, especially veiled chameleon getting Metabolic Bone Disease than I am a vitamin D3 overdose. So for now I am going to suggest you dust one feeding a week with the Reptivite with D3 while we are under the Chameleon Kit conditions. Once we upgrade your system we will rely more on the UVB bulb for D3 synthesis. Jackson’s Chameleons are much more sensitive to vitamins and will get fluid collars with too much so, for Jackson’s chameleons I’ll suggest doing the Reptivite every weeks instead.

Reptivite also has pre-formed vitamin A. This is another one we have to be careful not to overdose, but once a week at the levels in Reptivite should be fine for this short while. Now, one thing I do not like about Reptivite is that they include a perfect balance of Calcium and phosphorus in that 2:1 ratio we want. Unfortunately, this means we can’t put it on a cricket and have a balance. It shouldn’t be a big deal if you are doing it once a week, but if you want to make me feel better, mix in an equal part of that plain calcium and then there will be calcium enough to counter act the phosphorus in the cricket.

Does this sound all complicated? Yeah, I am sorry. It is. But let’s make it simple. Feed every other day. Dust all feedings with calcium except for the weekend feeding that is dusted with Reptivite with D3. Unless you have a jackson’s chameleon in which case you do the reptivite every two weeks.

For both of these make sure you are feeding your feeder insects fruits and vegetables and grains to ensure they are not just empty shells when you feed them to the chameleon. This is called gutloading and it is very important. The powders are supplements. Not meal replacement shakes.

To make this a complete summary, let’s talk about hydration. You may have gone home with any number of hydration devices or plans. The most common are a hand spray bottle or a dripper. Either of these can be used for now. If you are hand spraying then a spritz on the leaves every morning and afternoon should provide the water he needs. I always use a dripper to make sure he is getting enough. If he drinks from the dripper then I know I need to spray the leaves more. Don’t spray your chameleon as he won’t like it. But go ahead and keep spraying until he stops drinking if he starts drinking when you are spraying. There is no drainage tray included with this cage and that means an automatic misting system is probably not a good idea unless you get a tray to put under the cage to catch the water. The company does make a substrate tray, which will catch water, but this is not the appropriate accessory. You don’t want to catch the water inside the cage. It needs to be caught and stored outside the cage so it can’t mingle with the poop and make a disgusting situation. There are trays specifically made to be drainage trays, but these take some money and I am going to suggest that you not accessorize this cage, but start your plans for the next stage as quickly as possible.

We do have one last piece of equipment. The thermometer. This can be hung in the cage and you can monitor your ambient temperature. This allows you to track conditions and know whether you are meeting the needs of your particular species.

So this is what we can do with the cage as you have it out of the box. I took the challenge of figuring out how to make this work with as little excess items to purchase as possible. The things we couldn’t do without were the plant and the hand mister.

So, now that your chameleon is as set as is possible with what you have it is time to start the transition to a better set-up. The first two things that you will have to upgrade are the cage size and the UVB light and the supplementation. And they all three pretty much have to go together. The size and strength of the UVB light and fixture you get will depend on which cage you plan on graduating to. And the supplementation routine is directly related to the UVB and who you are talking to.

At this point I will let you go back to your social media group or the other episodes of my podcast for how to put together your forever cage. And I do this in recognition that this learning process is more comfortable when you have people helping you in real time. If you have people guiding you as to what needs changing then follow their guidelines. It is important that you follow only one person or group’s recommendations because getting a second opinion will just give you different results. And beware of husbandry by consensus. You cannot consolidate the ten different opinions you get off of a Facebook question into a coherent plan forward. Half the people who respond to your picture just want to be heard and have no idea what they are saying. And it is difficult for you to separate out the people that have experience. Well, unless you research the names. I invite you to listen to the previous episodes in this podcast. I go deep into topics, and you will definitely get a feel for what sounds right and what sounds off in the real world. If you want to check out more of these podcasts, I suggest starting with episode 113 which will lead you through selecting a proper chameleon cage, 114 which talks about creating an effective interior and 115 which is about maintaining the chameleon cage. And then just go back to episode 1 and listen on the way to work. By time you catch up your head will be filled with what we in the chameleon community know at this point.

Even if the first steps into the chameleon community were a little rocky, this is an amazing journey. I hope you are able to discover the beauty and wonder that I have in these mini tree dragons.

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Orienttion to the chameleon community

Ep 130: An Orientation To The Chameleon Community

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A warm welcome to the new members of our community. In this podcast episode I will be your introduction to the chameleon world. And for those of you who have been around for a while and have travelled with me for all these episodes it is time for us to take a step back and remember what it was like when we first came to the community. The experience can be jarring! And it is healthy for all of us to see through the eyes of a newcomer. But for the rest of this episode, I am talking to the person who has just joined our community.

Transcript (More or Less)

You will find the chameleon community wide spread across all of the social media apps. Some stronger than others, but we are well represented. And, more than likely, this is how you join the community. There is a surprising number of people off the grid, so to speak, but they really aren’t part of the community that will overlap with you – at least for a while!

Social Media orientation

The first thing I want to do is address the reaction you may have gotten when you jumped onto your first Facebook group to show off your new chameleon that you are so proud of, ask for wisdom from the people who have chameleons already, and…. it is like a bomb went off in your hands. Wrong cage, wrong vines, wrong lighting, wrong supplementation, stop cuddling Pascal, why didn’t you do your research?

What in the world happened here?!?! What the heck is Anthropomorphizing? And what could be wrong with my set-up? I did everything the pet store person told me to do! And I know it is right because the kit I spent all that money on had a chameleon on the box. And who are all these keyboard warriors that think they have the right to judge me! The pet store said to watch out for all the trash advice on the internet and I guess this is what they were talking about!

 

Okay…let’s take a step back. If this was not your experience then I am glad your introduction to our community was a bit more civilized! But there is an unfortunate pattern that plays itself out over and over with new keepers and I’d like to address this directly up front.

It can be a jarring experience going from pet store or reptile show purchase to an online community. The problem is based on the fact that chameleon care is not easy or cheap, but that chameleons have enormous impulse buy potential. So capitalism being what it is, pet stores were hungry for a way to send customers home with their first chameleon with as cheap of a set-up as possible. The problem was that if you bundled an adult cage with all the appropriate equipment the price of that bundle would destroy your impulse buy market. So, instead of saying, hmmm, chameleons are incredibly cool, but are not suited for our target demographic, they created a product bundle that would keep the chameleon alive beyond the return period. And then they train the staff to sell the product and the chameleon. And you are trusting the pet store employee to tell you what you need to know. I have run into some pet store employees that were incredible and some that were completely incompetent. The problem is that if you are totally new to chameleons, you can’t tell the difference. They both talk with the same confidence level. So you spend a lot of money based on their advice, go home, and set up a small cage with a vine and a spring of plastic plant. Wow, that was easy! Oh my gosh, this chameleon loves me, he can’t wait to get out and play with me! This is so awesome! I can’t wait to make friends with other chameleon people!

And thus we are caught up with a decidedly poor social media experience. In groups that have thousands of members there will be a section of that population that will love to beat anyone up they can just to feel like they know something. In the more established groups, the moderator team will bang heads around and force people to act with respect. But if you post when the team is asleep, the rats will be out and there will be an unsavory situation until order is brought in.

If this was your experience, you were probably told your entire set-up needed to be replaced and that you should have done your research before getting a chameleon. Isn’t self-righteous judgement such a wonderful part of human personality? The fact is, you did your research. You talked to a person in a pet store uniform and you bought everything they told you to. There was no trying to be cheap. You literally were willing to do whatever it took to set up your new little friend!

Now here comes the confusion. What is right and why should you listen to all these new names on the internet?

Well, as one of those people on the internet trying to help new chameleon keepers I’ll explain. I always try to present both sides of a situation so people can make educated decisions for themselves. In this case there really isn’t much in the way of two sides. I’ll try and say this as gently as possible, but it is true that very few pet stores and, unfortunately, very few reptile stores will send you home with a correct chameleon set-up and education. And we know this because every day we have people joining our groups with various versions of poor advice. We are lucky when people come before their chameleon is sick because we can prevent the chameleon from getting sick. This is the hardest time for you to learn about what chameleons really need because you don’t yet see a problem. The people that are asking about why their chameleon is sick and dying are much more open to listening! But, that is when it is too late. And so, we see this day in and day out. Your situation is common. Stick around and within a couple days you’ll see people coming in with the exact same situation. It is an epidemic. Ideally, pet stores would give good advice, but the real danger is that they do not realize how bad the advice and products are that they are selling. So they do not know to tell you to do further research. And so, with the confidence of the care pamphlet why would you think you need more to learn? It isn’t until your chameleon is showing signs of illness you are given even a hint that you should check around and see what is wrong.

And we see this all the time as well. Heartbreak. Heartbreak from keepers that did everything they were told and are fully willing to do anything else it takes as far as money and set-up to keep their chameleon happy. And it isn’t until they check around about their chameleon not being able to hold itself up on its branch do they learn that their chameleon has an advanced stage of deadly metabolic bone disease that was completely preventable if they had the right light or proper supplements. And education now does not make up for a year of damage. Yes, we experienced keepers can spot the beginnings of MBD before it does permanent damage, but if this is your first chameleon there is no way you can know what trouble looks like until it is in its advanced stages.

Those of us on the frontlines of general chameleon social media or forum groups see this all the time. We have to correct and console. Some people on these groups are gentle and some people are just plain jerks.

 

So what now? Well, if you are listening to this podcast then you have decided to push through that initial experience and dig deeper. Obviously, there is a lot to learn and there is an entire library of podcast episodes you can use to fill in whatever topics you want. But I am going to give you a crash course right now to try and focus your energies in the right direction while you make heads and tails of this community.

 

First of all, Chameleon health. I am going to assume you have a veiled, panther, or jackson’s chameleon. This advice applies to most chameleons so as long as they are the same size, all is good. This will be the briefest of overviews just so you know where to dig in. There are entire podcasts on these subjects and respectable members of the community that can help guide you along in execution.

  • Cage: You’ll need an appropriately sized cage. If you were sent home with a 16x16x30” cage then that will be good only for the few months your chameleon is a baby. I am sorry that this is only the first piece of inadequate equipment you have been sent home with. We will have a bit of a list here. Generally speaking, get yourself a 24” x 24” x 48” tall screen cage. There are other cage sizes that will work, but this is the most common cage available and it will work for you.
  • Cage Interior. You need a layer of live plants for your chameleon to hide in. They can’t be on the ground. They have to be in the top half of the cage. I know this is challenging in a screen cage. I founded the Dragon Strand chameleon caging company and I had to actually invent a product that would allow us to do this because there just isn’t a good way of doing this. The Dragon Ledges screw into the frame so they allow you to mount plants and horizontal branches up where the chameleon needs them. If you don’t go this route then you need to either buy plants that are tall enough to have a lot of leaves in the upper section of the cage or else you can use plant stands to accomplish the same effect with shorter plants. However you do it you absolutely need plant cover for your chameleon to hide in. Not only is this for their sense of security, but we will need to provide UVB for your chameleon and they need to be able to get out of the UVB when they have had enough.
  • Here is that UVB and probably the first thing you were told to change. Chameleons need UVB, just like we do, to produce vitamin D3. But, just like we get sunburns, too much UVB will cause problems with your chameleon. This is why we need that plant cover. Currently the best technology is a T5 linear fluorescent bulb. If your kit does not have a T5 linear then get one, but make sure if you are getting a strong UVB bulb that you also are getting that 48” tall (or other appropriate) cage. Putting a strong UVB over a 30” cage is too much. You’ll find so much of this is all connected.
  • Supplementation and gutloading. You need calcium powder and a controlled amount of vitamins. This is where you will get a major amount of disagreement in the community. Just go with whatever your mentor has worked out. Worry about the rest of the community later. The reason why there is so much room for disagreement is because there is so little actually known. Since there is so much ambiguity and lack of hard facts it has been easy for people to slip into getting a little too personally invested. Just concentrate on getting one of these methods down and sit out the ridiculous fighting.

 

Basics of chameleons

And there are a handful of items about chameleons that we need to nip in the bud. The first is:

Cohabitation.This is when you have two chameleons living in the same cage. This is a big one because reptile stores will see the opportunity to sell you two chameleons instead of just one. The bottom line is that you can not keep chameleons together. They will eventual fight and this fighting may not be visible to your eye – especially if they freeze whenever you walk in the room. Once again, there is an entire podcast episode on cohabitation. Jackson’s Chameleons are particularly prone to being victims of this as they are much more subtle in their mannerisms. Just to save you pain and misery, just get separate cages for your chameleons before going online and bragging about your two chameleons in one cage.

 

And Affection.Here is where I get called cold, heartless, cynical, and, well, realistic. Chameleons are not capable of human emotion. We want them to. We see it in their eyes. They love us! So this is our compromise. You are welcome to believe your chameleon loves you if you love your chameleon back. And what this means is you accept him for what he is and you learn his language. And this is where it gets hard. To truly love him you need to understand him. Deep inside of your chameleon there is instinct that is designed for survival in the wild. There has not been enough time for them to be domesticated. So they do not like to be touched and they do not like to be played with. And they should never fall asleep during the day and if they fall asleep in your hand that is the sign that something life threatening is in process. I will link a handful of podcasts that will explain chameleon behavior in the show notes. If you love you chameleon you will learn their language and allow them to be what they are instead of what we humans desire them to be. Isn’t that the truest definition of love even between humans? The point is. Handle them as little as possible. There are very few exceptions, but most likely you will have a chameleon that would rather be left alone.

There is a community for everything and I am sure you will be able to find one that supports your desire to cuddle your chameleon. That is a sign that you should be somewhere else.

 

And, I am not going to tell you where you should be and what community you should join. Yes, I am active on a number of social media apps. It isn’t hard to find me. I am not hiding. But I am not going to recruit you to my groups. There are general chameleon groups and groups that are species specific. Search through the social media app of your choice and try out a number of groups. Each group will take on the personality of their leadership. And you will click with some and not with others. It is okay. Just drop the ones you don’t like. You may love my podcasts, but hate my group management style. I have a very tight walled garden type philosophy. Play nice and don’t start fights or you don’t get to come back.  Other groups enjoy the freedom of an unmoderated wild west where anyone can say anything and Saturday night’s alright for fighting. Maybe that is more your style. Just like in real life, you find your niche.

Now, I know you are thinking I am talking about Facebook here and I mostly am. But I’d like you to consider a third generation community. And this is my personal scale here. In the early 90s we had a print magazine that created community, the Chameleon Information Network. That is what I call the first global community because it was the first time we chameleon people had something that reached on a global scale. The second generation community was late 90s and nearly 2000s where we had email listserves like yahoo groups and we quickly morphed into the third generation which were forums. And there is still a forum that is highly active. The advantage of joining a group that has been around since 2003 is that you have a highly mature group that has a strong structure. It has already gone through all the political drama and is stable. The leadership team ensures a productive atmosphere. And it is an entire website dedicated to chameleon care with almost two decades of chameleon experience there for the researching. There is no membership limit. You can be part of more than one community. Include www.chameleonforums.comin your community circle.

 

And before I leave the discussion about social media. I am going to go over a little bit of etiquette that may help your introduction to be a bit smoother.

  • Social media is all about real people answering questions in real time, but people get tired of answering the same question over and over. To get the most response, do a search for your question and read up on the responses in the past. You not only will probably get your question answered, you may have another more advanced question that will pique the interest of some of the more advanced keepers. The search function is an excellent tool! It also doesn’t hurt to see what educational files are posted to whatever group you are involved in before you go public with a question.
  • Observe the group dynamic. Each group has its topics which are very important. In one group you better not have plastic plants in the cage. In another group fixing your UVB is a prerequisite to everything else. In the groups I work with you don’t disrespect glass cages. Each group has a culture. Take a little bit of time to get a feel for it and you can slide in and introduce yourself when you feel comfortable.
  • Rescuing a chameleon. It isn’t a rescue if you need rescuing. If you see a chameleon in a sad state, purchase that chameleon because you feel sorry for it, and then come to social media asking how to take care of a chameleon that is not really a rescue because now you are making people in the community come to your rescue. Just don’t call it a rescue. Say you felt sorry for the chameleon and made an impulse buy. Search the files and history of the group and then asked focused question. And, for goodness sake, do not say you rescued a chameleon and then start a GoFund Me to pay for supplies and vet visits. You have changed the location of the chameleon and are now campaigning for the community to rescue both you and the chameleon.
  • Take things one step at a time. Do not jump into breeding your chameleon while you are asking questions about which UVB bulb you should use. And I am going to go straight for the heart here. Breeding chameleons as a money making business is exceptionally hard. I am not saying you can’t do it, but I am saying people have wanted to do it for decades and I can probably count on one hand the people who can actually make it work and have fingers left over to flag a cab down. Yeah, I know what happens when you use a calculator to multiply clutch size by market price. But it just doesn’t work out that easy. I’ll not be your dream killer, but maybe don’t talk about it too much at the beginning.
  • Taking offense. This is social media where everyone’s post is their ego. This isn’t just chameleons, of course. All of social media is like this. Ignore the off base comments or report them to the admins. And, on your side, don’t post something because it just came to your mind. Just post if you truly know the answer. You see, we moderators have to respond to something if it is incorrect. If we leave it up then people will believe it – no matter what it is or how outlandish! So, post when you know the answer.

 

Topics in transition

Now, back to the community dynamics. One thing that drives new keepers crazy is when respected members of the community say completely opposite things. Sigh…I don’t know what to say other than we are constantly pushing our knowledge of chameleon husbandry forward and we all go at different speeds. I am part of the vanguard that is aggressively pushing for our husbandry to get closer and closer to the natural state. Some of the breeders I have the most respect for are at the totally opposite end of the spectrum and will only change one parameter at a time and not make it part of their public husbandry advice to their customers until they have tested it for three years over at least two full generations. And the bulk of the community is in between in when they accept new ideas. And this is fine. The sure-thing, multi-generation tested breeder husbandry advice is perfect for new keepers. If you are adventurous, fine, join me in working on a comprehensive natural hydration routine that integrates misters, drippers, foggers, and fans! I’d love the company! And one day it will be standard beginner husbandry. But it takes time to work out all the bugs and the ways it can go wrong. Start with the boring “old” ways. They have been tested ad nauseum! That is the PERFECT place to start!

Now, there are a few debated topics that you are likely to run into. I’ll give you a brief overview and warning so when you run into two experts hotly debating an issue you can know you are witnessing the transition process. Sit back, relax, and act like a tourist. Take pictures of the frothy mouths and ten years you can look back and say you were there.

 

Here’s a few things you will hear being debated that you don’t have to worry about

1) Fogging at night. This is a relatively new one. The community standard was misting during the day. That is when they drink isn’t it? Well, yes, but when you look at the natural hydration cycle it actually includes breathing humid air at night. For the longest time we have had our hydration cycles reversed. I am part of the group of people trying to help people integrate nighttime fogging. Like everything it can be done wrong and so it isn’t like everyone should just switch over. But we need to start the process. So you will witness some people say nighttime fogging is essential and some people scoff at it. This is not really a conflict you are witnessing per se, but a standard slow transition of more people getting comfortable with how to implement the practice. As for you? Do what your mentor advises. We made daytime misting work for many many years. If that is what they are saying then so be it.

2) Vitamin D3 and Vitamin A: Supplementation is one of the big areas of mystery. The core of the issue is that vitamins D3 and A are fat soluble so you can overdose on them. But no one knows where the necessary dosage line is or the overdose line is. And it is almost definitely a balance of different vitamins in the system, but some of us are working hard to figure out where those lines are. With more and more hard data the ambiguity and the ego posturing will subside. But until then just go with what your mentor says is the way to go and listen to this podcast for the latest findings. This is another area where I am working on pushing what we know.

3) Glass vs. Screen cages. The screen cage people think chameleons have to be in screen cages or they will die. The more advanced keepers know that glass is just as much of a tool as screen is. You know what I will say…follow what your mentor says.

 

There are many minor issues that are debated. Just observe for now.

 

A Mentor

I keep saying do what your mentor tells you to do. Who are these mentors and where does one find one? A mentor can be anyone with more experience than you that will advise you. You can have more than one mentor and you can switch mentors at any time. This is not a contracted position so no notice need be given when you decide someone is your mentor and no notice need be given when you move on. How you select who you listen to depends on your personality. It takes work to research the people who are actively helping beginners so most people just start listening to whomever answers their questions. And maybe you don’t want a mentor, but intend to figure it out yourself by weighing all the choices. That is fine too. Here is the important thing. All of our husbandry is connected. Especially, the UVB light and fixture choice is tied into the supplementation schedule and cage size. And each of us has tweaked the implementation to work for us. So it is important that you get the UVB light/fixture/ supplementation/cage parameters from one place. Don’t get the UVB recommendation from person 1 and the supplementation schedule from person 2 and pick up the cage that was at the pet store.

 

And so, where do you go from here? Shop around for a chameleon community that is on your favorite social media app. Facebook has a very active community and Chameleonforums.com is excellent. Instagram and YouTube are active on individual accounts, but aren’t the best as far as a group chat. And TikTok, well, good luck there!

 

As far as further research, this podcast has a wealth of information. You can start at episode 1 and just work your way through them all. By time you get back to this point you are going to be quite proficient in chameleon husbandry concepts! If reading is your think then check out www.chameleonnews.com. That was the electronic magazine of the early 2000. The information is still good.

 

Beyond that, keep your eye open and learn from the chameleon in front of you. Learn from us humans how to listen to what they tell you, but once you know their body language, they are your greatest teacher. Welcome to the world of chameleons. It is an incredibly fascinating place.

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Chameleons & Children

Ep 128: Chameleons & Children

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Pets form the pillars of many of our growing up years. Both intellectually and emotionally. I am sure most of you listening have a great swelling of warmth when you think of pets in your life. I found it interesting how controversial the research is as to whether pets make for a better childhood. It seems it is very hard to prove this, but we all know it. And I read with amusement that the researchers who did a study that showed no benefit were essentially challenging it themselves.

Usually, a typically aloof pet like a chameleon does not fare well with a typical child. But, in this episode I bring two stories of how a chameleon was the perfect tool to unlock a child's enthusiasm. Each situation is different. Hopefully, thi episode provides the food for thought as you consider whether a chameleon is an appropriate new member for your family.

Transcript (More or Less)

The joy and fascination  my pets brought me as a child and still in my adult life is so basic and real that I will immediately discount any study that suggests otherwise.  If you cannot prove it with science then, fine, I am a firm believer in the supernatural. You just put those numbers back in your pocket and I will happily retire my Spock ears.  My heart grows three times whenever my shiba inu dogs greet me at the door and share the stick they discovered that afternoon. I get lost in wonder just watching my chameleon move – or not move. A tear forms in my eye every time I remember my beloved cat who would snuggle in the crook of my arm each night to go to sleep. And I could go on and on as I pull each precious memory back out to feel for a moment once more.

If you have had similar experiences and memories it certainly is understandable that you would want your children to have such a life changing experiences themselves. Our culture, at least in the US where I am based, is well immersed in what it means to have a dog or cat. So parents seem to intrinsically know the answer as to whether they should bring a cat or dog into the home. It is actually quite simple. You, as the parent say no everytime your kid asks and you prepare for the inevitable day that a puppy or kitten somehow arrives home with your child. Or your dad. We never got a cat. It was always a mutual arrangement. My dad would never buy a cat or go to the pound. We always got what I call pre-pound cats. These were strays with no home and my father would present them with cat food. They were then free to stay or go as they pleased.  The more antisocial and wild the better. My Dad was not a cuddler and his life calling was to be friends with cats that agreed. He sometimes spent months building trust with a stray. And his victory was the day they let him scratch behind their ears. And that is all he would take from the relationship. And what this illustrates is that we all have different things that pets provide to us. So the answer to whether a chameleon would be good for your child is an honest analysis of what your child needs from an interaction with a pet. In this episode I am going to share with you what kind of pet a chameleon makes and will bring on parents from two families where a chameleon was the exact right pet. In hearing them talk you can get a feel for whether you are in the same situation.

Before we jump into chameleon specifics, I just want to establish a foundational axiom. Children cannot be relied upon to take care of a pet – any pet. Yes, they can help. And the more mature they are the more they can help, but the end responsibility to make sure this living being receives the food, water, and clean living conditions it requires always must be embrace by the parent. Any animal you bring into your home is your pet. Do NOT give a chameleon, or any animal, to your child for them to take full responsibility. I’d would much rather you instill in them a deep respect and value for life rather than use that life to teach your child the consequences of being distracted by the rigors of growing up. Before we take a step closer to this being a good idea we will change the wording from getting a chameleon for your child to bringing a chameleon into the home for your child to help you care for.

Generally, the quick and simple answer to the question of kids and chameleons is no. The typical kid who is full of energy, bouncing around with limitless dog chasing energy, and the attention span of a minute or two is going to get bored of a chameleon very quickly. Chameleons spend their lives moving as little as possible and most of them view us humans with trepidation. We look suspiciously like something that might eat them. So, chameleons are not good for any child, or adult, that wants to watch things move around. When you go to the zoo and walk through the reptile section are you or your kid the ones that are tapping on the glass wanting the lizard to move? This shows an incompatibility between expectation and what a chameleon is.

A chameleon is a low energy pet. You make your chameleon happy by giving them a leafy hiding place and pretending you don’t see them. How do you feel about that? How do you think your child will feel about that? Now, it isn’t that bad. Once a chameleon gets comfortable with you, and he will recognize you and whomever cares for him, then he won’t spend his time hiding during the day and chameleons like a Panther or Veiled Chameleon will eventually get to the point where he is excited that his food bringer is approaching. But that transition to accepting you needs to be on his schedule and his schedule is almost always much slower than your schedule. Remember that story of my father and his stray cats? Someone who would happily spend months slowly building trust is the perfect type of patience in a person that would do great with chameleons. Requiring nothing from them and accepting only that which is given whenever it may or may not be given.

And this is a segue into the types of children that are perfect for having a chameleon in their home. There are children that value interactions that are much less frenzied than what a dog might bring. There are children that have tapped into fascination for the world and feel that incredible wonder. And I mean more than a passing “wow, that is neat”, but a deep tug to learn more about these modern day dragons.

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fogging and airflow for chameleon cages

Ep 127: UVB For Montane Chameleons

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The major steps to creating a supplement routine that does not include vitamin D3 or vitamin A are to understand what a chameleon needs. And this is not an easy task. We hardly know what humans need, much less chameleons. So we will have to run tests and share with each other. As a refresher, vitamins D3 and A are on my hit list for removing from the supplementation because, as far as we know, they are not naturally ingested in the wild and by giving those vitamins orally we bypass the internal mechanisms that the chameleon’s body has to limit how much of those vitamins are stored. You see, D3 and A are fat soluble and if there is too much there becomes a toxic situation. We will first focus on vitamin D3 as it is quite clear how chameleons get D3 and we have the means to provide it through their natural path. Vitamin A is a mess and we will tackle that can of worms later.

Transcript (More or Less)

Chameleons, like us, manufacture vitamin D3 by using the energy they get from a narrow band of ultraviolet wavelengths. This is started in the skin and travels through the liver and kidneys to be changed around and end up in a form that allows the body to absorb calcium from the digestive tract. It is worth understanding this internal process, but to do so would means a lot of detail that I would rather not dive into right now. The important thing for us hobbyists to understand is that by providing the correct amount of UVB, we can remove vitamin D3 from our supplementation.

Now, let me be clear about this D3 mission. Vitamin D3 has been used as a supplement safely for decades. And, as we heard on the last episode, we have established baseline amounts that we can be comfortable as being both effective and safe. So if you currently have a routine that includes D3 you do not need to panic. The purpose of removing D3 is to move our husbandry art closer to perfection. For those of you that get bored easily, do not worry, perfection in the art of chameleon husbandry is far off into the future and I am sure it will not be achieved in my lifetime. So I, at least, will not be out of a podcasting job any time soon. But moving our husbandry closer to nature will provide to us answers to questions we didn’t know to ask and it is what the chameleon developed to need. We can either spend our efforts figuring out what a safe and effective diet of D3 is for each species or else we can figure out a safe and effective level of UVB and let the chameleon do what they naturally do. At least as close as is possible with our attempts to mimic nature.

So, this episode is about figuring out UVB levels. Once we get our UVB levels in the effective range we can do away with D3 in our supplement. To start this exploration we need to understand a couple of concepts about UVB.

The first is that safe and effective levels are two different things. The minimum effective level is the minimum levels that will energize the skin to carry out the D3 conversion process. The maximum safe level is the level you can provide without bringing on the detrimental effects of UVB. Let’s be clear. UVB will kill your chameleon. You know this as sunburns. UVB is that strange thing where there is a certain window in which it is lifegiving for the D3 process and then it becomes death-bringing as it produces burns and cancers. And so finding a balance in UVB is critical. It seems all of life is like this. You can actually kill yourself by drinking too much water. Luckily, the amount of water you have to drink to harm yourself is beyond what most of us could ever force ourselves into. UVB, though, is silent and does its damage before you are aware of it. So we have to be careful.

This is the way we will approach UVB. At UV Index 0 there is no UVB. No danger and no D3 conversion. As we increase our UV Index, this is the method by which we measure UVB, we get closer to conversion and closer to danger. The UV Index in the mornings, when chameleons tend to bask to raise their body temperature, is between 1 to 3. To put this in perspective, this is the level where the World Health Organization says it is safe for us humans to be outside with minimal sun protection. In the early afternoon to later afternoon the UV Index in the typical chameleon habitat climbs between 3-6. This is where the WHO says to start protecting yourself. Late afternoon is when you start seeing those UV Index readings that hit as high as 10 and above. This is where your skin will start burning. But somewhere in the progression, our skin started the D3 conversion and when it had enough it stopped D3 conversion. There was a stage where the UVB was unnecessary, because we had the D3 we needed, but our skin was able to defend against the UVB. And then there was the point where the defenses were breached and burning began. Chameleons are the same way. Each chameleon has a different level of defense to UVB. They will also have different requirements for UVB. This is why we need people dedicated to observing a species over many generations and testing different methods out to learn about that one species. We chameleon people have the situation where chameleons come from all elevations, a wide range of environments, and different places within those environments. We must be cautious when we give chameleon husbandry advice. We need to be giving species husbandry advice with only those that we know.

In an upcoming episode I am going to go deeply into execution of UVB on chameleon cages. In today’s episode I wanted to explore the needs of montane chameleons for UVB. Montane chameleons are much more sensitive to our supplements and develop edema and other nutritionally related health issues with a supplementation routine that a panther chameleon would be fine in. So the montanes, of which Jackson’s Chameleons are members of, are a great group of chameleons to work with to unlock these secrets.

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chameleon supplementation

Ep 125: Chameleon Supplementation Basics

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Supplementation is a complicated subject. We still don’t even understand what humans need for nutrition, much less what a chameleon needs. Most of what we do with chameleons comes from trial and error. The more trials, the more errors we can weed out. Today I start a series on the basics of supplementation so we can all understand what we are trying to do with all those powders.

Transcript (More or Less)

Nutrition is a rat’s nest of interactions between vitamins, minerals, hormones, and light, temperature, and stress. Our chameleons take in a variety of invertebrates and vertebrates that are composed of different nutrients both in body make-up and in their gut. Dust and pollen come along with these insects and through drinking. UVB and heat energies are absorbed. And water makes it all run. It is our job to provide all of this to our chameleon. With what science already has discovered we have a fairly good idea of what elements need to be presented to the chameleon. We can have this all available and let the chameleon decide what he wants and how much! It a ll sounds pretty easy! The good news is that, with a little thought, much of it is as easy as that. Give them a heat lamp and a good enough UVB source and they will regulate that intake. The bad news is that we still don’t know how to make our feeder items properly nutritious. See, it isn’t about just throwing all the vitamins and minerals we can into a powder and making them eat it. There is a need for balance and, in some very important cases, a danger in giving too much. And with very little study to go off of, we hobbyists are left to figure it out.

One way we make up for nutritional deficiencies in our feeder insects is to add supplement powders to the feeder insects. After we gutload them and make them and their gut as nutritious as possible, we add a layer of supplement powder to the outside of the cricket, or whatever insect we are using. The idea is that this supplement compensates for the lack or imbalance of nutrients. Let’s take the most common example. Crickets are the most common feeder insect in the US. This is because they are relatively easy to breed commercially. Luckily, they have been proven to be sufficient to power our chameleons. But crickets have way too much phosphorus compared to the calcium they offer. The latest science pins it at calcium needing to be twice the level of phosphorus for it to be beneficial and not detrimental. Because, just so you know what kind of tightrope over lava we are walking, too much is dangerous. Too little is dangerous. Off balance is dangerous. There are consequences to getting it wrong either way. So we need to add calcium to the crickets to counteract how much phosphorus they naturally provide. This is supplementation.

In the upcoming episodes we will be exploring various aspects of supplementation. I’ll share what we know and what we don’t know. It will be a winding road, but you all have done a pretty good job at sticking with me through all the curves of this fascinating, but sometimes crazy chameleon world. So strap in and let’s figure out where we stand on supplementation.

In this first installment I want to lay down the foundation from which we will go forward. I want to lay down the methods you can use to intelligently analyze a supplementation routine. Once this foundation is laid down we can effectively discuss the supplements out there and the routines to use them.

First, let’s lay out our major considerations when dealing with supplements. And I need to caution you on two things. First, there are many moving parts. I am going to do my best to simplify and generalize without going so far that the information is watered down. Hang on and let’s see how I do. My job here is to bring all the pieces into a coherent picture and distill it all into an understandable concept. To do this with nutrition will be my greatest challenge. Second, this topic is even more complex than can be explained and, unfortunately, more complex than we understand with today’s science. So please take this episode as a first most basic step. My goal for this episode is that you understand enough about nutrition that you can make intelligent decisions about your supplementation product and routine. Asking more experienced people for advice is helpful and where you should start, but nothing can replace the effectiveness of understanding it yourself and making your own decisions. We have done many episodes on nutrition so this is looking at it from another perspective. And, we will continue to explore this subject for the entire life of this podcast. This is a growing science and understanding will change! Now, as I said, in this episode I am going to be distilling things down into basics. We cannot ignore that all the items I do not talk about today also are critical for everything to work, but we need to start somewhere.

As we look at each of the components I will make a point of explaining how the chameleon gets this in the wild and what the danger of overdose is. These two items are related as if we provide the element as the chameleon would normally get it in the wild then we are able to use the naturally occurring checks and balances within the chameleon’s body to prevent overdose. If we provide the element in a different manner and we bypass the normal checks and balances within the chameleon’s body then we must be very careful not to give too much or we can kill our chameleon. It is that serious. In this overview, we will look at three main elements: Calcium, Vitamin D3, and Vitamin A. We will then take a look at the supplements available and do some real world analysis on what they offer us.

 

So, let’s jump in and start with the most important components to supplementation. The first is calcium.

Calcium is a building block for our bones and critical for proper organ function. It is so important that there is no debate as to using it as a supplement. Calcium is a curious mineral as it is so plentiful all around, but we are not sure how chameleons get their calcium. Insects are usually poor sources of calcium and vertebrates with those calcium skeletons are rare prey items. Whatever the source of calcium, babies need a lot of it and they provide the biggest challenge to explain how they get it. Possibilities include certain rare insect species and invertebrates which do have calcium, licking dust infused water from leaves, and eating insects which have plants that contain calcium in their gut. Whatever the path, one thing that is important to this discussion is that we know that calcium in the wild is ingested orally. So this means that our oral supplementation of calcium is giving it to them in a way that they were designed to take it in. And calcium overdose from calcium itself has not been a problem for us. I am sure we could give too much of anything, but our main problem with causing hypercalcaemia (which is too much calcium in the blood stream) is with too much Vitamin D3 which facilitates the absorbtion of calcium from the gut. Otherwise unused calcium is just flushed out of the system. We hear about how we humans can takes too much calcium carbonate (aka Tums), but I have not heard of creating hypercalcaemia in chameleons with just plain calcium. The take away here is that calcium can be dusted every feeding without it being a health issue. There are other things we will worry about.

Now, there is a balance we must be familiar with. And that is with phosphorus. This is also an important element in building our, and our chameleons’, bones. The thing is that calcium and phosphorus must be in a certain balance. You need to have a two parts calcium to one part phosphorus balance. Crickets, and many of our feeder insects, have a tiny amount of calcium, but a relatively huge amount of phosphorus. So our feeder insects are naturally high in phosphorus. How do we balance this out? We add calcium powder to the phosphorus high feeder. This is why calcium is supplemented every feeding in every routine I have done or have encountered. And it is important to understand this when shopping for a supplement. In some supplements, they brag about having the 2:1 calcium to phosphorus ratio. Sound good? A perfectly balanced supplement! Well, no, because if you put a perfectly balanced supplement on an imperfectly balanced feeder insect you can never get the proper balance. This is why we need to be aware of what is important. And, don’t worry, at the end of this episode I will go over some major brands and we will discuss the pros and cons of each. We’ll tie it all together in the end.

 

So, do we need to supplement the rare feeder that has calcium, such as the Black Soldier Fly larva? No, you do not have the supplement calcium on BSF larva as they, as far as the studies we have available, already are balanced enough. It will not hurt anything to add more calcium to them, but I don’t for a totally different reason. The more powder we put on our feeders the more we throw off their hydration value. Chameleons get a significant amount of hydration from the food they eat and we throw that off with all this powder that they have to then use up their water stores to rehydrate. This is not a real problem to worry about because, unlike the wild, we provide plenty of water on a daily basis. But, it never hurts to give their body what they expect. I do not know how much value this actually brings, but if my chameleons end up living twice as long I am going to attribute it to this natural hydration and start my own chameleon husbandry cult. Stay tuned for membership information.

 

Any discussion about calcium quickly becomes a discussion about Vitamin D3.

Vitamin D3 is the main component that allows the body to extract calcium from the gut and bring it into the body. There the calcium is directed to go where it needs to go which is mostly to the bones where it is used for structure and is stored to be released as needed for proper organ function. Vitamin D3 is created in the chameleon’s body. The body uses the energy from a very specific narrow wavelength band of ultraviolet light and through a process which goes from the skin to the liver to the kidney, creates the end vitamin D3 product.

Vitamin D3 is a fat soluble vitamin which means it is stored in the body. Here is where it gets important. Vitamin D3 is manufactured by the body and stored. The body measures the levels of D3 and turns on and off manufacturing to maintain a certain level. The problem is that there is no mechanism for restricting the amount of D3 absorbed from the gut. This is not a problem in nature because there is very little dietary vitamin D3 around to be eaten. There are small amounts here and there, but not enough in the normal chameleon diet to require evolution to build a defense mechanism from dietary D3. Now, you see where this is going. By us giving dietary D3 we bypass the natural checks and balances and the chameleon’s body will store vitamin D3 into overdose. So if we give supplements that have dietary D3 then we are responsible for providing a safe amount. Except no one knows what a safe amount is for each species. And if we did, our delivery mechanism of powder on an insect which will fall off with a function of time is grossly inaccurate. That said, Vitamin D3 has been used in supplements for decades and has been used effectively and safely. It was dietary D3 that allowed indoor chameleon breeding before the advent of the UVB light.

Fat soluble vitamins such as D3 and A, which we will get to soon, can, when in excess, cause a condition known as edema. This is where the body reacts to the imbalance by retaining excess fluid. This is often seen as a bulging fluid collar around the neck. We got this a lot in montane chameleons such as Jackson’s Chameleons, any of the high altitude Cameroon species, johnstoni, etc.. Panthers and veileds seemed to have more of a resistance to this condition. So the dietary D3 which allowed indoor keeping of chameleons was causing issues in some species. The great news with Vitamin D3 is that we have enough UVB technology that we do not have to play that guessing game any more. With the powerful UVB lamps and the Solarmeter 6.5 to measure the effective UVB levels we can now tune our environments to where full vitamin D3 requirements can go through the natural channels. So you may ask, why do most supplementation routines we see include dietary D3 in them? Two reasons. 1) most people do not have solarmeters to dial in the levels so there is a level of nervousness and 2) for all of our collective bravado talking on UVB, there seems to be a lack of faith that it actually works and people want that safety net. To that I say, go ahead and have the safety net. Supplementation once or twice or four times a week according to species and amount of D3 in your supplement..I also want to add that you can get rid of D3 in your supplementation. People that provide a UV Index of at least 3 at the basking branch can do away with D3 in their diet . I know people will be nervous to try this without the D3 safety net. But I am not the only one who has done this successfully. You can too. It does take a little effort because you have to make sure that you are getting at least UVI 3 at the basking branch so there is some fine tuning that needs to be done. Chameleon keepers will recognize this as something we have to do with just about every other aspect of husbandry so this isn’t anything new. And this is where we should all be.

 

Now, to all you people out there giving advice, it probably is a good idea to keep a dose of a supplement with D3 in there one or two times a month just to make sure bases are covered. If you are talking to a beginner you need to have as simple of a routine as possible with the most margin for error. If you are only telling them the bulb strength to get like 5.0 or 12% and aren’t guiding them further then a safety net is a good thing. We’ll talk about specifics per species in a little bit. We have to take into account the amount of D3 as well.

 

And for those keepers listening who are invested in the art of chameleon husbandry enough that you have a Solarmeter 6.5 and are monitoring the UVB levels, I invite you to get a range between UVI 3 and 6 and back off of the vitamin D3. Try it. It works. And this removes an unnatural part of your husbandry. If you are going to go through all the expense and effort to set up a solid UVB system, you may as well get the full intended benefit from it! The ability for us to emerge out of giving D3 orally and into providing it through the natural means that the body expects is a victory for captive husbandry. Let’s take full advantage of it.

 

 

Vitamin A: Our final member of the big three is Vitamin A. Vitamin A is, by far, the most troublesome of our supplement components. And this will take a little explanation. You probably have heard of something called pre-formed vitamin A. This is vitamin A in what we call the Retinol form and can be used by the body to create retinaldehyde and retinoic acid which contribute to eye and skin health. Pro-vitamin A are things called carotenoids. The most famous of these being Beta Carotene. This is what gives carrots their orange color. And our bodies use Carotenoids to generate retinol. This is great for humans. We can eat pre-formed or pro-vitamin A. The danger with pre-formed vitamin A, or getting retinol from animal organs is that there is no checks and balances to ensure it stays at a safe level. Pro-vitamin A, though – the carotenoids, must be transformed by the body and the body will only do that when it is necessary to replenish the stores. Yes, Vitamin A, like D3, is a fat soluble vitamin so it takes a front seat on our watch list here.

Vitamin A, or retinol, is rare in insects as far as we know at this time. So it is assumed that insectivores get their vitamin A from ingesting insects that have eaten plants and the carotenoids within. And then the carotenoids are transformed into vitamin A and all is good. But, unfortunately, it cannot be that easy. In a 2002 study, Dr. Dierenfeld, with help from Dr. Ferguson who is well known in chameleon circles attempted to figure out the relationship of carotenoids and vitamin A in panther chameleons. The end result was unexpected that dietary beta carotene did not seem to be converted into vitamin A. This left big question marks as to how chameleons got their vitamin A. In a subsequent 2003 roundtable discussion printed in the Journal of Herpetological Medicine and Surgery, Dr. Ferguson hypothesized that female panther chameleons could be driven to eat vertebrate lizards for the preformed vitamin A to provide that within the eggs to give the babies enough vitamin A until they get big enough to eat vertebrates on their own. He emphasized that there is more investigation that needs to be made to determine whether and under what conditions chameleons can “do the vertebrate thing” and convert carotenoids to useable vitamin A.

 

Although vertebrate ingestion is certainly possible for panther chameleons and larger chameleon species that hypothesis gets improbable for the smaller species of chameleons. That does not mean that Parson’s Chameleons and pygmy chameleons do the same conversion so there is room for different methods across the different species. Does the fact that we know next to nothing about such a basic part of chameleon nutrition make you wonder how we are bumbling through this whole thing? Well, it is certainly an adventure!

 

Now, it is good to be aware that the 2002 Dierenfeld study which showed that panther chameleons did not convert beta carotene has been oversimplified across the veterinary community to the effect that allchameleons do not convert anycarotenoids and require preformed Vitamin A. It is true that this statement is valid within veterinary circles. The job of a veterinarian is not to extract the secrets of the universe. They need to get your chameleon back up to health. Up until recently, the only carotenoid used in supplements has been beta carotene. So, practically speaking, there would be no supplement available to their clients that would provide anything that would convert to vitamin A. With all the tools available to bring this chameleon back to health and maintain health, pre-formed vitamin A is the only thing that has been proven to work. So, until someone somewhere proves that there is a more effective method to cure and prevent the effects of vitamin A deficiency (this is called hypo-vitaminosis A) the veterinary community will continue to advise their members that chameleons cannot convert carotenoids.

 

That is what works for their purposes. We in the chameleon community have different purposes. We have more of a long term vision of striving to provide as natural of a husbandry as possible. Dietary pre-formed A is not, as far as we know, natural for chameleons. And this is more than just a high ideal we strive for. Vitamin A is a fat soluble vitamin and is dangerous and deadly in overdose. By switching to the correct carotenoids we can use our chameleons’ internal system to ensure that they always have the exact level they need. No matter how much carotenoids we give them it won’t matter because they will shut off production when they have enough. Cracking this mystery has the direct benefit of healthier chameleons. Just as we have worked so hard to get vitamin D3 out of the diet, so we need to continue to work to get preformed vitamin A out of the diet. But, we are not there yet. So preformed vitamin A is something we still need to discuss on this episode.

 

Though I do want to say there is work done and there are successes on this front. We do know that other herps convert other carotenoids so it is not unrealistic to assume that chameleons would do so as well. It could be that it takes a combination, or balance, of carotenoids to convert. I have raised veiled chameleons up to successful reproduction using only the Arcadia EarthPro-A supplementation and gutloading. So there was no pre-formed vitamin A supplementation. Mario Jungmann has his complete long term breeding facility thriving on gutloaded insects and a mix of calcium and bee pollen. So it can be done. I am personally experimenting across different species using the Arcadia EarthPro-A, which specifically includes a wide range of carotenoids for vitamin A production. But you can’t judge a supplementation routine until you test it over multiple generations. And then you have tested it for only that species. And then individuals within clutches will respond differently so you need multiple generations to really get a feel for what is going on. So I will report what is working for me, but I am not to the point where I can speak with the confidence that someone like Ed Kammer of Kammerflage Kreations with eight years of experience testing one routine with one species under controlled conditions can speak.  But that is to be expected. Ed needs as bullet proof a system as possible for beginners to be successful. He is not interested in great ideas. He needs generations of proof. He will not get behind a supplementation routine until it has at least three years and two generations of success behind it. Me? I am working on the cutting edge where there is an enormous amount of ambiguity. Both have their place and their value. The veterinary community, Kammerflage Kreations, and this podcast. We all have different reasons that drive what we do. So when you go out into the social media jungle, realize that there are many ways that work for different purposes. Me being frustrated that the vet community gave this subject the broadbrush does not mean they are wrong to do what they did. It is saving chameleons lives and that is what they care about. That is their job! The Kammerflage routine that includes D3 and A has been refined over years and chameleon generations to provide the simplest way to raise healthy panther chameleons. My drive to get D3 and A out of our supplementations does not make that routine wrong. It is the most tested and proven out method we in the community have. And if I hit dead ends in my quest to rid us of D3 and A that does not mean I shouldn’t do what I am doing. All these approaches have their place in our community. And they are not exclusive. Ed Kammer and I just had a conversation about how we can reduce our dependence on preformed vitamin A. He is just as interested in giving better nutrition as I am. But I can tell you that whatever I/the community/whomever comes up with as a true step forward will go through two generations and three years of testing before he will publicly get behind it. And that is how it should be. I and the people who are dedicated to naturalistic husbandry are on the front lines testing these things out. We have the experience necessary to fix the plane while we are flying it. Ed is working with people who are just starting out with chameleons and need the sure thing. Do you want adventure and do you feel comfortable figuring things out? Well, you have come to the right place! Do you want security and the sure thing? Meet my friend Ed. We are all part of the same effort. And I don’t want to make it seem like I am the vanguard of this naturalistic diet movement. I talk a lot. I mean, that is my job here. But people like Arcadia’s John Courteney-smith have dedicated their professional lives to pushing us forward. It is no coincidence that John has been a frequent guest here. Our missions are closely aligned. The thing with John is, he is distracted by having to consider all the lesser reptiles. I am lucky that I am able to concentrate on chameleons – the purest manifestation of awesomeness.

 

Magnesium. Now I want to bring up one more part of this. And that is magnesium. Everything is complex. And there are many other interactions that are going on. So much so that your head would spin and I would break down sobbing into my keyboard trying to chart it all out. This is not simple. I’ll bring up one example and that is of magnesium. This little heard from mineral tells the calcium where to go in the body. Without the right amount of magnesium you get calcium deposits in strange places.  So it is very difficult to determine what the problem is without a bloodtest. Lack of one vitamin and overdose of another vitamin can have similar external effects. Do you see the danger of being so quick to diagnose vitamin overdose or deficiencies when you are not a vet? We have to be careful with what we do with a little bit of information.

 

So with that background, let's take a look at the field of supplements we have to wade through.

We start with calcium. This is the easiest. Just about every supplement manufacturer has plain calcium. The one thing you have to watch out for is that many manufacturers have two products. Calcium and Calcium with D3. Just make sure you are getting the right one for your purposes. Plain calcium is great for dusting every feeding because, we do not have to worry about overdose by giving calcium and we need to balance out the high levels of phosphorus in the most common feeder insects. So, not only is it safe, but it is necessary.

 

Now, while we are on the topic of every feeding supplementation I want to bring up bee pollen. Bee pollen has been a staple in the chameleon community forever. It is recognized as having an incredibly rich blend of nutrients that it is a chameleon super food. And, if you have ever seen how excited your chameleon is to snag a bee you can imagine that they ingest a great deal of bee pollen in the wild. You can use bee pollen as a gutload, but also as a supplement. It doesn’t stick by itself, but when you mix it with calcium it becomes a great powder. You have to crush it up. I put calcium and bee pollen in a mortar and crush it up with a pestel. My wife makes fun of me for not using premade powder, but I enjoy this connection with the ancient stone age chameleon keepers that crushed up their powder supplements for their chameleons. Never forget where you come from. Although, I admit to embracing my 21 century luxury and not grinding up limestone for calcium like they had to.

 

Though it does get easier than all this. The power I have been using for the last couple years is the Arcadia EarthPro-A. And since there are no fat soluble vitamins in this supplement I can safely use this every feeding with worrying about how much is going in. EarthPro-A has bee pollen and has been formulated to have a wide range of carotenoids. With the building blocks but none of the final form, it is safe to give every feeding. So that makes getting calcium and bee pollen in very easy. I’d like to clarify something. Arcadia EarthPro-A does not have preformed vitamin A. It has a wide variety of carotenoids that reptiles can use to convert to vitamin A. We’ll talk more about this when we talk about vitamin A because this is important.

 

Calcium is often included with other vitamins and minerals. If you are using supplements that have something in them besides calcium check for phosphorus. As we touched on before, calcium and phosphorus need to be in a 2:1 ratio. This is why we have to add calcium to crickets. But check the ingredients list to see if the supplement has phosphorus. Most d  o not.The noteable exceptions are ZooMed’s Reptivite product and RepCal’s Herptivite. Repcal’s Herptivite goes the beta carotene route so the only use for us is calcium and there are much better alternatives so this will be the last you hear about Heptivite on this episode. The ZooMed Reptivite doing 2:1 calcium/phosphorus ratio is personally disappointing because Reptivite without D3 is one of only two commercially available supplements that has Vitamin A, but not Vitamin D3. As UVB has solved our need for D3, I’d like a solution for vitamin A. Since it pains me to accept the phosphorus hit I mix in some of my Arcadia EarthPro-A or just plain calcium. But more on that later. The point is to watch the label for phosphorus. We chameleon keepers don’t want that in our supplement because we have an excess of it already in most of our feeder insects . Though I suppose I need to include the caveat, if your feeder insects lack phosphorus then go ahead and look into a supplement with a 2:1 ratio. ZooMed’s Reptivite would be the first place I would look for this.

 

But now it is time to get to Vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 is easily found in supplements and it is added to calcium to provide the combination necessary for making the calcium useable. Obviously, I now run a D3 free household. I have supplements that have D3 in them for use only when I am experimenting, but I am for all practical purposes a D3 free Jurassic Park. If your adviser wants you to include D3 in your routine or you just want the safety net then you need to consider the amount of D3 you are giving. Excess D3 will cause problems including edema. And montane species such as Jackson’s chameleons are especially sensitive to these fat soluble vitamins. It appears that species such as panther chameleons, veiled chameleons, and carpet chameleons, can handle Repashy Calcium Plus every feeding. This means that they are given doses, if we can call it that, of 20k International Units/lb of D3 along with 200k IU/lb of Vitamin A every other day. This is from long term breeders keeping them under a variety of lights from T8 to T5.

And here is where we need to take a serious look at UVB. We know that UVB hits the skin, gets transformed, goes to the liver where it is changed some more, and then to the kidneys where it is changed again into the final form that is used in the body for the calcium absorption. If there is enough D3 in the system then no more is made. If we give dietary D3 we bypass this system and that is why we are working towards getting out of D3. But a question we also need to consider is whether the body reads the levels of dietary D3 and shuts down production if there is enough in the system regardless of where it comes from. This is a worthwhile question because if the body accepted the dietary D3 then, if you gave enough it wouldn’t matter what UVB light you are using. As long as there was less than “too much” D3 given dietarily you could have various levels of UVB and it wouldn’t result in overdose to have higher levels of UVB. It would just be more UVB that is being ignored by the body. Ed Kammer of Kammerflage Kreations tested giving Repashy Calcium Plus to chameleons under Reptisun 5.0 T8s and Reptisun 5.0 T5s, both in single bulb reflectors and noticed no change in outcome. One possible explanation is that the D3 levels in Calcium plus are sufficient or else the T8 light was enough to top it off. So going to a higher power UVB light had no effect because the body just ignored the more intense UVB. The significance of this is that you would have a certain safe area to work with as far as D3 supplementation and that we could take the Repashy Calcium Plus levels of 20k IU/lb   every other day as safe. Now, this is not meant as me giving a revelation and putting an axiom down in stone. When we talk about levels we have to talk about how many feeders per feeding, how soon the feeders get eaten, and how densely dusted the feeders are. This is a discussion for those of you that want to dig in and figure this stuff out. The one take away from this is that we have an idea of the safe levels and if your D3 supplement is 20k IU/lb or less it should be okay for panthers/veileds/carpets, and like species.

Jackson’s Chameleons are a different story. They tend towards edema at those levels. For Jackson’s Chameleons, Repashy Calcium Plus LoD only has 8k IU/lb and has been shown to work with Jackson’s a couple times a month. This amount is tribal knowledge. A long time ago I used Repashy Calcium LoD with Jackson’s Chameleons that were outdoors. I would never do that now, but there is situation where I was learning.  The chameleons were healthy and there was no edema. So this is where I am suspecting that higher UVB is not going to create a D3 overdose situation if dietary D3 levels are within the acceptable body level limits.

But please consider, if you are spending so much energy working the strong T5 lighting – especially if you are going to the higher powers of UVB  like 12% or 10.0– consider just putting this whole mess behind you and going full natural D3.

 

Okay, who out there has their heads spinning trying to hold this all together? Well, it is nice to have company.

Is anyone out there wondering what an International Unit is? You will love this. It is a measure of biological activity. So the mass of an IU of vitamin A will be different than the mass of an IU of vitamin D3. Don’t even try to fully grasp it at this point. It really doesn’t matter what it means as long as every supplement manufacturer is using the same system. This way we can make experiments and we know the relative strengths. That is all that is really important to understand about International Units.

I do want to say for vitamin d3 that It is also important to keep track of vitamin A in the supplements. We know there is an interaction between D3 and A so this is a possible characteristic we need to keep an eye on. If we have too much vitamin A it might skew our test with vitamin D3. And then we couldn’t recreate it with a supplement that had only D3. Once again we take our supplements as a whole and test them as they are as a whole.

 

Vitamin A is even more mysterious, but easier in some ways. When planning out your supplementation schedule look at the ingredients list. Some manufacturers include beta carotene in their supplements and call it vitamin A. We chameleon people, with what we know now, can’t accept that. Noteable products with beta carotene instead of vitamin A are Rep-Cals Herptivite (oops, I said I wasn’t going to talk about that one again) and Exo-Terra’s Multi-vitamin. Although having beta carotene is not a bad thing in itself and some supplements such as Repashy’s Calcium Plus and Fluker’s Repta Vitamin have both beta carotene and vitamin A so you don’t have to throw something out because it has beta carotene.

The same considerations we went through with vitamin D3 apply here as well. The Repashy Calcium plus and the Calcium Plus LoD that we have tested with those species listed also have vitamin A so the limits established there can be used as a foundation for figuring out vitamin A levels.

If you are going for a Vitamin D3 free routine then finding a supplement for A without D3 is actually challenging. You have two commercially made powders. Reptivite without D3 and repashy Vitamin A. Reptivite without D3 gives 100k IU/lb compared to Calcium plus at 200k IU/lb and Calcium plus LoD at 80k IU/lb. So Reptivite is on the lower end of these widely tested Repashy products. The other supplement available is the Repashy Vitamin A plus. No D3, but this powder has 2 million IU/lb so that is quite the leap beyond the 200k IU/lb reference level. I did use the Repashy Vitamin A for a little while. I would dust one cricket in this vitamin A, make sure it was eaten, and then go on with the standard everyday Arcadia EarthPro. I am now trying the Reptivite and cursing under my breath that they included phosphorus. I’d like to do a control group of some babies with and some without vitamin A. My last test focused on D3 and A just happened to be part of it. I’d like to specifically show to myself that I can use the carotenoids in EarthPro-A and get rid of vitamin A in our supplements. Yes I did it once under controlled conditions with four veiled chameleons. That is a good indication, but I do want to repeat this for more individuals over a couple generations. Ed Kammer has pretty much set the standard for how a supplementation routine should be tested. I think we all ought to step up to the plate and do the same with our favorite routine before we get too emotionally invested in it.

 

Okay, dust settles. What should we do. Well, let’s summarize

Calcium? Dust every feeding. Plain calcium is pretty much the same across the manufacturers. Pick the bottle with your favorite color. Successful breeders, including me, include bee pollen with the every feeding dusting. You can make your own by mixing calcium and bee pollen or just use Arcadia EarthPro-A for the calcium and bee pollen together.

 

Vitamin D3: I’d love it if we all provided between UVI 3 and 6 and did away with D3. If you want to have a safety net then a suitable calcium with D3 supplement can be used every month to every week depending on species. I actually like Repashy Calcium plus LoD because I can use it with my Jackson’s which is montane, but also with panther chameleons. Kammerflage has shown that Panther chameleons are able to take much more so I know I have a lot of room to work with and not worry about overdose. ZooMed Reptivite with D3 has just a little bit more D3 (and A) than Calcium Plus LoD. So they can be considered equivalent. Except that Reptivite has phosphorus. And yes, I’ll keep repeating myself because I am disappointed.

 

Vitamin A: Obviously another one I am working to get out of the diet. I am currently working on figuring out if one or many of the carotenoids in Arcadia EarthPro-A will do the trick for us chameleon people. I am currently working with Jackson’s and veileds as my test groups. I’ll expand to panthers once I have the veileds down. It looks good so far, but I want to have a much better understanding before I claim any public victory. To give preformed vitamin A I have used Repashy Vitamin A under very controlled conditions of one well dusted feeder insect per two months because of it’s high levels. I am going to try Reptivite without D3 as well. It has a lower level of A so I feel like I have more control over amount going into the system. And, yes, I mix in plain calcium to balance out the added phosphorus in the Reptivite.

 

Magnesium: Both the Reptivite and Repashy Calcium Plus products have magnesium in them, but, for a regimen without D3 or A, Arcadia Calcium/Magnesium is a special blend developed to make sure magnesium is there in force. I do use the Arcadia product as that is best for my purposes. I have only recently become aware of magnesium so it is something I am keeping an eye on, but cannot say much at this time. Other than that the EarthPro-A and Ca/Mg routine is working for me.

 

How to advise

To close this up I want to talk about how you should go about advising other people about supplementation. If you have waded through this podcast and are still listening then you have shown tenacity. It is frustrating having so many questions and so few answers. So much of what we are doing is a guess. And the lack of solid answers leaves a wide open space for people to make up what they want to say is right.

So what can you do? Here are a few points

  • Stick to your experience. You have a supplementation routine. Pay attention to it and the effects on your chameleon. Speak about those experiences. With supplementation so confusing it is best not to decide that your experience with a few individuals equates to how chameleons should be globally taken care of. Speak truthfully and openly about your experience. Use words like “this is what works for me” instead of “this is the one true way”.
  • Realize your experience translates. If you use Repashy Calcium Plus and are trying to figure out how to help someone that is using ZooMed Reptivite, well then you can look at the ingredients of both and realize that Calcium plus = 2 times reptivite with D3 and A. Now you have a direct way to make your experience relevant to their situation. Just make sure you look at the units.
  • Acknowledge that different groups have different priorities. This is not a zero sum game. There can be multiple effective methods and approaches. If the end result is a healthy chameleon then it has achieved the definition of success in chameleon husbandry. Let it live and just concentrate on your own studies and experiments. If your method works for you then it has achieved the definition of success in chameleon husbandry and there is nothing that is taken away by other methods also existing.
  • The more you know the more you know what you don’t know. Just listen to the episodes where I interview the master level breeders. Do you notice none of them say X is what you should do? They just share what works for them. They don’t try and force anything on you or make fun of or disparage what other people have used successfully. Even when something is working for them they are hesitant to say this is the solution. Because they know there are many variables are at play. Just go back and listen to the interview with Frank Payne with Furcifer minor. I loved that episode because in it you could hear the humility of a true expert. Aspire to that. I’ll be publishing an episode with Ed Kammer of Kammerflage Kreations next week. You are going to hear the same humility from a man whose expertise could easily make him the world’s top authority in panther chameleon captive husbandry. And I can tell you he will be uncomfortable with that kind of praise because he knows how much he does not know and is careful to speak on only that which he has proven over and over again to himself. Imagine the community we would have if we all aspired to that.

 

Thank you for joining me here. If you came for answers then I have responded like a Madagascar exporter – sure, you can have five answers, but you also have to take seven questions and three unanswerable mysteries. At the very least, I hope you came away with an understanding of what is important in our supplements and things to look for. There are many opinions swirling around. It can be very confusing. But we will have more supplementation episodes where we will put some of these concepts into practice to try them out. And we can discuss the different aspects.

So, this week, take a look at your routine. You should be able to give it a high level analysis. Read the posts of others and analyze (to yourself) their methods. Before long you’ll find questions that come up to ask that will help you further your understanding. And that is how we learn from each other and move forward.

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