Veiled Chameleon

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Species group:

Other common names: Concave-Casqued Chameleon, Yemen Chameleon

Scientific name: Chamaeleo calyptratus

The basics:
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

Veiled Chameleon Health Tip

Veiled Chameleon

From HHennion Jul 16 2015 3:04PM


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