Podcast Episode

Chameleon Academy Podcast Episodes

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...
Furcifer verrucosus

Ep 170: Researching Chameleon Species

Listen Here!

When you step into the chameleon world you find yourself in an immense undiscovered country. You never realized how many species of chameleons there are! So how do you go about learning the species just listed for sale? Today, I take you along with me as I gather information on a rarely available Captive Hatched chameleon species.

Transcript (more or less)

Sometime last year I got the news that, a friend of mine, Shane Boyd had eggs laid by his pair of Furcifer verrucosus. This was exciting because F. verrucosus is almost extinct in the US captive community. There are a few left here and there, but the likelihood that they are reproducing is very low. Though I would love to be proven wrong so please let me know if there are some hiding out there. Furcifer verrucosus is a large dragon-like chameleon. It is one of the Madagascar chameleons that come from the harsh, arid south and west. Although they tend to be available as wild caught when Madagascar is exporting, they are just like every other chameleon. As captive hatched they are like a completely different beast and I let Shane know way back then to please let me know when those eggs hatch because I wanted to be first in line. Furcifer verrucosus is one of the largest of the chameleons and so raising one from a baby would be a special experience.

I have the benefit of many years of experience behind me and, in a yesteryear, imported Madagascar species, including F. verrucosus so I knew how special this was and I already know what I am in for a year from now. But even I run into species that I may have heard of, but would not know how to care for beyond a basic general idea. So I thought this would be a great opportunity for me to pretend that I am new to F. verrucosus, do some research, and take you along. This is how I do my research on species and these resources are available to you as well. We’ll do it on Verrucosus today, but the techniques can be applied to any species.

So, let’s start at the beginning. I run across a classified on Chameleon Forums by Shane Boyd from RGB Reptiles saying he has captive hatched Furcifer verrucosus. Hmmm, I have not heard of that one before. The pictures posted of the parents pique my interest. They are kind of rugged looking with a cool back crest. And there are some people asking if it is a cross between a Veiled and a panther. So, there are more people out there that haven’t heard of this species. Well, the fact that it is off the beaten path makes it a little more interesting in my book. And so, I decide to pull out the light of truth called Google from whence all knowledge resides. Let’s type in Furcifer verrucosus.  And the first thing I am going to do is going to look at the images. And…wow, this guy is kind of cool. Subtle greens but maybe some blues coming out in the chin area. Love the spiney back and the massive head. Looks like it is called the Warty or Spiny Chameleon. I can see spiny chameleon, but I can only guess the warty name came from the big scales on its cheeks. But no matter. I like the look of this guy. So I decide I am going to go to the next step. Clicking over in google to the text listing I see what is coming up. Now, you can always go straight to care sheets. But with these rare chameleons you need to be careful with what information you accept. I like to learn a little bit about their natural history before I look for care sheets and especially before I ask on social media. Knowing their natural history gives me a baseline familiarity that helps me pick out the people who know what they are talking about and get an idea of who might be trying to be helpful, but with a subject a bit out of their league. Of course, the most direct way, if you are getting a baby, to get information is to talk with the breeder. But if the chameleon is wild caught you don’t have that option. And, take it from a guy who did this all the time, the more you know going into the call with the breeder the more you will know what questions to ask that you may not have thought to ask before. So, even if you have a benefit of a breeder to talk with, this preliminary research stage is invaluable. So, let’s do a little research and see what we come up with.

Here are the digital places I go to get what I know to be good information:

First, check Chameleon Academy to see if there are any podcast episodes on this species. I interview people who have bred their chameleons and have a background to be giving advice. The big advantage is that I have vetted them for you so you know you are getting good information. But, searching through the Chameleon Academy Podcast archives, I do not have an episode on Furcifer verrucosus. Beyond the podcasts you have the following sites which have solid information.

 

Adcham.com – Adcham stands for Advanced Chameleon and was a group started on the listserves of the late 90s. This group was intended to bring together the experienced community to have higher level discussions. Many members of this group got together to create a website of the same name which would be a repository of as much information as we could stuff in there. What we ended up with was a massive amount of information. Although it is a couple decades old, most of the information is still good today. The reason why I bring up a website that has some years on it is that it has a pretty healthy collection of profiles of rare species so it is still a valuable resource. So it is a good place to search and I did find a very good species profile that was detailed and got me on the right track. Here I learn that there are two subspecies and that the gravid female has some spectacular colors. More importantly I learn about ambient temperatures in the 80s with a 15 degree drop during the humid night. Now, I always will cross check the temperatures and compare sources unless I am familiar enough with the sources to know I can trust it. So, a good haul of information. But, really, if you think about it, my purpose in doing this research is natural history. Since these are captive hatched one of my stops in my research period will be to communicate with the breeder and that will probably be my most reliable source of up to date husbandry information. So at this point I am digging around to make sure I ask the breeder intelligent questions.

Chameleonnews.com is another information ladened site. This was actually a regularly published digital magazine. It too has a number of rare species profiles. Though this source did not have verrucosus, it is well worth being on your list to review what is out there.

Now, there is a huge advantage to this being a Madagascar species. Because of this we can find some recent information on the MadCham website. https://www.madcham.de/en/furcifer-verrucosus/. This is a website run by people who take chameleon tour groups to Madagascar every year. And so they know what to look for. You’ll find daily temperature fluctuations, UV Index readings throughout the day and some incredible videos of the natural habitat. And from these I can tell that F. verrucosus does not come from the lush jungles we assume chameleons come from. This is an arid area.  This raises the question I did not think to ask the breeder before- what should the daily humidity cycle be?

The next site is chameleondatabase.com which is committed to posting wild chameleons from their natural habitat. From here I can get an idea of how they look in the wild as the photo galleries are arranged by location the photo was taken. By getting a feel for the color variations and the difference between male and female I am more confident talking with the breeder. More importantly, I do not have to waste the breeder’s time with the simple basics that can be found on line.

And this is a very important point. You get a limited time with the breeder. Make it count. With internet information overload it is easy to throw your hands up and just go to the breeder for a data dump. The breeder is obligated to do this as you are a customer. But if you have 30 minutes with the breeder you can get an overview summary of chameleon husbandry basics. Or you could get a detailed summary  of Furcifer verrucosus husbandry basics. Or you could have a detailed deep dive into the personality and husbandry differences between male and female and Wild Caught/captive hatched with a discussion about which supplementation routines were tried and the results of different vitamin A and D3 levels. The more prepared you are when you call the breeder the more information you will get that is not sitting on a website. So I encourage you to not waste your time with an experienced breeder making them go over what you can easily find with a little work. What you gain in convenience by making them give you the basics you lose in opportunity to get deeper knowledge. I mean, ask what you need to. Just make the best use of your opportunities as you can.

 

As far as research, social media is a dicey game. It works great if you put in the effort to identify the people who would have reliable information on the topic you are wondering about. And this goes for any topic, actually. People on social media love to answer questions whether they know the answer or not. Much of social media is you having people to speculate alongside you as to what the answer could be. It is great fun, but if you want real answers, ask certain people who you have identified through their posts are credible. And, once again, the chances of you getting a detailed response depends 100% on how much effort you put in ahead of time. Someone tagging me on a post asking about how to take care of a Jackson’s Chameleon will get a link in response. Someone asking my opinion on how if a male Jackson’s with a mild TGI really wants to mate a receptive female – is he contagious? Well then chances are higher that I’ll take a break from the alchemy and have a chat.

So say I have done my checking around for information and I feel like I can make good use of my time talking with the breeder, now is the time to send the email. Depicting an email over a podcast is immensely boring so we are going to do this contact the old fashion way. I am actually going to speak with him by voice. So here I am, intrepid potential keeper, calling Shane Boyd of RGB Reptiles to ask about his baby Furcifer verrucosus.

Okay, how did I do? Was I convincing as a beginning chameleon owner that didn’t have a, ah, few chameleons in my care? I do have a veiled chameleon so it is all true anyways.

So what you have there is a standard phone call with the breeder asking the basics. I asked general questions, but I integrated some sophistication from the research I had already done.

Now, I did actually get the baby verrucosus from Shane and I am excited to raise it up. One look at the different pictures on MadCham, Adcham, and even Google show that both males and female are attractive in this rugged sort of way. So either way I would have been having fun raising the baby up. They kind of look like elongated panther chameleons, but the round patterns on the flank are pretty distinctive. If you are interested in following the growth of this soon not-to-be-so-little tyke you can follow me on Instagram where he will be making a regular appearance.

If this discussion interested you in this species then now is an opportunity to get a hold of a very rarely available species for a price which is entirely reasonable. This isn’t meant to be a sales podcast so I’ll just say that if you are listening to this episode upon its release in November 2020 that you can join me in raising up a verrucosus by checking out Shane’s classified post on the Chameleon Forums or just contact him via his Instagram account RGBReptilesofficial or simply email him at RGBReptilesofficial@gmail.com. Of course, all of this is in the show notes along with pictures of my adorable baby verrucosus!

So that is how I do a basic research check of a species. If you are listening to this podcast you are much more plugged into the community than most people. It truly is overwhelming and confusing for people new to the community to figure out where the reliable sources of information are. In fact, they have yet to come to the realization that there are unreliable sources of information so they are caught unaware halfway down their research path. I am sure many of you know exactly what I am talking about because that is your story. In a way, I am lucky that I grew up with the community because I got each piece when it came out. Someone just starting out now is bombarded with everything the internet can throw at them. I remember last week reading a post by someone who says they did a lot of research and everything they said was exactly opposite of what was right. So much so that I considered whether they were a troll just trying to get a response. But, no, we have to recognize that you can do a lot of research and if you are I the bad part of town you will come away with some pretty atrocious ideas. But you are here now and now is a good time to start exploring some of the solid informational websites. Of course, add chameleonacademy.com to that list. right now there is a lot of basics and it is actually quite the job just to update what I released only a year ago! But I am working to methodically move forward as well and add on rare species profiles. So you can check back and see what has changed.

As for species research. It is valuable to listen to your breeder as the main source of latest information. You can follow that advice and go back to ask questions. If you are getting conflicting advice from the breeder and other sources don’t worry too much. There are different paths to success and different conditions lead to different paths. So, when you see apparent contradictions look deeper into who wrote it and why they may have different numbers. Did they do different research? Do they have different caging? Do they have different ambient conditions? They are many reasons that do not show up on the caresheet as to why those numbers were successful for that person. So follow your breeder’s conditions while you explore the rest of the opinions. Be critical of what you read. The loudest and most confident voice may not be the best for your situation. It doesn’t mean they are wrong within the context from which they are speaking. But they may or may not be the best for you. There definitely are some things being spread that are plain wrong and it doesn’t matter how you slice it. So, don’t think I am saying everyone can have their own way of doing things that are equally valid. But patrolling the interwebs for truth and justice isn’t your job right now. You are in data sifting mode to find the gold nuggets. And in this day and age that is enough of a project to keep you busy for a long time.

Thank you for joining me here to discuss species research. Getting a new species is a lot of fun and isn’t that hard with a little research up front. And doing that research up front can give you a sense of confidence that you can be successful with this new mini-tree dragon. Mainly, because you know what you have to do and all it takes is doing it!

 


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...
crested geckos

Ep 168: Crested Geckos with TikisGeckos

Listen Here!

Crested geckos are common place pet lizards that are available from private breeders all the way to big box pet stores. They are hardy and so are quite popular. If you work during the day and come home right before your chameleon starts to turn in for the night you might find some enjoyment in this nocturnal gecko who is just getting started when the sun goes down! Today I am joined by David and Manny from TikisGeckos who got their start breeding crested geckos and now run one of the prominent reptile captive breeding facilities.

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...
Jacksons Chameleon with a Temporal Gland Infection

Ep 166: Temporal Gland Infections with Dr. Tom Greek

Listen Here!

If you are a keeper of the Jackson’s Chameleon, you may be familiar with the temporal gland. It is a gland at the corner of the mouth that seems prone to infection. When husbandry is off. This is a significant health issue with Jackson’s Chameleons and one that is worth being familiar with. If you do not have a Jackson’s Chameleon, fear not, the review on bacterial infections can apply to any of our chameleons, temporal gland or not. To review the Temporal Gland Infection, or TGI in abbreviation, I am bringing on Dr. Tom Greek of Greek and Associates Veterinary Hospital in Yorba Linda, CA which is on the edge of Orange County. He is one of those more-valuable-than-gold vets because of his extensive experience with chameleons.  I know this first hand as he has seen my chameleons from the Brookesia Madagascar stump-tailed chameleons to the giant Parson’s Chameleon for over two decades. Let’s bring him on and talk about Temporal Gland Infections.

 

Chameleon keepers are well aware that we need to provide the correct environmental conditions or else our chameleon’s immune system will be compromised, possibly leading to a bacterial infection. This is common to all of the species. Jackson’s Chameleon keepers have an extra area that is prone to these infections, but it shouldn’t be something that keeps you from considering a Jackson’s Chameleon. With all chameleons, proper husbandry will be what keeps them in health with or without a temporal gland. In fact, with the three Jackson’s chameleons I have had an issue with in the last year, they have all been in the lacrimal nasal duct, not the temporal gland. They are all treated the same way. And I know exactly what caused them – temperature spikes due to the recent heat waves. This of course has got me thinking that the days of easy outdoor keeping of Jackson’s Chameleons for me in Southern California may be waning. I used to have two cages for each chameleon – an indoor cage and an outdoor cage and it is time for me to return to that very good policy.

 

As for what you should do. If you have a Jackson’s Chameleon – or any chameleon – look for slight swelling along the lip line. If you catch it early, which let’s hope you do, it will be so slight that you wonder if it is your imagination. This is the perfect tie to go with your gut feeling that something is off. Check the other side and see if there is any difference. See if you can get him to open his mouth so you can see if there is any swelling on the inside. Here is the big problem with chameleon veterinary medicine. The condition is most treatable when you can’t be sure if it is really a problem or not. But if you wait until there is no doubt then your chances of beating it are reduced. So, this is where being laser focused on any subtle changes in your chameleon’s appearance or demeanor pays off. And I always say, I hate wasting money going into the vet, but the best news I can get is that there is nothing wrong. Now there is one caveat. And this is where it is tricky. You have to have a realistic sense of how good you are in determining something is off with your chameleon. A physical swelling is easy. The vet may be even better to diagnose it than you are. And, this covers the TGIs that this episode is about. But if we are talking about infections on a higher level then we are including in our discussion other infection areas. And if you see your chameleon being lethargic, sitting with his eyes closed, or nose pointed in the air he is giving behavioral signs of an infection taking hold. The infection may at such a level that your chameleon will be able to totally mask it at the Vet office. When your chameleon is hyped up on adrenaline he isn’t thinking about acting sick. So he could very well be acting totally healthy when your vet gives him an exam. At this time it may be a blood test that is needed to definitively prove thee is an infection going on. Experienced reptile vets will know how well reptiles hide their sickness and will consider your behavior report an important part of their diagnosis. And the broad spectrum antibiotics have a high level of safety. You definitely do not want to give medications unless they are needed, but the vet, may decide that the minor consequences of giving the antibiotic Baytril on a behavior-based suspicion are usually a better risk than waiting for more definitive physical sign. Once again, in the chameleon world, a reptile experienced, or better yet, a chameleon experienced veterinarian is gold. It is 100% worth it even if you have to drive a distance to get to them.

If you are in the Orange County area of Southern California, you have access the Dr. Greek. He is in the city of Yorba Linda.

 

But even vets that say they see exotics are not always chameleon experienced. So I will be starting a veterinarian list on the Chameleon Academy website of offices that my listeners have verified are good chameleon experienced veterinarians. Not just exotics and not just reptiles, but chameleons. And I am looking for personal experience. I’d like for this to be a global resource so please share your vet names no matter which country you are in!  If you are a vet listening and you are experienced with chameleons please get in contact with me so I can list your office as well. We are constantly helping people around the world find a vet. Bottom line – if you see chameleons please let me know. And I am confident that if you are listening to this podcast you have already shown an above average dedication to chameleons. Whether you are a vet that works with chameleons or a keeper that has a chameleon vet you are happy with, please email names and/ or links to bill@chameleonacademy.com  and I will create this resource for our community.

Thank you Dr. Greek for joining me here today and sharing your experience with the community. And, I personally thank you for the decades of being part of the community. And to you listeners, I thank you for joining me and Dr. Greek for our talk on TGIs. So go out into the world and keep a close watch on the jawlines of those three horned mini-tree dragons….Wow, you know you are part of a ultra-specialized community when that constitutes as a good sign off.

Chameleon Veterinarian

 


Read more...
Panther Chameleon

Ep 165: Chameleon Photography with Briana O’Brien

Listen Here!

Anyone who has tried to take a picture of a chameleon has found out that it isn’t that easy. They actively plot against you and your Instagram aspirations. So, in an effort to figure out how I can take better pictures of my chameleons I searched out the person who is not only the most prolific chameleon photographer of our time, but her work looks great. Perhaps some of that could rub off on me with just a podcast interview and ten short years of dedicated practice. Of course, I speak of Briana O’Brien who is the photographer from Kammerflage Kreations. She fills their social media accounts with a great deal of eye candy every week. Those with a photographic eye will notice an evolution of style, skill, and technique. So, can a talk with Briana change this iPhone wielding chameleon wrangler into a photographic artist? I will bring her on and we shall see

Read more...
Jackson's Chameleon

Ep 164: The Early Chameleon Community with Jeff Hattem

Listen Here!

Today I have the honor of sharing with you a part of our early chameleon community. A multigenerational breeding project in the US which started in 1967,.. It was modelled off of a German project that took Jackson’s Chameleons to the F3 generation and a Southern California reptile club decided to replicate the experiment. I will be bringing on Jeff Hattem who, as a young man, was part of this project. Please join me in a view into our past.

Read more...
green tree python

Ep 163: Green Tree Python Husbandry Pt 2. with Patrick Holmes

Listen Here!

Good morning Chameleon Wranglers! We have been spending the last couple weeks studying the Green Tree Python. This final week we wrap it up by me asking Patrick Holmes to lead us through the steps for us to get started with this beautiful snake. One of the most interesting things about this interview, from a high level, was seeing the parallels between our communities.  You listen in you will hear some very familiar statements. Because they are the truth in all of our communities. Things like investing upfront in the genetics and health of the animal and proper set-up or else you will be investing that saved money in vet bills on the backside. Or else there being a distinct difference between stress spikes and chronic stress. Hmmm, are we seeing the dynamic of convergent evolution at play?

I invite you to listen in and enjoy the conclusion of our study into the Green Tree Python with Patrick Holmes.

Read more...
Green Tree Python husbandry

Ep 162: Green Tree Python Husbandry Pt 1. with Patrick Holmes

Listen Here!

Good morning, Chameleon Wranglers! Last week we were joined by Patrick Holmes for an introduction to the Green Tree Python. Today we start in on the husbandry talk. We will actually have two episodes worth of husbandry information. The reason for this is that we are not just listing off parameters for us to blindly follow. Patrick is one of those who values you knowing why he says what he says, and thinks it is important that we acknowledge other methods. Sound familiar? So, even if you never plan on getting a green tree python, the approach you are about to hear deals with issues we face no matter what reptile we keep. This is very much about the compromises and decisions we are faced with when we strive to recreate a natural environment with unnatural equipment on the other side of the Earth.

Read more...