Breeders

Female Panther Chameleon

Ep 208: Chameleon Caresheet Confusion

Listen Here!

What do you do when the chameleon experts contradict each other? You just want to set up your chameleon right the first time. Why can't anyone agree on how to do it? In this episode I talk about how to reconcile different experts saying different things.

Link Resources

Transcript (more or less)

Introduction

As many of you know, I just released a video component to the Chameleon Academy Panther Chameleon care summary. If you go to the Panther Chameleon page on the chameleonacademy.com website you will find a .pdf download of the care summary. You’ll find this care summary much different from standard care sheets as this one contains a level more information such as information on the cage interior, the lighting/hydration cycle, feeding quantity, and not only what level of UVB, but distance to the light fixture if you use a certain product. Backing that up is a webpage that explains every parameter on the care summary so you can understand it better. My vision for the Chameleon Academy has been that it would be a multi-media chameleon education experience so there is also a video companion tutorial and a podcast episode for researching on the go. So with this wealth of information you are confidently set to get your panther chameleon! Until, that is, you compare what I say to what your social media group says. And it doesn’t match up. And then your friend gave you a care sheet from the expert they say is 2nd to God in knowledge…and that contradicts both me and your social media group. So you pull up the care page on the website of the breeder from whom you have purchased a juvenile that will be ready in one short month! How can there be so many different opinions….no, not just opinions….deeply embraced convictions on the care parameters of one of the most commonly kept chameleons?

That is what I will discuss today. Even if you decide that you trust my information and want to go with it, we are a community and so you will have to deal with all these various view points when interacting. I am going to highlight the top six debate points you will find during your research into chameleon husbandry and your use of the care summary I just released. I will share the history behind them and the concern level.

 

Caging

First we have caging. There is nothing that controversial with my caging parameters. I do recommend larger cages for females. Many care sheets have males at the 2x2x4’ cage and the females at the 18x18x36”. My care summary has them both at 2x2x4.  Your female chameleon will appreciate the larger 2x2x4 cage usually recommended for males. But, if you set the cage up correctly, the often recommended 18x18x36 will work. Keep in mind, though, that these are all minimum sizes. No breeder will say you shouldn’t get a larger cage so even though what I say is a little different it won’t be controversial. You may run into the random social media expert that read a care sheet and didn’t understand the concept of “minimum”, but, by and large, going bigger is not going to raise any eye brows.

The point where there may be some confusion to work through is that I promote that cage type should be chosen with respect to your ambient room temperature. The closer your temperatures and humidity levels are to ideal the more screen panels. The further they are from what you are trying to provide your panther chameleon, the more solid sides. Because the average household has acceptable temperatures, but the panther needs higher humidity at night than most houses provide, I lean towards hybrid cages with mostly solid sides as my most common recommendation.

So, what do you when your breeder says that chameleons need a screen cage or else they’ll get a respiratory infection and die?

Well, here is another case where you have to choose who to listen to. And then stick with that information source.

Let me explain. There are many ways to get something done. Yes, some ways are better than others, but there are times when different ways can still get the job done even if some of those are better than others. And you have to pick what you are going to make work.

With the Chameleon Academy I am promoting a thoughtful and insightful approach to chameleon husbandry. Much of the husbandry I talk about is a bit more complicated than your standard husbandry advice. It requires more thought. It isn’t necessarily hard, but it does take some understanding. And, I don’t think it is unreasonable to expect that learning chameleon husbandry might take some thought and learning.

A hybrid cage will retain heat and humidity. That is the reason for getting a hybrid cage, of course! But it also means that you are able to over do it. So it requires you to develop the discipline to watch your heat and humidity levels. Well, mostly the heat. In a screen cage most people will struggle to get anywhere near the target humidity levels, but it will be hard to overheat or over-humidify the cage.  Because you are literally using your small heat bulb and humidifier to change the entire room environment. So you get a localized heat or fog cone with it quickly dissipating. And, so it is harder to over do anything. People have adjusted their care to account for screen cages. And this is one reason why you can’t pick and choose care parameters from different places. Someone telling you to use a screen cage will often also be telling you to mist regularly through the day. This is because your chameleon will need to drink during the day to make up for losing moisture during the night because the humidity was low. And this is how we all did it for many, many years. So, yes, it works! But do you see how one parameter was adjusted to make up for a deficiency in another? So, take some time and get comfortable with your information source and don’t be rattled when you run into five other perspectives saying they are the only one. And I will take the unorthodox approach and say between me and your breeder, listen to your breeder. Your breeder is the one that is meant to be there to hand hold you through the process. That is what they are there for. Pass on that only if you have a community or mentor that is willing to take the role of guiding you. And then don’t go back to your breeder and make them unravel everything you have done outside their care parameters. Every group has figured out how to make their method work and they may or may not be able to switch gears in their head. And this isn’t what you want in the first place. You want the person guiding you to come from their place of strength and that would be their method that they have perfected. So, back to cage type, if you are having trouble getting the humidity up with the screen cage your breeder told you to get then have the breeder help you figure out how to get the humidity higher. Though, yes, my care summary has been put together using decades of personal experience and incorporating input from around the world so, if I have done my job right, you will be able to study what I have written and understand it enough to make an educated decision on your own. But remember, this is one of those topics that people take personally. Most people in the community have heard of hybrids and glass and write them off as advanced caging. Some outright say anything but a screen cage will kill you chameleons. So there is a lot of drama surrounding this topic. And if you say you are using a hybrid cage to a person who only knows screen cages get ready for an uncomfortable exchange. It is like putting a Mac computer in front of a person who has used a PC all their life. Some will stumble through it and figure out how to get on the internet and some will just pull out the holy water and wood stake.

 

Basking Temperature and Length

There is a shift going on in the chameleon community which is touching panther chameleon care. We, and I mean we as in the general community are becoming more aware that hotter conditions, combined with high food intake is not healthy for chameleons. This, I think, takes a little history. As we grew up in our chameleon keeping we were desperate to keep them alive. This is in the 1990s. It was exciting to have chameleons live years. Then we went to the next stage of herpetocultural growth and wanted to be able to breed them. This happened quite easily with panther chameleons. So during this time we would be babying them and providing anything that would make them grow quick and large. This was, and still is, a common benchmark. Big is healthy, right? If you saw two panther chameleons and one was twice as big, that is the one you would want. Well, yes, and, back in the early days that would be a very accurate assessment! But now that we have gotten way past the stage of keeping them alive and being gitty that we successfully bred them we are turning our attention to refining their health. And we are finding that bigger is not healthy. Sure size is fine, but bulging fat pads are not. This is demonstrated most dramatically in Veiled Chameleons where over-energizing the females with heat and food makes their bodies overproduce eggs to a life threatening number. You have probably heard of egg binding. A common cause for death from egg binding is females whose fat pads have swelled and egg production is two to four times what it should be. The females become marble bags and have complications. This comes from over energizing the females body through heat and food. Although the condition is not as severe in panthers as it is in veileds, there is still that danger of over-engerizing the panther females. And so you will see care sheets run a wide range of basking temperatures from 100 degree F to 80 F. The higher the temperature the older the care information. This is a husbandry area we are still working on figuring out the right recipe of temperature versus food intake. I have chosen 85F to 90F because it is on the lower side and is well tested. In the coming annual updates I am sure that I will lower the  basking temperatures, but I can’t until I know what is safe. You see, lowering temperatures and food intake too far will produced stunted chameleons. And I need to know where that border is before my care information gets closer to it. I am actively doing extensive work with panther chameleon care parameters so as soon as I am confident I have a regimen that is as simple as possible without getting people too close to the edge I will adjust parameters. But for now, just be aware that there is a shift going on in the community and you will see various basking temperatures. 85-90 is a good safety.

You will also see talk about time that your basking bulb is left on. Reducing the time the basking bulb is on is a strategy employed by some sections of the community to prevent the over energizing of the female. I have been experimenting with basking temperature and lengths. So far, I have found slower growth, but no stunting yet. So there is promise that this is a tactic that can be used. I am not to the point where I think I can recommend this without beginners mis-stepping and having problems so I am still conservative on this tactic. You see, I am not only responsible for the information I provide, but how it is interpreted and executed by the readers. So I am careful how I present new methods. At this time, I advocate leaving the basking bulb on as long as your chameleon needs it. As I said in the care summary, this takes observing your chameleons behavior. In a hybrid cage you’ll probably have to turn it off after a morning warm-up. In an all-screen cage you probably can leave it on all day. But this is a parameter I really want you all to be mindful of. Watch your chameleon. Learn what they use and realize you can turn on and off the basking light as is appropriate for your conditions.

 

Humidity and Naturalistic Hydration.

Another shift in our community is the increased awareness of how humidity plays into our hydration husbandry. Most care sheets do not recognize nighttime humidity needs. This is where we follow the natural cycle of higher humidity, lower temperatures during the night and lower humidity/higher temperatures during the day.  I have called this the naturalistic hydration cycle and this is the prime example of how all care parameters are interlinked. The standard hydration method has been using a screen cage and misting multiple times during the day. This is what you will see from many breeders and social media groups. Since the humidity is standard low human house levels the chameleon loses moisture during the night breathing. This requires misting during the day to rehydrate.

In the naturalistic hydration method we provide high humidity during the night and mist so the chameleon can drink during the morning if he needs to. And this provides what they need so we don’t have to spray them during the day which they hate.

But to do this the fundamental core of our husbandry has to change. To raise the humidity we need to block off the ventilation to the point where we get enough airflow for air exchange and cage drying during the day. That allows our nighttime humidity to build up. And this requires a hybrid cage with solid sides. Then we can create a nice build-up of humidity at night. But a hybrid cage also holds in heat during the day so we now have to be mindful of heat build up from the basking bulb. This means we have to introduce the concept of reducing basking bulb on time and monitoring temperatures. That seems simple in concept, but going on social media you learn that this is for advanced keepers only. So there is a slow shift in understanding towards the naturalistic hydration. It is resisted by many, and not fully understood by others, so be aware that there will be a wide swing of opinions around humidity and when you should mist. Really, the best thing you can do for yourself is understand the different methods and make the decision for yourself. But, if you are still confused then go with the method advised by the person helping you along. Once again, I fully admit that the Chameleon Academy approach can be intimidating at first. I can say I have personally tested the naturalistic hydration over a number of years with many species and it is a better approach than the screen cage/daytime misting approach. I highly encourage you to use it. The naturalistic hydration method should be your end goal, and start here if you can, but it is something you can incorporate later if you wish.

 

 

Supplementation

Next, Supplementation. This is where we add mineral and vitamin powders dusted on the surface of our feeder insect and we add nutrition in this manner. The reason why there is a wide range of supplementation regimens is that we are still figuring out supplementation. We have a fairly good idea of what works, but we are quite primitive as far as understanding how much of what, and in what combination, is needed. And that gray area leads to a wide range of personal interpretations. This means that you are going to be exposed to the supplementation regime your information source tried and their chameleon didn’t get sick. That is the level of certainty we have right now.

The main area of debate is how much vitamin D3 to allow through the diet. In nature, chameleons get their Vitamin D3 from UVB just like we do. The sun’s light hits our skin and we use the UVB wavelengths to synthesize vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 is critical because that is what lets us absorb calcium from what we eat. Without Vitamin D3 we don’t get calcium and without calcium our bones get soft and will break. It is called Ricketts in humans and Metabolic Bone disease in chameleons. So we need vitamin D3. For the longest time, both education about UVB and UVB bulb strength was lacking and so we had many horrible cases of Metabolic Bone Disease. This was solved by putting vitamin D3 into the supplements we put on our feeder insects. This was a wonderful solution except that there is a danger of D3 overdose because it is a fat soluble vitamin and excess amounts won’t just flush out of the system. There is a built in stop valve for D3 being generated from UVB, but no stop valve if it comes in from the diet. Therefore, if you give too much in the diet you could get hypercalcemia which means too much calcium in the body and life limiting things like calcium deposits on organs where they shouldn’t be. We want to avoid that. And with present UVB light technology we don’t have to use dietary vitamin D3. The one case where present information suggests we use dietary vitamin D3 is alongside giving preformed vitamin A. Honestly, I am still working through understanding how this works and how it applies to reptiles, but with nutrition that is a common state of affairs for us. Reptile nutrition is not the most funded area of science these days. I’ll link to an abstract about a study in rats where giving Vitamin A decreased the effectiveness of calcium absorption. So this is why more vitamin D is, most of the time, added to supplements with preformed vitamin A.  But, that is leading us down a rat hole, so to speak. Back to different supplementation regimens.

You’ll run into two main varieties of routine. One is the one presented in the Chameleon Academy which is calcium and bee pollen based for every feeding and then a multivitamin with preformed vitamin A every two weeks. You will run into many variations on this approach. The philosophy behind the academy approach is that we give calcium and bee pollen every feeding and simulate a random vertebrate every two weeks that gives a shot of vitamin A. The chameleon gets vitamin D3 from UVB every day as well and, if this is done correctly, there is no need to have D3 in the diet. The D3 in with the biweekly multivitamin is just there to keep the vitamin A company.

The other regimen you will run into with a number of breeders is using Repashy Calcium Plus every feeding. This has worked well over time and has been adopted as a much easier to remember supplementation schedule. Different supplementation routines are like fighting words in the chameleon community so prepare for strong feelings when you bring it up. I have linked a podcast episode that goes into the testing done by Kammerflage Kreations for them to decide on the Repashy Calcium Plus regimen. It is a thoughtful and well tested decision. If you are considering this approach then listen to the episode to understand what was behind it. I find myself in the strange position of recommending a different supplementation regimen while defending the use of Repashy Calcium Plus. And the reason why it is important for me to defend using Repashy Calcium Plus every feeding is because the methodical approach that went into showing that this is effective should serve as a model for how we test any supplementation regimen. My defense of using Repashy Calcium Plus is not because that is the supplementation I want to recommend, but I am defending the method used to test it. If we put in that amount of work into any of the things the community presents as facts we would have a much stronger community less able to be swayed by the latest loud voice that comes along. I ask that you take this to heart. I see so many half baked ideas being passed around because there was no critical thought applied to its creation or adoption as a sound bite.

 

Maybe one day there will be some repeatable test that will determine what the danger level is for daily vitamin D3 intake. And then this issue will be laid to rest (well, maybe). But, my message to you, who are just trying to make heads or tails of this subject is that both regimens work. If you want to use your breeder for support then go with the supplementation and UVB regimen that they suggest. If you want to go to a certain social media group for support then use their regimen. Just know you can’t go back and forth. Don’t use the social media regimen and then go back to your breeder if something is off. Get support from the person who you get advice from. If you are following Chameleon Academy advice and want to ask questions then my experienced team and I have camped out at the Facebook group, The Chameleon Enthusiasts to offer support. At The Chameleon Enthusiasts group the team is dedicated to helping across all supplementation routines. We make it a point to understand what is behind the supplements so we can offer an insightful analysis no matter which regime you are using. Just about anywhere else, a different supplementation routine will be blamed for anything going wrong without a critical analysis. And this is, yet again, the reason why you need to use the method understood by the breeder, mentor, or group that you will be interacting with. Understanding supplementation is challenging. One thing I will warn you about is any supplementation regimen that uses calcium plus D3. Both Fluker’s and Rep-cal calciums with D3 are way over the top with D3 and if there is going to be a supplement that tips the scales into overdose, it will be them. If you are told to use either Flukers Calcium with D3 or Rep-Cal Calcium with D3 then it is time to take a step back and re-evaluate.

 

UVB lighting

Next is UVB lighting. The Chameleon Academy care summary uses the T5 HighOutput fluorescent lights. This is the most common bulb used on social media so there shouldn’t be much of note there. ,Use the UVB chart on the Chameleon Academy care summary. If your breeder recommends using a T8 light, using a T5 light will not change anything other than give you better D3 synthesis at a given distance. So using the Chameleon Academy UVB recommendation will not interfere with any other care parameter that you find out there. And it will ensure good D3 synthesis no matter what the supplementations schedule.

There may be some people that are concerned about using a T5 light system with a supplementation regimen such as Repashy Calcium Plus that has vitamin D3 in it. This comes from a lack of understanding of how UVB and D3 works. I’ll try to give a summary example. The body creates only the amount of D3 that the body needs. Say the chameleon needs 10 units of D3 a day. The body will turn on the UVB conversion and make 10 units of D3 and then shut down conversion. It does not matter how intense the UVB light is after that. It cannot turn back on the conversion. If you then give 8 units of dietary D3 through your supplement then the body will only make 2 units from UVB. And it doesn’t matter how intense the UVB is. What I am getting at is that is if you give Repashy Calcium Plus it doesn’t matter if you use T8 lights or T5 lights. You will not cause a D3 overdose from using T5 lights. Now, going too high will cause other problems, but not D3 overdose. And Dr. Gary Ferguson did a study showing that panther chameleons will deliberately bask as long as they needed to get the UVB they need. So, using a T5 as directed on this care summary is compatible with all appropriate supplementation schedules. This, of course, assumes a proper supplementation schedule as discussed above.

So, bottom line, use the Arcadia ProT5 6% UVB on top of a screen cage with the back of your chameleon 6” from the top. Please review the care summary for details and asterisks and such.

 

Feeding

And finally, there is a feeding schedule that has feeding chameleons as much as they will eat until they are adults and then easing off to five feeders every other day. This is another case where we are trying to avoid unhealthy weight. My five feeders every other day is less than most breeders recommend, but still more than some care sheets. This is the exact same case as with the basking temperature where I want to see more cases of how people execute this before I go lower. I have had people stop giving food to chameleons that were behind in growth because of a general schedule meant for chameleons on the standard growth cycle. So I have to be careful and sensitive to how this information is interpreted. Five feeders every other day is effective, yet conservative. But you will see a wide range of advice out there.

 

So I hope that this helps ease you into the community and understand all the different opinions out there. It would be simplest if there was one care sheet we all agreed on and presented. But that isn’t the case. And beginners like to come onto the scene, collect caresheets, and then pick and choose parameters. So there is no way to keep anyone focused on one path. And, that makes sense. When you are new to the community you do not know where the best information is. Instead of telling you to just listen to my one way, I would rather explain why things are the way they are, share the transitions we are going through as a community, and have you understand why you are going in a certain direction. It is okay for you to do something other than what I am advising. Just know the options and know why you have chosen a certain direction. Every situation will be different from different environmental conditions to different social involvement. And all these different parameters go into what is best for you. And the best thing you can do for yourself is to be able to understand the currents, and chose the appropriate captain, and chart your own course.

 

This podcast episode is certainly a stand alone episode that can explain the confusing twists and turns when looking for information in the chameleon community. But from the top view, it is the next step in my project to document the panther chameleon breeding lifecycle. I presented the panther chameleon care summary and this helps you navigate the community while reading the care parameters. We will now slowly get into caging with a mindset for breeding. Though you’ll find I am going to be presenting a somewhat different approach to this breeding group. And I hope it is one that will resonate and, perhaps, inspire a new generation of breeders.

 

I am slowly getting my stride in integrating my podcast with my video channel outreach. I have ambitious videos that take a bit of work and so I am going to try an every other week approach so one week a podcast episode and the next week a video and so on. I appreciate your patience as I work through this new outreach and figure out how I can humanly produce the content on a reasonable schedule! But, so far, I am very happy with how I am being able to fulfill the multi-media vision I have for the Chameleon Academy.

 

And, finally, if you go to the chameleonacademy.com website home page there is a link to where you can pick up some chameleon academy merch. From T-shirts to hoodies and a coffee cup. So you can sport the rainbow panther everywhere you go and share this very special corner of nature that endlessly fascinates us!

And if you think about it, everything we are learning about chameleons and the amazing depth to which we learn it, is a part of nature that few people know exists. This is truly an amazing personal growth we are all undertaking. And, just doing this is a growth experience for me. It is exciting to think where we will be by the end of the year. And, all I can say, is this is a whole lot of fun and I am glad you are doing it with me! Now, let’s see if I can get the video out next week and then I’ll be back here on the airwaves the week after! And, if you snag one of those T-shirts or hoodies, tag me on Facebook or Instagram wearing it and let me know if I can share it on my account!

 

Take care and give your chameleon an extra special treat for me. I’ll see you later!

 


Read more...
Chameleon Egg Laying Bin

Ep 205: Creating a Chameleon Egg Laying Bin

Listen Here!

I take you along with me as I create an egg laying bin for a rare species of chameleon, Trioceros cristatus. By providing multiple egg laying topographies we can allow her to choose what feels best to her chameleon mind.

Transcript (more or less)

Introduction

It has been an exciting week at the Chameleon Academy! I keep a rare species of chameleon from the Cameroon called the crested chameleon, or, more accurately, Trioceros cristatus. We have so few in the hands of experienced breeders that any success is celebrated in this very small community. It is a shy species, but what an impressive one it is. The female is bright velvety green and the males are a rich chestnut color with a blue crown above their head. Both sexes have a sail fin along their back. They are a little different as far as husbandry than your standard forest edge chameleon as cristatus happily spend their time closer to the ground and hiding away from bright lights. They are a lowland species so, despite their visual similarities to chameleons we equate with high altitude, cristatus are not interested in deep nighttime drops. The other interesting feature is their tail is shorter than most of the commonly kept chameleons. Cristatus is one of those species that is a good husbandry experience expander. It is similar enough in husbandry to the common species that it should be no problem for anyone to try their hand at it, but just different enough to be a new experience. Hmmm, I think I have let my affection for cristatus lead me on a bit of a tangent, but no matter, it helps you understand why I was so excited to see her pacing her cage in an obvious desire to find an egg laying site. Obviously, this was not a surprise. I had introduced a male to her a little over nine weeks ago, observed a mating, and had watched her grow with eggs as I made sure everything I fed to her was gutloaded and properly supplemented. So, yes, this was an anticipated event!

 

And so I wanted to take you along with me during the process of egg laying and then I am going to go into detail on making an egg laying bin. And this is perfect time because cristatus, and especially this cristatus, are a little more picky than a veiled or panther so I am going to share with you the egg laying bin strategy that has worked very well for me to coax some of the more rare species to lay. For another perspective of creating an egg laying from someone who spends more time with rare species than even me, go back four years ago and check out episode 76 with Carl Cattau. That is a great overview of the subject. The added value that this episode brings is that this one will be more of me bringing you along with me step by step as I carry out the strategy. And, I add in some insight I have gained over the four years since doing that episode.

 

One thing to start with is the whole trend towards using bio-active substrates, or even just soil substrates in a female chameleon’s cage. There are a number of reasons to do this that have nothing to do with egg laying. And there still is no necessity to have a soil floor with a chameleon, but I bring it up because if you have a soil floor then the immediate question is whether you need an egg laying bin. And the answer is no, if you maintain the soil in a way that allows it to be a good digging soil. This requires good drainage. Female chameleons will not lay their eggs in soaked soil so your substrate drainage needs to be dialed in with moisture input. For this episode, I am going to use the scenario where there is just the plain plastic floor that cages usually come with, but the principles and ideas are universal so you should be able to apply them easily to your particular situation.

 

First, it is important to recognize the signs that your female is ready to lay. This can be pretty straight forward for Veiled or panther chameleons. 30 days after mating you can expect an egg laying. This timing gets a little murky for other species that have the ability to hold eggs. I have had quadricornis and cristatus do this to me where gestation , the time period between mating and egg laying, is not necessarily consistent. The other very relevant case is with female veiled chameleons that often develop unfertilized clutches so you do not have a mating event to clock from. So, there are visual cues. As eggs develop you will usually see a female grow in girth. Sometimes you can see and/or feel egg shapes in the overly rotund torso. Other times, they can have stealth clutches where you are surprised they were carrying anything. Once again, that was with quadricornis in my personal experience. Veiled, panther, and cristatus have always been quite obvious to me. And you will notice the gravid shape growing and growing over the weeks. During this time the female will be eating as much as she can. And you should give it to her. I know you hear a lot about controlling feeder insect number and that is an important skill. But the major problem we are trying to solve is obesity in chameleons which overdrives the female’s body into producing more eggs than would be normal. This is often actually life threatening to the female so it is worth reading up on. Of course, I have some podcast episodes on this which I will link to in the show notes. But once her body has made the decision as to how many eggs to produce, it is healthy to give her what ever food she wants. She is now eating for 30 if you are lucky. If you grew up your female veiled in very warm temperatures and well fed then her body will take advantage of that and could give you 60 to 100 or so eggs. I know that sounds amazing, but the people who have tried to raise up a clutch of veiled chameleon hatchlings of 40 or more can attest to it not being the party the brochure promises. But once the number of eggs decision has been made it is time to give her what her body wants to develop all those babies. And scarf down the food she will do…that is until the eggs get sizeable enough that there is very little room left inside her body for food. And this isn‘t joking. Near the end of gestation there just isn’t room for food. And so going off of eating is a common behavior for females that will lay within the week. Not always, of course. Every female is different. So I am just presenting to you possibilities that often work. Jackson’s chameleons are notorious for this. They are livebearers, but when we get newcomers complaining that their female jackson’s chameleon was such a good eater until earlier this week we go into full baby care education mode.

 

The real indication is the change in behavior. Your female will usually like to warm up and be near the top of the cage or in her favorite resting spot in the leaves. You will then start to notice that she is hanging out near the bottom of the cage. And she is getting restless. And this is what happen with my lady cristatus. Cristatus likes to warm up and then hide in the foliage like any chameleon, but they are heavily on the hide-out side. I may see my female cristatus basking once a week and the rest of the time she is slinking about the underbrush of the cage. And this is a characteristic of cristatus. That is just what they do. All well and good, until early this week she started pacing the branches near the bottom of the cage and climbing the walls. So I knew the time was here.

 

Now, I also knew she was a picky egg layer. I know this because I already went through this with her before. The last clutch I got from her took the entire week of her digging test holes and then finally laying. I was using a simple container with digging soil, but didn’t get fancy. This time I decided to get fancy just in case. And, yes, I will explain what I mean by that.

To lay eggs, chameleons are looking for soil which they can dig through, has the right moisture content, and has a hard surface to lay against. That hard surface could be anything in the Earth including just compacted earth a couple inches down from the surface. They have also been known to target root balls of plants. Honestly, I am not sure if they really are looking for roots or roots just happen to be in the area. Because I used to run a large scale breeding facility where egg laying females would be released into large outdoor enclosures over 20’ x 20’ floor space. There was vegetation and open area. There were areas with what I thought was perfect egg laying sand/soil mixture and there were areas that I didn’t bother to replace soil. And it bothered me that I couldn’t get them to lay in the perfect egg laying areas. They kept finding untouched area where they could only dig down a couple inches. And it was up against hard surfaces.  And I am embarrassed to say that I did not learn my lessons right then and there with the most perfect communication I could have been given by what the chameleons chose when presented with wild options. I went on after that to do the ill advised things that many people are still doing like giving deep soil container for veiled chameleons to tunnel through. And, yes, I had tunnel collapses and was wondering how it made sense for eggs to be laid so deep. How would the babies dig out this far and what possible purpose would being 12 inches below the surface hold? It wasn’t until I was doing the interview with Carl four years ago for episode 76 that everything came rushing in and my observations all started to make sense and I figured out that I was forcing my ideas of what chameleons should need onto them and not listening to them. Since then I have slowly given my chameleons less and less soil depth to experiment. I started with 8” and have worked my way to 6” and now am trying 4”. Of course, species makes a difference. My Parson’s female appreciated more depth than my panther female, but not as much as I had thought. The pattern is, once I took away my interpretation of what should be, is that my chameleons were looking for a hard surface about half their body length deep to lay eggs against. So I came up with a laying bin design that I am using with all my females. It is working very well. And that is the design I am going to go over in this episode. But I can guarantee you that four years from now I will be doing this episode again and sharing with you the improved design.

 

And I hope you have become comfortable with that by now. This podcast was never meant to be the presentation of the end all be all information. It has always been a quest to learn more and figure things out. I know it is fashionable on social media to be an expert. That is not my gig. I will present what I know and share the confidence level associated with that, but you listeners to this podcast are on the journey of exploration with me. And I hope you value that we are doing this together and you are pretty much figuring all this out with me. My forty years of experience has served me well not to know the secrets of the universe, but to point my efforts in a useful direction.

 

So, let’s address how that approach is different from the standard, don’t fix what isn’t broken. When people find a way that works there isn’t much motivation to change it unless there is a demonstrated benefit. Example, if you are a panther chameleon breeder and giving your female panthers 8” of moist sand to lay in results in the successful laying of a clutch of eggs, why change? Doing the same thing for ten years achieves the goal. And this is why it is tricky when people say they have been doing chameleons for ten or twenty years. Sounds Impressive? Well, it is if they have been using that time to refine and challenge everything they are doing. It is less impressive if they are doing the same thing now as when they started. Honestly, I keep throwing around the 40 year experience stat specifically to stop people trying to use their 10 or 20 years as a resume point to prove they are right to say their way is the best way. No, my 40 years is only as valuable as how far I have come. Not in how much I have done the same thing over and over. So if your female panther is working twice as hard as she needs to to lay eggs you are not going to measure that by successful clutches laid. The value for challenging that is going to come from this inner drive to make life better for the chameleon. That is what I push for here. I agree that any change should have a measurable effect, but I argue that getting the same results with less physical outlay from the female chameleon is a measurable result. Anyway, the reason why I am going through all this philosophy is because the chameleon community is mostly stuck in the 8” or more depth for egg laying containers. So  expect push back if you stroll into those digital halls with what I am sharing on this podcast. That goes for many topics. But, if you are a long time listener you already know we are constantly pushing the boundaries here! So, let’s get on with the laybin.

 

The container

First, the container. I like using a clear sweater box about 16” x 12” and 7” high. But, Bill, if it is clear, won’t that freak her out when she digs to the side and sees light coming through? Yes, and that is a great reason for using solid side containers. But, I kind of want to be able to see where the eggs may be so I know where to dig. I have had some females that are so good at hiding their tracks that the only sign that I have that something happened is a bunch of dirt on the top of her head as she looks at me from her branch pretending she didn’t just lay a clutch of eggs. And carefully excavating the entire bin to ensure that eggs aren’t damaged once you find them is monotonous work. I will say that I have never actually broken an egg doing this, but I don’t want that first time. So what I do is I get a clear sided container and I duct tape a few layers of black trash bag around the sides so they block out all the light. Once she has laid I can easily rip off the plastic and see where the eggs are. Well, as long as she laid them against the sides or bottom. This isn’t 100% so other measures will be used.

 

I make sure there is plenty of drainage in the laybin. I do not want water to pool at the bottom of the laybin. Remember the female will likely dig to the bottom. If she finds a water layer then she won’t lay there. This is the draw back of having your bioactive or substrate floor in your cage unless you have external drainage. Having a drainage layer like the dart frog people do at the bottom of the soil layer may cause complications when it comes to egg laying. It really all depends on your water management. For my temporary laybin I drill a number of hole in the bottom to make sure no water will pool when the misting system kicks on.

 

The under ground topography

On the inside of the bin I am going to add some features. I want to be clear that most breeders are highly successful without going through the twists I am about to present. But they can do that when they specialize in one species. This is why egg laying bins from breeders are so simple. They have figured out the essence of what the species is looking for and have optimized their husbandry. My approach here, though, is how to approach an unknown species and giving enough options that it will result in her finding what she is looking for a successful egg laying. And this works for you while you are starting out with a species that is new to you. After a few successful egg layings you can start removing the features that are not necessary. But, for me, with a picky rare species, I am going all out!

 

So I know they are looking for a hard surface to lay against and I want to give them all the options possible in the small space at the bottom of their cage. I am planning on offering a soil depth of between 4 and 6 inches. This depth works for most species. On one side of the laybin I am going to put 2” of smooth rocks on the bottom so I get only four inches of soil depth. In the middle of the laybin I will have 6” of soil depth and on the other side I am putting in a live plant with the roots. This way she has a number of options. You are absolutely correct that she will have no idea where to dig to find the different underground topographies, but I wanted to make it so if she didn’t find what she wanted after digging the first hole that the second hole she dug would provide to her a different topography. And then a third hole would provide yet another choice. What I did last time was just digging soil in a basin. Every time she dug a new hole she found exactly what she found the time before. Eventually, she dug a hole that was tolerable and laid the eggs. So, I guess that was successful egg laying.  But I would rather she be happier about her choices and lay sooner than when the eggs won’t stay in any longer. This is how you get them laying on the top of the dirt or just pushing them out any old place in the cage. All of us breeders encounter this one time or another – especially with the rarer species. We just try very hard not to. Not the best husbandry experience.

 

Soil composition.

So, how about the soil itself? I like to ues a 50% soil and 50% sand mixture that I throw together in rough measurements and mix together. More soil or more sand doesn’t matter. Just as long as the hole will hold its shape and not collapse in on the chameleon. But, remember, we want a hole. We do not want tunneling. I have to say this because there is still a number of people that embrace the chameleon having a deep enough bin that the chameleon can tunnel. This is the husbandry trap of thinking that what you observe them doing is an indication that they need to do it. In reality, the behavior you see may be them confused and just trying to make sense of the strange conditions they find themselves under. Tunneling is when the female just can’t make sense of things and just keeps digging until she runs into something that triggers the “this is good” signal in her lizard brain. Stop it before it gets that far

At this point, I have put my stones in on one side and the plant in on the other side. I then start mixing my soil in the middle and fill in the rock side - and then the plant side and then the middle. Once I have the laying bin full I then carefully spread a thin layer of soil across the top until it is a uniform dark coat. I then sprinkle just enough sand that I create a thin layer of light colored sand on top of the dark soil. What this does is allows me to see where the soil was disturbed so I know where to start digging. They sometimes do such a good job hiding their dig site that it often is impossible to tell where they laid the eggs.

 

Okay, so I made my laying bin and put it at the bottom of the cage. There are sticks leading down to the bin to make it easy to access. To help me know where she laid, I have clear sides to view the lower layers. These, of course, are wrapped by a few layers of black trash bags to block out light during the egg laying process. The surface is light and dark coded so any disturbance will be obvious. And then, I got myself a WiFi security camera that I will set up to monitor the egg laying site. So I am ready for whatever happens. I just have to hope it all goes well! So I place the laying bin in the cage and went to go get the security camera to set up. And, well, when I got back she was already in the bin. Yikes. I guess that didn’t take long. I quickly set-up the camera, but I had to do it outside the cage so I didn’t bother her which gave me a less than academy award winning clarity of picture. Oh well.

Now a word on cameras and privacy. The biggest problem with chameleons not using your perfect laybin is privacy. They are in an incredibly vulnerable position on the ground digging a hole. A laybin in an open area situated where you and the three family dogs can watch the action has a low probability of success. When I have a laybin in a cage I put visual barriers all around and leave only a peephole where I can keep track of things without disturbing her. My new security camera solved this and was wonderful. I didn’t even need a peep hole. I watched the whole thing on my phone with no disturbance. And, of course, now I am obsessed with this and will be setting one up in all my cages so I can watch my chameleons do nothing all day.

 

Anyways, the camera picture had something to be desired. At least I was able to view where she was digging. And dig she did. She was ready and dug one hole in the middle, laid her eggs, and covered them up. Success! I gave the hard working mother a long misting session and a buffet of crickets, roaches, and superworms.

 

So, post game analysis.

First of all, camera was a great idea. I watched it happen in real time. I knew exactly where she laid. Next time I’ll get it inside the cage with better lighting.

The sand and soil disturbance method was also effective. Although, in this case, there wasn’t much subtlety. By time she was done with it, the bin looked like a land mine had gone off. She dug a huge hole and only filled it back in half way. So, there wasn’t much challenge in knowing where to dig. There was none of that stealth I talked about with this dig.

So, how about the clear sides? This didn’t work for me this time. It has worked perfectly every time before and showed me exactly where the eggs were. This time, however, none of the eggs were touching the sides or bottom or even on the rock layer. So, so much for giving me a text book success story for my podcast and video! I feel I need to do this again and prove the worth of this genius method!

 

She dug in the middle area where it was six inches deep. She really made a mess of the hole so I don’t know what that was about. Was she unhappy with it but happy enough to not abandon it? Could I have done something better? I do not know. But she did deposit the eggs about four inches down counting from the top of the soil to the top of the egg ball. But let’s be careful how we interpret that data. Does that mean it was a perfect laying site or that she was simply able to make due? This can only be answered by providing different test sites across the years and putting together patterns. This is why we chameleon people need patience!

 

So, let’s recap. I went the extra mile on this one. Is that necessary? The answer is that it usually is not. My last Veiled chameleon laid her eggs in a wheelbarrow with plain dirt in it. I just picked up her cage and put it on top of the dirt. She laid and we all went on with our lives. I did a fancy laybin for my female panther chameleon and she, for the third time, thumbed her nose at my fancy offering and laid, instead, in her pothos pot. Or her polka dot plant pot. Or, literally, anywhere other than my perfectly made laybin. My Parson’s female laid her eggs in the dirt floor of her outdoor cage. No special soil mixture, no root ball, just against the planter box wall. So, no, it really isn’t that complicated. Once again, what I presented here was a laying bin configuration that covers a variety of options and puts them into one bin. You may go your entire panther chameleon breeding life without having a single female that protests against being asked to deposit her eggs on top of a bed of vermiculite, in nice neat rows one inch apart. But if you run into a species you are not familiar with then it is good to have options to try with them. This is exactly what I did to get my deremensis to lay for me for first time. But, boy was deremensis a puzzle for me. We were providing laybins with different soil compositions, we were starting holes for them,…sometimes we try everything. Eventually, my deremensis just laid in the plain dirt and I never figured out what the fuss was about. But it is good to have these options available to us so we are ready if we need them. And if Tanzania ever opens up and someone has a gravid Matschiei I want you to have the greatest possibility for success because I would love to work with that species. See…I do have hidden motivations for building the best possible educated chameleon community. Better availability of captive hatched rare species for me!

By the way, when I talked about the female panther chameleon laying eggs in nice neat rows one inch apart I am making a joke about the debate between leaving them in a ball like they were laid and separating them out in rows. I have tried both methods and haven’t yet seen a difference in end result. Having eggs clumped together tends to get them all hatching at the same time, but I haven’t figured out what benefit there is to that in captivity. I’ll keep experimenting with it. It is the more natural way to have them in a ball, but I am unaware of any problem that needs solving in the way chameleons hatch out. But this is purely a personal judgement. If you incubate them in a ball more power to you. If you incubate them in rows, two thumbs up. Peace everyone. As always, I’ll keep you in the loop as I explore this. Feel free to enlighten me to your truth.

 

So there you have a simple laybin project. All of the parts can be found at your standard home improvement center. And, of course, a simple container 4 to 6” deep of soil or sand/soil mixture will work as well in most cases. But it would be a very short podcast if I just said that! Nope, the underlying lesson here is not just making a successful egg laying bin. It is attacking a problem creatively. It is the skill of see that there is an issue with something like egg laying and then putting together a number of options that let the female teach us what she needs. And it is up to us to put aside what we think we know and accept what we are taught. Compare that to the many other responses to egg laying for the species and we start to put together a picture that can be replicated with other keepers. And, finally, care sheets can be put together that will actually work in 90% of the cases. This is how we build community knowledge.

In the end, I was able to recover twenty beautifully calcified eggs which will go into the incubator right next to the 21 she laid earlier this year. Yes, she has been busy. Let’s hope all goes well and there are baby cristatus greeting me by the end of the year. We have a small Facebook group specializing in this species called the Trioceros cristatus community if you are interested in getting involved with this chameleon species.

Wrapping it up

It has been an event filled week at the Chameleon Academy. If you go to the home page of the chameleoncademy.com website you can find a link to our apparel storefront where you can get shirts, hoodies, and coffee mugs with the rainbow panther chameleon academy logo. It is very cool seeing people starting to show them off on social media. Please tag me if you do!

And I am starting in on a project I have wanted to do for years, but now it is time. I am going to be documenting each step of a panther chameleon breeding lifecycle. I’ll be recording it in written word, Youtube video , and podcast audio. Each media will have a different perspective on the topic and will complement each other. The first step is to select the locale and genetics to be used and I am deep into that. If you would like to follow along, go and subscribe on the Chameleon Academy YouTube channel. The first video, Selecting your Panther Chameleon, is out. That was the companion video to last week’s podcast episode. I am very excited to do this project and I think it will be a lot of fun to bring you along.

I think what this will accomplish is highlight the immense amount of experience that going through an entire breeding life cycle of a species entails. This is why you can’t be an expert by just memorizing the care sheets and what people are saying on social media. You need the experience to back it up. And, if you stick with me for another two years, you can be virtually by my side as I start at ground zero and build up a personal panther chameleon breeding project. A Story of Panther Chameleons will follow my obtaining one or two pairs of panther chameleon juveniles, sharing basic panther chameleon husbandry and growth milestones as they grow up, documenting the breeding process once they mature, and then we will spend the incubation time discussing baby care and the pros and cons of being an official breeder. The project will end when the babies  hatch out grow to the age I got the parents at in the next couple months.

I have a playlist set up on my YouTube channel and a special section on the website to document each chapter. On YouTube you can subscribe and if you want notifications of when the new videos are up you hit the little bell icon by the subscribed button. Of course, there are lots of chameleon related videos there as well outside this project.

Thank you for joining me here. I look forward to these new projects and am grateful that I can make these community projects. It is simply more enjoyable that way. And now, it is time for me to get to work on finishing the video companion on YouTube for this laybin episode so you can see what I did. I love the stuff I keep busy with! Take care, and I will be back next week!

 


Read more...
Trioceros ellioti

Ep 157: Trioceros ellioti with Michael Nash

Listen Here!

Trioceros ellioti is a  small chameleon from Eastern Africa that is a livebearing species with the typical care requirements of montane chameleons. It is a charming species where the males and females are equally desirable as far as color and shape. Ease of husbandry and hardiness of this species make it a prime candidate for establishing in captivity. Today, Michael Nash comes on and shares his insight into breeding this species. It is hoped that this will help increase the number of breeders working with T. ellioti and raise awareness for this species.

If you would like to contact Michael about obtaining some of the babies he produces you may contact him at nashchams@gmail.com .

To learn more about Trioceros ellioti and its husbandry please visit the Chameleon Academy Husbandry guide which was based upon the experience of Michael Nash. You can find it here: Trioceros ellioti Husbandry Guide

Read more...
Furcifer minor laying eggs

Ep 76: Chameleon Egg Laying Sites with Carl Cattau

Summary: Welcome, chameleon wranglers, to a two part series on egg laying and incubation! For these topics I have brought back Carl Cattau for a an interview type discussion. When it comes to a female chameleon successfully laying eggs your job is to provide a sufficient site that meets with your chameleon’s approval. Unfortunately, Their only way of communicating to us is either to lay eggs… or not. I have chosen Carl to join me in this discussion because he is on the forefront of getting rare species to lay eggs and hatch. Getting a species to hatch that has books written about it and Facebook pages dedicated to it is certainly an achievement, but when a species is first imported and we have to figure out how the females think. Or what combination of temperature, moisture, and diapause to incubate at we rely on pioneers like Carl who spend their time at the edges of what we as a community know. And that is one reason why this is a discussion rather than a tutorial. We are talking about a subject where the body of knowledge is scarce and the answers are oh so slowly being coaxed out. This is the exciting stage. This is where the common knowledge of tomorrow is created. It is happening in real time. Let’s listen in as Carl and I discuss laying sites and what it takes to create a space where the female will give us those precious eggs.


Season 1 Archive
Read more...
veiled chameleon

Ep 31: Finding Homes for your Baby Chameleons

Listen Here!

Today we talk about finding, or creating, good homes for the chameleon babies you raise up. A big part of this is setting yourself up so you do not get pressured to make a quick sale. That way you can be selective as to where you sell the baby chameleons you worked so hard to raise up.

Transcript (more or less)

Show notes :                                                       .

 

Business Insight for your mini-MBA lesson for the day!

Facebook operating expenses for Q4 2015 came in at $3.28 billion. That is about $1 billion per month. It takes a lot to run the social media platform that we all enjoy for free!

Facebook Expenses Q4 2015

Does anyone remember Border’s Bookstores? They and Barnes & Noble ruled the big box book stores until the Great Recession hit. Barnes & Noble survived and Borders didn’t. Borders went down for a variety of reasons. While we can look back and debate their decisions that led to not having enough money to cover their debt payments the fact is that they had become too big and didn’t have the money to sustain their debt payments. We can do the same thing on a personal scale when we breed too many chameleons and end up with more babies than we can take care of. But for those who would like to learn more about Borders and their fall, you can check out this link.

Five Reasons Borders Went Out Of Business

 


Show Transcript (More or Less)

Introduction

Hello chameleon wranglers, Today we are going to be talking about breeding project. More specifically, how you can best find good homes for your baby chameleons.

Breeding chameleons is an exciting project. And, if you are successful, you will soon find yourself in the position of sending your chameleon babies to new homes. And this becomes a point of great thought. How do I make sure I send these to the right homes? You have worked so hard to raise these chameleons up. And you now have a better appreciation for how much it really costs to do it! The last thing you want to do it send them off to a home where they will not get as good of care as they had with you.

And this is what today’s podcast is about. Finding the right home for your baby chameleons. Now, I am going to tell you something upfront. In the end, success in selling your chameleons probably won’t come as much from finding the right homes, but in your ability to create the right home! We’ll talk about both finding and creating.

 

Standards, Capitalism, and the Death of Idealism

But first, let’s talk about maintaining control of your standards. Let’s acknowledge that for some breeders, the standard for the right home comes down to whomever has money. This podcast is not for those individuals. That formula is pretty easy. Fill cages with as many females as will fit and push the females to produce as many clutches as possible. Females only need to live long enough to produce two to four clutches. Sell babies as soon as they can ship and not die. Sell retail whatever you can and wholesale out the back door whatever you can’t sell retail. You are such an awesome breeder that you have hordes of eggs in the incubator right behind this clutch. And why not? Chameleons are like printing money, right? You have to blow everything out quickly because you have those one or two or five clutches of eggs hatching right behind this one. Keep track of the number of babies produced in your mill because that is how you measure how awesome you are. You’ll need that number to bash anyone that suggests that your methods are suspect. Heck, you’ve produced 3000 babies to their 100. So obviously your husbandry is superior, right? Babies not selling quick enough? Lower prices! That is the capitalist way! You captain of industry, you!

As I said, this podcast is not for those individuals. They have it figured out anyways. This podcast episode is for the breeder that is looking to hang on to quality over quantity and realizes that doing both is exponentially more difficult. This podcast is for the breeder that is concerned not only about the quality of their chameleons, but the quality of the home their chameleons go to.

And, first a side note. Most breeders start off with a healthy dose of idealism and only become the mass producer when they fall into the trap of “more is better”. There is a market for mass produced chameleons. But it is a completely different world than producing and raising up the single clutch that was such a great experience that you wanted to do it again. It is too easy for the chameleons to start to become commodities. They become numbers. And it is much easier to produce 100s of babies than it is to properly care for hundreds of babies. You can get yourself into a bad place very easily. The bad place is that it is no longer fun and you are forced to sell without any knowledge as to where the chameleons will eventually end up. You start to become detached from the chameleons because you can’t focus so much on individuals. They are just bins of babies. Obviously, the tone in my voice implies I am not impressed with many of these operations. There are precious few that have been able to keep quality with quantity. Most compromise quality in hidden ways that you don’t see. I’ll leave it at that for now. My bringing it up in this episode is more to be a warning for the enthusiastic beginning breeder with visions of where they can take their hobby. Beware as you can easily scale up your operation and quickly lose the standards that you started with.

Now back to those standards. A typical standard that beginning breeders start of with is wanting to make sure that the home their baby goes to is as quality as the effort put into raising this baby. I have to say that this is one of the first things to fall when reality comes a knocking. But it falls not because it is unreasonable, but because the breeders with those standards are not prepared to back them up with facility structure.

For the purposes of this conversation, I’ll summarize the three month panic again. That is when the chameleon’s anti-social nature spills into becoming overtly physical. Before the three month period, the dominance and bullying between babies is subtle and can go unnoticed by those not attuned to these interactions. At around the three month point, you will get more biting and tail nipping and there is noticeable physical damage. It is at this point that the typical breeder starts panicking because they don’t have the space to separate the babies and they start getting “B” grade animals which means damaged and they start noticing the submissive ones not growing as fast or not coloring up because they have accepted their submission. Now, let me say that each clutch has their own dynamic. I have had clutches that have kept the peace and have given me little problem. And then I have had clutches that thought they were in the Hunger Games. And, of course, you have every shade in between. If you have the Brady Bunch clutch then you talk about what an awesome breeder you are that you have no problems with co-habitation (it must be your natural skill). If you have a couple of bad apples (in other words, the combination of an alpha chameleon and another chameleon that disagrees with the social structure) then you can have problems that can seem to start overnight. And if you are not prepared with proper caging then the panic starts. You end up getting rid of them at any price as soon as possible and any standard you started off with has flown the coop in order to be done with the stress and cost of keeping the now juveniles.

So how do we avoid the three month panic? This is simple, but difficult to implement. You need a bank of cages for babies and a bank of grow out cages. The formula is simple. The length of time you can hold onto to your standards is in direct proportion to the number of grow out cages you have. A grow out cage is a cage big enough for your chameleon to reach at least young adulthood. You need to make sure you do not reach a point where you have to sell because you do not have the space. The more cage space you have the longer you can hold out.

Wait a minute, hold out against what? Isn’t it easy to sell panther chameleons? You see it happening all the time on Facebook. And, heck, some places have a waiting list! These things should fly off the shelves, so to speak! The truth is that until you have a reputation in the industry things will not be flying off the shelf. And if you lower your prices and sell in bulk then it is difficult for you to get that reputation because that is what many others are doing when they run into the same situation you find yourself in. To develop that critical reputation you need to differentiate yourself in some way. Selling your one clutch over, say six months is one way of doing that. Making it quietly known that you care enough that your babies will only go to quality homes will bring out people that care themselves. Don’t do this in a self-righteous sort of way, just make it known you would like to pre-screen your buyers.

So I am going to suggest that if you want to start a breeding business, keep it small and manageable. If you create an operation that centers around pushing one clutch at a time through and sell over three to six months you will be able to maintain quality. Every breeding operation has the 0 to 3 month caging taken care of. If you want to take a step towards differentiation then invest in a bank of grow out cages. The standard 20” cage will get panthers to about six months while the 36” can get them to about 12 months. These are not ideal dimensions, but if the chameleon grows up in their grow out cage from three months on then most will be used to it. Just make sure they go into a larger cage when they go to their forever home. To pull this off you would have to invest in a bank of 6 to 9 cages. The more cage space you have the longer you will be able to wait for the right buyer before compromising. And if you resist the urge to double or triple production you will be able to develop a strong reputation in the community for the highest standards. The fastest way to ruin success is to suddenly scale it upwards beyond your ability to maintain. This is a basic business trap and one that is fallen into by many businesses. Remember the book seller Borders? They went out of business while Barnes & Noble remained in business because Borders was in the midst of an expansion and then the recession crippled their ability to pay their loans. Of course, as with anything like this, that is an extreme simplification of the situation. And I will be easier on the Border’s executive team than the business pundits were and say I don’t know that anyone would have made a different growth decision with the information available at the time. But their growth became unsustainable. Don’t let this happen to you! That’s right. On the Chameleon Breeder Podcast you never know when you might get drama, poetry or even a mini-MBA class.

Anyway, it will take time for that reputation to develop, but be patient. Reputations that develop over time are the strongest – and they are the ones that are sustainable. The patient breeder will be able to put the proper value on quality and resist the rush to scale up operations by holding back ten females from the first clutch and jumping right into the 300 egg club. For those new to my unique observations, I have noticed a number of would be big time breeders bragging about having 300 eggs in their incubator before disappearing from view. Remember how it is much easier to produce eggs than it is to raise up babies to three months old? Just stay firmly grounded and you can avoid being eaten up by your own success! It is a real thing!

Application process

So, say we have the breeding set-up that allows for a prolonged siege. We now have to figure out how to find the right buyers.

A typical approach to this dilemma is to create an application form and interview each person interested in buying a chameleon from you. This creates an extra layer of work for you and certainly weeds out a majority of buyers! Now, most people are not interested filling out an application and, unless you have a special species or bloodline, you may find few takers. And now you are surprised to find out that the number of people that applaud you for having such high standards greatly outweigh the number of people who will fill out your application and accept your judgment on their husbandry. Would you like to see this in action? I am sure there are others, but the one person I know who has a working, time tested application process is Elisa Hinkle at ChamEO. You’ll find it at chamlist.org. To adopt a rehabilitated chameleon you need to prove that you are knowledgeable and have the proper setup. You apply on a public forum, post images of your set-up and take feedback from Elisa and other forum members. How many people are willing to go through that? Well, if you want only the best then there you go. But you can go on and look at what she has to put into it and how few people make it through. She can do that though, because she has the caging necessary to hold the rehabilitated chameleons until she finds the right home for them. ChamEO is a working model of what it takes to maintain high standards. Now, you don’t have to have the rigorous standards that ChamEO has. ChamEO charges only an adoption fee of $25 so is a magnet for people wanting cheap chameleons. This type of person is not likely to spend what it takes to do a proper set-up or take their chameleon to the vet. Elisa’s mission is to place chameleons where they will have a high quality of life – not just to move inventory. So an intensive application process is necessary to ensure that the chameleon will not need to be rescued yet again.

Price

As you will be charging full price, most of the bargain hunters will not come your way. A, yes, you will be charging full market value because if you focus on quality then you deserve to be able to maintain the price.

Having a solid grow out focus in your breeding plan is also a good defense against the standard negotiator that wants you to sell cheaper in price. If you are not set-up for the long haul it is then much easier to fall into the trap of selling for less than they are worth. It is interesting how potential buyers will berate you for charging high prices and actually be offended that you had the arrogance to charge what you are. Somehow you charging what you determine they are worth is considered “greedy”, while them trying to get them below that value is considered “savvy”. This is a manipulation. Don’t fall for it. If someone is trying to hustle you…sorry, negotiate a better deal for themselves, then you are at liberty to say “no thank you” if you are not panicking for space!

You will have to stand firm. Nobody cares how much you invested into raising up the babies correctly. Facebook spends roughly $1billion dollars a month keeping Facebook up and running smoothly so we can share photos of cats with witty sayings. And when we see an ad we are angered and morally outraged that it is mucking up our personal space that, of course, Facebook is providing us free of charge. So, don’t expect buyers to care that you switch out your UVB bulbs every six months and purchase the best supplements. And, no, it is not fair that the community will talk about how husbandry is so important, then leave your fairly priced babies to go buy a lower priced chameleon elsewhere. It gets even better when they come back to you for advice and husbandry training because their chameleon from Acme reptiles isn’t doing so well and you seem to know what you are doing so could you please help? And, yes, I wish I was kidding on this one.

Finding New Homes

Once you have your internal structure set up for long term keeping you can hunker down and locate the right homes. Of course, you’ll have to be active about this. We will need to find, or create, the right buyers!

First- “Finding”.

Finding the home implies that a home with good husbandry is out there and you just have to match up the timing of your availability and their purchase window. And with the internet that is much easier than it used to be. Knowledgeable keepers tend to congregate in certain social media sites, but, then again, so do your fellow breeders who are looking for those same knowledgeable keepers. So there is a steady flow of chameleons being made available. Given enough time, you’ll find a buyer for your chameleons. But you do have to wait until there is the right intersection of demand and your supply. You can talk about your clutch on social media. In fact, the best way to prime the sales is to let people follow the clutch progress and post baby pictures. Let people know that you’ll take orders starting at 2 months of age for shipping at 3 months old. You can even offer a discount for people that pre-order up until the 3 month point. Maybe 10% or even 20%? This is not a lowering of price because the buyer is paying ahead of time. As long as the price goes up to market level at the three month point, which is fair, you have just run a pre-sales campaign. For the benefit of you receiving money ahead of time you give them a discount. That becomes a benefit to both buyer and seller. Just make sure you have a 100% refund policy if you are not able to ship for whatever reason. The point of this is to have as many sold at the three month mark as possible. Once you hit three months the price goes back to fair market value and you hold that price for a month or three. Since you are now growing out any left overs, at six months the price goes up 10% or 20%. Once they start showing their colors or horns or whatever the characteristic of your chosen species the 10% or 20% is appropriate.

Second is “Creating” quality customers.

Quality customers can be created. And this is a great use of your time as a breeder. Creating a new home for your babies is taking the raw material of enthusiasm in people new to the chameleon world and attaching sufficient knowledge to it. There are plenty of people that are entering into the hobby on a regular basis. If you become proficient at helping a newcomer along, then not only will you have a customer, you will have a customer educated enough that you will feel good passing along one of your babies. This is accomplished simply by education. Something as basic and obvious as care sheets do wonders. If you have a gift for writing consider a blog. You find the method that works with your talents and offer it up. If content creation is not your strong suit then you can refer them to this podcast. Or to the Chameleons eZine. Select out your favorite podcast episodes and eZine articles, compile them in an email and use that as a research guide. Face to face (or phone or internet or whatever) discussions should be part of the process. It is by communication that you get a feel for your potential buyer. By directing your interested party to places where they can get a solid education in the basics, whether your website or an educational website, you can create quality customer and your chameleon’s forever home.

Part 2: Selling at Reptile shows.

As a hobbyist breeder selling on the internet you really don’t get that much new-to-reptiles impulse buying. Sure, there are the water bowl, no UVB, and bath giving factions out there, but if they have found you they are usually plugged into the chameleon community at some level. So you may argue about their husbandry conditions, but at least they have husbandry conditions to argue about.

On the other hand, as we head out of Spring we are heading into reptile show season. We will be getting more families that are chameleon curious. With more exposure in recent kid films, chameleons are getting a higher profile in the general populace. This has its advantages and disadvantages. There is not much we can do when these families walk into a pet store. It is hit and usually miss as to whether the employees actually know what they are talking about. They are just repeating what hey have been told to say by the owner who is just repeating what he was told by the manufacturer’s representative that is selling nightbulbs with chameleons printed on the packaging. But when these families walk into a reptile show we have a golden opportunity to educate before they purchase.

We are on the front lines either helping them make that decision or, unfortunately, working with them after someone else has sold them a chameleon, or chameleons and sent them away with little more information than they started with. As I have a chameleon caging company, I get the customers after they have purchased their chameleons and I can tell the quality of information they get from the different chameleon suppliers at the show. Some I am impressed with and some I cringe. The worst thing that has happen to chameleons with regard to people getting them unprepared is the price of veiled chameleons. They are inexpensive to begin with, but by the end of the show some vendors, not relishing bringing home mouths to feed, will just blow them out sometimes for $25 each. This puts them squarely in the impulse buy range. And this is not theory. Inevitably, at the end of a show I will get a family show up at my booth asking for my cheapest cage. When I ask for what species they are buying for they give me a blank look and dig for their receipt to see what was written on it. Although if they are asking for the cheapest cage I have a pretty good idea what species it is and, by this time in the show, have a 90% idea of what vendors they are coming to me from. I say, no problem, just show me the chameleon and I can tell you. And they bring out two veiled chameleons. My heart sinks. They, of course, balk at cage prices because why would you pay more for the set-up then you do for the lizard? When you buy a couple of $25 – $45 lizards you certainly aren’t in the mood to spend another couple hundred dollars on the cage and lighting and watering system. Holy Moley, this cheap pet for my kids is getting pretty expensive! So I have the talk with them knowing that they should have had this talk before they purchased the chameleon, or chameleons, in this case.

The same dynamic that I talked about with your breeding set-up applies to shows. If you are pressed to make the sale and do not want to bring the chameleons home you have lost the ability to make sure they go to a good home. When the show hours are coming to a close you just stop asking the tough questions. And then they end up at the Dragon Strand Chameleon Cage booth asking for the cheapest cage I have that will house a brother/sister pair of veiled chameleons.

By the way, I sold this couple a nice sized cage and told them to return one of the babies. I can only hope they were able to.

Kids and Chameleons

But one thing that deserves close attention is how we mix children and chameleons. Those of you who have followed my writings in the years before this podcast will know that I have spoken and written of chameleons and children before. I’d like to revisit this topic here in this podcast as it is an important component when we are considering whether a new home is ready for a chameleon and if they will take good care of the little dragon we raised up from the egg.

I have met some kids that, at 13 years old, are not yet ready to grow up and are holding on to their childhood as tightly as they can. I have also met 13 year olds that talk as though they have already lived a life. One kid came to an SBCK meeting, that’s a chameleon group meeting in Los Angeles, and had just gotten his first chameleon. He rambled off the species and subspecies and went into detail as to his husbandry practices. His father just shrugged his shoulders and said, “I have no idea…that’s all him”. This kid had it down. If you work a show, you’ll be dealing with families. So I’d like to discuss how to answer the question “are chameleons good pets for kids”.

This actually depends greatly on the parents. In the past, when I was faced with that question, I would run down a question list to determine whether the child was old or responsible enough. I now feel much better with replying with “Chameleons are great for kids, but not for teaching responsibility.” I am then able to enter into a conversation about what it takes to keep a chameleon and remove the child from the equation. The bottom line is that a chameleon, like any other pet, will enrich a child’s life and introduce that child to a world of wonder. The parent’s part in this is to take full responsibility for the care of the pet.

Teaching Kids Responsibility

I am not against using a pet to teach a child how to manage their time, schedule care, and contribute to something they value. The way it should be done, though, is for the parent to actively verify that everything is being carried out properly and be willing to step in on a daily basis to ensure proper care is given. An animal should not suffer to teach a life skill.  Each child will have a different level of maturity and responsibility.  That will change with experience, understanding, and age.  The parent can scale back their involvement as appropriate.

I engage the parent who has asked the question to measure their understanding of the commitment to the specialized care. It is wonderful to see a parent as excited as the child. If they understand the care and cost requirements I feel good that this will be a positive experience all around. But if the parent balks at taking care of the animal themselves I know that this is a situation where I should be discouraging the idea.

And a note to my listeners, If any of you are parents and have been tempted to get your kids a pet chameleon or are just wondering if you should give in to their requests, I will say that it will be a rich and rewarding experience for you both as long as you are on the same journey and you are both acting in your appropriate roles. Their role is to soak up diverse life experiences as they grow up and your role is to be by their side enjoying the world renewed through their eyes – and gently guiding them along the way. Chameleons are a demanding animal, but few other animals are so incredible. If you are right there with them in this adventure then, yes, chameleons are great pets for kids- As long as you take on full responsibility for the chameleon care.

Conclusion

So, to pull this all together. Finding the right home for each chameleon in your clutch is not always easy. But you can maintain the enjoyment of breeding chameleons and feel good about your selling the babies if you 1) set yourself up to be able to grow out a good percentage of your clutch up to 6, or better, 9 to 12 months old. And 2) restrict how many clutches you produce to one at time. That way you can concentrate on the clutch and truly enjoy watching them grow up and find new homes.

Because here is the bottom line. If you push your breeding project to the point where it is no longer fun then why do it? There is no one in the chameleon breeding world that is making a lot of money – at least not when they add up all the expenses involved. If you are going to be Joe Entrepreneur, chameleon breeding is a low ROI for your efforts. But if you keep your breeding project at a level where it is still enjoyable then you have won.

 

Thank you for joining me here on the podcast. If you want to continue the conversation and add your insight, join me on Facebook or Instagram. If you are in the Los Angeles, California area you could also drop by the South bay Chameleon Keepers meeting tomorrow on June 25, 2016. Information on all of these is in the show notes at chameleonbreeder.com. You can also find information on our podcast sponsor, the Dragon Strand chameleon Caging company. Dragon Strand has cages designed for keepers, Breeders, and display cages. Check out the new Large Chameleon Cage Kit that starts with a 48” cage in either screen, clearside, or Breeder series solid walls for visual isolation. All of these versions include five Dragon Ledges which are wall anchors that can support branches and potted plants. In addition the kit includes an extra floor panel that can facilitate a solid cleanliness protocol. See the website for more details.

 

That’s it for today!

 

And, for my special listener, Ann, consider this episode autographed for you!

 

You all have a great week. Now go and take a look at that incredible chameleon of yours. Spend a moment to be amazed that we can spend a part of our lives with a mini tree dragon staring back at us. I know I never fail to feel that sense of wonder when I spend time with my chameleons.

 

Until next time…that’s a wrap.

Read more...
Carpet Chameleons

Ep 14: Carpet Chameleons with Kevin Stanford

Summary: Carpet Chameleons are a small species from Madagascar that are named for the intricately beautiful patterns they show. This species has the characteristic of being one of the few where the female is more colorful than the male. Breeding these jewels was, at one time, problematic and there were only brief pockets of success in the community. Kevin Stanford has spearheaded the effort for breeding success and is now working with 6th Captive Generation specimens.


You can listen here:


Show Notes:

While forward movement is always built on the backs of those who have gone before us and is fanned by those who work with us, there is often one person whose efforts become a catalyst for the community. In carpet chameleons, that has been Kevin Stanford.  In this episode we talk with Kevin about his methods for successfully breeding carpet chameleons and his journey to get to this point.


Carpet Chameleons

Below is a selection of photos from Kevin's collection (all photos used with permission from Kevin Stanford)

colorful lat eatingshot Carpet Chameleon

Carpet Chameleon Gravid Carpet Chameleon Baby Carpet Chameleon male

Carpet Chameleon Cage Rack Carpet Chameleon Vivarium Carpet Chameleon Naturalistic Vivarium

If you are interested in keeping up with Kevin and his Carpet Chameleon availability, follow him on his Facebook page at Kevin Standford Chameleons on Facebook

He also has an Instagram account with the user name @macandcheese2

Season 1 Archive
Read more...
Reptile & Relationships

Ep 12: Reptiles & Your Relationship

Summary: Introducing the love of your life to your reptile passion is not always an easy process. Not everyone warms up to the idea of living with reptiles in the house quickly! But there are ways that you can ease a partner, who is new to this, into the idea. And maybe they can even find the same passion you have! But it may take some patience and understanding on your part to make this fly. In this episode we talk about the ten steps to introducing your partner to the world of keeping reptiles.


You can listen here:

Transcript (More or Less):

Ah, love. With Valentine’s Day around the corner our thoughts turn to crazy ultra-expensive ways that we can woo that wonderful person in our life. Well, I say have at it and enjoy. Now, there will be some of you out there who are, right now, trying to find a way to introduce your partner to the world of reptiles. And by “introduce” I mean get them to accept reptiles into their living space so you can be curator of your own Jurassic Park. Adding a pet to the family is a big thing. Adding a reptile or amphibian can be a bigger thing because of traditional fears. But now you have fallen in love with these incredibly fascinating beasts and want to include them in your life. There is just one hurdle here –that wonderful Valentine of yours! Finding a partner that embraces or even just tolerates living with modern day dragons in their home isn’t as straight forward as we would like. If you are single then it is easy to ensure that whomever you commit to will be part of your reptile interest. But if you have found your partner before you started your interest in keeping a mini-dinosaur you may have to incorporate some strategy to reconcile the two! Although this is a chameleon podcast, today I am going to talk about reptiles and amphibians in general.

Now, when two reptile hobbyists find each other, watch out! The mutual passion can create a wonderful relationship and turn the living room into a slice of Madagascar. You’ll find the Amazon in the spare bedroom and New Caledonia in the dining room! They can’t go on vacation because of all their care responsibilities, but they kind of consider coming home their vacation so where else would they want to go anyways? They have moved their celebration of Christmas to coincide with the annual reptile show and a cup of green cockroaches is considered a cool birthday present.

But, our hearts do not always find someone with the same love for reptiles, amphibians, and the invertebrates that find their way in there. This can be somewhat negotiated before a committed relationship is entered into so each party has time to adjust or decide to find a more suitable match. But what happens when you discover an interest or passion for reptiles after you are in a committed relationship? You are one of the lucky ones if your partner shares your new found interest. For many new reptile enthusiasts an established relationship is a minefield for your exploration of this fascinating world.  Your loving partner is suddenly wondering what happened to the you they used to know as you are slowly (or not so slowly) consumed with a new obsession. Your sudden interest in Bavarian cuckoo clocks was an amusing phase, but thisnew world of yours has living, slithering dinosaur-like things that bite and most of them eat other living things that are even more icky and skitterish.

How you approach this new found interest of yours can make all the difference in the world for how your partner will accept your reptilian friends. So, in honor of Valentine’s Day I am going to go over 10 steps to easing your partner into living in harmony with reptiles and amphibians.

And just a note, you may catch me referring to the non-reptile partner as “she”. This is because my partner prospects have been female. There are just as many males being exposed to reptiles through their partners so when I say “she” just know that that is my reality and that your situation may have a “he” on the other end! The steps are the same either way.

I’ll start this off with a story taken from the pages of my own life. My first real introduction to the fear of reptiles being a real thing was in college. I had adopted a leopard gecko which I named Flavia. Flavia was a mild mannered gecko and a wonderful pet. I also had a huge crush on this girl and was understandably excited when she was going to come over to the apartment before going out to see a show. My supportive roommates and I spent the day cleaning the apartment for this great event in my life. I had told her about meeting Flavia and there was no indication this would be more than just a “oh how cool!” type moment. When she got to the apartment I showed her around and told her I’d get Flavia while she talked to my roommates. I picked the cute little guy up, returned, and patiently held him in my hand waiting for a break in the discussion. Well, that break in discussion happened when she happened to look down in my hand and, in mid-sentence, screeched and literally plastered herself against the far wall wide-eyed and face pale. There was a shocked moment of silence as my roommates and I wondered what horrible thing was behind us.

Ummm, Flavia? It’s a leopard gecko. How can anyone be scared of a leopard gecko….named Flavia?!? Yes, I had a lot to learn.

So let’s get on with it. The ten steps to easing reptiles into a relationship with a reptile-unsure partner.

1) Understand your partner’s background and feelings.

Some people have had a bad experience in their past that gets in the way of rational thought. Even if there is no specific event, how many of us grew up in an environment where snakes generated panic? I remember walking along my cul-de-sac with my 2 foot long red-tailed boa and a neighbor lady screeched from the top of her driveway to keep that snake away from her. There is a general fear of snakes. If you are not going to take the time to learn all about which snakes are dangerous and which ones aren’t then it is safest to just be scared of all of them. And when venom is involved, studying head shape or running rhymes through your head may not give you the right answer. It is easiest to broad brush and be done with it. While lizards and amphibians don’t generally have a deadly venom to deal with they are just snakes with legs, right? At the very least, they are fierce looking and have teeth. The point of all this is to respect that your partner may have spent their life around people who shunned reptiles. Respecting your partner’s background means not belittling them for their fears, cautions, or just plain non-interest. It means not forcing an interaction with a reptile before they are willing. Sticking a reptile in the face of someone scared of reptiles or chasing them around the room is not acceptable. This immature action not only damages your partner’s trust in you, but is abusing the reptile who, by the way, often has an innate fear of humans and is adjusting to life with humans just as much as your partner is to reptiles.

Now, you may be justifying that a boa is not venomous and a lizard isn’t even a snake so why should they care. That comes down to motivation to be educated. If this is an interest of yours, you are motivated to learn the difference in danger levels between the various members of Class Reptilia. You have reduced your Danger ID chart to just the venomous members. The key is that you were motivated to do so. Your partner has a Danger ID chart in their head of anything remotely close to a snake or biting animal. It will take a bit of effort for them to take creatures off that list. How do you do that? You need to provide that motivation. You can’t just remove something from someone’s life. You have to replace it with something first. Although you may be lucky to get just tolerance from your partner, let’s go for the gusto and see if we can get them as excited as you are. Give them the same excitement you have. To do this we go to the second step to Successfully introducing your reptile keeping interest to your partner …

2) Replace Fear with Wonder

You cannot tell someone to feel something or not feel something. This is a general life truth. It is your job to show your partner the beauty of reptiles. It is an incredible world. Replace their fear, or indifference, with wonder. When people think of reptiles a common first thought is of a huge constrictor, a venomous snake, an alligator, or any other large, perhaps dangerous herp. But those walls have a good chance of melting down when your partner comes face to face with dart frogs hopping through a naturalistic vivarium. Even if they are scared, it takes effort not to be enthralled when seeing an adult male panther chameleon flashing that rainbow of colors. And who can resist letting out an “awww” when seeing a baby tortoise bite into a strawberry? They’ll giggle despite themselves seeing a huge leichianus gecko sprawled out on its owners forearm while drinking fruit mix from a squirt bottle.

The best way to do this is to expose your partner to the reptile world before you bring a reptile home. Let them warm up to the idea. If you are not incessantly begging, you are giving them a chance to develop their own comfort level. This is where a reptile show is perfect. At a show you both will be able to see not only reptiles, but how humans interact with the reptiles. Seeing the reptile in another non-panicking person’s hands goes a long way to replacing the belief that reptiles are to be avoided. It is kind of hard to maintain a fear when you see a little five year old girl walking around a show with a dog tame tegu half her size draped over her shoulder. Just remember, find ways of replacing fear or indifference with wonder.

To replace fear with wonder, introduce your partner to this world slowly, outside of their living space, and preferably, with herps that can show them a different side of reptiles than they have been raised with.

3) Don’t talk about reptiles all the time.

This is true just as much before you get your first reptile as after you get your tenth.

You have entered into a new and exciting world. Whenever we do that we have the possibility of getting obsessed to where we continually think about new ways to set up the cage, new reptiles that we can collect, and the wonderful things we will do with a breeding colony of chameleons on a free range in what used to be the spare bedroom. It is all so exciting isn’t it? It is exciting to the point where we talk about it all the time when we are not actually working on the set-ups or the maintenance or online sharing on the forums about it.

If your partner does not enjoy talking about reptiles, then any time spent talking about reptiles is selfish time for you. In your partner’s eyes, you could better spend that time expounding on how gorgeous they are. But seriously, there is now something new in your life which is competing with them for your attention. And it is winning. This is just natural when we get excited about a new interest and we reptile people tend to jump in with both feet. And yes, it goes both ways. Just remember the last time they got interested in something. But we are dealing with you now. Your new softball team or boats or new dietary regimen are things which your spouse has at least a conceptual cultural familiarity with. Keeping scaley things, intentionally breeding cockroaches, and using cute, fuzzy things as food are very, very new concepts for many people and it is easy to go too fast with this. You talking incessantly about this bizarre lifestyle has not only replaced them as the attention point in your life, but has replaced it with a topic just slightly more palatable than moving the family to Greenland. Not that there is anything wrong with Greenland. But I hear WiFi is iffy there and life without WiFi may be the only thing worse than finding out that their spouse now keeps frozen rodents next to the ice cream.

We all like the new shiny thing. And you can probably have this new shiny reptile-interest thing. Just go slow. Make sure you spend quality time with your partner that does not include mentioning reptiles unless they start it! And if they do start it make sure they are the ones continuing the conversation if you keep talking about reptiles. In this you are letting them know they still have the main place in your heart and mind. And, once again, you can apply this to anything. The work you talk about, the politics you talk about, and anything else. Make sure you are listening to them and what they want to talk about. It will go a long ways towards happiness in your relationship whether reptiles are involved or not.

4) Pick a good intro animal

Presumably, you are discussing this with your partner before going out and getting said animal. If you have surprised your partner by bringing a reptile home then you have taken the accelerated class schedule. (You like a challenge, don’t you) But let’s assume you are communicating before hand at this point. If you have a number of possible reptiles you’d like to start with then there are number of selection items you can consider that will make the whole reptile-at-home experience much smoother.

The first is, What does it eat? Most reptiles either eat insects, rodents, or vegetable matter. Which is most acceptable to your partner? My wife is just fine with anything that eats insects, but, having worked a rat race booth where there rats were highly affectionate and intelligent, has a real problem with rodents being used for food.

Insects may be more palatable to your partner, but this could mean chirping noise at night. You will need a variety of feeders to provide good nutrition so you will be tempted by cockroaches. And arboreals always love flies. If there are difficulties with these main food items there are alternative reptiles that may be a good start for you. Tortoises eat vegetable matter and dart frogs eat flightless fruit flies. The Day geckos and New Caledonia geckos (crested, gargoyle, chewies, and leachies) will have a diet that can include yogurt or a powdered mix – so less on the insect side than a bearded dragon.

The second is, Does it stink? Try to avoid individuals whose husbandry conditions will be prone to stinking. A pretty accurate rule is that if the reptile eats birds, mammals, or reptiles it’s poop will stink. Insect eaters have much less odor.

The third is visual appeal. A pet that is visually attractive is much more likely to be the source of showing off. A Bumble Bee dart frog (dendrobates leucamelas) jumping around a mossy bank flashing its yellow and black bands can actually be a source of peace.

The fourth is personality. There are some reptiles that are just not fun to interact with. They can be fascinating, but if they have sour dispositions, you are going to have an uphill battle with your partner. You’ll have an easier road if you save the nile monitor or anaconda for later. A sweet leopard gecko or mild-mannered bearded dragon would be a great first experience. If your mind is set on a certain species that is known for having a miserable personality then that is the one you should look at, but if you are selecting from a wide range of choices that interest you consider one with a good personality.

I’ll give you a non-exhaustive list of good first reptiles.

Dart Frogs. These little guys are the epitome of cute. You’ll have bright colors jumping around a naturalistic setting with periodic jungle noises if you get the ones with the louder calls. They eat flightless fruitflies so escapees are not that big of a deal on the annoyance scale. I remember a phyllobates terriblis (or Golden poison dart frog) we had which would call during different times of the day. Whenever the family would hear him across the house we would all stop to listen. That was a wonderful family experience!

Tortoises. Tortoises have their own appeal. They are considered cute and move slow. They eat vegetable matter so, of all these choices, their food is the least likely to escape.

Chameleons. They have bright colors and awesome ornamentation whether horns or awesome casques. Most intriguing about the chameleons is their ability to change color. They do not change color for camouflage, but instead it is based on temperature and mood. This means you have a reptile that can communicate its feelings. It literally wears its heart on its sleeve! This appeals to us humans that need these communication cues and we build relationships with things we can communicate with. Unfortunately, they are a challenge for the first time keeper because of their arboreal lifestyle, need to drink water rained down on them, and daily husbandry requirements. There are many good resources on their care and kits available to make set-up easy.   Chameleons are definitely an investment of money and time. I include them on this list only because of all the reptiles, chameleons are the most communicative of their emotions in a way that we humans can understand. So they rank high in being a gateway to the reptile world.

Bearded Dragons, Leopard Geckos, Crested Geckos, Ball Pythons…these all have tame personalities and qualify as good first reptiles. Choose one depending on what you have determined your partner will be most open to. Rate your choices by what they eat, do they stink, personality, and visual appeal. It doesn’t hurt to stack the odds in your favor.

5) Be realistic with budget and stick with it

If you have a shared financial account with your partner then the one thing that will sink their acceptance of this new interest of yours is to see their account dwindle unexpectedly.   Honestly, this applies to everything in life when you live with someone else! But especially something where you are trying to get them to focus on the excitement and wonder that you already have. Don’t add the complication of “wait, we can’t pay the electricity bill why?” to the mix. Just make sure you can afford to get the equipment necessary to start off the right way for your animal of choice.

6) Make the cage a thing of beauty

Utilitarian may be the minimum necessary for the animal and may have saved the budget, but it does not give any points as far as appeal. Can you set up a naturalistic vivarium that is just as much a joy to look at as is the animal? The dartfrog community leads in how to pull this off effectively. You could look at one of their cages and feel immediate peace, serenity, and wonder. And that is all before you notice the frogs. Take a page out of their book and make a cage or vivarium that makes non-reptile people stop and appreciate. Your guide? Make this cage something that your partner would be proud to show their friends. Your enjoyment aside, if your partner is showing off your reptile and their friends are impressed, you have achieved your goal. It is amazing how achieving this level of presentation will give you breathing room in almost all other areas that you may not have earned full points! In fact, presentation is so important for your new herp to be accepted into the household that it is worth allocating budget specifically for presentation. This really is not the area to be saving money because the satisfaction from a professional and visually pleasing cage presentation will last years where the satisfaction of having saved $20 or even $100 will fade quickly.

7) Start slow with NO surprises

If you get the go ahead for a nice panther chameleon then don’t come home with a pair. If you have agreed upon using the space on the dresser, don’t take the nightstand too.

The guy at the show may be offering a deal you can’t refuse on a pair, but if you have only discussed a single animal with your partner then come home with a single animal!

When given an inch take an inch at most and a three quarters inch if possible! You are building a trust here. That trust will carry you far in the months and years ahead. Don’t treat it lightly! Consider that you may wish to add another reptile in the future. The way that discussion goes is highly dependent on how you treat this initial “agreement”.

If we have gotten to this point and you are bringing a reptile home then you are doing pretty good. Our steps now are focused on building the good feelings associated with your reptile. Bringing home your new friend is just the first step. Now it is time to show your partner that this will be a positive experience for you both! You have made a beautiful cage environment and the first impression was hopefully good.

So let’s keep it going with…

8) Keep the cage spotless

Never make your partner feel sorry for the creature in the cage!

This is the brother to making the cage beautiful. If the cage is not maintained to the highest standards of cleanliness or the animal is not in the top health there is no way to impress anyone. Your partner will be looking to the opinions of friends (regardless of what they know) and other experts as to how well your care stacks up. Make sure you are at the top of your game. This especially means two months after you have set everything up and things are not as “fun” any more! Keeping any sort of pet is a long term commitment and you need to maintain a top level for the entire time. Realize that a non-herp spouse will be challenged if their friends are not impressed with your set-up. It will just be your stupid hobby. A basic fact of human social interaction is that your spouse will be judged by your actions. If one of their non-herp friends comes over and is amazed by the little slice of nature you created and asks all kinds of questions then your spouse will be able to take pride in this hobby of yours. Think of impressing your spouse as only the first step. Your ultimate goal is to impress their friends. See how that works. You’ll be surprised how quickly your partner comes around when they unexpectedly find themselves bragging about your hobby to their friends instead of explaining it away.

9) Contain your feeders

If you have an animal that eats live food whether insects, rodents, or lizards, make sure those feeders stay where they are supposed to be. That means no escapees. Nothing ruins a day more than finding mice running around the house, cockroaches in the corners, flies buzzing the dinner table, or that male cricket singing the song of his people….. behind the clothes dresser…..at 2AM in the morning. Although you can just assume that there will always be an escapee every now and then, do your best to make sure this is few and very far between. Laxness in this area will raise stress levels sky high.

Anything that needs to be in the refrigerator or freezer like bloodworms or rodents. Have an agreed upon plainly marked container that is to be opened by you alone. Avoid any emotional scarring that comes from a person just barely accepting of this new hobby opening up the wrong bag.

10) Community

Eventually, your spouse will run into members of the reptile community. Either directly at shows or indirectly through what you say about your experiences online. I would caution you to stick with sharing the positive things about the community. Surround yourself with positive elements and avoid the negative. Unfortunately, you can’t totally get away from conflict because human nature is to fight and whatever you post there is always someone who has to show how knowledgeable they are by annoyingly inserting themselves in to get attention…under the guise of “just being helpful”, of course. Now don’t write off anyone giving you help as causing trouble for self-glorification. You might be “that guy” that is doing things so wrong that it is painful to watch and the community cannot responsibly stay silent. But when you inevitably run into friction online, your fault or not, be careful how you paint the community to your partner who knows it only from what you say. Make friends of good people. You can start by getting to know the breeder of your chosen animal in person at a show and develop a friendship. Having show vendors know you by name (and not avoid you) is a good way for your spouse to feel like there is a safe, respectable group that they are joining vicariously through you.

And that is ten things to try. You know your situation best. In my case, I am incredibly lucky to be married to a lady that has been a real trooper. And I am bringing her on to meet you all. Welcome, Yvette Strand to the Chameleon Breeder Podcast!

And it is time we bring this episode to a close. I wish you the best as you introduce your partner to your love for reptiles! Respect for your partner’s background is the first step in a long, but doable list of things to keep in mind.

You can find this episode and its show notes online at the website Chameleon Academy. Here you will find appropriate links and a transcript. Just look for Episode 12: Reptiles & Your Relationships and you’ll get what you need.

This episode is sponsored by the Dragon Strand caging company. Check out the new Large Atrium Enclosure.   At 44” tall and 45” wide it is the best commercially available enclosure for panther or veiled chameleons. It comes standard with eight dragon ledges and is available in both screen and clearside versions. Check this cage out at dragonstrand.com or just find the link in the episode show notes.

Thank you for joining me, and my special cameo appearance guest, Yvette, my wife and chameleon wrangling partner, for this special Valentine’s Day relationship episode! Go and get your roses and/or cards for your special someone. Of if your special someone is that reptile enthusiast well then you may still may be able to get that cup of green banana roaches overnighted just in time. So, until next episode – that’s a wrap.

Giant Green Banana Roach vs. Green Banana Roach

Green Banana Roach Comparison
Season 1 Archive
Read more...
Interview with Bill Strand

Ep 8: Interview with Host Bill Strand

Summary: Get to know the host of the Chameleon Breeder Podcast, Bill Strand. Briana Kammer returns, but this time she is in the host seat!  Inbetween talking about Bill’s story, these two discuss the current chameleon community and weave in a vision for the chameleon community going forward.  Listen in to a free flowing talk about past adventures that led to this point, podcast philosophies, and future directions.


You can listen here:

Season 1 Archive
Read more...
Briana Kammer

Ep 4: Briana Kammer Interview

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


You can listen here:

Show Notes

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

Kammerflage Banner 830

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

Kammerflage Instagram

Or check out Facebook!

Kammerflage Facebook


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

Chameleon-Forums-300

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

Chameleon-Forums-Kammer-babies-300

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

TCE logo


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

For-Cham-Breeder

Check out the Dragon Ledges at the following link:

Dragon Strand Dragon Ledges

Season 1 Archive
Read more...