If you have purchased a chameleon egg and are now preparing for caring for a hatchling, this episode will guide you through the steps to make sure that when your egg hatches you will have the highest chance of success.
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Each section may have a video component which will go deeper into the subject, but this podcast episode will have the entire overview.
The Ethics and Politics of Purchasing Eggs
The sales of chameleon eggs has been going on for many years. But recently it has become more widespread and starting to be mainstream. This practice is controversial in the community so, if you have purchased an egg, or are planning on doing so, then be ready for some passionate responses. My personal feelings on this matter are that I do not see anything ethically wrong with it. I would rather ship an egg than a baby chameleon and everything is above board because the purchaser knows exactly what they are getting. They are also aware of the risks. Debate points as to whether it is a wise purchase or not are different from whether it is ethical or not. While I agree that people are purchasing eggs without having a full idea of how to take care of a hatchling, the same can be said about people purchasing chameleons, in general, since the beginning. At least with an egg they are having time to research after an impulse buy and still before the chameleon comes into their life.
I, personally, am not interested in this particular debate. My place in all of this is education and I will tell you exactly what you need to know to care for a hatchling chameleon. This will be applicable to just about all the species of chameleon you are likely to run across, but I will have panther and Jackson’s in particular mind as those are the ones often sold. The panthers as eggs and the Jackson’s as secretly developing babies in the mother.
Unlike Jackson’s Chameleons, which give live birth, when you buy a panther chameleon egg you know very well that you are likely to have a baby chameleon in the next couple months. The best time to start preparing was six months ago. The next best time is today. And the reason I say that is that you do not know when the egg will hatch. Even if you are given an approximate date, the egg will do what it wants so it may come early. It isn’t as bad if it comes later as your set-up will just sitting waiting, but early can be an unwelcome surprise. At least you are not in the same boat as those poor Jackson’s Chameleon keepers who didn’t know that the three horned chameleon they bought was actually a female…and was pregnant..and is just waiting to surprise them with not one, but 20 babies. So, you egg buyers are actually not on the most challenging path in chameleon keeping! And, because you are just dealing with just one baby you can treat it like a king or queen.
The Pros and Cons of Purchasing a Chameleon Egg
There are two types of people that will benefit from this page. The first is the person considering buying an egg and the second is someone who has come home with an egg and is now trying to lay out a game plan.
For the first situation, let’s go over some considerations in purchasing an egg. The simple pro to buying an egg is that it is cheaper. And, if this is an impulse buy, you also get the dopamine hit that you have purchased something at the reptile show without the pressure to also buy all the equipment right then and there. The cons are that you risk whether the egg hatches or not, you do not know what sex you are getting, and hatchlings are less able to handle things that are off in your husbandry. You are in the right place for that last one, though.
As for the risk of it not hatching, incubation sounds intimidating, but, really, so many panther breeders incubate eggs in their closet anyways that you have a good chance of succeeding without specialized equipment. Find a closet that trends in the 70s F and doesn’t spike into the 80s F and there is a decent chance of success. Your egg will come with specific instructions. Make sure you follow those exactly. There is often a warranty if the egg doesn’t hatch. But you have to follow the instructions exactly.
Perhaps the biggest problem with hatching an egg is not knowing what sex you will get. With Panther Chameleons you made your selection based on the brightly colored male shown as the father, right? Well, how would you feel if you got a female? And you have to be honest with yourself because chameleons are, if we do it right, a five or so year commitment. If you have always dreamed of a male panther chameleon then get a well started baby so you can see the colors coming in and you know you will be happy. Don’t get an egg to save money and be hoping for a male. That is not fair to the female that may come out.
Now, may I say that the female panther chameleon is one of the most underrated chameleon pets? I love them deeply. I actually have more non-breeding female panther chameleons as pets right now than I do males. The orange and pinks with blue undertones or red overtones are gorgeous. Their smaller size makes the normal 2x2x4 cages a much bigger cage experience which makes it better for you, in my opinion. So, when I have panther chameleon eggs hatch I am equally happy whether it is a male or female. The panther chameleon species is just an incredible chameleon all around. But you need to dig deep and be honest about your feelings. Make sure you are of the mindset that you will enjoy the chameleon experience either way. And for the people who are buying three eggs just to make sure they get a male…just get the well started juvenile male.
And, yes, one pro about buying an egg that I really like is that you have time to prepare. So much of my work in the community is to correct the equipment people purchase with their impulse-buy chameleon. It is not easy to inform well intentioned people that the equipment they were sent home with will have to be upgraded immediately. So, if you impulse buy an egg, your next step is to get the equipment and you have the time to do it right. And, if that becomes the trend then I will embrace egg purchasing. Caring for a hatchling is not hard at all if you spend that time researching care and are willing to get the right equipment.
Though, hoist the red flag, if you purchased an egg because it was cheaper than a chameleon I am sorry to bring the bucket of cold water to the party. A chameleon set-up tends to be expensive and you absolutely have to do it right from the beginning – especially with a hatchling. Taking care of a chameleon is actually pretty simple once you have your system down – as long as you set it up correctly from the start. So, keeping a chameleon is not a cheap endeavor. If that is a concern then you have time to either save up your money or else find a different person’s life for the chameleon to hatch into. By the end of this episode you will have a very good understanding what it will take so you’ll know the answer to your forward direction within the hour.
Feeding a Hatchling Chameleon
When people think about preparing for their new chameleon the thought is usually on the cage and lights. We will definitely get to that very soon. But your true biggest hurdle with hatchlings is establishing a food source. Hatchling chameleons need small food and this is not readily available at the local pet store. They will eat anything that moves and is small enough to fit in their mouths. The most common hatchling food source is fruit flies. These are widely available from reptile supply stores both physical and online. The one huge issue with buying fruit flies is that it takes time for the flies that start the cup to breed, lay eggs, and go through the entire lifecycle until they emerge as adults ready to be fed to your chameleon. This process takes weeks. And so, although you can order fruit flies from many places, you cannot be guaranteed to have those fruit fly cups producing or blooming, as we call it, immediately upon your order. And it isn’t fun to get your fruit fly cups in and realize your baby will have nothing to eat for a week. Back to square one. This is one reason why I encourage breeders to get a dart frog. That way they are always making fruit fly cups themselves and will ensure there is always a group of cups producing adult flies because they are making cups every week. So when the babies hatch the breeder is well supplied. Well, there are two ways that you can ensure that you have fruit flies available when the baby hatches. First, you can just start making fruit flies yourself and make up cups every week starting a month before you expect the egg to hatch and just keep making cups every week. If you do this then you will have cup of fruit flies that grow, bloom, and die out, but you can use those flies to populate your new cups. This is an approach that is the most reliable for you to make sure you have a food supply ready. It takes discipline. But, welcome to the chameleon world. I admit we do a bit of wrapping our life around our chameleons. You may not realize how many new habits you will need to adopt to be successful with your chameleon. Though I 100% guarantee you that when you see that little monkey dragon hatch out of its egg, look at you with those huge eyes, and ramble off to zap a fruit fly your heart will never be the same and you will have entered into the zone. I can’t explain it, but anyone with a chameleon will know what I am talking about.
So, to get your fruit fly making going you’ll need cups and fruit fly mix. And you can soon discover and work with recipes you put together. These resources are easily available and I will link them in the show notes. I will have all of this in the show notes so go to chameleonacademy.com and look for hatching an egg. You can sit back and relax listening to this because it is all written down and accessible to you.
The second option has varying levels of reliability depending on where you live. But just mashing up a banana or apple will often bring wild fruit flies to swarm. I use this all the time with my babies and they always have a food source available. Yes, it means I live with fruit flies, but they usually stick to where the fruit is. But I admit, walking through a swarm of fruit flies to check on your babies can make you question your life decisions. At least for you with only one chameleon, you will be out of the fruit fly stage in a couple months and you will be on your way to your cricket adventure.
If you get a surprise of an early hatching baby then immediately order a couple of fruit fly cups and call the place up to ask if any are blooming. Call around and see if there are any that are producing. Most fruit fly cups are sold before that point, but there is always a chance. You just have to do a lot of calling. On the telephone. Using voice. And, I am serious…you have to actually talk to another human being. I am sorry it has come to this, but this is an emergency situation. And, set out a slightly smooshed banana or apple slice and see if any fruit flies gather. In the dead of winter in upstate New York the chances may be slim, but try it.
Crickets may be your savior, though, because they are almost always available as pinhead crickets. And these are small enough for your hatchling chameleon. They are expensive and shipping is a gouge out of the wallet. But there isn’t much of a choice if that is your only choice. Go ahead and get 1000 and be prepared to take care of and feed crickets. Didn’t know you would be creating a bug zoo, did you? Welcome to the chameleon world!
For a deeper look into feeding hatchling chameleons you can check out this page here on the Chameleon Academy: What to Feed Hatchling Chameleons
You can also watch a video on the subject here!
The Hatchling Chameleon Enclosure
Whenever someone gets a new juvenile chameleon they are faced with the question as to whether they should get the full sized adult enclosure and equipment or get a smaller grow out cage until the baby gets larger. My advice to people getting a three month old baby is always just get the full adult size enclosure. A three month old baby is well on its way to adulthood and there is no reason to keep it in a smaller cage.
Now, a hatchling is semi-different. A hatchling can be put in a full size adult cage without an issue. Just make sure you have thin branches and lots of plant cover. That hatchling was designed to survive in the world so a 4’ cage is no issue. But I can more understand using a smaller cage for a hatchling would make sense just for you to be able to keep track of the little tyke.
So here is the overall principle on cage size. The larger the cage the easier it is to create various gradients for your chameleon to find the right temperature, humidity, and exposure…meaning the security of not being seen if it wants to feel safe. The smaller the cage the harder it is to create these things. So, honestly, it is easier to create a suitable chameleon enclosure in a larger cage.
There are plenty of tutorials on creating an adult size cage set-up so I will focus on guidance for the hatchling cage in this episode. If you do go for the adult size cage remember these points
- You need many more thinner branches that are baby chameleon foot sized.
- You need thick plant cover because that is what they like
- Get yourself a feeder cup that you can put crickets in and a feeder cup you can put fruit in. The cricket cup keeps the crickets in and the fruit cup takes care of the fruit flies. Feed in the same place every day and you will find it doesn’t matter how big the cage is, the hatchling will be hanging out by the food dishes around feeding time.
So, let’s talk about a temporary enclosure which is smaller and easier for you to fill and keep track of your hatchling. You want it big enough that you can create gradients, though. So, here is where I need everyone sitting down. Don’t expect to hear this any other time in my life, but, in the case of raising a hatchling chameleon to three months old, the ZooMed Chameleon Kit is actually a good set-up. Now, stop throwing cloves of garlic and silver crosses at me. I will explain. The reason why the Chameleon kit is universally despised is because the UVB bulb is woefully weak and the cage is too small for chameleons beyond four to five months old. And the Chameleon Kit is, unfortunately, sold alongside reptile sales of chameleons. And, retail sales of chameleons are generally over three months old. So, yes, in almost all cases in the retail sales of chameleons the Chameleon Kit is not an appropriate husbandry item. The UVB is ineffective unless you know exactly where to put the basking vine or branch and the chameleon is small enough to fit in the small zone of UVI 3 that exists for only a half an inch a couple inches in front of the bulb. It deserves the bad reputation that it has. But, in this special case, the 16”x16”x30” cage is the perfect size for a hatchling to stretch out and not get lost. That ineffective Compact Fluorescent Lamp UVB bulb….well, that very small effective zone is big enough for a hatchling panther chameleon to fit inside. We don’t want the UVB so powerful that it radiates the entire cage because the baby needs to be able to get out of it. And, lo and behold, the weakness of the included Repitsun 13W, 5.0 CFL suddenly becomes a desirable feature!
And I want to take a sidebar here. This is a perfect lesson of how we should understand the tools. Most people would love to say the Chameleon kit is bad and should never be used. Here is a way that actually learning about the product’s limitation is a benefit. Yes, it is a poor product for young adult chameleons, but it is a great tool for bringing up one hatchling. I have chosen the Chameleon Kit to demonstrate with. And this isn’t hypothetical, I raised two Veiled Chameleon hatchlings and 1 Panther chameleon hatchling in a Chameleon Kit using this method. It really is very simple when you understand the tools.
UVB and Heat for Chameleon Hatchlings
So, let’s talk about those tools. The first one with the highest visibility is the dual dome heat and UVB fixture. This piece of equipment gets a bad rap because it is suppose to provide UVB, but nowhere does it inform the beginning chameleon keeper that the effective range for the UVB coming off this bulb is between 1.5” and 2” down from the top of the cage under the UVB bulb. The reason why it is not just useless, but dangerous, is because the chameleon keeper that knows enough to know they need UVB thinks that they have UVB. Because they do not put the vine just right so the chameleon can make use of that small effective UVB zone. We can make use of this situation because we know the characteristics of this bulb. When you know your tools you can use even the lowliest of UVB bulbs. And so you need to add a branch or use that twisty vine that comes with the Chameleon Kit and place it exactly under the UVB bulb resting on the top of the cage so that the back of the chameleon when it is perched on the vine is 2 inches from the top of the cage. And that gives your chameleon proper access to UVB. Chameleons are known to search out UVB so it is okay that the rest of the cage is not doused with UVB energy. I had the basking vine, which ran under the UVB bulb and the heat lamp so the chameleon’s back was 2” below the UVB and three inches below the heat lamp. You need to test heat from the heat bulb so it is comfortable to the back of your hand. You are looking for a gentle heat and want to be careful because babies will dehydrate easily, overheat, and burn themselves. (lots of fun, huh?) So err on the side of too far rather than too close. You can always adjust once the position of your placement when you have the chameleon in there giving you signs.
With the UVB our standard UVB source used is a T5 High Output linear bulb. This is a powerful bulb and you need to use UVB carefully with hatchlings. Some people say not to give UVB at all. I think that is taking things too far in the other direction, but that very well may be in response to people trying to use T5s which are too strong. See, just a side bar here. UVB advice on social media is so messed up. I know it is hard making sense of it all when you are just starting out. But just know that the state of UVB understanding on social media has not crawled out of the primordial soup and people cling on to erroneous beliefs like they are a religion. What this means is that people say things like you can only use T5 UVB with chameleon and everything else is insufficient without understanding the nuances. So people put T5 linear bulbs on babies. And here is where over simplifying your talking points is dangerous. Just know that me telling you to use the Chameleon Kit UVB will cause mental meltdowns in the community so be careful how you share this strategy. But, let’s bring this back around to where I was going with this! T5 HO linear UVB bulbs are great for the adult cage. People who have memorized that you can only use T5s have looked at only adult cage set-ups. When you understand what is actually coming off the bulb you realize all the bulbs are tools and you can pick the right one. So, don’t put a T5 UVB bulb on a 16x16x30” cage! If you want to use the UVB bulb and fixture that you intend to use with your adult cage then suspend it above the baby cage enough so that the high UVB dissipates. The height will be different for each bulb type and strength so get the right distance for your bulb and make sure you have dense plant cover so the baby can get out of the UVB. The idea that we have to have UVB so powerful that it infiltrates the plant layer of your cage is another bad idea. The plant layer needs to be where your baby can get away from the UVB. Yes, you want them to be able to get gentle UVB…So, don’t blast your basking zone. You don’t have to understand all the politics surrounding social media and UVB. I just want you to be aware that they exist and to not be surprised if you follow what I am suggesting and people who don’t understand UVB say that you are doing it wrong. The advantage of personally doing what I talk about, repeatedly actually, is that I know it works and how to make it work.
Setting up the UVB light
Setting up the 5.0 13W CFL is actually quite easy. You get the target UV Index of 3 at about 2″ below the bulb. So you simply have to adjust the bendable vine, or any basking branch, so that the back of the chameleon is 2″ from the bulb. If your chameleon is about 1″ high then you run the included vine three inches below the 5.0 CFL. Ths sounds simple. And it is. The reason why there are so many case of MBD with the kit is because this is not in the instructions.
To set up the included UVB light effectively you’ll need to set the basking vine/branch so that the back of the chameleon is two inches from the UVB lamp. But, because of the innovative dual dome design, you have to make sure the heat lamp is not too hot at that distance. Luckily, the bendable vine included in the kit can be used to quickly change the distance from the heat bulb if need be. This UVB requirement is a major reason why the system will not accommodate a chameleon beyond 2.5″.
Further Research into UVB & Chameleons:
UVB is a deep and complicated subject. To learn more about it you can check out our module on replicating the sun
Light for a Chameleon Hatchling
The Chameleon Kit has heat and UVB, but does not have anything for adequate lighting. For that you will need to purchase something separately. 6500K T5 fluorescent lighting is definitely a good technology. I use a two bulb fixture which I will link below. The double T5 fluorescent does a good job of lighting and I will include a link to purchase these in the show notes. Here is where you need to give some thought to strategy. You can fit a double bulb 24”fixture on a 16” wide and deep cage. A 4 bulb fixture is too big to co-exist with the double dome UVB and Heat fixture. But, when you graduate to the 4’ tall cage I whole heartedly recommend the four bulb fixture. So you either buy the two bulb now and a four bulb later or else you buy the four bulb and find a way to hang it above the cage to still allow room for your other fixture.
This fixture has quickly become my favorite due to its slim dimensions and each bulb having it’s own reflector.
Hydration for a Chameleon Hatchling
There are a few hydration methods out there. The biggest thing I would like you to keep in mind is that your hatchling will be a very little guy and be very careful with the pressurized spray from automated misting systems – especially in a small cage. I actually prefer to hand mist and fog in a cage the size of the Chameleon Kit and smaller. I mean, I have done automated systems with my nursery cages for years. You can do it, but because you are putting together a small grow out cage for one chameleon that you will keep this way for three or so months, you could get away with the following schedule.
Mist the cage down by hand with one of those hand held misters. Have a fogger on a timer go off from around 1AM to just before the lights come on. And then you spray the cage down in the morning. I then use a dripper in the afternoon for a hydration too-off and then a spray down in the evening. A fogger going off while they sleep keeps them from dehydrating from breathing. And, yes, this is a thing and has been measured. We and chameleons lose moisture during the night simply from breathing into dry air. So, having a humid morning helps maintain hydration. The thing I like about fogging, light misting, and drippers is that there isn’t a case where the baby is being blasted with water. So make sure whatever you set up that there is no blasting of water at the chameleon and no standing puddles are created. Babies can drown. It is rare, but their big heads are not meant for swimming. Just be mindful of this.
Now, with all this misting and dripping there are two things that you have to look in to. The first is where the misted water goes when it flies through the cage and out the other side. I solved this problem by applying shrink wrap window insulation to the back and sides of my cage. This plastic wrap allowed me to spray and mist to my heart’s content and the spray water never hit the wall and furniture behind the cage.
You may also notice that the water congregates on the bottom and then seeps into the furniture below. You need a drainage tray. That is a tray that goes under the cage and is able to keep the drains water physically separated from the cage. ZooMed only makes substrate rays which go inside the cage but if you buy the 18×18” substrate tray, the Chameleon Kit cage fits nicely into it. Just get some spacers to keep the cage out of the drainage water and you are set! I made some spacers out of PVC piping, but anything that the cage can sit on that raises it ½” to 1” above the bottom of the tray will work. Just remember you also need to support the floor panel with the potted plants sitting on the bottom of the cage.
You will see people using paper towels or puppy pads at the bottom of the cage to soak up the water. You can get away with this for hatchlings as the poop is not obnoxious, but, generally speaking, you do not want to keep the water inside the cage where escaped feeders and poop can mix with water.
In a small cage, like the Chameleon Kit, automatic misters can be too powerful. A hand sprayer will do the job adequately while you work on your permanent cage set-up.
A dripper can be as simple as a party cup with a small pin hole at the bottom.
The substrate tray for the next size up cage actually makes a decent drainage tray for the Chameleon Kit.
When misting babies it is important that you get a gentle mist. Most hand sprayers are quite powerful in relation to the baby chameleon’s tiny body. This mister here provides a cloud instead of a spray and is, by far, the best one I have found for any sized chameleon.
This fogger has been my go-to as it is top filling (you don’t have to take the reservoir off to fill it with water), it has a 4 Liter capacity, and it has a dual output hose so you can guide the fog to two areas in the cage. The timer is cyclic so is useless to us. It is best to plug it into a standard appliance timer and run it that way.
Although I use simply a party cup with a pin hole at the bottom, a commercially made dripper is available at the above link.
The above link allows you to choose which size you are wanting. Pick the 18″ x 18″ size!
- Determine how you will get water to your chameleon. If you are having a tough time with all the options then go for the spray bottle option and spray down the cage once in the morning and once in the late afternoon. This is the minimum. Really, any spray bottle will do. If you can spend a little more money then incorporate the dripper and/or fogger. Both the dripper and the fogger will be able to transfer to the final adult cage so this is not money wasted. The spray bottle is a laborious approach to an adult sized cage and so that is when a misting system is appropriate to buy.
- Figure out your drainage solution. I have a tray linked below from Amazon. Any tray will work. Just make sure the cage is raised out of the water in the tray.
Further Research into Hydration:
Hydration is one of the most important aspects of chameleon husbandry and we are just starting to get it right. It is well worth investigating, studying, and truly understanding. Below are some relevant links to give more details into this subject:
Chameleon Hydration: This page discusses hydration over a 24 hour period and gives actionable steps to implementing it in the captive environment.
Ep 89: Naturalistic Hydration for Chameleons: This podcast episode talks through the concept of natural hydration cycles over a 24 hour period. This is an important episode that was instrumental in sharing thee concepts in an executable form.
Ep 10: Chameleons and Drainage: If you want to learn more about drainage, here is a supplemental learning podcast discussing the philosophy and execution of drainage strategies.
Effective Plants and Branches for a Chameleon Hatchling
The internal environment needs to have two main sections. An open are where the chameleon can bask and se the world, and then perching areas that are hidden from view so they can feel secure. Chameleons are not fast animals and use not being seen as their prime defense. So, you, as the benevolent world builder, need to make sure they have ample places where they can feel safe. This is particularly important for babies that know they are living in a world where everything wants to eat them. The most intuitive and recommended by me way of producing this dynamic is to use live plants to create an area of thick foliage starting about five inches down from the top and extending at least to the middle of the cage. So you are looking for plants which are around two feet high and bushy. I have found that these are commonly available at home improvement stores
The vine that is include is going to be useful so hang on to that. One thing that is good to have time to do is find the right plants to put in the cage. The reason for the challenge is that you want them to be about 24 – 26” high and dense foliage. This gives the chameleon plenty of places to sit and hide.
I have used the following plant species with success
There are two Polyscias species that pop up. They are commonly called Aralias and they are sold as stumps that bush out. Both the Fabian and Ming varieties are common and work beautifully. You can check the website for photos.
Schefflera arboricola, the umbrella plant works well and even the ubiquitous Ficus benjamina. You are looking for pants with perchable stems or leaves and big enough leaves for hiding behind. I like to mix my plants to achieve both.
For branches you can use anything small enough for their little feet. If you are using the Chameleon Kit I make good use of the bendable vine they include in the kit. I zip tie it to the screen itself on either side so I can precisely place the vine to get the useable UVB and the right heat. You can, of course, so this with branches, but it is harder to do the exact placement with a ridged branch.
Aralia species. The one ont he left with the rounded leaves is “Fabian” while the variety with lacy leaves is “Ming”
The Schefflera arboricola, Umbrella Plant is one of the most useful plants for chameleon cages because of its intricate perching stems and wide leaf coverage.
The Weeping Fig, Ficus benjamina, is commonly available. Just look for one that is 24″ tall and has bushed out.
The China Doll, Radermachera sinica, is ideal for hatchling chameleons
Further Research into Plant use:
Of course, there is so much more than can be said about plants and setting up the cage. This is a summary. If you would like to dive deeper, here are relevant links:
Plants for Chameleon Cages: This page presents how to use plants in a chameleon cage and discusses plant toxicity and how it relates to chameleons.
Forest Edge 4+4 Method: This page introduces a simple method to put together a chameleon cage and to make sure you have fulfilled each important point.
Feeding & Supplementation for a Chameleon Hatchling
Feeding may be the most stress filled part of raising a baby chameleon. But you really don’t have to worry about it because these guys were designed to be fruit fly zapping ninjas. That is what they do. And they are going to be searching the cage for those fruit flies. You do not have to worry about them not finding their food unless their food is escaping and hiding under pots. If you have a food dish and there are fruit flies or crickets running around then your baby will find it. If you make it easy, which we all will then you will have a little chameleon happily sitting above their food dish chowing down. We talked before about how to make or get food so this section is about presenting food. Since hatchling food is so small there is no releasing a horde of crickets on the screen side to run up. A simple cup. Mounted up where the chameleon can easily get at it suffices. If you are feeding crickets then put a slice of carrot in there and mount the food dish where your little guy can see it and it won’t fall down. If you are feeding fruit flies then put some mashed banana at the bottom of the dish and your fruit flies will hang out there. Make sure you have perching branches in easy reach of the dishes and your chameleon will just settle in. If you feed in the same place at the same time every day then you may notice that, before long, your chameleon is waiting in the area for the food to arrive. They are pretty smart when it comes to food!
As far as quantity, for hatchlings there is zero worry about over eating. Feed as much as they will eat.
Supplementation is another controversial topic and I do not know of any definitive study or experiment that tells us when we should start supplementing the feeders. Assuming that the mother was well taken care of, the baby should have a supply of vitamins from the egg sack. So I do like to stay away from multivitamins until a month or two old. But I know people that use multi-vitamins from day one so I am not going to be saying my way is best. What this means to you is that you are probably okay either way. If you want to follow what I do and I know works, I fed with no supplementation for the first week or two and then I supplement with calcium lightly dusted every feeding after that. All this while they are having access to UVB, by the way. For panther chameleons I start in with a dusting of Repashy Calcium Plus LoD every two weeks around the two week or month mark. The schedule really isn’t that critical.
What to Expect When Your Chameleon Hatches
So, we have gone over the husbandry requirements and such, but let’s take this to the point where you are waiting for hatching and what to do afterwards. Follow the instructions that came with your egg exactly. When it starts to get close to the due date you want to be checking your egg daily for hatching. If you see moisture on the outside, like water drops, you know hatching is in process. It may be the next day. The baby will cut a star pattern into the end of the egg and then push out. A healthy baby will do this easily in a morning and then be up and about and all over the place. You can put him directly into his new cage upon hatching.
When your hatchling crawls out they will immediately be following their instinct to scatter. Very soon, though they will settle into the deep foliage of their cage and then you will soon see them exploring their surroundings. They may not eat for the first couple of days. This is not an issue. But offer them food anyways because they will be eating voraciously as soon as that signal activates in their brain.
The greatest trouble signs to look out for in hatchlings is closing their eyes during the day. This could be from something gone wrong in incubation to something off in their husbandry. I am sorry to say it is very difficult to turn around a baby chameleon. This is one reason why buying a well started baby is a good deal. But if the incubation was right and the husbandry is right you should have a trouble free baby raising.
Now, I do want to mention, for those that bought more than one egg. Get a different cage for each baby. Raise them individually. That is the absolute best way to do it. The people that group raise are doing so because they can’t handle 30 individual cages. But you can because you only have a few. Considering how much better they raise up I highly encourage you to get individual cages for each egg you purchase.
Raising up a hatchling has some added challenges on top of the baseline keeping of a chameleon. The advantage you have is you have time to get set up correctly. Take that seriously and you will substantially increase your chances of success. Raising up a baby chameleon is a life long memory. Invest in it so it is a good memory!
Setting up the Chameleon kit must be done correctly to avoid medical issues. Once you have that under control it is time to do the transition to the adult size cage. There are many options for this and many people who have opinions as to how it should be done. The good news is that all these different opinions generally work out! But for guidance on how to figure it out yourself or wondering why we do what we do there is no better way than to start at the beginning with the Chameleon Academy Basics Course and work from there!