Veiled Chameleon

Veiled Chameleon male

Ep 203: Considerations when getting a Veiled Chameleon

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The most common chameleon to be kept is probably the veiled chameleon. But it is one of the most impressive of chameleons. Today I talk about what you should consider when considering a Veiled Chameleon.

Considering how wide spread veiled chameleons are one might think there isn’t much to think about when getting one. And, that is why so many people have trouble with Veiled Chameleons! So, this episode is going to parse apart the situation. I would love for people to be able to start off right with this incredible chameleon.

Link Resources

The following links will help you research Veiled Chameleons:

Chameleon Academy Veiled Chameleon Profile

Ep 107: Keeping Chameleons Together (learn why cohabitation doesn't work!)

Chameleon Academy YouTube Channel

 

The Chameleon Academy merchandise store!

Transcript (more or less)

Introduction

To start off with, finding a Veiled Chameleon won’t be an issue It is the most prolific chameleon to the point where vendors at reptile shows who have no business offering chameleons can purchase an aquarium full to sell over the weekend. Pet stores often have them and now that they are well established in Florida, wild caught individuals are available. All of these are of equal pet potential. They originate from a country called Yemen in the middle east, but we have not seen new bloodlines for many years due to armed conflict in the region. Thus what we have in captivity has been from a limited number of bloodlines. The specimens that have populated areas in Florida are from this genetic bottleneck, but do have natural selection. The genetics may be strained, but this keeps them from being weak. All in all, I would love for new bloodlines to be made available and I will be first in line when that happens.

Price Considerations

The big issue with Veiled Chameleons is the price. The problem is with how low it is. What this means is that the only way to make money selling Veiled Chameleons is to cut your care of them to the bare minimum and rush them out the door as soon as possible. The number of veiled chameleons that grow to adult size under these conditions is a testament to their hardiness. But when you are looking for a veiled keep in mind that the cheaper the price, the rougher the life your baby has had.

Unfortunately, the wide availability of cheap veiled chameleons has made it difficult for serious breeders to give this species the attention they deserve. This is a case where the chameleon community has shot itself in the foot by price shopping chameleons. If we insist on paying corner cutting prices because that is what the meat market companies offer then we will remove the option for quality chameleons from reputable breeders.  Occasionally, a reputable breeder will offer veiled chameleons as a passion project. If you are lucky enough to run across this opportunity, jump. Do not hesitate. Do not squabble about the price. Believe me, they could charge twice what the large companies do and they are still lucky to break even. This is because it takes time, space, and money to raise them up responsibly. But what you are getting is a superior quality chameleon. Both the mother and the baby were given the special attention that comes with being part of a reputable breeder’s program. And, yes, this does take some effort on your part. You have to be able to research the breeder to make sure they are reputable.

Just because the veiled chameleon is available to casual chameleon people, don’t let that dissuade you from being a serious chameleon herpetoculturist with the species. There are others like you and we all need to realize we are not islands.

Morphs

Now the subject of morphs. The only reliable color morph I know of is, the Translucent or pied. This is where there are varying levels of white and pink blotches. If this is to your liking then getting a baby translucent will likely get you what you are expecting. There are many other morphs advertised like sunburst or lemon or high blue or high yellow or any number of creative names. It is more murky as to whether these are truly morphs you can count on. While some people say they got the color they were expecting, others do not. What I can personally say is that if there were established morphs of Veiled Chameleons that were true to color, I would expect that there would be an industry developed like we see with panther chameleons and a network of breeders specializing in certain morphs. We do not. Variations in color obviously happens. But it isn’t obvious to me that there are reliable true-to-color morph lines. I welcome the proof that they do exist and I would happily report that here.

 

Caging

The next consideration is the cage you buy with your Veiled Chameleon. We have an epidemic of ZooMed Chameleon Kits being sold with pet store chameleons. As enticing as the marketing and box text, and what the pet store employee says, the ZooMed Chameleon Kit is not acceptable for a Veiled Chameleon. Followers of this podcast will recall an episode I did previously where I said that the kit would work for small chameleons, including young Veiled Chameleons. Yes, in the academic sense it is true. But practically speaking your veiled chameleon will grow so fast that even if you did get it when it was small enough to live in the 16x16x30 cage included, it would out grown the cage so quickly it isn’t even worth getting it as a temporary cage. If you listen to those podcasts, my entire reason for doing those was to educate people with the kit as to how to create a stop-gap measure until they could get an appropriate cage set-up.

No matter what size or age your veiled chameleon, get the adult size cage and set it up as you would an adult. Your baby will flourish under those conditions. Once again, people selling cheap chameleons are conditioned to sell cheap equipment because the majority of consumers will not want to pay more for the equipment than they did the chameleon. It is a completely ridiculous standard. Very much like people refusing to pay more in shipping than they do the product. All these things are completely independent, but, in our minds, we base the value of the transaction by the piece which we deem the focus.  Once again, if you are getting a cheap chameleon, do not let that devalue its life. Put your savings in equipment. Get the proper equipment as if the chameleon cost you $500.

Once again, people selling veiled chameleons are conditioned to offer you cheap and inadequate equipment because that is the kind of customer they are used to dealing with. Break that mold. You have a 7 to 10 or even more relationship with your chameleon. Treat the entire relationship with respect and your chameleon will thrive.

The Cheap Mindset

So, if the cheap mind set is what the reptile show vendors have for veiled chameleons, what kind of care do you think they got? Just look at the aquarium with wood chips on the bottom and two sticks thrown in for 30 veiled chameleons to crawl all over each other. This is pretty disgusting. The best option is to pass this up and do not patronize that business. If you have to choose one out of that mass of green bodies then pick the one most active. Everyone of them is in a state of high stress and adrenaline. The ones sitting still or with their eyes closed have used up all their energy. It is best to pick one that is still showing it has fight in it. And, if my Hunger Games description takes the fun out of it, then I am glad I have been able to communicate the situation they are in. These are animals that need their own space.

Picking a Baby

And to address the reason why people pick the calm ones. I know, you want one that will be passive and friendly. The bottom line is that is not what a chameleon is. You may get a chameleon that is not fearful of humans. Go ahead and stick your hand in the cage and see if any come towards you instead of running away from you. Select that one. But do not take the behavior of not running away from you as a sign they are friendly. They are likely at the end of their stress rope and have given up. This is not the same as friendly.

Now, I am not saying that you picking one that doesn’t run means they will die on you. While they could and not running is a bad sign, these chameleons often bounce back once they are in proper husbandry conditions. Of course, some just continue their crash. It all depends on the individual. To be fair, Veiled Chameleons are much more likely to be able to recover than, say, a Jackson’s Chameleon, but still, make wise decisions in your selection process.

The fact that people inexperienced with chameleons are able to sell veiled chameleons greatly increases the chances that they will try and sell you a pair or two females or two or more and tell you they can live together. This is incorrect. The number of chameleons you can come home with has to match the number of cages you come home with. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. Male/female…two females…bonded brothers…a pair that has grown up together….no. If you want to dive into the details of cohabitation I have a podcast for that. I’ll link it in the show notes. But, spoiler alert, even though it explains all the reasons and details the end result is still, one chameleon per cage.

If you decide on a juvenile it is time to strap in your seat belt and get ready for a ride. Veiled Chameleons grow very quickly and can show mature colors at 4 ½ months. Your females can be laying eggs at six months. It is a good thing to feed your growing veiled chameleons as much food as possible, but to pull back when they are full grown. Obesity is a huge problem with Veiled Chameleons because they don’t have a stop signal when it comes to eating. – especially if they are kept hot like may caresheets direct. So, in addition to learning about general chameleon care, you need to get familiar with the special conditions surrounding Veiled Chameleons.

MBD

All chameleons are susceptible to Metabolic Bone Disease. This is where animals do not get enough vitamin D3 and cannot absorb calcium. Bones are brittle and weak. So why do we see it in Veiled Chameleons the most? Well, it is the combination of 1) the chameleon growing so fast (so there is little time to figure out something is wrong) and 2) The veiled chameleon being sold to people with little to no experience and selling them cheap and inadequate equipment to go along with inadequate information. So, a bad start with a race to maturity that does not allow for a lot of time to integrate with the community and learn that something needs to change in the husbandry. The solution is a simple application of sufficient UVB light. Even if they are told this, how could they know that the UVB light they came home with in the Chameleon Kit is entirely inadequate? The lack of good information and the expense of proper equipment is a potent cocktail that spells trouble for newcomers getting their first chameleon. This is why listening to this episode and, at least knowing what you need to know, is so important at the beginning. And I wish I could get it in the hands of every new chameleon owner.

Special Considerations for a Veiled Chameleon Female

You can sex Veiled Chameleons from birth by the spur on the back of their back ankles so you have a choice between the two. Either makes a good pet, but the females are geared to laying eggs. They have to in order to make sure the next generation is safely in eggs under ground before the dry season comes. This genetic drive combined with the less than ideal husbandry given to them turns them into egg making machines. The excessive diet and heat supercharges their body into gaining unhealthy weight and activating massive amounts of eggs to be developed. And this can happen even if she is not mated. It is so prevalent, that some veterinarians are suggesting proactive spaying to avoid the stress of egg laying. While it does fix the problem it does not eliminate the cause of the problem. The cause is improper husbandry. And the reason why it is so difficult for the community to change their ways is because the unhealthy part of this makes them grow bigger and faster.

There needs to be an education that there is a good “big” and a bad “big”. Veiled Chameleons that are large in healthy proportions are no problem. In other words, they are long. Veiled chameleons that start having fat bulging out of the casques and large fat pads that end up restricting the oviducts are not only not healthy, but they can be deadly. If you have heard of egg binding, that is a condition that can be caused by overfeeding and overheating. Too many eggs and fat pads that are too big can easily equal your female chameleon’s death. This is a difficult thing to educate on because bigger and egg production have traditionally been markers of health in our community.

So you can see why it is so hard to get the community to change course from the advice they have been giving all this time. It is a lot easier to prove that overfeeding and over heating creates big chameleons and that high egg production is a sign of extra good husbandry than it is to put numbers to reduction in lifespan. So this will be a long road.

Add this this that we are still figuring out the right numbers to tell people. This revelation is relatively new so only the people on the cutting edge of chameleon husbandry are working with it. This is ambient temperatures in the mid 70s with a basking temperature in the low 80s and a couple of food items every other day for adults. But we are showing promising results as far as decreased egg production and decreased production of infertile clutches.

To be fair, this is something we need to proceed with caution. Cold and underfed chameleons will be stunted so, like everything, it is possible to go too far. So, this change isn’t something to be done without a firm respect for consequences. But we must go forward considering the health crisis we are experiencing in female veiled chameleons. It is so normalized that most chameleon keepers do not recognize obesity.

 

This particular episode was meant to help you make decisions in how to obtain a Veiled Chameleon. I’ll link to a flight of episodes in the show notes where you can dig deeper into all the episodes on husbandry which is part of the preparations that are appropriate to do before bringing one home.

Veiled Chameleon Mis-information

The last thing I need to prepare you for is that there is an unfortunate amount of misinformation about Veiled Chameleon natural history. It isn’t surprising considering that their native Yemen has been in civil war and you can’t just go visit their homeland. In fact, it took me years of searching before I finally found eye witnesses that I could interview on this podcast. And once I did, I found that much too many of my previous assumptions were wrong. Amazing what happens when you step outside the echo chamber of our assumptions and go to the source. I am going to list the major revelations, but in the show notes I will link to the interviews themselves so you can hear for yourself. Understand that this information is only slowly making its way through the community.

  • Veiled Chameleons are not from hard arid lands. They come from high altitude mountain valleys called Wadis that are lush with vegetation during the wet season and get clouds of fog rolling into the wadis at night. The idea of hot and arid comes from photos and videos taken during the dry season when nature is killing them off. The populations literally crashes every year at the beginning of the dry season and is reborn when eggs hatch at the beginning of the wet season the next year. So, now you know why they have to grow as fast as they do.
  • Veiled Chameleons are not a high UVB species. Like most chameleons, they get warmed up in the morning and hide from the hot afternoon sun. Veiled chameleons are healthy at a UV Index of 3 and there has been, to date, no evidence they need higher UVB.
  • Veiled chameleons do not need high heat. If you want to check their weather conditions yourself check the weather stations for Ibb, Yemen. You will find a standard montane environmental condition on par with what you would expect for a Jackson’s Chameleon. The difference is that Jackson’s will die at higher heat and Veiled chameleon will just get bigger and unhealthy. We humans like bigger so we have made a negative a false positive.

This episode is not about diving into each of these issues. This is more of a warning that there is more misinformation about this species than there is for other species. So, you are lucky that you can start off on the right foot. When in doubt, listen to the people who have been there, not the ones who have just memorized internet talking points. It took me years to find eye witness sources to get my information straight. Take advantage of that effort and start off right to begin with. And don’t argue with people who haven’t yet updated their information. It will be a waste of your time.

I have integrated all the latest husbandry information on the Chameleon Academy care sheets and you are welcome to base your start there. A link in the show notes goes to a full description of husbandry.

And, this all gets you started on the right foot. Veiled Chameleons are great chameleons. The colors and casque are impressive. The personality is usually shy and defensive, but if we are getting a chameleon with the intention of letting him be a chameleon this shouldn’t be an issue. If you need to hold your chameleon to be happy then a chameleon is not the best choice. I have enjoyed working with Veiled Chameleons over these may years and have dedicated much time on the podcast to support the proper care of the species. Everything you need to have a wonderful, long term experience with your veiled chameleon is available to you. Your job is to make sure you get the best little guy or girl to start off with.

 


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Sweet Pea

Ep 142: Sweet Pea, MBD, and the Will to Live

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Sweet Pea is a Veiled Chameleon with severe MBD. Through the dedication of Marianna Bolin, she was given a second chance for life. Today's message is for anyone who is caring for a chameleon with MBD. There are no sure things, but there is hope.

Beastmode Silks

Follow Sweet Pea & Marianna at the following links

Sweet Pea Facebook
Sweet Pea Instagram
ARAV logo

Through the ARAV you can find a vet that would like to see reptiles.

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Female Veiled Chameleon Feeding

April 6: Female Veiled Chameleon Feeding

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We are making progress in our drive to determine the feeding schedule and husbandry to maintain healthy female veiled chameleons through their lives - especially including egg laying. By controlling their diet and conditions we can reign in their body's enthusiasm for making eggs. By providing greater than ideal conditions their body creates more eggs than are healthy. Today I share progress made by Mari Joki from Finland.

Mari's Recipe

Veiled Chameleon Eggs

The following are the care conditions that Mari Joki used to produce a reasonable size clutch of Veiled Chameleon eggs. This is still at the point where we need more people to use this information to replicate the results. Please contact me at bill@chameleonacademy.com if you try this recipe out or if you have one of your own that has been successful.

Mari Joki Husbandry Recipe

Ambient Daytime Temperatures: 22-24 C

Basking Temperatures: 28-30 C

Nighttime Temperatures: 15-16 C

Hydration: Night time fogging

UV Index at Basking: UVI 3

Supplementation: Arcadia Earth Pro A and pollen with every feeding

Feeding Schedule:

0-3 Months: Ad Libitum

3 Months* forward: 2 feeders every other day

Females 4 weeks before mating until egg laying: 4 feeders every other day

*Note that babies graduate to the reduced diet when they are well started as per breeder's judgement. This is, on average, three months. But babies are evaluated individually.

This schedule is the baseline. Each individual is monitored to ensure they are slowly gaining weight as is appropriate. If they are too skinny or losing weight then their intake is increased.

Laying Bin: 10cm deep; 4 inches deep

Diet:  BSFs, silkworms and moths, crickets and banana roaches, a superworm every now and then.

It is important that we continue this work for the sakes of our female veiled chameleons. MBD is, arguably, the biggest killer of veiled chameleons. Next in line would be egg laying complications. And these complications are, overwhelmingly, due to inadequate husbandry. If you would like to join in figuring this out please share how you got a clutch in the 20s or 30s.

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making UVB work for chameleons

Ep 131: Making UVB Work For Chameleons

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

Check out the links below to learn more about Pete!

Pete Hawkins' Website
Chameleon Network Facebook
Pete Hawkins Facebook

Transcript (More or Less)

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

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

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

And what is the significance of these findings?

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

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

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

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

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

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