Veiled Chameleon Care Sheet

The Veiled Chameleon or also known as the Chamaeleo Calyptratus (or as some people even call it, the Yemen Chameleon) is commonly from Saudi Arabia. It’s a very large species of Chameleon and is typically found in Middle Eastern parts including Yemen, as the name implies. However, recent reports have suggested that the Veiled Chameleon has also made its way state side into the United States and found a home on the island of Maui, Hawaii. You won’t find this pet wondering the city streets or out and about in a place without mountains though.

 

The Veiled Chameleon prefers to live in a place with coastal mountains and high slopes. Due to the nature of the Chameleon and how they survive, they prefer to live in an area that experienced a lot of rainfall. Year round water and vegetation is a must to ensure a healthy life and that they live as long as possible, which is why they prefer the coast and rainfall areas. One of the easiest ways of identifying a Veiled Chameleon is to examine the top of the head, where you can notice a helmet type texture.

 

Males will grow up to be a total of 2 feet in length and females will be slightly shorter than that, topping out at only 18 inches. However, while this isn’t as long as some exotic pets, it’s one of the largest chameleon species on the planet. Even more impressive that they can reach this kind of length in captivity, because most captivity exotic pets are small and their height is slowed down by being in captivity. There’s not one specific color that can be attributed to identifying a veiled chameleon, because the adults seem to exhibit a whole rainbow palette of colors. You might find some veiled chameleons that have differing shades of green, orange, blue, yellow, brown, black or other colors as well.

 

The amount of spots, stripes, blotches and spotted patterns on a veiled chameleon will differ from pet to pet as well. They all seem to have their own unique style and look to them. One of the most interesting and unique things about the veiled chameleons is that they can be sexed the day they hatch. Most animals need to wait until their mid juvenile or entering adulthood but not the veiled chameleon. When the males are hatched, you’ll notice that they have a small nub on the back of them which is called a tarsal spur. Females will all lack a tarsal spur.

 

As far as color differentiation, the males of the species tend to show off far more colors and grow into more colors than the females do. The average life expectancy for the males can be anywhere from 6 to 8 years depending on the type of care provided. Females won’t show off as many colors nor will they live as long either. They will only live an average of 4 to 6 years because of how their reproduction works. Even if you don’t actively breed them, they’re always producing infertile egg clusters.

 

This will take a lot out of the females and it drains their energy fast. After a while, constantly producing infertile eggs while not breeding will take its tool and progress the age of the pet faster than the males. It’s relatively easy to handle a veiled chameleon in captivity and some experts have suggested that they’re a difficult pet for any beginner. They’re not very demanding and actually very basic when it comes to their needs in captivity. If a veiled chameleon is purchased from a reputable breeder who knows what they’re doing, they’re very calm and easy to work with.

 

It used to be difficult to find veiled chameleons that weren’t caught out in the wild and they kept dying rather quickly in captivity. However now days, as breeders have more success, it’s becoming increasingly easier to find a private breeder in the states.

 

Caging/Shelter

 

If you provide a chameleon with consistent care and adequate cage maintenance, then you should have absolutely no problem keeping a veiled chameleon in a captive environment. Sure, they may not be native to being captive if they weren’t bred, but they’re generally very docile and easy animals to handle. The very first step you’ll want to take to ensure the longevity and happiness of your chameleon is the enclosure that it will be living in. It’s like picking out your own home for your own peace of mind and quality of life.

 

While this is purely just a recommendation, the best type of enclosure for a veiled chameleon has been shown to be a screen sided enclosure. This is because the screen allows increased airflow to come into the enclosure and there are numerous reasons as to why this helps a chameleon grow healthier. While you can use a glass tank, it’s more difficult to find an appropriate glass tank for a veiled chameleon because of their setup. Glass tanks weren’t really bet for these kinds of pets and it’s hard to create a natural air flow inside of the enclosure without doing any kind of custom modification such as drilling.

 

Also, it’s been shown by recent studies that poor airflow or glass enclosures for chameleons can actually create respiratory issues such as an upper respiratory infection. These are definitely not cheap to fix and you could actually lose your chameleon as a result of it, so it’s best to play it safe with a screen sided enclosure. While you can get away with a smaller enclosure, the generally rule for chameleons is that bigger is in fact better.

 

To measure the ideal size for chameleon, you want to house an adult male in a screen enclosure that would be around 2 feet by 2 feet and 4 feet tall. They can tolerate smaller enclosures but the word tolerate should never be used and you shouldn’t sacrifice space because the quality of life of your pet will greatly suffer if you do. If you have a female veiled chameleon, you’re more than likely going to want to go with something slightly smaller but larger such as an 18 inch by 18 inch enclosure.

 

Storing juveniles and babies is a bit easier because they don’t require a high height. However, it’s best to start off with a large enclosure because after about 8 months of growth, they’ll need to be moved into enclosures that will suite their growth and size better. Some say that it’s better to start off small but this is an unnecessary cost in my opinion. Also, if you’re raising multiple veiled chameleons at once, it’s far better off to keep them separated because they will fight each other until they reach sexual maturity.

 

Housing

 

The actual housing of the structure can be different varying to your personal tastes and how much you want to spend on the enclosure. Some people want a basic enclosure with basic bare bottom substrate tastes and some people want to go extravagant. For ideal conditions though, we want to create textures and areas in the enclosure for the chameleon to hide in. For this reason, you can pick up some cheap decoration vines or foliage so that the chameleons have something to walk around on or hide under. You’ll find that the veiled chameleon likes to hide a lot.

 

Also, you might want to consider some stones or horizontally laid perches so that your chameleons have a place to bask on. You want to make sure to avoid the risk of a fire that your plants are plastic and aren’t made from any kind of silk material. It’s best to check to make sure that each plant is nontoxic and plastic anti-flame plants seem to work the best. It’s not common for plants to catch flame as the heater usually isn’t right next to the plants, but I’m sure it has happened before, which is why it’s essential to be careful when setting up your enclosure.

 

Some of the most commonly used plants are the fichus, the schefflera, the hibiscus and the pothos. These are examples of live plants that may be used inside of the enclosure because they provide two direct benefits. First, they allow the chameleon to have a place to hide and they also help with the moisture inside of the enclosure.

 

A lot of people like to argue over whether the veiled chameleon should have any kind of substrate or not and the general consensus across most seasoned owners seems to be a resounding no. The risk of impaction is too high among most chameleon species and it’s better off just not to have any at all. The only downside to that is, you have to regularly clean the bottom of the tank which is relatively easy with some soap water and a rag.

 

Heating/Temperature

 

A veiled chameleon will require approximately two forms of light. They’ll need a heating light for the first part of the day so that they can bask and regulate their body temperature. You can also use heating rocks, heating tape, emitters, etc. to help. The next thing they’ll need is a highly specialized fluorescent bulb that emits UVB light waves. The reasoning for this is because out in the wild, the natural sunlight that they’re used to in the wild is what usually provides calcium for their skin that also helps with metabolism.

 

However, when in captivity, they’re usually surrounded by glass, so that’s why a special UVB light is required to provide them the appropriate level of calcium. If they don’t get this, they’ll end up with a disease known as Metabolic Bone Disease. A lot of people like the appeal to bulbs that provide both but there have been studies that show Veiled Chameleons are able to actually regulate their body temperature and their UVB exposure independent from each other.

 

Placement for both of these lights should be ideally placed directly on top of the enclosure. When you’re setting up the positions for these lights, you want to make sure that both lights are clear of any perches by at least 6 inches, to reduce the risk of burning a perch or plant in the enclosure. Because veiled chameleons have the ability to regulate their own temperature, it’s highly important to provide them a temperature gradient in their enclosure, which means one area must be a perfect basking warm and one area must be cool enough to rest in.

 

The best and ideal temperature gradient will range from 72 to 80 degrees. The reason for having a basking bulb directly above a basking spot is because that particular spot needs to be relatively warm. Placing the basking bulb here should raise the temperature to 90 degrees, which is an ideal temperature for veiled chameleon basking. This is the best ideal arrangement for achieving the best gradient and providing the highest quality of life within your enclosure for your chameleon.

 

The most important thing that you want to watch for is to make sure that the lower part of the enclosure is getting cooler temperatures because that heating gradient is absolutely essential. However, when it comes to night time, you’ll be pleased to know that chameleons generally don’t require a heating lamp because they adapt to the lower temperatures relatively well. As long as the temperature even in the winter stays above the high 40s, you won’t have much of an issue and no type of heat is needed.

 

While the temperature can be adapted to, you need to make sure that they have a place to bask at in the morning. Also, something important to remember if you require any kind of heating source at night to help keep your chameleon warm is that you want a heating source that doesn’t emit light. This is absolutely essential because they need a perfect lighting cycle or else they can become confused and stressed by the amount of light they’re constantly getting.

 

Food/Water

 

Veiled chameleons are arboreal, which means that they generally aren’t going to encounter a lot of standing water such as a dish. This might create a problem for some chameleons because they won’t recognize the water dish as a form of hydration. However, a lot of owners have said that their pets eventually figure it out before dehydrating to death but that’s a risky venture to take.

 

The way to combat this and what you can do is a process called misting. The problem is, in the wild, they’re not used to any kind of water sources except for the water that falls off of leaves when it rains. They live in rainforest type environments and always find all of their water when it rains, because the water will drop down onto the leaves and drop to the ground. Chameleons like the veiled chameleon will lick the leaves.

 

To mist your enclosure, all you have to do is simply spray your chameleon and the sides of the enclosure twice a day so that it can lick the sides of the enclosure to get its water supply. This will be much easier as well if you have leaves or perches in your enclosure, because you can mist the leaves and it’ll be just like its back in its habitat environment. Some people have an advanced drip system in place that can be rather expensive or inexpensive system to set up depending on your experience in engineering, but it’s easier just to mist the enclosure.

 

You might be thinking, why not just add a waterfall? The reason being is a veiled chameleon sees moving water as a source to defecate in. We see toilets as the main source of an area to leave our excrete in; well that’s what chameleons see running water as. If you try to use a waterfall as a means of hydration, it won’t drink from it; it’ll only create constant messes.

 

You definitely don’t want your chameleon drinking from an excrete filled waterfall because it’ll be filled with bacteria and as a result, it could grow an infection inside of it, or even worse, a parasite. Parasites are extremely hard to get rid of and can be extremely costly. A good amount of the time, they’re never fully vanquished and end up doing significant harm to the pet.

 

Veiled chameleons like to eat crickets generally. The great thing about crickets is, they’re very cheap to buy and they’re incredibly easy to find in bulk. They’re the most common item to feed house hold exotic pets because they’re almost universally accepted by most pets. When your pet is growing or if they’re juveniles/babies, then they’ll need to be fed once a day. Some owners report that feeding them twice a day has helped the growing process but be careful not to overfeed them.

 

However, the ideal process is to only feed them once a day. Once they grow into adulthood, you only have to feed them once every other day. Keep an eye on the eating habits of your chameleon and make sure they’re eating all the food you feed them. If they’re not, then cut back on the amount of food they’re eating, because that food will just sit there and rot if they don’t eat it. Again, parasites and bacteria can form on uneaten food.

 

Shedding

 

While a veiled chameleon is growing, you’ll notice that they’re starting to lose their skin. Don’t be alarmed, because this is a completely normal process and it’ll happen at very frequent intervals. The intervals at which they shed their skin will increase over time as the chameleon ages. However, you won’t have to worry about cleaning up the old skin because a chameleon (as most animals that shed) will actually eat their own skin.

 

The reasoning behind this is, in the wild, leaving any trace of your skin behind is a dead giveaway to predators that you were just there. So like a Special Operations soldier, the chameleon has to leave no traces behind and will eat its own skin as its shedding. As a juvenile, you can expect a veiled chameleon to shed every 4 weeks, but sometimes they can shed every 3 weeks. This rate will vary depending upon how quickly or slowly they’re growing.

 

As an adult, different owners have reported different rates of shedding but the entire process may only take just a few hours from beginning to finish. The one thing you’ll notice about your chameleon before it sheds is that it may start to look a little bit milky as the skin particles on top begin to die off. Also, it’s not uncommon for a chameleon as many other animals that shed to become disinterested in whatever food you leave them. Don’t be alarmed if they don’t eat when you put food into the enclosure, because they might just be shedding, if paired up with a milky looking texture.

 

As an adult however, it’s not uncommon for the shedding process to take days in some cases because of the length of the body and some areas of the chameleon are difficult to get off. You’ll notice the chameleon scratching away at their own skin or trying to use corners of the enclosure or branches inside the enclosure to help scratch the skin off. Usually, they can remove the skin all on their own, but in rare cases, they might need help and need a mist. You don’t normally have to do it, but mist your chameleon right before the shedding process starts to help ensure a smooth transition.

 

Handling

 

Handing veiled chameleons is relatively easy because they take being handled very easily. They’re very gentle and won’t try to scratch the hell out of you if that’s what you’re worried about. However, they’re not very good in social situations and are very prone to stress so if you frequently handle a chameleon, he may become stressed or scared. When a veiled chameleon is stressed out, they won’t eat and they’ll spend all night hiding under whatever area is available.

 

Make sure that you are washing both of your hands and use sanitizer before and after handling a veiled chameleon. This is a good idea for handling any kind of animal because there are sensitive oils on your hands when they’re not washed, and not only that, but your hands have been a thousand other places during the day. Your hands are carrying a load of bacteria that can be transferred right over to the pet if you’re not careful.

 

Breeding

 

Veiled chameleons are what are called oviparous breeders meaning that they carry eggs instead of getting pregnant. What happens is, a female will lay eggs in batches (or clutches) after the mating ritual is complete and then it can take a predetermined time from laying to hatching. The amount of eggs in each cluster will highly depend on a wide variety of different factors such as how much mating has been done, the general health of the female, the size of the body and other factors as well.

 

You can expect to see anywhere from 10 to 80 eggs in a single clutch. If you notice a female is creating eggs or you’re trying to actively force two veiled chameleons to mate, then you need to setup a nesting area. The female needs a nice and warm place to lay and nurture her eggs. If you want to go with the easiest and cheapest option, all you need is a small tub or tray with sand in it. All you have to do is place this little tub in the bottom of the enclosure and if she’s laying eggs, she’ll more than likely use it.

 

What you need to remember is that the sand needs to be relatively deep so at least 4 inches deep. The sand needs to be deep enough for a female to lay her eggs in, so keep that in mind when making your tray. You also need to make sure that a female is at an optimal mating age as well, because different species of animals have different adulthood ages at which successful mating can be achieved. For veiled chameleons, you need to make sure that the female is at least 1 year old or slightly younger (some people have seen results with this).

 

Also, the female needs to be relatively in good health and preferably not shedding or showing any signs of depression. Without being in a great state of health, the chances of successfully mating are diminished horribly. When picking a partner or a mate, you need to make sure that the male is about equal size to the female.

 

Don’t expect a male and female to automatically start mating though, because sometimes they’ll fight instead. Unfortunately, veiled chameleons are known to be highly aggressive when confronted by another chameleon and will be very territorial. If the female shows any signs of hesitation or aggression towards the male chameleon, it’s advised to break them up immediately. Sometimes, owners have reported signs of hissing or even clawing at potential mates which leads to a territorial fight.

 

Once the mating process is finished if she is receptive (this should be rather obvious), you should separate the two and allow her to lay her eggs. Unlike some of the quicker animals, a female veiled chameleon may lay eggs quickly or within the month, so it’s basically just a waiting game to see when the eggs are going to be laid. Make sure that your female is getting extra calcium to ensure that you have a better chance of successfully breeding during this time.

 

The ideal and best egg temperature to shoot for should be 85 degrees to keep them nice and warm. Healthy looking eyes will be bright white while unhealthy eggs that have a low chance of hatching will start to turn a bit yellowish. It can take anywhere from 4 to 9 months for the eggs to hatch.