We have come to the close of Season five of the Chameleon Academy podcast. In this final episode of the season I am going to review 2020 through the eyes of a chameleon keeper.
Transcript (more or less)
2020 has been a roller coaster to say the least. We have had some product introductions that have been significant for us and we have had this year to try them out. And it seems like at the end of every season I also leave off with some appeal to critical thinking and bemoan the lack of it in social media. This year is no exception! But let’s start with the results of those product tests.
Pro-T5 UVB fixture
One of the products that I most anticipated was the Arcadia Pro-T5 UVB light fixture. I have used and recommended the Arcadia UVB bulbs for years now, but the challenge was helping people use them effectively when the UVB output of the bulb could range wildly depending on the fixture that was used. Different fixtures would over drive or under drive the bulb. Different reflectors would produce different results. And so it was very hard to put together charts for people without solarmeters. I was very excited for the Arcadia Pro-T5 product because it was going to be a quality fixture, designed and approved by Arcadia to drive their bulbs as they should be driven. I am very happy to say that after testing them over this year that they have shown themselves to be everything promised and I will be standardizing all my caresheets and chameleonacademy.com information to center around this product. That is not to say other manufacturer bulbs and fixtures can’t work. In fact, I encourage you to get a solarmeter 6.5 and be able to test your lamp and fixture in real time and dial it in for your particular situation. And then you can use anything you want. But for the purposes of the Chameleon Academy I need a product I can standardize information around. And I need this product to be widely available and have a reasonable confidence that it will continue to be available year after year, because it literally takes me a year to test a product in multiple applications and then go through the laborious process of changing all the website pages and build guides. I not only need something that works – I need a product and company I can rely on! So this has been a perfect solution to my problem and I am going to be switching my information over.
Case in point for a product that has been a pain. I used to use and recommend the Odessyea multi-bulb T5 fixture for white light and UVB. Although it certainly worked and I still have some in use today, the quality turned out to not be so great in every case and it is no longer widely available. So now I am having to find a replacement and methodically switch over all the build guides and product links. Luckily, I found a great multi-bulb fixture in the Vivosun brand that is available on Amazon. It is a good quality fixture (as far as I can tell at this point) and each bulb has their own reflector so we don’t lose UVB energy. So I am very glad to be switching everything over to this fixture. As long as they don’t just disappear as a company all is good. They are a horticultural company so that is a relatively stable customer base. Here’s hoping!
Now, there has been another lighting solution that has piqued my interest that I tested this year and that is the Jungle Dawn LED light bar from Arcadia. And this is showing up in some of my build guides because the light is bright and white. It actually plugs into the ProT5 UVB fixture so you can daisy chain them together. The space savings on top of your cage is significant! They are a little more expensive than the T5 multibulb fixtures, but I can tell this is a technology that will be very useful to us chameleon keepers. Stay tuned on this one. I’ll be doing much more testing in 2021. But I can say now that my plant growth has exploded with the LED bar so I am excited to work with this product more.
The other major change in husbandry recommendations is that I am switching the multi-vitamin in my supplementation routine from the Repashy Calcium Plus LoD over to the Arcadia Revitalise D3 product. RevitaliseD3 and Repashy Calcium Plus LoD are multivitamins. They give our chameleons, among other various vitamins, vitamin D3 and preformed vitamin A. We are careful with our recommendations because both of these vitamins are fat soluble so can be overdosed. The difference between these two supplements is the levels of D3 and A. They both give the D3 to A ratio of 1:10 as is accepted by our veterinary community at this time. But RevitaliseD3 is about a quarter of the levels of LoD. So there is a much wider buffer. The question, of course, is is it enough. So that is why I had to take the time to do the testing.
And test we do. You’ll notice that the Trioceros ellioti care summary for the Chameleon Academy originally came out recommending Miner-al. And that is because the foremost ellioti breeder, Michael Nash, used that supplement. I did not change the supplementation schedule on the care summary until Michael had used the Arcadia supplementation routine to grow up a female, nourish her through a pregnancy, and then review the health of the babies. Not until he reported back that the babies were very healthy did I change the care guide. Now, to be completely transparent, we can’t do that level of testing with every species. Sometimes we have to guess. Like I made up a care summary for Trioceros johnstoni. It has been decades since I kept this species and they are, as far as I know, gone from the captive community. So I have had to use what we use for the Jackson’s Chameleon. And that is a reasonable conclusion. But I can guarantee you that when they come in I will be testing and collaborating with others and the care summaries will get better each year as more experience is had. In fact, don’t get discouraged if a care summary changes. Be encouraged that you have a community’s worth of experience constantly shaping what is being presented at the Chameleon Academy.
I have been recommending the Arcadia EarthPro-A for many years now, but Arcadia did not have a product that provided pre-formed vitamin A. Despite trying to remove preformed vitamin A from the supplementation routine I was just never able to feel completely confident in doing that for my recommendations for the general public. Even though I had been able to raise healthy chameleons without preformed vitamin A in the supplement, the success me and other breeders had with this wasn’t totally reproduceable in the general populace and I can’t explain why. Why can I and other breeders raise generations without supplementing preformed vitamin A and random keepers get vitamin A deficiency? The answer, of course, is that there is something going on we are not aware of. And, honestly, it could be something other than vitamin A deficiency and the increased boost of vitamin A is just medicinal towards helping what ever is really going on. So this is a very complicated subject. And so, at this point, I want to keep some level of preformed vitamin A in the diet. I was excited to try the new RevitaliseD3 from Arcadia for two reasons. 1) The absolute amounts of D3 and A within RevitaliseD3 are about a quarter of what is in LoD. So that allows me to get closer to what we are presently presuming is the preformed vitamin A ingestion in the wild – which would be minimal, but not non-existent. And 2) I like the Arcadia EarthPro-A as the daily supplementation and there is a great advantage to be able to get both supplements from the same place.
And those are material enough reasons to change my recommendation.
Just to be clear. I am reluctant to change any husbandry recommendations. There has to be a compelling benefit to my listeners and readers to do something like that.
Now, I just want to clarify the whole idea of giving vitamin D3 in the diet. You have heard me say over and over that diet is not a significant source of D3 in the wild and that D3 in the diet bypasses the body’s natural checks and balances so should be discouraged. And, yet, here I am continuing to recommend it. So here is the scoop. I have said occasional D3 can top off the internal stores, but now I am not really thinking this is a significant benefit. Although D3 is a fat soluble vitamin and so will stick around for a little while, the body has been designed to get topped off with D3 on a daily basis. It wasn’t designed to get a spike of D3 and then ration it over two weeks. So I am no longer saying that. But I have normalized dietary D3 in the diet to accompany preformed vitamin A. And here is a concept that I have been working with this year. Vitamin A and vitamin D3 seem to have an interaction. Unfortunately, the exact relationship is murky, but it seems like they really need to be together. There was a time when I tried to give vitamin A without D3, but that just isn’t holding up with further thought. So I have made it a point to include vitamin D3 whenever I provide preformed vitamin A. So, in my recommendations, the multivitamin is there for the vitamin A, not the D3. And the D3 is there to balance the A, not to actually make up for insufficient UVB.
RevitaliseD3 has been tested across a wide range of commonly kept, and rarely kept, chameleon species and has performed well. Thus I will be updating all the species care summaries and Chameleon Academy tutorials.
So does the old information just become obsolete? Of course not! Me switching the recommendation does not mean that Repashy Calcium Plus LoD or the older T5 fixtures don’t work. They all work fine! And if LoD is working well for you then there is no reason for you to change! Remember that I always need to push forward in both our husbandry understanding and in simplicity. Although my main goal is the best husbandry, I also have the pressures of explaining it in a way that the widest number of people will understand. So there are a number of forces on me that you don’t have to worry about. So, do not worry if you decide to not follow me on every parameter that has been updated. If what you are doing works then all is good! Just do your best to understand why I am doing the changes I am. Honestly, understanding why is more important than following exactly my path. The greatest gift you can give yourself is the confidence to look at the way five different people are doing something, understand why it works for them, and understand what works best for you. In fact, don’t change what you are doing just because I am changing. Listen to my reasoning and determine whether that reason is compelling in your particular situation. There are many ways to achieve the same result. We don’t all have to be wearing the same uniform.
Chameleon Academy end of year updates
So, I will be doing some significant changes in the Chameleon Academy recommendation and care summaries. One change that I want to bring special attention to is the lowering of Veiled Chameleon basking temperature to between 80 and 85 F and drastically reducing the feeding of your female veiled chameleons.
I did an episode about this during the self-isolation daily podcasts. We have an epidemic in our community of female veiled chameleons getting obese and/or having obnoxiously larger clutches of eggs. This all comes from the amount of food and the temperature that energizes the body. The body does need food and heat so we have to be careful how we play with those parameters, but basking temperatures down to the low to mid 80s with just a couple of food items every other day greatly reduces the production of infertile eggs that becomes life threatening. Well, by following these new husbandry guidelines, my female now lays zero infertile clutches. It is possible to have a healthy female veiled chameleon that does not lay infertile clutches.
This is something the advanced community is working to hammer out. So you’ll still run into push back of this from the people trailing the advancement. But this is a serious change. We have veterinarians recommending proactive spaying of female veiled chameleons and a laying bin is standard advice to female veileds just because they exist. I just have to say this is a very bad situation. The fact that the community accepts obese chameleons and female veiled chameleons so full of eggs their life is threatened is a huge red flag that something is wrong. Keep your eye out as we hammer out the specifics. And yes, this is proven. With reduced temperatures and food I have a female veiled chameleon that lays only fertile clutches of between 30 and 40 eggs. That is still too high of a clutch count, but it is down from 68 which I had before I change temperature and feeding. So I actually still have work to do on this myself. Like I said, we are still working on it. But this is one of the things that will save chameleon lives so it is worth getting it out there.
Okay, the moment you are all waiting for. My annual talk about critical thinking. I could make an entire episode ranting and raving at the current state of information acceptance. The base problem is that the community looks for information without filter. The general community has gotten away from fact checking or even requiring that there be an experiment behind it. And I know this because I am on social media and am being constantly peppered with people speaking as if they are experts when I know they just heard this on a Facebook echo chamber started by one person who didn’t test out what they are now spreading. You as the community should ask the tough questions. Where did you get this idea? What did you do to prove it? What about all the data that contradicts what you are saying? Why do people more experienced than you say differently. This is where you get the ubiquitous, I am not stuck in the old ways. And let me tell you, if you accept that you are in for whirlwind of confusion because that is what every inexperienced cracker jack box expert says. When you ask these questions require substance in the answer and not just big words strewn together. Require that the person has actually done a test with real chameleons. Require that it is reproduceable and that the results have actually been reproduced. Remember the quality of your time in the community is 100% dependent on who you accept information from. And be aware that it takes nothing to come up with an idea that you think you are genius to come up with and to broadcast it with all confidence. And this is what happens all the time. This is how youtube researchers feel confident enough to argue with actual PhDs in the subject. It takes a long time and discipline to test something out. If your expert uses anecdotal evidence and case studies that were all over Facebook posts to dispute someone who has tested it out on actual chameleons then you are wasting your time pumping someone’s ego up in exchange for bad information. Only you can stop feeding the pseudo experts. Just ask pointed questions and watch the floundering and the referencing to unreviewable case studies that “everyone knows about”. It is actually kind of fun.
I won’t delve too deeply into this. Just keep your eye out. Look for the people that have actually done testing in the physical world. You’ll be amazed at how much less information you have to sort through. Just the simple test of how many experts hadn’t gone through a complete lifecycle and breeding before they started acting like an expert? Start with that and you’ll be amazed at how many names get filtered out. It is meaningless to name names because the names always change. They go away and are quickly replaced. We have to be better at parsing through the data. It is just like eating healthy. Junk food is everywhere and if you aren’t disciplined that is all you will eat. And sugar can be wrapped up in a protein bar wrapper. No one is keeping people from deceiving you. Only you can do that. So, for what it is worth, it is a skill that will only become more necessary as the social media echo chambers become more and more established.
2020 had some podcast milestones. Because of a time in April where I had a month and a half of doing podcast episodes on a daily basis we have over 70 episodes in season five. This podcast also passed over a half a million downloads. Not bad for a super niche podcast! But it is now time to take a break and spend time with family. You know how when you were growing up your parents always said sappy, ridiculous things like “all I want for Christmas is for us all to be together”. 2020 has been a year where that has hit home. And, this year, that is what means the most to me. Even if it is digitally.
In 2021 we will continue the journey. We Chameleon Husbandry Artisans can do nothing less. This is our passion. This is what we do. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you for hanging out with me here. I love seeing forest edge, floating garden style cages becoming the norm. I love it when people say they learned it from the podcast or chameleonacademy.com. And I really appreciate you letting me know how much you have learned from this outreach. Please keep letting me know. But what is the most meaningful is when people who don’t listen to the podcast start putting together effective and beautiful chameleon cages in this style. That means enough of you listeners are doing it and sharing it, that it is rubbing off on the non-listeners. And that is the greatest satisfaction I can have.
And so I close off this season in a chameleon keeper style. Listening to Christmas ambiance music in the back ground while I catch sight of my baby veiled chameleon across the room snagging a black soldier fly. The dogs are curled up at the foot of the bed and my wife, Yvette, the phantasticus gecko girl, is bringing in the new babies she is so excited to have found hatched. For all the chaos and craziness, stress and worries, there are these little pockets of peace and joy. And we chameleon keepers have a prehistoric, mythical theme to our little pockets of peace and joy. It is a unique twist to life and I love being part of that. In these final weeks of 2020 I ask that you take care of yourself, take care of the people around you, and embrace the honor of being a caretaker of a very special mini tree dragon. I’ll see you in 2021.