Species group: Chameleons
Other common names: Concave-Casqued Chameleon, Yemen Chameleon
Scientific name: Chamaeleo calyptratus
In addition to being among the most interesting members of a very interesting family, the Veiled Chameleon is perhaps the best “first chameleon” available. Unfortunately, many perished through lack of proper care in decades past. Today their husbandry is well-understood, and nearly all in the trade are captive-bred.
Veiled Chameleons are native to Yemen and southwestern Saudi Arabia, and have been introduced to Florida, USA (as have so many other reptiles!) and Maui, Hawaii. Highly arboreal, Veiled Chameleons inhabit mountainous forests (to a height of 8,000 feet above sea level) and vegetated thickets near water holes, known as “wadis”, within desert-like habitats.
Appearance / health:
Veiled Chameleons are one of the largest species available in the pet trade, with males approaching 2 feet in length and females reaching 18 inches. The distinctive bony helmet-like structure, known as the “casque”, reaches a height of 3-4 inches in mature males; females sport much smaller “helmets”. The “casque” may function in dominance displays, and also serves as a condensation site for dew. Water gathered in this manner is funneled into the mouth by movable skin flaps. Turquoise, green, orange, blue, black and brown, along with various stripes and spots, are all within this uniquely-beautiful species repertoire of color changes.
Longevity averages 5-8 years. Stress, which weakens the immune system, is one of the most common health problems encountered. Handling, or even the sight of a dominant individual in the same room, will raise your pet’s stress level. Dehydration, also common, may occur if a supply of slowly dripping water is not provided. Metabolic bone disease is typical of animals that are not provided with ample calcium and/or UVB exposure, and females denied a suitable nest site usually retain their eggs.
Behavior / temperament:
All chameleons are high strung, ever alert to danger, and rarely if ever take well to handling. They are the quintessential “hands-off” pets, but will give you much of interest to observe when properly cared-for.
Shy and arboreal, Veiled Chameleons should be kept in custom-made screen cages that are vertically oriented and well-stocked with vines, cork bark rolls and sturdy plants. A single adult requires an enclosure at least 3 x 2 x 4 feet (length x width x height) in size. Pairs may co-exist in large quarters, but must be watched carefully. Glass terrariums do not supply the air circulation essential to good health.
Veiled Chameleons need ample UVB exposure. Mercury vapor bulbs broadcast UVB over greater distances than do florescent models, and provide beneficial UVA radiation as well.
A temperature gradient of 75-85 F and a basking temperature of 95-105 F, with a dip to 70-75 F at night, should be established. Large enclosures will allow your pet to thermo-regulate by moving from hot to cooler areas. This behavior is important to long-term health, and is usually not possible in small cages. Humidity should be kept at 50-60%. Males cannot be housed together; females will establish a dominance hierarchy, so groups must be monitored carefully.
The natural diet includes caterpillars, tree crickets, grasshoppers, flies, beetles, moths, ants, roaches, spiders and a huge array other invertebrates, and, oddly for a chameleon, some plant material. A highly-varied diet is essential if you are to have success in keeping chameleons. Crickets alone, even if powdered with vitamin/mineral preparations, are not an adequate diet. Most fare best when fed on a near-daily basis.
The main portion of the diet should be a mix of roaches, crickets, butterworms, locusts, sow bugs, flightless house flies, silk worms, hornworms, calci-worms, earthworms and other commercially-available species. A pink mouse may be offered every month or so. Do not use furred mice, as ingested hair may lead to impactions. Insects should themselves be provided with a nutritious diet for 1-3 days before being offered to your pets. Mealworms, implicated in intestinal blockages, should be avoided or used only when recently-molted (white in color).
If possible, offer wild-caught invertebrates as well. Moths, butterflies, beetles, grasshoppers, tree crickets, katydids, cicadas, harvestmen, earwigs, “smooth” caterpillars and a variety of other invertebrates (learn to identify stinging, biting and toxic species) will be “enthusiastically” accepted.
Favorite greens include dandelion flowers and leaves, Ficus leaves, romaine, kale, mustard and collared greens and Nasturtium/Hibiscus flowers.
Most meals should be powdered with a calcium / VitaminD3 supplement; a vitamin/mineral powder should be used 2 - 3 times weekly.
Chameleons will not accept water from a bowl, but will lap water that is sprayed onto foliage. A perforated container on the cage top that allows water to drip over plants should be provided frequently, as sprayed water may not meet your pet’s needs.
Females selected for breeding should be at least 1 year of age and 70+ grams in weight. They are best housed separately from males until signs of breeding readiness – a green body adorned by blue spots – are observed. Introductions must be made carefully. Unresponsive females will turn blue-spotted dark brown in color, and will sway back and forth. They should be removed immediately; receptive females should be removed at day’s end.
Breeding may occur year-round, at 2-3 month intervals, and a single mating may result in multiple clutches. Frequent reproduction greatly increases calcium needs, and usually shortens the female’s life by 1-3 years.
Gravid females deposit their eggs 20-40+ days after mating. Those housed in large enclosures may use a 5 gallon bucket filled with slightly-moist soil and sand. Otherwise, they may be removed to a large plastic garbage can or similar container when digging is observed. Clutches may contain 30-80+ eggs. The eggs can be incubated in a mix of 1 part vermiculite to 1 part water (by weight) at 80-85 F for 150-200 days.
Hatchling Veiled Chameleons need a varied diet if they are to thrive, and should be fed daily. Useful foods include “meadow plankton” (tiny insects gathered by sweeping a net through tall grass), 2 week-old crickets, lab-reared houseflies, flour beetle larvae and newly-hatched roaches. They are prone to dehydration, so a drip system should be set up to supply water.
Written by Frank Indiviglio
bright green colour, exotic beauty, daily entertainment, beautiful animals, experienced owners
constant cost, fearful temper, calcium deficiency, humidity level, precise care, human interaction
depth perception, short life spans, arboreal tropical animal, night time heat, super long tongues
Adorable Little Dudes
I adored these guys, they were just so cute!! I'll be honest they're kinda indifferent to people but they were great because they didn't mind being handled, were really cool to feed and awesome to look for in their cage. All around entertaining and just enjoyable pets. Once you set up their cage, which is kinda elaborate, they don't require too much, just your average lizard needs. Not bad with kids, as long as they're gentle. I think they're a great, easy pet and a joy to have around. .
From Daphne Petty Dec 22 2018 8:58PM
My experience with veiled chameleon
I had a female veiled chameleon for 5 years.
I bought it because I had always been interested by this species of reptile and, besides, veiled chameleons are the cheapest breed of chameleons and one of the easiest to keep.
Males have a much larger casque and a distinct pattern of brown and yellow barring (really beautifull). Females and juveniles are mostly green with some yellow spots and stripes.
Chameleons don’t change color in a direct attempt to match their background. Their color changes are influenced most by their health, emotions or level of stress.
You shouldn't buy such a chameleon like you can buy a hamster for your children. First of all because chameleons are better for observation and shouldn't be handled on a daily basis. Some veileds tolerate occasional handling and even hand-feeding, while many don’t and can be quite aggressive towards people.
Then, when you buy such a chameleon keep in mind that it can live up to 5-7 years. It's not as long as most of reptiles (about 15 years), but it is still an investment.
This is a large species whichcan reach 70cm when adult.
Therefore you need to have a pretty big terrarium (100 x 80 x 120 cm as for mine). It's better if it's higher than lager since chameleon like to climb high (it's easier to find some room for the terrarium).
For the lighting, like most reptile, you need an UVB lamp bulb, necessary to synthesize vitamin D3 in the skin and to facilitate absorption of dietary calcium.
It must be lighted up 12 hours a day.
The lamps are most of the time expensive and you need to buy one every 8 months ( since after this period they don't emit UVB anymore).
You need to keep a certain level of humidity in the terrarium ( around 60%). In order to do so, I had a small water fountain just behind the lamp and from time to time I sprayed some water ( in the morning and evening, every 2 hours).
The top of the terrarium should be heated to around 30°C and the bottom around 20°C.
So you guessed that the best way to heat a chameleon terrarium is a heat lamp ( most of the time the same as the UVB one). Make sure the bulb is not to close to the highest place where the chameleon can be, so that it can't get burned just by staying under. When choosing a basking bulb it's therefore better to start with a 60watt bulb and monitor temperature closely.
Veiled chameleons are more omnivorous than most chameleon species and many enjoy munching on plant leaves and fruit in addition to using their long sticky tongue to catch live insects.
In my terrarium I kept a ficus which was perfectly at ease. My chameleon ate some leaves from time to time. Sometimes, I added salad, tomatoe or strawberry.
The best insects you can give to them include crickets ( the cheapest ones), silkworms, hornworms, butterworms, dubia roaches and superworms. Don't use insects that are longer than the width of your chameleon's head. Make sure you have a reptile specialised shop close to your place because insects are not so easy to keep alive and breed ( and it's also noisy for crickets and sometimes stinking…).
Calcium and other vitamins are also very important. You can also find powdered supplement in reptile specialised shop. You just have to lightly dust the insects you giving to your chameleon before feeding it..
From HHennion Jul 16 2015 3:04PM
A challenge to own
This guy was an incredible challenge to have. He was extremely hostile to the point where he would hiss and sometimes even jungle when I'd get close to his cage. He was awful to feed because at certain points he would just stop eating and begin to lose weight until on a random day he would eat again. This was an on and off problem with him. As always, his habitat is a challenge like it is for many chameleons. Don't get me wrong he wasn't terrible to own and he was very cool looking but he was not friendly or even laid back in the least. I recommend these guys only for advanced reptile owners..
From DennisNJ May 28 2015 11:43AM