Chameleons are one of the coolest pets you can have. They have become a popular choice as pets recently. However, chameleons are exotic in nature so keeping them at home is not as easy as it may seem. You have to consider a lot details like its habitat, food, temperature, humidity etc. to keep your colour changing pet healthy and happy.
You have quite wide range of chameleon species to choose from. Some of them are more demanding in terms of maintenance while others are not so much. That’s why it is recommended that you choose a species that is quite easy to maintain. In that aspect, Veiled chameleons are one of the most suitable to be kept home as pets. The reason behind it is that this species is easy to be taken care of and maintain.
In this article we will cover everything you should know about Veiled chameleon as your reptile pet.
Specialty of Veiled Chameleon (Yemen Chameleon)
Veiled Chameleons are colorful and can be easily recognised by the helmet (casque) on their head. Both males and females have casque on their head. However, females will have smaller casque compared to their male counterparts.
This species is large in size compared to other chameleon species. They are native of Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Veiled Chameleon’s natural habitats include mountain tops, valleys, and plateaus.
They prefer high temperature and humidity. The length range for a male chameleon is 43 to 61 centimeters and female chameleons grow up to 35 centimeters long.
The hatchlings will have pastel green color, which will change gradually to green color with multicolored (yellow, white, orange etc.) stripes and dots.
The lifespan of Veiled Chameleons is 4 to 8 years (up to 5 years for females and 8 years for males). Chameleons captured from the wild often would not be able to adjust to the climate of captivity and hence their lifespan is significantly reduced. So reptile shops started to breed them in captivity and now you can get captivity bred hatchlings from reptile keepers and reputed pet shops. Veiled Chameleons are a good choice for a beginner, because the captivity bred chameleons adjust to the captivity very well.
How to build a habitat for Veiled Chameleon
Once you decide to buy a Veiled Chameleon as your first reptile pet, the next thing you have to do is build its habitat. Bear in mind, Veiled Chameleons cannot be kept in groups. So if you are planning to buy more than one Veiled Chameleon you have to build different enclosures. Keeping them in the same enclosure will give rise to competition among them causing stress and in turn health issues.
Build an enclosure that has enough air circulation. The best material to make enclosure is mesh screen that will give the needed airflow for your pet. You can keep the hatchlings in a cage with dimensions 16 x 16 x 30 inches. But as the chameleon grows you will have to make a bigger enclosure. Ideal dimensions for a male Veiled Chameleon’s enclosure are 24 x 24 x 48 inches. If you are planning to buy a baby chameleon better start with a smaller cage. Once it reaches the age of 8-10 months move it to a bigger cage.
After you are done with building the enclosure, the next thing that you have to do is to create the environment suitable for your pet inside the cage.
First, decorate your pet’s cage with plants and foliage so that it can hide and perch on. Mix non-toxic plants like Ficus, Pothos, Schefflera, or Hibiscus with artificial plants to give them enough branches to perch and travel. Using non-toxic plants will also help you regulate the temperature and humidity in the chameleon’s habitat. The base of the cage can be covered with paper towel so that you can remove the waste easily.
Veiled Chameleon needs the temperature to be regulated between 24 °C to 35°C. To regulate the temperature you can fix an incandescent bulb that will provide enough heat for your pet’s body temperature regulation.
Veiled chameleons also need UVB for proper calcium absorption and this can be achieved by fitting a fluorescent bulb or tube inside the cage if you cannot provide the sunlight.
Ideal humidity for a Veiled Chameleon would be 60 % to 70%. To regulate humidity in the enclosure you can use a mister. This will also serve as source of hydration (water) for the chameleon. Misting gives the chameleon a feeling of its natural habitat. Setting up a drip system on top of the enclosure that would allow a drop of water to fall on the leaves every few seconds would be a good idea.
Diet and nutrition
All chameleons are fundamentally insectivores and the Veiled Chameleon is no exception. You can give crickets as staple food for Veiled chameleons. You can also include gut-loaded (recently fed) insects, waxworms, and mealworms in the diet. If you are feeding gut-loaded insects make sure you supplement the insects with vitamins and calcium.
If you have a baby chameleon, you have to make sure that constant food supply is there. You can feed the adult chameleons on alternate days and also provide calcium supplements (sprinkle the food daily) and multivitamin supplements (sprinkle the food once a week).
You can also feed them dark and green leafy vegetables (Ficus leaves, collard greens and Pothos) to keep them healthy. Leftover leaves and vegetables should be removed from the cage after 24 hours.
Advantages and disadvantages
Veiled chameleons can be used as display animals. They are beautiful, striking and adjust to most of the difficult climate conditions. It is very simple to set up the habitat when compared to other species. This characteristic of Veiled chameleon makes it the best choice for a beginner.
You can hold them only for relatively short period of time. If you hold them too long they may get stressed. Also, if you want to hold them make sure you give them the freedom to walk on your arms, shoulders, and head. They tend to go up to your head because they are arboreal and like to stay high.