What should you expect from your chameleon?

Chameleons are unique, attractive, and fascinating lizards that require special care. Providing proper care requires dedication and knowledge. Veiled chameleons are among the largest, most resilient, and most popular chameleons in the pet marketplace. They are well known for their beauty, extreme territoriality, and aggressive behavior. Veiled chameleons can tolerate moderate handling by their owners, but in general are considered display animals that do not fare well with excessive handling.

What should you feed your chameleon?
  • Veiled chameleons feed primarily on live, moving insect prey. Vegetation is enjoyed by some veiled chameleons and may also be part of their captive diet.
  • The insect portion of the diet may consist of commercially raised crickets, silkworms, roaches, mealworms, super worms, wax worms, and other live insects. Prey items should be fed a high quality diet for at least 24 hours before giving them to your chameleon.
  • Other live prey might include occasional snails, small lizards and pinkie mice.
  • Live prey can be offered either in deep containers or allowed to roam free. Be aware that hungry free-roaming insects can chew on chameleons and will sometimes cause injury to them. Chameleons need to be conditioned to eat from a container, but once this behavior is learned, this will reduce insect dispersal in the enclosure.
  • Appropriate-sized prey items should be offered every day for juveniles, and 2-4 times a week for adults.
  • For vegetation, try offering a shallow bowl with mixed greens and assorted chopped vegetables and fruits. Hibiscus and ficus plants are also relished.

Water and Supplementation

  • Free-ranging chameleons drink the dew from leaves and other wet surfaces. In captivity, they generally will not drink from a bowl. Their enclosure should be misted once to twice daily so that they may drink from wet surfaces as they do in the wild. Water should also be provided in a drip system, which can range from simple drip cups and melting ice cubes to more elaborate automatic drip line systems. Chameleons that are not watered regularly are susceptible to dehydration, which can lead to severe illness.
  • Vitamin and mineral supplementation is controversial in chameleons; consult with your exotic veterinarian at Saukville Veterinary Clinic. Dusting prey items with a calcium supplement is probably beneficial. Prey are dusted daily for juveniles, while prey are supplemented every 2-3 feedings for adults.

How can you keep your chameleon healthy, happy and safe?
  • Take a newly purchased veiled chameleon to an exotic animal veterinarian at Saukville Veterinary Clinic for a wellness examination and fecal check for parasites.
  • Quarantine new chameleons in a separate area of the house for at least 30 days.
  • Keep chameleons physically and visually separate from one another.
  • Deliver water by misting the cage daily and by using a drip system.
  • Provide heat with a basking light 6-12 hours a day.
  • Include exposure to artificial UVB lighting or natural, unfiltered sunlight 10-12 hours a day.
  • Do not allow your chameleon to be bred before reaching its full adult size (usually 9-12 months).

Housing for your chameleon should:
  • Be at least a 10 gallon size enclosure for juveniles.
  • Consist of screen enclosure for adults: minimum size 24 x 24 x 36. Glass aquariums are acceptable only for hatchlings and small juveniles.
  • Have no substrate, only plain plastic or glass cage flooring.
  • Be easy to clean with good ventilation.

Things you must keep away from your chameleon:
  • Other chameleons (in your chameleon's housing)
  • Sharp edges in the enclosure
  • Running loose in the home
  • Cats, dogs, or other predators
  • Direct contact with heating elements or light sources
  • Excessive handling
  • Overheating

For more information: Association of Reptile & Amphibian Vets