Cages

veiled chameleon in UVB

Ep 171: Transitioning from the Chameleon Kit

Listen Here!

The ZooMed Chameleon Kit is one of the most common starting points for chameleon keepers. But one soon learns that it must be upgraded. Unfortunately, this isn’t always expected by the new keeper. And it must often be done with an urgency that requires guidance. In today’s episode I review the transition from the Chameleon Kit to the final cage set-up.

Informational Links

Creating an educational structure for the Chameleon Kit has been a huge job. You can link here to the resource here!

Setting up and Transitioning from the ZooMed Chameleon Kit.

Transcript (more or less)

The Chameleon Kit from Zoo Med holds an infamous place in the chameleon community. It is the most commonly used cage for people just coming into the community due to the ease of carrying it at the retail level and the promised ease of having it all in one box. Although that promise is alluring, especially at the price it is offered, the dark side is that it truly is not an adequate cage set-up for most cases. Unfortunately, the consequences of using this cage kit inappropriately is serious sickness and death for the chameleon. Thus, we in the community devote an enormous amount of energy towards transitioning new keepers to their next cage set-up. This particular situation requires much more patience and finesse because the new keepers have been told that this is all they need. So they do not know the dangers in this cage kit and since they did all their research with the uniformed experts at the pet store they are leery of suddenly trusting random strangers on social media that come at them like rabid banshees telling them to spend more money.

 

This episode is about the transition from kit to forever home. This transition has three main parts

  • Assess Chameleon Health
  • Determine priority
  • Execute as funds allow.

 

If you are a new keeper then you are in the right place to determine a sane and planned way forward. You probably got peppered with random advice snippets that you are not sure how to stitch together other than starting over. This podcast episode is primarily for you.

 

The secondary purpose of this episode is for experienced members of the community who wish to be part of helping new keepers go through the transition. This will give you a structure that will allow you to do it in an organized and effective manner.

I need to lay the ground work before we go forward. So here is a summary of the situation.

The Chameleon Kit is a bundled product from ZooMed. A bunch of parts were thrown together to provide something that pet stores could sell chameleons. You can tell it was an afterthought as the kit pieces do not go together. You have suction cups for a screen cage and plastic vines that have no place to be hung.  You see these at the major pet store chains, reptile supply stores, and at reptile shows. It is the perfectly bundled and marketed product if you care more about getting a person out the door of your store rather than the long term health of the chameleon.

Now, to be fair, many of the items are useful, and with a couple additions, can provide an effective chameleon cage which can raise a healthy baby. Unfortunately, the kit maxes out at about 2.5” in chameleon snout-to-vent length. So this kit is effective for the couple months after you bring your chameleon home. Beyond that you have grown out of the gradients available. That wouldn’t be so bad if both the marketing on the box and the pet store advice were clear that this was a temporary solution. ZooMed actually says that when pressed. The problem is that people come away with the impression that this is all they need. Best of intentions aside, Whatever is going on between the customer asking for what they need and leaving the store or booth is that they are unaware that they will need to upgrade. And the number of them that come to us on social media with a chameleon that is already too big for the cage indicates that the good intentioned advisors are not starting off with the correct information to begin with. That is a separate problem that can fill much discussion time. For this episode let’s concentrate on the situation at hand which is a keeper who loves their chameleon and spent a healthy amount of money to get the set-up they have is now facing the realization that they will have to upgrade almost everything. Some are in a financial position to do so and only have to be proven that this new round of advisors know what they are talking about and some new keepers understand it, but do not have the budget to just replace everything right away. So, I am going to lead us through a systematic step by step transition where I explain why it needs to be changed and what the options are. I will pick the most basic and available equipment to provide the best transition target balance between cost and availability. There are any number of options out there and if you would like to explore them then more power to you! But I will present the emergency option for the worse case situation of the person whose chameleon needs to transition everything right now and the finances do not allow a single click ordering on day one.

The first thing to do when analyzing the situation is to evaluate the chameleon’s health. Does this chameleon need to go to the vet? It would be sad to fix the equipment and find out that the chameleon had a medical condition that needed treating.

There are three medical conditions most encountered in the Chameleon Kit situation.

  • Metabolic Bone Disorder/Disease, often called MDB
  • Respiratory Infection or RI
  • Chronic Stress

Each has a varying level of urgency and seriousness. If you are a new keeper then find someone you trust and get an experienced eye on the situation. You can find briefs on these conditions on the Chameleonacademy.com/medical page to do some initial self-research. You’ll find pictures there to help you out. But nothing beats bringing on an experienced eye to your team.

Metabolic Bone Disorder, or MBD, is our layman’s term for nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism (NSHP). This is where the chameleon does not get enough calcium in its body and its bones are rubbery, weak, and break easily. Imagine your skeleton not being hard. It wouldn’t be able to support your weight and the muscles would not have a solid anchor from which to work. This is a slow and painful death for your chameleon and sneaks up on the new keeper who doesn’t have a good reference as to what a chameleon should look like and happens over time so there aren’t always obvious warning flags. Calcium needs to be in the diet. And vitamin D3 needs to be in the body to allow that calcium to be absorbed. Add to that the necessity for Magnesium to be present, Phosphorus to be present, but in the right balance, and there to be the right amount of heat and water for the overall systems to run effectively.  This is a specific danger with the Chameleon kit because vitamin D3 is synthesized in the chameleon’s skin by exposure to UVB light. The only area that the included reptisun 5.0 T5 13W Compact Fluorescent Lamp provides adequate UVB is, literally, for a couple inches starting 2 inches below the light and then it quickly fades uselessly into the dark cage. So the new keeper knows they need UVB and they have checked that box with the UVB light included, but there was nothing to tell them to affix the basking branch – or vine – in the correct position. So the UVB is there, but useless. And here is the tricky part. There is a way for the Chameleon kit to provide a proper environment for a chameleon if it is set up a certain way. I released a podcast last season explaining how to do this and I have tested it myself. I am currently on my third chameleon being raised in the Chameleon Kit using this UVB so I know it works. But it only works for a chameleon under 2.5” in body length. Beyond that and you are pushing the limits on a number of different parameters. And this is a valuable part of the transition – how long do you have and how can you extend that time to give yourself whatever time you need to find the equipment and funds. All of this information is in the show notes of course so when you have time take a look at the chameleonacademy.com website

MBD happens over time so we most often see this condition with keepers that have had their chameleon in the kit for a long time and they come to social media because they finally determine that something is off with their little guy. It may be falling out of branches or not being able to use his tongue. Unfortunately, by this time the condition is advanced. Although we can stop MBD from getting worse, we cannot reverse the damage already done. We can help you set up a hospital bin and get calcium into your chameleon’s system, but the best approach is to get under the personal care of an experienced reptile veterinarian who can guide the process.

So our first step is to do an MBD check on the chameleon. The first symptoms of MBD are joints looking like Us instead of Vs. Or legs bending in the middle where there should be solid bone. The chameleon has trouble holding itself up off the branch when it crawls and may not be able to aim its tongue properly. In advanced cases, the limbs have multiple breaks that happen over sloppily healed previous breaks. Sometimes the jaw is not strong enough to close and the tongue pushes out. If you are seeing the beginning of these symptoms then you need to act fast on the transition. If advanced, you need to work on a hospital bin. If you have a baby chameleon and are posting on social media after having him for a week the chances are low that you have an MBD problem just yet. It is after a month of two that you could start seeing symptoms. I say could because the Reptivite supplementation sample that is included in the kit does have dietary D3 and that will help bridge the gap. We don’t like to rely on supplementation because giving D3 dietarily can lead to overdose, but in the case of the Chameleon Kit that danger is greatly reduced. Reptivite does not have excessive levels of D3 so there is wiggle room in its use. There is your one silver lining here! If you are helping the transition for someone else do the MBD test to ensure that is not on your plate of challenges. Ask for pictures of the elbows to look for unnatural bends, ask for a video of the chameleon walking across the cage, and get a close up of the jaw. If no MBD then breathe a sigh of relief and let’s go on to respiratory infections.

A respiratory infection happens when the body’s immune system is compromised and weakened to the point where the bacteria that is always around looking for an entry point, is able to breach the defenses and start a colony. The signs that you are dealing with a respiratory infection are lethargy, eyes closed during the day, napping, the nose pointed into the air, and sitting with their mouth open. The insidious thing with these infections is that your chameleon will do everything possible to hide their illness so you only see it when it has gotten so bad that they can’t hide it any more. Their eyes are their most powerful defense against being eaten and they keep watch every day of their lives for predators. So when they are napping during the day they are feeling so bad inside that they are willing to get eaten rather than open their eyes. This is why we moderators freak out when someone posts a picture of their chameleon with their eyes closed. And it is all we can do not to sound like a lunatic when we gently post an inquiry as to what is going on. This is an immediate trip to the veterinarian to get antibiotics. That is the only thing that will save your chameleon’s life. I know, you hear about the wonders of Manuka honey and other home remedies. And the miraculous recoveries attributed to them. I’ll not weigh in other than to say you don’t have time to experiment. Get to the vet ASAP and get antibiotics. Is this an emergency? Yes. The sooner you catch it the more of a chance you can beat it. But it is not easy and especially not easy if the chameleon is a baby or wild caught or in a stressful situation at home. Bottom line, if the chameleon ever closes its eyes during the day treat it like an emergency. I know you think it is an overreaction. You can quote me as saying it is not an over-reaction. As soon as you see signs of respiratory infection you have to trust that you saw it. Because your little guy will act all healthy hyped up on adrenaline at the vet’s office and you’ll be sent home with nothing to worry about. If you see eyes closed or an experienced member sees signs of a respiratory infection you’ll have to insist or else you’ll be starting much further along in the infection by time your little guy cannot muster the healthy act when taken to the vet. And what causes Respiratory infections and why would we specifically be looking out for these with the Chameleon Kit? Welcome to our third health check – chronic stress.

There are two types of stresses. Stress spikes and Chronic stress. Stress spikes are being taken out of the cage and given a visual examination, shown for a couple of minutes to the neighborhood kids, and a hawk flying over head. Stress spikes are harmless because they come and go. Chronic stress is the killer. This is when they are held and played with for a long period of time This is when they are housed with another chameleon. This is when the cage does not offer enough foliage for them to feel secure. And all of these things add up to the point where the immune system is weakened. Now you are seeing the connection to the above respiratory infections. If you have a respiratory infection the antibiotics are only a temporary fix until you remove the cause of stress. If you do not have a respiratory infection then this step is preventative. The signs of a discontent chameleon are many and it really helps to have an experienced person to help out. Some common signs are constant crawling on the screen like they just can’t feel safe. Or constant cowering in a corner as if they are scared of something which can be as frightening as the family cat or as hideous as a certain color plastic bag. It could be the ceiling fan. This is detective time. Keeping more than one chameleon in the same cage is a huge long term killer of chameleons. If someone says you can keep chameleons together seriously reconsider purchasing from them. This will kill your chameleons. I know, there are some advanced keepers that bend these rules. You will kill a lot of chameleons before you get to that level. Get there first and then you can play footloose and fancy free with the husbandry rules. Even if you do not see signs of stress, but there are common stressors that are pointed out, like ceiling fans, cohabitation, the sun through the window, and AC vent above the cage, a cat or bird nearby…take care of them proactively. And yes, seeing the world through your chameleon’s eyes is a whole new world and a whole new language to learn. It does not come easy.

Giving your chameleon a sense of security in a screen cage which is too small will be a challenge. If your chameleon is feeling threatened his sense of safety will be when he can hide in foliage. This means that there needs to be enough plants inside for him to feel like he is hidden. And with a screen cage where he can be seen from all angles this becomes a tall order. But there are things that you can do. I absolutely love this idea I got from Uli nunn. When she has the people she is working with remove all their fake plants from inside the cage to be replaced by living plants she has them hang all the fake plants along the outside of the cage to provide a visual barrier. If you block the sight path of the chameleon you block the attack path of the predator as far as your chameleon is concerned. I have accomplished this by attaching pieces of PVC or coroplast to the side of the cage. Anything that blocks their view will calm them down. You can also try raising their cage up above your head level. Chameleons are very visual animals. Block the number of sides that they have to keep watch at and they calm down. Put them above all the action and they will calm down. So these are some tricks of the trade. Though, just a note, if you block the line of sight through the side of the cage, don’t place the cage where you will be suddenly appearing at the front of the cage as you walk by and freaking the poor guy out because of you surprising him.

Of course, there could be any number of medical issues other than these, but, for your initial checklist, these will cover the majority of what we see coming in. You can get right on to the equipment transition, but that must be in parallel with treating the medical condition or there will be no chameleon left to enjoy your final cage.

When we get to the transition of equipment, the two biggest items that need to be changed are the cage and lighting system. It is fashionable to switch out the UVB light as the top priority, but the T5 systems available will overpower the small Chameleon Kit cage. For example, the Arcadia 12% T5 in a ProT5 fixture can put out higher UVB at the screen top than has ever been recorded on Earth in nature. You can test this yourself. A UVI of 43 is the highest measured on Earth on a volcano in Bolivia. A ProT5 12% can clock out UVI 50 at the screen top. Allowing your baby chameleon to crawling on the screen top and expose their belly to this radiation is scary. But this is what is done day in and day out because of a general lack of understanding of UVB strength.

Ideally, you would upgrade both cage and lighting fixture at the same time. There are many combinations of cages and lighting systems that work. The one that does a very nice balance between economics, availability, and functionality is the combination of a Reptibreeze XL which is a 24” x 24” x 48” screen cage, a vivosun quad T5 fixture, and an Arcadia 6% UVB bulb. Of course, I have links to all of these in the show notes.

Here is the point where some insight into how the product works will help you determine the urgency of the transition. You are able to make the kit work for chameleons under 2.5” in snout to vent length. If the chameleon is that small then it is a relatively simple matter to set up the cage as described in the show notes. It doesn’t mean that you call it a day. Even if this is the case, it won’t be long before the chameleon grows to 2.5”. It just means that you do not have to panic buy. It is always good to know the urgency of each piece of the transition so that you can make rational decisions when faced with things such as financial constraints or equipment shortages. Can you wait two weeks for the item to come back into inventory, or is it urgent enough that you go to plan B? There is power in understanding the urgency. You are able to set a realistic priority list.

If you can upgrade only one at a time then I would upgrade the lighting system first. You can make a powerful lighting system work with the small cage by suspending it above the cage a few inches. In the case of a 6% bulb I suggested above, yes, it is quite high measured at the top of the screen, but you quickly get into the reasonable range. So if you are putting the bulb directly on the cage top this is the bulb to go with. If you are electing to go with a 12% bulb then definitely check into the strength with your Solarmeter. I keep my 12% bulbs four to six inches above my cage tops. They are my favorite bulb because of how big the UVI 3-6 range is, but they are just over powering if you put them directly on the top of the cage.

In any of these case makes sure the cage has a thick foliage layer to provide an escape from the UVB. And here is where you have to be smart about adding a powerful UVB bulb to the Chameleon Kit. There is limited space and limited options. Make sure that the cage has a dense foliage layer that allows the chameleon to get out of the UVB. And I am meaning dense enough to block that light. T5 bulbs are very powerful. They are meant to punch down to reach a bearded dragon at the bottom of a cage. Not for a chameleon inches below. So we have to be smart about how we use this tool. The plastic plant sprig included in the kit is not sufficient for blocking this light! You need a dense plant coverage for protection. The smaller the cage the more difficult it is to get the right plants in there so you’ll have to be creative.  Take a look at the pictures in the show notes to get an idea of what it takes.

In summary, if you are upgrading the UVB, but not the cage, make sure the chameleon has an easy way to get out of the UVB light. Once you get the larger cage this becomes an easier task.

Now, considering I am producing this episode smack dab in the middle of the Covid pandemic, we have had unpredictable supply issues. So what if you can get the cage, but not the UVB bulb? This is where we have to take stock of everything that we have at our disposal to make this work. In this case, it is simple to set the kit UVB compact fluorescent to work by making sure your chameleon’s back is 2 inches below the bulb. But what if the casque of your male veiled chameleon is now rubbing the top panel screen? If your chameleon is over 2.5” in snout to vent length it is difficult to find a working balance. In this case it is time to fall back on that Reptivite with D3. Using this every feeding can make up for what he isn’t getting through UVB. Reptivite has 10k IUs/lb of D3 which is half of what you get with Repashy Calcium Plus and just a bit more than what you give with Repashy Calcium Plus LoD. So it is well within the reasonable range and the danger of overdose with D3 is low. Unfortunately, this may cause issue with Jackson’s Chameleons and other supplementation sensitive species and they may develop edema. We are still getting to the bottom of how that works. But hopefully the dependance on dietary D3 is a temporary condition until you get the final UVB bulb and fixture. And I use Reptivite with D3 as my example because that is the sample that is included in the kit and might be what they bought to replace the small amount included. If you have taken the role of transition guide then you can use the supplementation schedule you are familiar with as long as it is inline with the group you are part of. I actually don’t like Reptivite that much because it includes extra phosphorus. That doesn’t work so well when we are using it on crickets that are already so high with phosphorus. As important as it is for us to keep calcium and phosphorus in balance, adding phosphorus is going in the wrong direction. So I would actually encourage moving on from there. Plain calcium every feeding and Repashy Calcium Plus LoD as the multivitamin is a good regimen. If you need to do a vitamin D3 bridge due to insufficient UVB then Repashy Calcium Plus is a good one to bring in. A number of panther breeders use Calcium plus every feeding so our confidence in its safety is high.

My personal preference is the Arcadia brand products EarthPro-A and RevitaliseD3, but they are designed for systems which have a strong UVB system so if you transition to them use the Repashy Calcium Plus as your D3 bridge if you are concerned about the amount of UVB that the chameleon is able to get.

Now, I want to bring up a consideration that is just a hypothesis and we are still working on figuring out. There are some experiences and reports that suggest that switching between supplementation regimens may cause some edema. Keepers are quick to place blame on one or the other supplements, but when other keepers have used them long term it just doesn’t hold water. A gradual transition over a month or so is a good idea. But you do what is necessary depending on the situation. If you haven’t noticed, this podcast isn’t really good at laying down black and white directions. I offer understanding and hope to create a generation of thinking keepers and advisors!

So let’s summarize our steps.

  • Evaluate the chameleon’s medical condition and act accordingly
  • Stabilize the situation and make sure the kit set-up they have is as good as it can be to get through the transition.
  • Determine the priority of the transition depending on the size of the chameleon, the funds available, and the equipment availability.

So there is a little structure here. Some checkboxes. But the fact is that you can only be slightly effective if you don’t understand the pieces. If you have a knee jerk reaction that everytime you are faced with the Chameleon Kit you tell them to get T5 UVB lighting and then you do a self-congratulatory victory lap the chameleon may be dying from a respiratory infection or may now have the added stress of being blasted by UVB because there isn’t any cover in the cage. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. And social media has made it very easy for people to pick up snippets of information and then broadcast those snippets outside of context. I would like very much to create a generation of advisors that have context. Each situation will have common elements, but will also be different. Please treat them as such.

The onslaught of the Chameleon kit does not appear to be slowing down. In fact, it will start to get worse. I am seeing other companies putting together kits which may not be much better. So buckle up Chameleon wranglers, we have an adventure ahead of us. It is easy to say things like CFLs give off no UVB or that the Chameleon Kit is a death kit. That is fine. These over generalizations get the point across. But if you are dedicated to chameleon husbandry enough that you are willing to sit through podcast episodes then you are the type of chameleon husbandry artisan that we need to bring insight and perspective to the community. You are the type of person we need to jump in when someone shows up with the Chameleon Kit or one of the many knock offs coming our way and approach this new keeper with empathy and kindness. This is more than just an opportunity for you to show off how much you know. This is an opportunity for you to help someone take their first steps into the next chapter of their chameleon keeping experience. And it isn’t an easy transition because it is a splash of cold water in the face that there even is a transition necessary. And this is why it is so hard. It is more than just memorizing the talking points. It is treating each person that comes to us as a new story. We do Chameleon kit transitions multiple times a week.  That is why I am putting so much effort into these resources. But the new keeper has no idea about this and is coming in fresh. They did their research as far as they know and have arrived. It is like finally getting up to the top of the hill and they are about to see that here is another mountain peak behind it that is even steeper to climb. The community needs advisors and mentors that are willing to step in, unjaded, and gently guide the new keeper through the transition.

So, this is my part. I am producing resources and information. Keep an eye on the chameleonacademy.com website as there are a number of resources I am working on. Releasing this podcast is actually just one of the items on my checklist and is just part of a much bigger picture. So there is much more to come to prepare us for being more effective in helping new keepers with this very important transition. This is a long term condition. Of course, everything we learn going through this process will be applicable across the board. If you are adept at personalizing the Chameleon kit transition to each individual case that comes to you then you will have developed a rare skill. Instead of having a mob milling about looking for new keepers to “process”, I’d like to see a cadre of chameleon husbandry artisans constantly on the look out for new chameleon kit keepers so they can practice their skill at pulling out the nuances of the situation and personalizing the experience.

I just completed giving a five week Chameleon Kit Zoom class for influencers across the groups and the various social media platforms. I learned a lot from going through that process and am working on refining the materials. When I have bolstered up the materials, I will do another class round and open it up to people who resonate with my vision of what we can be as a community. So, keep watching the Chameleon Academy social media for announcements.

In other news, we are quickly coming to the end of season five of the Chameleon Academy Podcast. We have about two more episodes after this. I traditionally take a couple months off between seasons. This gives me time to refresh. Although it always takes the form of working on different projects so there really isn’t down time involved! I am not sure what I would do with downtime anyway. I don’t work well with downtime. I am excited to spend this time growing the chameleonacademy.com resources, refining the Chameleon kit Transition Guide course work, and developing some other ideas so we can hit the ground running in 2021.

 


Read more...
Parsons Chameleon

Ep 169: Keeping Chameleons in Hybrid Cages

Listen Here!

We hear about screen cages and we hear about glass cages. But what are these hybrid cages? Today I introduce you to the benefits of keeping chameleons in hybrid cages, how to use them, and even how to make your own.

Transcript (More or Less)

Good morning, Chameleon Wranglers! Today we are talking about caging. Specifically, about that often overlooked middle ground between screen cages and glass cages. We call them hybrid cages because they combine screen panels and solid panels to bring out the advantages of both.

 

Now, to appreciate the hybrid cage we need to elevate ourselves above the screen vs glass debate and develop an understanding around what a cage actually is. Obviously, a cage is designed to be the borders of your chameleon’s world. This is what keeps him from being under foot when we walk in the door. But they also control the ventilation through the cage. A screen is, effectively, 100% ventilation while a glass or plastic or wood side is 0% ventilation. Here in lies the biggest confusion in chameleon caging. That is the need for ventilation. So let’s face it head on.

 

The common thought is that chameleons need ventilation. This is mostly true, but like everything, it is best that we understand what about ventilation chameleons need. What we are trying to avoid is stagnant air inside the cage. This is because we want the cage to dry out. Constantly wet surfaces are breeding grounds for bacteria, fungus, molds and just a general unhealthful environment. The best way to dry things out is to blow dryer air across it. Moisture evaporates and we have achieved our goal. What better way to do this than to have a fully screen cage with unfettered air movement? Outside of powered fans, that is the most ventilation you will get. But do we really need that much ventilation?

 

Ventilation affects your environmental conditions within the cage. The more ventilation the more the inside of your cage will match the room temperature and humidity. And the harder it will be for you to change those conditions. The more the required conditions of your selected species differ from the room you live in the less ventilation you want because you need to create a different environment inside the cage.

 

Temperature is often not an issue. Obviously, this depends on species and what your particular conditions are, but if you, as a human, are comfortable with the temperature there is a good chance your chameleon is comfortable too. The addition of a basking lamp gives the chameleon a warm up opportunity. And then the usual room temperature during the day and the common nighttime drop during the night is often to a chameleon’s liking. These are gross generalizations of course. Some people keep their home at 70 during the night and some people have their homes down to 50 degrees F. Consult your care sheet. But the general concept is the standard room temperature ebb and flow, with the addition of a basking bulb, suits many of our chameleon species just fine. This is why screen cages have been as successful as they have been.

 

This would be a very short podcast if that was all there was to the story. But we have places where temperatures are not ideal and this is where solid side caging rises to the occasion. The solid sides will hold in the heat and allow a higher temperature inside the cage than in the ambient conditions.

 

If we have lost ventilation so we can keep heat inside, how do we keep the conditions healthy? The answer is that if you fine tune the ventilation you can block enough air flow to keep in heat, but, at the same time, allow enough ventilation to prevent stagnant air. This introduces the concept that healthful air quality conditions can be maintained with less than 100% ventilation. In fact, it only takes a subtle air flow to achieve this result. This is an example of where we have taken an important concept, ventilation, slammed it all the way to the extreme, and lost the true nature of what we were trying to do.

 

Many of you know I have my own chameleon caging company. This year, 2020, I made a departure from the norm and my screen cage line was released with a solid back panel. So all sides screen and the back panel solid white PVC. It has been more common than I hoped it would be for people to be concerned that I was blocking airflow. So, there has been a lot of information lost in the community sound bite that chameleons need ventilation. You might then ask, how much ventilation do I need? Well, surprisingly little. Remember, we just need air exchange. Allow me to introduce you to the stack effect or, as we know it in the reptile community, the chimney effect.

 

This effect is discussed in the design of high rise building or when houses are interested in getting some natural ventilation. It is the recognition, simply, that warm air rises. And when the warm air rises, something has to take its place. That would be the air below it. So, you can imagine that if you have an enclosed space – say, a chimney, or a skyscraper, or a solid side cage – you could create an airflow by having an exit at the top for the warm air and an entry at the bottom for cooler air.  The warm inside air would rise and draw in fresh outside air. If this intake vent was to be placed near the floor of the cage then you will create an air exchange that goes through the entire cage. In fact, this is exactly what today’s terrariums do. They have air vents near the bottom of the cage and a screen top.  Our use of a basking bulb provides a perfect air warming up top and there is an airflow going on all day. Even without the basking lamp, the heating up of the air at the top of our cages by our light systems will do the job. So this is why the glass terrariums available today do not have the problem of stagnant air. Now, it is important that you verify that the glass cage you are getting has these vents as not all do, but the major manufacturers do. This was not taken into account when the screen cage sound bites were born because these vented terrariums are relatively new.

 

Now, hybrid cages. If glass cages now have the ventilation they didn’t before then why is that not the end of the conversation? Well, glass cages have size issues. They are very heavy and break. You can get glass cages at any size, but they become difficult to manage at the sizes needed for adult chameleons. So this is where hybrid cages come in. By integrating lighter acrylic and PVC sheets we can create a solid side cage that is in an acceptable size for our chameleons, is light weight enough to be handled by one person, and can be broken down to be shipped and assembled at the final destination. So this approach gives us chameleon keepers a chance to enjoy the benefits of a solid side cage.

 

With that out of the way, I’d like to talk about the benefit of solid sides cages that will be valuable to almost every chameleon keeper. And that is humidity control. These latest caresheets are focusing more and more on high nighttime humidity - Up to 100% humidity. I can guarantee, unless you wake up to dew on the surfaces in your room, your house does not get to 100% humidity. So this is why we chameleon people mist and fog during the night. In a screen cage it is somewhat pitiful. Our fogger creates a column of fog a few inches in diameter that disappears quickly as it gets eaten up by the less humid ambient conditions. But put that fogger going into a solid side cage and you soon realize that, instead of pumping in as much fog as you can to hope to get barely enough, you now have to manage the fog input to make sure it does not get overwhelming. You can get the levels you are looking for with much less fog – or heat for that matter. The difference is, on one hand -with maximum ventilation- you are struggling to get enough. On the other hand, -with a network of solid side panels -you are now in a position to be giving too much. The advantage to the latter is that it is easy for you to reduce the fog or heat input.

 

And this is why you see so many advanced keepers using solid side cages. This is why I worked so hard to develop the hybrid cage designs for my caging company. It is because we now have control over the humidity levels and we are recognizing the huge effect this has on proper hydration and chameleon health.

 

Sounds wonderful…how do we set one of these hybrid cages up?

 

First, let’s talk about getting a hybrid cage. The most effective ones usually take the form of three PVC panels for the back and sides. If you just have this with a screen front then you are already gaining the benefit of the hybrid cages because you can trap humidity against the walls by creating a thick wall of live plants through the middle of the cage. So you see all this foliage, but there is a corridor behind that wall of plants that the chameleon can access. And this becomes a humidity trap that your chameleon will appreciate. If you add an acrylic panel to the front then you are increasing the hybrid benefit, but you will need to ensure there is a chimney effect dynamic. In my cages at Dragon Strand, this takes the form of an acrylic main door and a smaller screen service door at the bottom of the front. And that, combined with the screen top panel, gives me my chimney effect. Every year there pops up another cage manufacturer. If you are looking at the newest model, simply make sure there is a screen intake near the floor and a screen top to complete the effect.

 

Transforming a screen cage

Hybrid cages can be expensive. And many of you may not want to buy a professionally made one just yet. So there are simple ways to turn your present standard screen cage into a hybrid cage. You have two panel types to work with, clear and opaque. To make opaque sides go to the home improvement store and pick up some white PVC panels or coroplast, that’s the corrugated plastic sheeting that people use for lawn signs and such. Just get it big enough to fit your cage sides. Of course, you can do it in pieces if need be. All it needs to do is be solid enough to block mist. So, technically, you could accomplish this with a black trash bag. What material you use depends on how you want this to look. I strongly suggest attaching it to the frame instead of the screen. The less there is attached to the screen the better. So just get the pieces wide enough to go from frame to frame and attach them to the frame. Don’t be shy over using screws driven directly into the aluminum framing to hold a panel of PVC on to the cage. This is your cage. Go ahead and make it what you want it to be.

 

Clear panels are even simpler. You go to your home improvement store or just Amazon and get Shrink Film Insulator kits. This kit gives you double sided tape that you line around the cage panel frame and a thin clear film that you stick on to this tape. Cut to size and take a hair dryer to it. The heat shrinks the film tight and you suddenly have a clear front door to your screen cage. Although it sounds like you are hacking the cage, which you are, it doesn’t have to look like a hack job if you do it carefully. And it works well enough as far as the chameleon is concerned.

 

As far as clear vs. opaque, you can use either on any panel of your cage and realize significant humidity benefits. Now you can mist as much as you want without worrying about getting water on the walls behind the cage and now your fogging will be much more effective in raising humidity. If you were thinking about getting a hybrid cage you can always try it out this way before making the final decision. Obviously, the professional cages will look better, but it doesn’t hurt to try the functionality out first.

 

I like to use opaque panels on the sides and back. And then I have a clear main door. That leaves the flip-up service door and top panel being screen to provide that chimney effect we are looking for. You may be interested in making the sides clear as well using this method, but there is a pro and con to this. The pro is that it is a lot of fun doing the window film and you will have a lot left over so it just seems wrong not to use more. The con is that an opaque side actually adds an increased sense of security for the chameleon as they know they do not have to visually monitor that side for predators. Which is best depends on your situation and your chameleon.

 

Once you have your hybrid cage in whatever form it is, you will need to adjust your husbandry. Remember that most google search and social media advice is for screen cages. You notice how most descriptions about chameleon husbandry usually do not worry about an off time for the basking bulb or the misting system or the fogger? And that is because in the realm of screen cages it really doesn’t matter much. As soon as you stop the cage environment quickly reverts back to the room ambient conditions. This is where you will have to be smart and understand why you are doing things. In a hybrid cage, both heat and humidity will build up. And that is exactly what you want! But I want to be clear, this isn’t a case where hybrid (or glass cage) keeping is more “advanced” than screen cages. Hybrid cages are more effective in providing proper husbandry. It is actually doing the job better Because it is not natural for the proper humidity level to be present only within a few inch diameter cone coming from the fogger. Although the chameleons make the best of it. It is interesting how they find where that fogger projects on even if you have the fogger on only during the night. Somehow they know where it will be and they fall asleep in that cone!

So, how do we set up a hybrid cage. It is actually the same as a screen cage. You have a basking bulb, misters, foggers, daylight and UVB. The major difference is that you will have to dial in the run time of the basking bulb and misters. With the basking bulb you will may now just leave it on a few hours in the morning. Just like any cage, there is no hard fast rule. The length of time depends on how cold the nights are, how cool the mornings are and everything else we need to take into account in any cage set-up. The only  major difference is that you introduce the concept of turning the heat lamp off when you have achieved your goal. Same with the mister and the fogger. What screen cage users will now have to get used to is the concept that they actually can reach the desired temperature and humidity targets! Consider that for a minute. Have you ever tried raising the humidity in a screen cage? If you have been a keeper for any length of time you have spend a great deal of time trying to reach the recommended levels. It is so frustrating that some people have given up trying to get it and switched to arguing that high humidity is not needed. Well, how about switching over to a hybrid set-up and see how chameleon husbandry actually is when you can reach the target parameters. And then you can see for yourself how much better the chameleons do when they have the correct hydration parameters. I have switched over not because it was the newest thing and I needed a change in my life. I have switched over to the naturalistic hydration that hybrid cages facilitate because I saw the difference it made.

 

The major skill that will have to be developed for solid side cages, both hybrid and glass, is measuring the temperature and humidity levels.

For temperature a simple thermometer will do. We are used to measuring the basking spot, and you should continue to do that, but you also keep an eye on the ambient temperature within the cage. This will now be different from the ambient temperature outside the cage. Once your cage has heated up to where it should be - you shut off the basking bulb. And now the equalization time period to where the inside cage temperature matches the outside depends on how much ventilation there is and the insulation properties of the materials used for the sides. There isn’t a formula – at least not a reasonable one that I can share now – it just takes you keeping an eye on things. Here is also where you have hopefully made the right decision as to the type of cage you get. You asked yourself how much insulation you needed and got the cage that offered that level of insulation.

 

The materials I use in the Dragon Strand cages are PVC and acrylic. These don’t have that great of temperature insulation properties. The reason is that the main purpose for these walls is humidity control. You will notice that the mist stays on the leaves a whole lot longer after your misting session. The Chameleon Academy species caresheets and website promote a system where you give a good misting at around 1AM and then start a fogger. You then fog until right before you turn on the lights in the morning, but you give one last misting session before the lights come on. All of that dew sticks around as the chameleon make its way to the basking bulb and the chameleon lives in a humid, dew filled world for a while. It is the solid walls that allow the dew to stay around. But then I hear from people in humid areas that there then becomes too much humidity. And to that I say, yes, we need to be careful not to overwhelm the system. But a hybrid cage does not create humidity beyond that which is given off by the plants and their soil. There is too much humidity in there only if we put too much in there. If you live in a high humidity area then maybe you do not need to fog as much through the early morning. Maybe the misting sessions to coat the surfaces with dew are ten seconds instead of 2 minutes. This is where you are now given control of the parameters instead of constantly striving to achieve them.

I hate to complicate things further, but there is a significant difference between creating a hydration cycle that mimics their natural conditions as the Naturalistic Hydration method does, and a hydration method that is designed to get chameleons to drink in front of you. Just a brief recap, the naturalistic hydration method we talk about mimics the natural conditions of high humidity during the night, up to 100%, and then lower humidity during the day. This prevents dehydration during the night via breathing. The chameleon then hydrates by drinking the dew in the morning and that, combined with the appropriate daytime humidity is all that is needed. A dripper during the afternoon provides a good check to see if the hydration methods are sufficient. If the chameleon drinks during this test period then the evening regimen must be extended in some manner. Please review this on the chameleonacademy.com website for details. But this is a method that follows their natural hydration and has a check and balance in the afternoon to make sure it is working so it a nice neat package of hydration that works exceptionally well in a hybrid cage.

 

I need to explain the daytime hydration method because it is the old way, but still very common. And, spoiler alert, it doesn’t work as well with the hybrid cage. But since you will hear about it from many places we need to discuss it. The daytime hydration method is simply many misting sessions during the day. And the misting sessions are long enough that the chameleon settles in to drink. And this can take minutes of running away to avoid the spray and then finally settling in because they can’t get away from it. After a while of sitting in the mist they eventually start drinking. I don’t want to dive deep into the comparing these two methods because there is a lot to go over. I know it sounds simple, but every point ties into another and before long you have a huge mess of topics. But, suffice to say, that a hydration strategy that uses a behavior (ie drinking) to end the misting session and not a humidity level, could easily over soak a cage. If this were a good hydration method then it would be best carried out in a screen cage. We have moved beyond that to the naturalistic hydration method which I feel is far superior on so many levels so we can now use a cage which better facilitates the naturalistic hydration method. Wait a minute, you say, isn’t the chameleon drinking a good thing and what we are looking for? Well, kind of. A well hydrated chameleon will drink reflexively if they can’t get away from the spray. This does not necessarily mean they needed to drink. You can see how this becomes a never ending loop where the chameleon drinks because it is a reflex and so we spray more and they keep drinking and we spray more until they just can’t handle any more. Hydration and dehydration is a big topic which I have reviewed in other episodes. Suffice to say at this point that our goal is to have our chameleon

 

Before we close I’d like to go over a couple of miscellaneous topics pertaining to hybrid cages.

  • When you deal with glass , acrylic or any clear material, you will get some sort of reflection in certain lighting at certain angles. How much of a problem this is for chameleons varies with who you talk to. I have breeders that breed generations in glass or acrylic fronted cages with no reflection issues and then I get someone saying their chameleon is reacting to a reflection. Bottom line is that reflections are like anything else in chameleon husbandry. If you have them (and your chameleon cares about it) then you adjust to situation. Just like any other parameter. Move the lights right above the door, don’t have the internal lights on when the outside is dark, move a spring of leaves in the way if there is one particular spot that is an issue. Whatever it is, it is just another thing we deal with. The benefits of a hybrid cage are much greater than the challenge of dealing with a reflection.
  • You will see some hybrid cage keepers using fans to increase air circulation. Once again, this all depends on the type of cage and what kind of air circulation strategy it uses – or doesn’t use. There are many personal mini fans available or computer fans which can be placed in areas where they draw air out of the cage. But only use fans if you need it. If the minimum fogging and misting creates a situation where the surfaces inside the cage do not dry then that justifies creating more air flow.
  • Respiratory Infections. I have to include this because that is the most often sited reason for needing full screen cages. Solid sides do not cause respiratory infections. Stagnant air causes respiratory infections. As we have just gone over, If you ensure the particular cage you get has accommodations for it, we get the air circulation necessary to have a healthy environment.

In conclusion, the hybrid cage is the next step in our community’s caging future.  It gives us control over the humidity cycle which is the one parameter least given attention to in our recent past. And if you aren’t sure about them they are easy to mock up on your standard screen cage. Try it. We will be moving in that direction slowly but surely.

 

Thank you. Very much for joining me here for this discussion about hybrid cages. I have enjoyed my work with them and the results I have gotten. And I encourage all of you to give hybrid cages a try!

 

Read more...
Plants and chameleons

Ep 167: Plant Keeping Basics with Bonnie Person

Listen Here!

When you look at my social media accounts you will see many pictures of lushly planted chameleon cages. But I went through a long education about plants and how to take care of them to be able to do that. And I am finding I still have some basic questions so I can be better at what I do. And what do you do when you have questions? You ask an expert! And even if you think you have some advanced skills, often the best place to start is at the beginning. So that is what I have done. Bonnie Person runs Verdant Vivariums which is a greenhouse that serves the reptile community with exotic plants. She would know the context from which I ask these questions. And I go to the ground floor with my questions. So if you want to figure out why you can’t eve keep pothos alive or just want a better grasp on plants in general then sit back, relax, and enjoy this interview about the basics of plant care!

 


Read more...
Nepenthes and chameleons

Ep 160: Nepenthes Tropical Pitcher Plants with Jeremiah Harris

Listen Here!

The Nepenthes Tropical Pitcher plants are one of the most striking plants we can include in our chameleon environments. Their leaves sport ornate carnivorous pitchers at the ends and they add a flash of adventure to our plantscape. With me is Jeremiah Harris to share his expertise in this exciting genus!

Thoughts from the podcaster :)

Chameleon owners have long been fascinating by the Nepenthes tropical pitcher plant. Though there wasn’t much overlap between the two hobbies mainly because screen cages and our selected temperature ranges for chameleons weren’t a perfect match. But with the increased awareness and execution of naturalistic hydration cycles, solid side cage, and a little help from Nepenthes hybridizers, these carnivores are now hardy in our cage environmental ranges and easily found online or public nurseries. As we shift our focus from just caging. Chameleon to creating a sanctuary environment which includes a chameleon we are expanding our focus to include interesting plants. And, Nepenthes certainly are at the top of those charts!

To introduce us to Nepenthes, Jeremiah Harris, a lifelong carnivorous plant enthusiast joins me. His greenhouses are things of wonder and just looking through his social media accounts, which are linked to in the show notes, you can imagine getting lost for days just peering into all the nooks and crannies, so to speak. So I am going to bring him on and we are going to hear all about these fascinating plants from a man who loves his plants like we love our chameleons!

Well, it is time for me to expand some species in my chameleon environments! Now, I want to address the most common question once more.

Nepenthes send out long leaves that develop literal pitchers at the end. These pitchers contain liquid which digests insects, or any other animal that falls in. Now, the initial response from chameleon keepers is to ask why you would include a plant in the cage that will eat your chameleon. The answer is that we wouldn’t. If you get good enough raising up your nepenthes that it produces pitchers actually big enough to trap your chameleon then you are quite accomplished and, hopefully, have the common sense to remove one of the two from the cage. If the chameleon can fit in the pitcher then you have an issue. Although chameleons would not be attracted to the sweet liquid like insects and mammals I really don’t want to get an email from someone who put a baby chameleon in with a mature Nepenthes 'Miranda' and then one day couldn’t find their chameleon. For almost all cases, you will be fine, but discernment is required.

If the theme of this podcast of creating beautiful vibrant, living environments for your chameleons resonates with you then take a look at adding a Nepenthes. They are sold as Monkey Cups at home improvement stores so they are easy to get a hold of. Humidity is the biggest challenge in areas that are dry. But if you are embracing the naturalistic hydration cycles you have what you need to keep these common hybrids happy. They were developed to be hardier at easy to reproduce conditions! So that is right up our alley.

I highly recommend following Jeremiah on social media. If nothing else, just to be exposed to the rich variety of pitchers in Nepenthes. Like chameleons and all of these outer fringes, there is enough diversity that you spend your life studying them and getting to know the characteristics of each species. Check the show notes for those links!

Thank you for joining Jeremiah and me here today! What I would really love is for you to tag me and Jeremiah on cages that you add Nepenthes to! They may take some skill to get them in the area of your cage that has just the right microclimate, but this is the fun of what we do. I look forward to seeing the results!

So, go out into the chameleon world and make some gorgeous environments that make people’s jaws drop even before they see the chameleon!

N. bongso 900x1200S

Nepenthes bongo

Holding a N. truncata x ephippiata 900x1200s

Holding a Nepenthes truncata x ephippiata

Nepenthes edwardsiana

Nepenthes edwardsiana

Nepenthes veitchii

Nepenthes veitchii

N. veitchii ‘Geoff Wong’

Nepenthes veitchii ‘Geoff Wong’

Nepenthes edwardsiana

Nepenthes hamata

Nepenthes truncata 900x1200

Nepenthes truncata

Nepenthes veitchii K

Nepenthes veitchii K

Nepenthes veitchii x boschiana

Nepenthes veitchii x boschiana

Read more...
branching a chameleon cage

Ep 146: Branching Your Chameleon Cage with Alec O’Brien

Listen Here!

Chameleons perch on branches. They spend their lives on branches. So it is actually pretty important for us to give them the right branches. Today I go over branch functions, how to select the right branch for the right purpose, what woods to use and how to mount them in the chameleon cage. Alec O'Brien then joins me and discusses how he sterilizes his branches.

ReptiBranch

Reptibranch

If you would like to learn more about Alec and Reptibranch then head on over to Instagram and watch him build this up.

Read more...
webinar

Creating Your Chameleon’s Sanctuary Live Class

Introduction

When we bring a chameleon into our home we are starting on an incredible journey of discovery. And to understand how to properly care for this miniature tree dragon we need to get into a different mind set than we are used to.

In this online course I will introduce you to using the cage to create a sanctuary for your chameleon. We will do away with the idea that the cage is for containing a creature and replace it with the perspective that the cage is the borders of a floating garden that nourishes the chameleon inside. For this we need to understand a day in the life of a chameleon and what we need to provide for our chameleon’s physical and emotional well being.

Chameleon husbandry is a huge topic and so we must take it one step at a time. This course is a high level look at chameleon husbandry and the mindset we need to have. We will focus mainly on the “Forest Edge 4+4” checklist which we can use to gauge the effectiveness of the cage interior. We will run through what a forest edge is and review the 4 Gradients (heat, UVB, humidity, exposure) and the 4 branches (perching, drinking, eating, sleeping). Using this checklist you can start evaluating cage designs with respect to the needs of the chameleon.

Sections include:

  • Understanding a day in the life of a chameleon
  • What is important about the cage itself
  • Introduction to the Forest Edge 4+4 components
  • How to plan and arrange the cage interior
  • Monitoring success
  • Using plants
  • Introduction to light and hydration

This class will benefit people wanting to come at their chameleon husbandry with the chameleon’s needs in mind.

Learn about the daily needs of your chameleon. Before we can set up the cage we need to understand what the chameleon needs from the cage. It is easy to set up the cage based on what we want, but this is often the opposite of what your chameleon needs.

Learn how to set up your cage to meet you chameleon's needs. I will go over basic methods for actually putting the interior together.  From branch uses and plant types to placement strategies.

Develop the "Sanctuary" mindset.  When we focus on our desire to see the chameleon we create a holding cell. But when we focus on providing our chameleon with what it needs we take a holistic view of creating an environment. By creating and maintaining a living environment, our chameleon has a sanctuary in which it feels safe and is nourished. This class is your first step in developing the Sanctuary mindset.

What is a Live Class?

A Live Class is a webinar where you register for a class and are able to attend on your computer or even smart phone. I will be presenting the subject live and will answer questions after the presentation. You will be able to select from three possible times to attend.

Each class is presented live on the designated dates. Once registered, you will be emailed a link that will allow you access to the live classroom. There is no software needing to be downloaded. The class is compatible with the major internet browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Edge, and Internet Explorer) . There will be a live chat and you will be able to type in questions to interact

The class will run between 60 - 90 minutes with a question and answer section afterwards.

 

This is a chance to get more familiar with chameleon husbandry in a new format that is uniquely suited towards education.

How Do I Attend?

Join me one one of the three dates by clicking the registration bar at the bottom of this page. You only need to give your name and an email address to receive the classroom link.

Currently scheduled dates are:

May 5, 2020 Tuesday 10AM PDT

May 7, 2020 Thursday 6PM PDT

May 9, 2020 Saturday 10AM PDT

I hope to see you there!

webinar screen shot
Read more...
chameleon sanctuary

Creating Your Chameleon Sanctuary

Listen Here!

Today I touch on a couple topics. I talk about the difficulty in beginners getting the right information, I revisit the Plants Alive! challenge, and I encourage us to see our cage as a sanctuary. I also announce that this will be the last daily episode of a chameleon keeper in self-imposed isolation. It has been a thrilling run of over one month of daily episodes! I will be going back to the week format where an episode is released every Friday.

Read more...
branching in a chameleon cage

New 2′ x 2′ x 4′ Cage Build Guide Released

Dragon Strand Tall Screen Cage Build Guide

Tall Screen Cage

A new comprehensive cage build was just released which used the new Dragon Strand Tall Screen Cage System. This is the model I will use to teach the principles of how to set up a standard 2' x 2' x 4' cage.

The Dragon Strand Tall Screen Cage System is a full featured system which consists of a 2′ x 2′ x 4′ screen cage, six Dragon Ledges, a Hydration Mount for a mist head, a fitted Drainage Tray, and an additional screen floor.

There is a unique feature of this screen cage in that the back panel is actually solid to protect the walls and furniture from mist overspray. So, in this cage build, I use each of these features to their full benefit, but it is written in a way such that the principles can easily be applied to any of the commonly available 2′ x 2′ x 4′ cages.

You can check out the 2' x 2' x 4' cage build here.

https://chameleonacademy.com/case-study-2-x-2-x-4-cage/

Read more...
making UVB work for chameleons

Ep 131: Making UVB Work For Chameleons

Listen Here!

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

Check out the links below to learn more about Pete!

Pete Hawkins' Website
Chameleon Network Facebook
Pete Hawkins Facebook

Transcript (More or Less)

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

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

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

And what is the significance of these findings?

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

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

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

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

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

Read more...