Chameleon keeping: a guide for beginners

When you think of a chameleon attitude, you probably have directly in mind reptiles that constantly roll their eyes and adjust their color to the environment.

In this article you will find all the information you need to get started with the exciting topic of chameleon keeping.

Chameleon keeping: General

Chameleons live in the wild throughout the African continent. They can grow up to 80cm long and are reptiles.

They are also extremely good at observing the world with their eyes protruding conspicuously from their heads. The lizards can see sharply objects up to one kilometer away.

The eyeballs move independently of each other. Only when they discover something interesting, keep both eyes on the same target.

Lizards are loners. If all points of a species-appropriate attitude are considered and the terrarium has the necessary size, they can also be kept in pairs or threesomes.

If you decide on a constellation of two, you should choose one female and one male. In a three-person constellation, one male and two females are suitable.

However, you should definitely avoid confining two males in a small space. This can lead to dangerous territorial fights.

This article is mainly about the Yemen chameleon husbandry, as these are particularly suitable for beginners.

By the way, Yemen chameleons and panther chameleons are the only two species that can be kept at home. Panther chameleons, however, are something for very experienced reptile keepers.

Yemen chameleons, as the name suggests, come from Yemen. The landscape in Yemen is characterized by desert and mountain landscapes.

Chameleons have their habitat mainly on the mountain slopes in 400 to 2500 meters altitude. They live there in dry forest areas on the trees. In addition, the tree dwellers are accustomed to regular rain.

Yemen chameleon attitude: not suitable for cuddling

Chameleons are excellent for beginners of terraristics. The animals become very tame and trusting if kept correctly.

Of course, reptiles are not animals that you should constantly take out of their terrarium and carry around the area. Yemen chameleons behave on the hand but very quietly.

Furthermore you have to keep in mind that the small forest dwellers do not tolerate stress. This is especially important to find a suitable place for the terrarium.

A place that is quiet and preferably without constant public traffic would be ideal.

Chameleons show their state of mind by changing their color tone. Contrary to popular belief, they do not match their color to their surroundings. This is a common myth.

If the animals feel comfortable, they have a healthy green color. When chameleons feel stressed or want to absorb heat, they take on a slightly darker color.

If you are thinking about getting a Yemen chameleon, you should not start with a newborn. For beginners it is recommended to start with a three month old juvenile.

The reason for this is that with a baby chameleon small mistakes have a much more fatal effect. For example, if the temperature or humidity is set incorrectly, the tiny lizards will dehydrate very quickly.

Chameleon keeping: the terrarium as home

Chameleons are kept in a terrarium like most other reptile species.

The most important criteria you have to consider here are the right lighting, the setup and the size of the terrarium.

Yemen chameleon keeping: the correct lighting

Chameleons like it very warm, because they are day active sun dwellers. The lighting should be extremely bright and allow a temperature of about 30 degrees.

It is also very important that the UV lamp you use is a UV-B lamp. UV-B means that the light has a wavelength of 315 to 280nm.

These lamps get extremely hot when used for hours at a time. Therefore you have to take care to place the lamp in a way that your new little friend cannot reach it.

A distance of at least 25cm to the nearest branch is sufficient for this purpose. If you can’t guarantee this distance due to the setup in your terrarium, there are special lamp protection baskets available. So the little inhabitant does not get to the hot lamp.

Furthermore it is recommended to let the lamp shine slightly diagonally into the terrarium. In this way, a particularly warm spot and a somewhat cooler spot outside the light cone are created in the terrarium.

This way the chameleon can independently choose the best branch with the best temperature for it.

The lamp should be in operation for about 12 hours a day. At night, you turn off the lamp to lower the temperature significantly.

It is not a problem if the terrarium reaches room temperature. A chameleon easily tolerates temperatures up to 15 degrees.

You can find more information about terrarium lighting in our product guide.

Yemen chameleon keeping: the right setup

Yemen chameleons live in the wild up in the trees. They like to climb or sunbathe on the higher branches.

When danger threatens or they want to retreat, they hide among the leaves and other greenery.

When setting up the terrarium you should try to simulate these natural conditions. Get some branches and leaves and let your creativity run wild. Try to arrange it in such a way that there are a few open places for sunbathing and resting.

But afterwards do not forget to set up a place for hiding and sleeping. Make sure that the plants tolerate the tropical climate in the terrarium, otherwise you have to change the plants every 2 weeks.

As bedding you can use normal soil from your garden or buy special bedding from the pet store, for example pine bedding. It is only important that it is easy to clean regularly.

Then it is recommended to cover the back and side walls with cork or a photo wallpaper. This will prevent the chameleon from seeing itself reflected in the glass all day long.

For some animals this will cause stress situations, because they think their mirror image is a rival.

Furthermore you have to close the sliding doors of your terrarium securely. You can buy special locks for this purpose. Chameleons are curious animals and explore their environment.

If there is no lock on the door, they will manage to open it over time.

The terrarium must be at least this big

You are still a beginner, and not experienced in keeping reptiles? No problem. The required size depends on the number of inhabitants and their age. Since chameleons in nature like to climb on top of the trees between the branches, it is recommended to choose a terrarium that is particularly high.

This is the best way to place big branches for climbing.

For a single adult animal a terrarium with the size 60cm x 60cm x 100cm is suitable. If you want to accommodate a pair, simply double the size and take one with the dimensions 120cm x 60cm x 100cm.

Young animals do not need so much space yet. For young animals with a size of 5 to 7 cm a medium sized terrarium is sufficient. 40cm x 40cm x 60cm would be perfect.

If you decide to start with a newborn baby chameleon, you should buy a small block terrarium with a size of 20cm x 20cm.

In the past it has been shown that newborn animals need a confined space to thrive. They need to find a lot of food in close proximity, so they can eat enough and grow fast.

The species-appropriate feeding

Chameleons feed mainly on insects such as crickets, cockroaches and grasshoppers. As a rule of thumb, all insects that have legs are suitable.

You should avoid feeding worms though, as they are too greasy.

Now and then the animals also like to eat something sweet. Fruit is best for this purpose. Mangos, strawberries or grapes are especially welcome.

However, you should not overdo it with the fruit. Feeding fruit should be the exception rather than the rule.

The next question is when and how often chameleons need to be fed. This question can not be answered in general, because it depends on the age of the animals.

Baby or young animals must be fed daily in any case. The young chameleons grow extremely fast in their first year of life and therefore need enough food.

When your chameleon has reached the age of about 9 months and is now a semi-grown animal, it only needs to eat every two to three days.

Fully grown chameleons only need to be fed two to three times a week. The exception are females that have just laid eggs. To regain their strength they need to be fed daily.

Chameleons quickly become rachitic if they do not get enough nutrients. Rachitic means as much as underdeveloped or wrongly developed. It is therefore indispensable that you take a vitamin D3 mineral supplement. You simply dust the insects with it before feeding them.

The small lizards must of course also be supplied with liquid. Therefore you spray the branches and leaves in the terrarium with a little water twice a day. The inhabitants will come and lick it up.

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