Click on a frequently asked question below to see an answer
Which species of chameleon is the friendliest?
There is no chameleon species that is consistently more friendly than any other. Chameleons in general are not pets that tolerate much handling. Do not purchase one under the assumption that it will sit on your shoulder all day or want to interact with you. Some chameleons do not tolerate or allow handling at all. Chameleons have individual personalities so seeing one friendly panther chameleon does not mean that all of them are friendly.
How can I tame my chameleon?
Each chameleon has its own personality and regardless of what you do it may never be tame or friendly. Holding a chameleon more when it is young does not guarantee that it will become friendly, and some will be very stressed by being handled often. Hand feeding is one of the best ways to win your chameleon's trust - this involves holding out food, without holding or touching your chameleon, until it will shoot the bug off your hand. Some chameleons are naturally more friendly than others, but you don't usually know which ones they will be.
Does my chameleon actually like me?
Reptiles lack the emotional capacity to bond with their owners, or each other. They can recognize certain people and associate them with positive experiences, such as feeding, which can make them more friendly.
Why won't my chameleon change color to match my shirt?
Contrary to popular belief chameleons do not change their colors to match any background. Instead they change colors with their moods and have a set palette of colors they can use depending on the species. A stressed or scared chameleon may display much darker colors, even black. Brighter colors are displayed during courtship, stress or sleeping. They can somewhat blend into their environment, for example by having darker tones on darker plants, but cannot change to mimic the environment exactly.
Why am I getting different advice here than from pet stores?
Unfortunately, most pet store employees are not trained on all the different species their store may carry. They frequently extrapolate the basics of reptile care they are familiar with, and chameleon care often has more unique requirements. So while the pet store employees often have good intentions, remember that they are there to make a sale, they are not experts and often have no experience with chameleons at all. It is also in the store’s best interest to promote the purchase of extra products which may or may not be what your chameleon needs.
Can chameleons hear?
If you look closely you will notice that chameleons do not have any external ear structures. They do however have some internal ear structures, similar to some species of snakes, that allows them to "hear" through vibrations. So chameleons do not hear noise in the same sense that we do, but can still be bothered by loud noises through their vibrations.
Does it hurt if a chameleon bites you?
It definitely can! Chameleons have small but sharp teeth and can draw blood when they bite. Even if they do not break the skin it can be a pretty painful pinch, especially from angry adult chameleons. If you do get bitten make sure you wash the bite well.
Should I rescue the petstore chameleon? It's in a terrible cage and looks a little sick.
This may surprise you, but it is actually not recommended to purchase these animals in poor condition. We all want to save an animal in need, but to the petstore that chameleon is just another product that needs to be sold for profit, and it's all about the numbers. If you purchase that chameleon to save it, the petstore will see that as a successful sale and they will quickly replace it with a new chameleon that will suffer under the same conditions. Nothing will encourage them to improve conditions since they can sell them to you without investing in proper care. However, if that chameleon does not sell then the store does not find that as profitable and will stop stocking chameleons in those terrible conditions. It is much better to spend your money supporting responsible breeders or even other stores that put in the effort to make sure they have healthy animals in good conditions.
Has anyone ever crossed a Jackson's and a veiled chameleon? Or a panther and a veiled?
While the imagined image of a panther chamelen with horns is neat, this is not possible in real life due to genetic differences of the different chameleon species. A veiled and a panther have been known to mate before but any eggs laid are infertile and no embryos ever develop. Even trying to mate these species is irresponsible and they could harm each other. Some very closely genetically related species have been known to interbreed, but this is very rare.
What do the numbers listed like 1.2.2 mean?
They indicate the number of animals someone has. The first number represents males, the second number females, and the third is unknown gender. For example: 1.2.2 Furcifer pardalis means 1 male, 2 female and 2 unknown panther chameleons; similarly, 2.1 Chamaeleo calyptratus means 2 male and 1 female veiled chameleons.
What do you do about your chameleons if you need to go out of town?
Get a timer for your lights (inexpensive at home improvement stores) so their schedule stays the same. If you are only gone for a day your chameleon will be okay without normal mistings and food since it is probably on an every other day feeding schedule anyway. If it is a baby or you will be gone for longer you will need a petsitter to come mist, feed and fill the dripper. Make sure it is someone that you trust that is not too afraid of bugs! The more automated your setup is the better for going out of town.
Health & Illness
Click on a frequently asked question below to see an answer
What is Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD)?
Metabolic Bone Disease is unfortunately a common disease of reptiles due to lack of dietary calcium, imbalanced nutrition and/or lack of UVB rays. Just one of these things can cause serious disease even if the other aspects are all present. UVB rays are needed in reptiles to produce Vitamin D3 in the skin, which is necessary to absorb calcium from their food. Without UVB rays from either unfiltered sunlight or a UVB producing bulb your chameleon cannot absorb the calcium you are giving it. If you are not providing an adequate level of calcium in the diet then no amount of UVB will make up for it. Too high levels of phosphorus in the diet will interfere with calcium absorption so even with good calcium levels and UVB the body would not get enough. To compensate for inadequate calcium absorption the body will pull calcium directly out of the bones so there is enough calcium for critical functions like muscle movement and metabolism. On x-rays the bones may not even show up in the end stages because there is so little calcium left. MBD affected animals (doesn't just happen to reptiles) can have bones break just by walking because they are so weak. MBD eventually kills them because the body needs calcium for many crucial bodily processes. Signs of MBD include stunted growth, bent leg bones, fractures of those bones (double elbows or knees), grabbing at its own legs, tongue not shooting as far as normal, a soft jaw, the mouth doesn't close all the way, etc. Damage from MBD cannot be reversed completely but the process can be stopped and the bones can heal if proper UVB is supplied and the imbalance of dietary calcium is addressed (see nutrition section). A vet may have to give injectable calcium to replace the deficit in more than mild cases. It is very important to address MBD as soon as symptoms are noticed to stop the damage being done.
My chameleon has something red sticking out of his/her butt. What is it?
The color red means it is some type of internal organ that has prolapsed, or inverted on itself and fallen out of the body. A prolapse is a medical emergency and needs to be addressed asap. If the tissue dies or dries out it is very susceptible to infection that can then spread to the rest of the body. If it is a hemipene (male reproductive organ) then it can be amputated if it won't stay in since they only use it for reproduction, not urination or defecation. If it is the rectum or uterine tissue that has prolapsed it needs to be reinserted and surgically fixed to prevent future prolapse. If the tissue dies then your chameleon will not survive. Keep it clean with warm water and moist with ky jelly to keep the tissue alive and get your chameleon to a vet with reptile experience. Warm sugar water can be applied to try to get the tissue to shrink but if this does not work within an hour do not delay in finding a vet asap and keep the exposed area moist in the meantime.
What is the white stuff around my chameleon’s nose?
Some reptiles have a salt gland near the nose to get rid of excess salts from their diet or water source. This can sometimes cause a crusty white buildup around the nose. It is not excess calcium (a common myth). The salts are primarily excess sodium or potassium. Do not change your calcium supplementation as the buildup is completely harmless and not a cause for concern. Check your water for sodium content and you may need to use distilled water. If the crusts bother you or your chameleon then gently wipe them away with a moist q-tip.
Do I need to help my chameleon shed its skin?
No, you should not help remove the shedding skin. Chameleon skin is delicate so if you pull an area that is not ready to completely come off it can be painful, or potentially damage the new skin underneath. All of the old skin will come off in its own due time. Increasing humidity through more frequent mistings often will help the old skin separate easier and may expedite the shedding process.
Why is my chameleon’s tongue not shooting out all the way/ missing the bugs/ not sticky?
The tongue is a delicate structure with many very fine muscles that have to work in unison so a number of problems can cause tongue dysfunction. Problems with the tongue may indicate a health problem associated with an overall vitamin or calcium imbalance or deficiency, especially with calcium. Injury of the tongue itself can occur and may cause permanent dysfunction. Infection in the mouth or tongue can affect the ability of the tongue to shoot correctly. Eye problems can also cause tongue problems as it can affect their aim. If the tongue is found hanging out of the mouth keep it moist and get to a reptile vet as soon as possible. If the tongue dries out or is bitten off it will need to be amputated.
I think my chameleon is sick. Where can I get some help?
If you are concerned about your chameleon’s health you can create a new thread in the health clinic section. Title it with the symptoms you are seeing. Copy and paste the health form and fill out all the answers in detail: Husbandry Questionnaire.
I think my chameleon is suffering or dying. What is the best way to end their misery?
Even if you feel that your chameleon is beyond help please see a veterinarian for humane euthanasia (putting it to sleep) to minimize pain and suffering. It was once thought that placing a reptile in the refrigerator or freezer was an appropriate way to euthanize them, but it is not! Freezing and/or cooling is slow, painful and only limits the ability of the animal to move, but does not necessarily numb the pain. It is considered inhumane by the American Veterinary Medical Association and this method should not be used under any circumstances.
Will Reptaid and herbal medications cure my sick chameleon?
Reptaid, Critter Cure, ReptaBoost and other similar products are herbal supplements, not antibiotics. They do not meet FDA standards as drugs and no scientific testing has been performed to prove that they are effective against any diseases or pathogens. These products are not necessarily harmful, but infections (respiratory, mouthrot, etc) need to be treated with appropriate antibiotics prescribed by a veterinarian to address your animal's particular illness.
I know which drug is used to commonly treat my chameleon's problem, can someone just give me the dose?
The dosage of a medication is not that simple. The medication prescribed depends on the type of infection, size of the animal and its physical status so one chameleon may receive a different medication than another for a similar problem based on these factors. The dose depends on the weight of your chameleon and the concentration of the medication, among other things like age, physical status, hydration status, etc. Medications should not be used without the direct supervision of a veterinarian who can prescribe the appropriate medication with the correct dosage. Using a medication incorrectly can cause toxicity or pathogen resistance.
If my chameleon is sick can I just take it to any vet? How much does that cost?
Having an experienced reptile vet is critical to treating a sick chameleon. Regular vets may not have the experience or interest in exotic animals like chameleons and may not know about them enough to be able to help you much. The cost to treat an illness varies depending on the illness and the vet, but could easily cost several hundred dollars or more. Remember this when you purchase a chameleon: don't buy the pet if you can't afford the vet. Having proper husbandry from the beginning reduces the chances of future vet visits. Check here to find a qualified reptile veterinarian in your area: ARAV - Find a vet. There may be other vets not on this list so call around locally if there is not one listed in your area.
What kind of dewormer should I use for my chameleon?
The dewormer should be chosen based on what parasites your chameleon has and under the supervision of a veterinarian. The 'shotgun' approach of deworming chameleons without testing a fecal sample first is discouraged. There is no one dewormer effective against all intestinal parasites a chameleon can get, so you may administer medication that does not treat the parasite your chameleon is affected with, or with the incorrect dosage. This could lead to resistance where the parasite evolves to be able survive the dewormer drug if not given appropriately, which can severely affect future treatment efforts. In a chameleon with a heavy parasite burden (especially with newly imported wild caught chams) deworming inappropriately can actually be dangerous even when treated with the correct drug and dosage as the sudden death of many parasites can cause intestinal blockage or an anaphylactic reaction to the dead parasites.
How can I give water to my chameleon that's not drinking?
It is very important not to force your chameleon to drink in an unnatural way because they can easily aspirate (choke) that way and it can cause pneumonia. Do not squirt water in its mouth while it is hissing or force its mouth open and squirt water in. Try to increase misting, improve the dripper, or try the shower method. If your chameleon does not respond to these but will hand feed then offer it a bug and while it is chewing on it you can slowly squirt water into its mouth at the same time. As soon as it is done chewing stop because it could aspirate otherwise.
Click on a frequently asked question below to see an answer
What can I feed my chameleon?
Chameleons are insectivores and will only eat live insects. Some veiled chameleons (and a few panthers) will readily eat vegetables and fruit as well. Crickets are probably the most widely used feeder as they are easy to get, easy to maintain and easy to gutload. Other great feeder options are commercially raised hornworms, silkworms, butterworms, phoenix worms, etc. A varied diet is key to providing your chameleon with a variety of vitamins, nutrients and enrichment. See Chameleon Food for more information.
What is gutloading and why is it important?
Gutloading is the process of feeding nutritious vegetables, fruits and grains to your feeder insects before feeding them to your chameleon. The benefits behind it are twofold; the insect becomes healthier and more robust and secondly the chameleon also ingests the small amount of vitamins and minerals that have been consumed by the fresh fed feeder insect. Supplementing with a calcium and/or multivitamin powder is important, but not sufficient alone for proper nutrition in any species. See Food & Nutrition for more information.
What do you mean by "dusting"? How do I do it?
Dusting refers to coating the feeder insects with a powdered calcium or vitamin supplement so that your chameleon gets the supplement directly when it eats the bug. Place a small amount of the desired supplement into a small bag or tall plastic cup. Add your feeder insects, cover and give a little shake until all bugs are coated. Insects need only be lightly dusted before feeding to your chameleon. Once coated simply pour the bugs into the cage or feeding cup being careful to leave any unused supplements in the original container. Some keepers have separate cups labelled for the different supplements (calcium, vitamins etc.).
Which supplements should I use and when?
Supplementation depends on the type of supplement used and the species of chameleon you are caring for. See Species Specific Caresheets for more info.
Chameleons don’t get supplements in the wild so why do we have to give them?
We are limiting our captive chameleons to one or two types of feeders that may not be part of their natural diet and we feed those few insects limited types of food. To recreate the natural diversity of prey found in the chameleon's natural habitat, a combination of extra vitamin and mineral supplements must be given.
When should I feed my chameleon?
As ectotherms (cold blooded animals) chameleons need to bask and warm up to digest their food properly. For this reason it is best to offer food in the first half of the day to give them ample time to reach the optimum internal temperature for proper digestion.
How much should I feed my chameleon?
Young chameleons should be fed every day and hatchlings can even be fed multiple times a day. Adult chameleons should be fed every other day or small amounts every day as that is how they would be feeding in the wild. The amount depends on the individual animal’s age and metabolism and what feeders you are using. See Species Specific Caresheets for more info.
Should I feed my chameleon things like pinky mice or anoles?
Vertebrates are not a notable part of a chameleon's normal diet in the wild and too many animal proteins in the diet of an animal that is not a carnivore can wreak havoc on their kidneys, which can lead to kidney damage and gout. Pinkies are very high in fat and very low in calcium so they have little to no health benefits. Gout is a very painful and incurable buildup of uric acid crystals in the joints. Everything your chameleon needs can be obtained through an all-insect diet with good gutloading and proper supplementation.
Why is my chameleon eating dirt? Is it missing something in its diet?
While it may be possible that a micromineral need is not being fulfilled by the normal diet the risks of eating dirt outweigh the benefits. A micromineral is only needed in very small amounts so it is not detrimental as long as the major vitamin and mineral needs are being met through good gutloading and supplementation. Eating dirt should be promptly discouraged and removed because chameleons have been killed by dirt causing an intestinal impaction.
Caging & Accessories
Click on a frequently asked question below to see an answer
How many chameleons can I keep in one cage?
One. Chameleons are solitary creatures and in the wild can easily just leave the area if another one is present. They are easily stressed by another chameleon being in such close proximity that they cannot escape from. Often times one will become more dominant and eat more of the food and prevent the other from being able to bask as much. The signs of this can be obvious or very, very subtle so you may not notice it until the more submissive chameleon becomes ill. If it is a male/female pair the male will be constantly placing stress on the female to mate and she will not thrive. Young sibling chameleons can only be kept together until they are several months of age then they must be separated. Pygmys are the exception to the rule here as they tolerate others of their species in a cage big enough.
What kind and size of cage should my chameleon have?
The size of the cage depends on the age and species of your chameleon. See the Caresheets for more information on your chameleon. Vertical screen cages are the most commonly used cage type as this provides good ventilation and dispersal of heat to create a gradient. Horizontal cages are not appropriate for chameleons as they are arboreal (tree dwelling) animals and need vertical space to move throughout the temperature gradient. Horizontal fish tanks especially are completely inappropriate for chameleons and should not be used. In areas of cold, dry climates especially a glass cage may be better suited for a chameleon. The glass cage should still be vertical and have ventilation at the bottom to allow for air circulation. Vertical glass cages are very heavy and very expensive and often not big enough, which is why they aren’t seen as much. That chameleons are too stressed by their reflection in the glass is a myth.
What substrate should I use in my chameleon’s cage?
Substrate is not needed for chameleons since they are arboreal (tree-dwelling) lizards and should not be spending much, if any, time on the bottom of their cage. Substrates like mulch or dirt harbour bacteria and mold due to the high amount of moisture from the cage getting trapped in it. Unsanitary conditions can lead to infection in your chameleon. It also poses a risk of accidental ingestion while eating and that can cause intestinal impactions which are almost always fatal.
Should I use a waterfall in my cage?
While they can be pretty to look at waterfalls are not very appropriate for a number of reasons. The little waterfalls are not sanitary because there is no filter to keep the water clean. Water, even trickling water, in a warm moist environment is going to grow mold and bacteria very quickly if it's not filtered or cleaned very frequently. Dead insects, poops and shed skin all add to this problem quite quickly. While the sound of the waterfall is nice (although your chameleon can’t hear it) the cons far outweigh it.
What kind of water bowl should I give my chameleon?
None. Chameleons do not and should not drink from standing water sources. In the wild they drink the dew and rain drops that accumulate on the leaves of trees. To simulate this use a dripper or automated misting system. Like the waterfall, a standing bowl of water is a breeding ground for bacteria and also a drowning source as chameleons can not swim well.
Should I give my chameleon a heat rock or heating pad?
Definitely not. Your chameleon should not be spending much, if any, time on the bottom of its cage and would not utilize these heat sources anyway. Unlike ground dwelling lizards, chameleons do not seek a warm rock to bask on. They are strictly arboreal (tree-dwelling) reptiles and seek out sun from above to bask in. Reptiles in general have underdeveloped heat sensors on their feet and bellies since they seek heat from above in the form of warm sunlight, which is why they are often burned by heat rocks. To simulate the sun, place an appropriate wattage basking bulb above and outside their cage.
Can my chameleon live with other species of lizards, frogs, toads, etc.?
While the idea of a jungle in a cage is appealing, this is discouraged for a number of reasons. It is hard enough to create an appropriate and complete microenvironment for your chameleon in such a small space without having to take the needs of another species into consideration. It is virtually impossible to meet the appropriate temperatures and humidity and environmental needs of an animal from another habitat type. Chameleons will eat things that are smaller than them without regard for whether or not it is good for them so smaller lizards or frogs may be lunch for your cham. Other animals may introduce illnesses and parasites that your chameleon may be particularly susceptible to.
Click on a frequently asked question below to see an answer
What is UVB and do chameleons need it?
UV (ultraviolet) light rays are emitted by the sun in forms of UVA, UVB, and UVC based on frequency. UVA is visible and helps regulate behavior and activity of chameleons. UVB is invisible but critical to the formation of vitamin D3 in the skin of reptiles which allows them to absorb calcium from their food. UVC is invisible, harmful and usually not present in significant amounts. Chameleons MUST have UVB light to survive and lack of UVB will lead to Metabolic Bone Disease (see health section), severe deformation and death. UVB can be given through unfiltered sunlight (UVB does not penetrate glass or plastic well) or through commercially available linear or CFL UVB bulbs. After about 6 months of use the bulbs will stop emitting adequate levels of UVB even though they are still shining so it important to change the bulbs every 6 months unless you have a UVB meter to measure its UVB output.
Which UVB bulb does my chameleon need?
The numbers on the UVB bulbs corresponds to the percentage of light that is UVB. 2.0 bulbs are designed for reptiles that receive little UVB, such as those in the lower layers of thick forests where sun doesn’t penetrate well. 5.0 bulbs are designed for reptiles that receive moderate amounts of sunlight like those in the upper levels of forests that get dappled sunlight throughout the day, like chameleons. 10.0 bulbs are designed for animals that receive high levels of unfiltered sunlight for most of the day. Either a 5.0 or 10.0 strength bulb is appropriate.
Do I still need a special UVB bulb if my chameleon's cage is next to the window so it's getting real sun?
Glass blocks over 98% of UVB rays so sitting your chameleon by the window does not provide any UVB rays unless it is open and there is no glass between the sunlight and your chameleon. The heat from the sun through a window can actually be a danger to your chameleon. A UVB bulb is necessary if unfiltered sunlight cannot be provided for 8-12 hours every day.
Can I use Compact UVB bulbs or will it blind my chameleon?
At one time there was a manufacturing problem with the ReptiSun CFL UVB bulbs so that they emitted unsafe levels of UVB and even UVC rays, which corresponded to health problems like eye problems and burns in reptiles. This manufacturing issue was identified and corrected by the manufacturer several years ago and thus we have not seen problems with it since then. The ReptiGlo CFL UVB bulbs were never associated with these harmful effects. The linear ReptiGlo or ReptiSun bulbs have never had any health problems associated with them either.
Why do I have to change the UVB bulb every 6 months even if it still looks like its working fine?
The bulbs that give off UVB rays also give off regular UVA like regular light bulbs do. Over time they slowly give off less and less of the crucial UVB until it below the limit that chameleons needs to make vitamin D. However they will still look like they are working fine because they are still giving off UVA and since we cannot see UVB rays you can't judge when that lower limit has been met. Tests with a UVB meter have consistently shown that UVB levels start to get dangerously low by 6-9 months on average for the available brands of UVB bulbs. Some last longer and some run out sooner than that, but without a UVB meter it is impossible to know where your bulb stands. Therefore it is better safe than sorry to replace the bulbs approximately every 6 months to avoid UVB levels dropping too low.
Do I need a basking bulb if I have a UVB bulb?
Yes. Reptiles are ectotherms, meaning they need to absorb heat from their environment to regulate their own body heat since they cannot produce it. They need a warm place to bask in order to digest food properly but they also need cooler places to cool down so they do not overheat since they can’t sweat or pant. A basking bulb provides warmer temperatures at the top of the cage but should not be so hot that it heats the entire cage. Your chameleon will utilize different temperature zones throughout the day depending on its metabolism and needs.
Which basking bulb should I use for my chameleon?
There are many specialty “daylight basking bulbs” available for purchase at pet stores to provide heat and suitable levels of UVA. These often cost $15+ and the exact same benefits can be gained from regular household incandescent bulbs found at grocery stores for much less. Most hobbyists use household incandescents. The wattage depends on your ambient temperatures so you may have to do trial and error to find the one that produces the temperature for you. 60watt bulbs are a good starting point.
How long should I leave the lights on?
Chameleons should have at least 10-12 hours of uninterrupted UVB and basking light every day as they would in the wild for proper metabolism. After this time they need the equivalent uninterrupted darkness, as they would have in the wild.
Should I use a night light?
Chameleons have a parietal (third) eye, which exists as a photoreceptive scale on the top of their head. This senses light in the environment and helps regulate basking and activity even when your chameleon’s eyes are closed. Light at night can still disturb them while their eyes are closed because of this. So the blue or red night lights available are not recommended for this reason. A temperature drop at night is normal and good for metabolism so unless your ambient temperatures are less than 60 degrees you do not need supplemental heat at night. Better options for night heating are ceramic heat emitters (no light) or space heaters.
Should I put the lights inside or outside the cage?
Always put any light fixtures and bulbs completely outside of the cage! Reptiles can be burned very quickly if they get too close to a hot bulb, and they will even crawl up and sit on the bulb without realizing they are being burned. The damage from a burn can be severe, even life threatening. Even when you think you have it in a safe place where they couldn't get to it they almost always find a way. Always put all light fixtures outside of the cage.
If the UVB lights mimic the sun for my chameleon, are they also really good for plants in its cage?
While some plants can grow well under the UVB and basking bulbs of your chameleon alone, the UVB bulbs are low intensity and many plants will do much better with a light better suited for plant growth. These are labeled 6000k - 6500k for the color spectrum they emit, rather than a particular type of ray like UVB, and are higher intensity for plant growth. They can be purchased from most home improvement stores.
Click on a frequently asked question below to see an answer
Can my female chameleon produce eggs even though there’s no male?
Absolutely yes. Just like chickens chameleons can produce infertile eggs as early as at 5-6 months of age even without ever being near a male . Some chameleons never will, but the vast majority of them do. It is important to monitor your female’s weight as overfed chameleons tend to lay larger clutches of eggs, which is a bigger burden on their bodies and being overweight can cause complications when she needs to lay.
When should I breed my chameleon?
It is not recommended to breed a female chameleon until they are at least one year of age. Before then they are still growing at a high rate and having to produce eggs will take calcium away from your female when she is still needs it for growing bones and other tissues.
I think my chameleon has eggs, what do I need to do to get her lay them?
You will need to provide an appropriate size and depth laying bin to encourage your female to lay her eggs. Here is a great blog with additional information and this is a video on how to set up a laying bin. If your female will not or cannot lay her eggs she could become egg-bound, which is a life threatening condition. Do not let your female go too long after she should have laid her eggs. If she appears too weak to lay her eggs get her immediate veterinary care asap. If caught in time there are medical interventions that can help her to lay on her own. If it too late she will need to have a c-section to remove the eggs, or she may not survive.
I was told that unless I mated my female that she would become egg-bound and die?
False. The ability of a chameleon to lay eggs has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not the eggs are fertilized. Some proven breeders will have problems laying eggs and some will never have problems and the same goes for the first time a chameleon lays eggs. There is no basis in this myth. Mating a chameleon too young can have significant health problems associated with it.
How can I tell if my female is gravid or ready to breed?
Their color patterns indicate if they are gravid or receptive to breeding.
How can I tell if eggs are fertile?
Unfortunately you can't tell if eggs are fertile just by looking at them, especially right after they're laid. After a month or two of incubation the infertile eggs will mold over or collapse. Further into incubation you can candle the eggs to look for blood vessels within the eggs, which will be present if an embryo is growing. The ultimate test is of course whether or not they hatch.