Heating & Chameleons (tutorial)

EarthLion

New Member
Reptiles are cold-blooded creatures and this fact is often misunderstood. It does not mean that they have icy-cold blood, but rather that they have no automatic mechanism, e.g. like mammals, to maintain their blood (and hence body) temperature. As such, when cold they need to move to warm areas and when hot they need to move to cold areas.

If you keep your house at a chameleon happy temperature range, then your cham will be happy and you need not mess with heat lamps or other temperature adjusting aids. However, that could mean that you might be uncomfortable. The best thing to do is to find out what temperature is best for your cham species and then provide accordingly.

A good start is to read this paper that discusses cham temperatures.

Another factor to consider is that of metabolism. Chams are slow moving creatures (duh!) and as such do not require a warm-up like many other reptiles just to get going. However, they do need a minimum temp to digest food, which is an active chemical process that is facilitated by heat. From a review of the literature, it seems that 80 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit (27-32 Celsius) is a good temp range to shoot for. You can accomplish this with a radiative heat lamp, vis a vis, the basking spot, or by using a heated stone or other conductive heat source. The advantage of the latter is much less energy expenditure and more localized heat, the conductive surface transfers heat right to the belly. A conductive heat source can also be placed under the requisite UV source, which by nature are typically cool lamps (flourescent), to give the animal a fuller experience.
 

Tygerr

Avid Member
If you keep your house at a chameleon happy temperature range, then your cham will be happy and you need not mess with heat lamps or other temperature adjusting aids. However, that could mean that you might be uncomfortable. The best thing to do is to find out what temperature is best for your cham species and then provide accordingly.
I'm not entirely sure I understand what you mean by this. If you mean that you should find out a specific temperature that the chameleon is happy at, and set the whole room/enclosure to that temperature, and just maintain it at that, then I cannot agree with you.
Chameleons do need a RANGE of temperatures (which might be different from the 'temperature range' that you speak of). At night, the temperature should drop (most say by 10 degrees) as it would in nature. And in the daytime, the cham should be provided with a temperature GRADIENT, so that the chameleon itself can regulate its own temperature. Usually this gradient means that it is much hotter at the top of the cage (where the chameleon basks), than it is at the bottom of the cage.

Chams are slow moving creatures (duh!)
I've always felt this statement is somewhat a fallacy. Chameleons do move slowly most of the time, but I don't think this is necessarily linked to their metabolism. They move slowly in order to avoid being detected.
But when they are detected and are threatened, they can move almost as fast as most other lizards. I just have to stick my hand into my cham's cage, or spray some water onto him to be reminded of how fast he is. He also moves around quite quickly when he is hunting.

or by using a heated stone or other conductive heat source.
I simply don't agree with this. It doesn't seem natural (for chameleons) at all. But I know you'll disagree with me (and probably countless other more experienced keepers).
 

Scrappy

New Member
I will also disagree with a heat stone. Chams do not need to "heat" their belly (so to speak) to digest their food like most other reptiles do. And, I don't know about anyone else's cham, but mine certainly isn't slow. He cruises all day long.
 
EarthLion,
Why have you come here trying to start a fight. Your opinion is wrong on this subject, or you are very misinformed.

No one here debates the cold blooded nature of the animals we keep. Nor does anyone here disagree that in order to function optimally the animal must be given ample opportunity to warm their core.

I would question your generality of baking temps. Where are you gathering this information. Veiled would be at the higher end of the basking temperature extremes along with a few obscure desert dwelling chameleons, they need baking temps that push 115-120F. Your recommendation of 80-90F would suffice for say Panthers but most experienced keepers push to ~95F in the basking area. Montane on the other-hand are a completely different animal. Many do not bask at all. They often are found in very dense rain-forest environments that are a good 10 degrees lower in temp than the ambient temp above or outside of the micro-climate. These chameleons often thrive with core temps of 75F and require steep 10-15 degree cool downs at night and winter rest periods with temps as low as 32F, but for most 45F is about as low as a keeper should attempt in captivity, and then only if the cham will be allowed to warm itself back to 65F+.

Point, every species has different needs, further even within a given species, locale can make a difference in desired temp. Example is F. lateralis lateralis. If you do a bit of research you will find that their home ranges vary greatly in day/night, winter/summer temps. As a result your husbandry will be different based on locale. How do tell the difference with WC animals, you don't. Instead you provide the animal the ability to choose, gradients in temp, UV, humidity, privacy, should be the keepers primary focus. The chams instinct will do the rest for you.

Most true chameleons do not live close enough to the ground to benefit from radiant energy from the ground, stones etc. Wood is a horrible conductor and does not heat up to any appreciable degree such that a cham would rely on it to maintain core temps. Now some chameleons will bury themselves under rocks etc if temps get terribly low for extended periods but this is not the norm. As a result they have not evolved to recognize heat radiating from below their bodies. In addition the idea of heating them through their feet does not make sense b/c the amount of heat that would have to be conducted up into the body for the cham to realize he was too hot would be sufficient to burn the pads of the feet. Chameleons have very sensitive feet and their pads are not designed to hold up to heat as their would be none in the natural environment they evolved in, the spend their entire lives in trees only going to the ground to lay, or when falling from branches by accident or in defense of self.

Further energy conservation in enclosures is not IMHO a priority. Most of my animals are montane and I use simple 60-watt standard clear light bulbs for basking spots. 20 more 60-watt bulbs does not effect my household energy consumption by any appreciable amount. You seem hell bent to save 2.75$/month. Chameleon keeping is not for penny pinchers, the keepers first priority should always be the health of the specimens in their care, regardless the cost. As an alternative one could leave them in the wild where they cost very little to maintain.
 

Chris Anderson

Dr. House of Chameleons
Staff member
Reptiles are cold-blooded creatures and this fact is often misunderstood. It does not mean that they have icy-cold blood, but rather that they have no automatic mechanism, e.g. like mammals, to maintain their blood (and hence body) temperature. As such, when cold they need to move to warm areas and when hot they need to move to cold areas.
Thanks for the news flash big guy! What would we do without you here to point out the obvious to people who have successfully been keeping and breeding these chameleons in captivity for years and some of us who have studied them in the wild. You're insite is beyond compare, thank you.

If you keep your house at a chameleon happy temperature range, then your cham will be happy and you need not mess with heat lamps or other temperature adjusting aids.
Wouldn't it be spectacular if keeping and breeding these animals was as simplistic as your inexperience and most basic understanding of animal physiology comprehends? Unfortunately, you can't make a generalization across the spectrum of chameleon species, even across the spectrum of specimens within a species, of sexes within a species, of size within a species, etc. Different aged, sex, reproductive state, sized, locality and individual specimens within a species can often prefer vastly different temperature ranges. In the wild, they self regulate their body temps and in captivity, they need to for the same reason.

The best thing to do is to find out what temperature is best for your cham species and then provide accordingly.
This can give you a baseline range but you still need to provide higher and lower temperature access to allow for the variation discussed above.


Another factor to consider is that of metabolism. Chams are slow moving creatures (duh!) and as such do not require a warm-up like many other reptiles just to get going.
Again, you over simplify the physiology of these animals. They do not require the periods of many other reptiles to warm up and get going due to their surface area to volume ratio. The majority of the inner volume of chameleons is taken up by the lungs and their otherwise lateral compression yields a very high surface area to volume ratio causing them to be able to warm themselves much faster then other herps which allows them to more easily raise their body temps to achieve the needed conditions for digestion. They still need basking opportunities to complete this warming, however.


However, they do need a minimum temp to digest food, which is an active chemical process that is facilitated by heat.
Glad to see they are still a few out there learning middle-school introductory biology, thanks again for the news flash!

From a review of the literature, it seems that 80 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit (27-32 Celsius) is a good temp range to shoot for.
Generalities and guesses and ignorance, oh my! You still need to provide for self regulation and the only way to properly do so is with an effective temperature gradient. Its the same reason you need to provide UV gradients as well, these animals have evolved to self regulate to account for their individual variations.

You can accomplish this with a radiative heat lamp, vis a vis, the basking spot, or by using a heated stone or other conductive heat source.
All of the above can be used to alter the temperature of the air within the enclosure but the only way to provide the conditions needed for these animals to control their internal temps is by use of basking lamps. Also, heat stones are notorious for causing sever burns in herps and heat tape is known to occasionally short and cause injury as well (thought you were trying to avoid those?).

The advantage of the latter is much less energy expenditure
Most keepers try not to cut corners that marginalize the care of our animals. Didn't you mention something above about "your cham will be happy...However, that could mean that you might be uncomfortable"? Yeah, thought so...

the conductive surface transfers heat right to the belly.
Except that they have evolved such that they do not seek out heat in this manner since it is not a natural mechanism for heat transfer.


A conductive heat source can also be placed under the requisite UV source, which by nature are typically cool lamps (flourescent), to give the animal a fuller experience.
You seek to give the animal a fuller experience by removing their ability to self regulate their own temperature which is what they require and have evolve to do? Interesting logic...

Chris
 
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EarthLion

New Member
Fight? What fight?

EarthLion,
Why have you come here trying to start a fight. Your opinion is wrong on this subject, or you are very misinformed.
I was just trying to start some dialogue, get a feel for the level of sophistication of the local (read forum) cognoscenti, and see who is the most pompous of them all.

Frankly, I accomplished all of my objectives. Fight? I don't think so.

Finally, I like your quote, it reminds me of another by Antoine de Saint-Exupery: "You become responsible forever for what you have tamed."

...and I leave you with my favorite, by Socrates: I know nothing except the fact of my own ignorance.
 
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Chris Anderson

Dr. House of Chameleons
Staff member
The entire reason I posted was so that everyone could make me look foolish and uneducated so now I'll quote my high-school English homework and try to look less ignorant.
You're lack of fortitude is unfortunate (for lack of a better description that fits into the forum rules). At least have the self respect to try to learn something rather then sit there and pretend you did it on purpose.

Chris
 
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Jordan

New Member
Fun Fact:

Chameleons have the fastest recorded land animal movement with their tongues. Third in the world overall. A full tongues extention, back, with one chomp to secure the prey takes as little as 5000ths of a second. If a chameleon chooses to demonstrate this in front of you it can not be with an eye.



Slow?
 
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flyingpanther

New Member
Wow, this is a fun one! I guess for Mr. Earthlyin ignorance is bliss...until you get schooled by those here who have superior knowledge and experience! Although I typically come to this forum to gather knowledge, I guess some are here to look like a [email protected]$$ and provide entertainment for the rest of us!

Quick question, since winter is fast approaching and my home heating system seems to be down, can I just tape a heating pad to my head?
 

Scrappy

New Member
HA HA HA ha ha ha :D maybe you should consider a battery pack with a heat rock taped to your butt!

** also added comment....schooled ain't the word for what he got!
 
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podenbeck

New Member
In an attempt to salvage this thread so learrning might take place.
Actually the fastest projectile tongue time does not belong to a chameleon it belongs to a Plethodontid Salamander that is native to the Northwestern United States. Its somewhere around double the speed of a chameleons tongue action.

Also I think its a widely misunderstood fact that reptiles are ectotherms. That is not neccessarily true- some reptiles are able to regualte their body temperatures both by behavior and physiology. Komodo Dragons are actually more active during the morning and dusk hours explain how a large ectotherm is able to "heat up" in the morning without a way of storing energy or heat. And Painted Turtles actually overwinter at temperatures near 1 degree Celcius they do this by "regulating" their water and salt ratios. These days most scientists are calling herps "poikilotherms."

Now if you really want to get techincal you can keep these equations in mind.

Heat Energy gained=Qabs + M (+ or -) R (+ or -) C (+ or -) LE (+ or -) G
where:
Qabs= radiation absorbed by the surface of the animal
M= metabolic heat production
R= infrared radiation received or emitted by the surface of the animal
C= heat gained or lost by convection to the fluid or air surrounding the animal
LE= heat gained by condensation or lost by evaporation
G= heat gained or lost by direct physical contact of the animal with the substrate its resting on

Now Qabs=S*A*vfs*a
where:
S= intensity of solar radiation
A= surface area of the animal
vfs= view factor ( the proportion of the animal surface receiving solar radiation
a= absorbtivity to solar radiation (the proportion of solar energy strinking the surface that is obsorbed rather than reflected)

Okay with all that in mind- going back to the heat tape idea- which I agree is a bad idea- because it does not match up with a chameleons morphology. Chameleons are aboreal tree dwelling they are laterally compressed to so they are able to navigate their environment and take advantage of the suns rays. Unlike a Horned toad which is almost circular in its morphology to absorb maximum radiation from G (the ground) in the first eqaution. I ask you this are trees hot to the touch? No! They are filled with water which keeps them cool and loaded with shade from its leaves reducing direct solar radiation. A sandstone rock in the desert gets quite hot. Each species has adapted to take what it can from the environment.
 

ChameleonsTree

New Member
Wow, this is a fun one! I guess for Mr. Earthlyin ignorance is bliss...until you get schooled by those here who have superior knowledge and experience! Although I typically come to this forum to gather knowledge, I guess some are here to look like a [email protected]$$ and provide entertainment for the rest of us!

Quick question, since winter is fast approaching and my home heating system seems to be down, can I just tape a heating pad to my head?
Well i think that would look very cute and you might start a new fashion trend...although it might limit you to staying near a plug.
 

EarthLion

New Member
Rational arguments

In an attempt to salvage this thread so learrning might take place.
Yes, it is nice to see other than an ad hominem argument.

Actually the fastest projectile tongue time does not belong to a chameleon it belongs to a Plethodontid Salamander that is native to the Northwestern United States. Its somewhere around double the speed of a chameleons tongue action.
The speedy tongue is, I presume, an adaptation to accommodate an otherwise slow behavior and also to remove the cham from the immediate site of predation.

Also I think its a widely misunderstood fact that reptiles are ectotherms. That is not neccessarily true- some reptiles are able to regualte their body temperatures both by behavior and physiology. Komodo Dragons are actually more active during the morning and dusk hours explain how a large ectotherm is able to "heat up" in the morning without a way of storing energy or heat. And Painted Turtles actually overwinter at temperatures near 1 degree Celcius they do this by "regulating" their water and salt ratios. These days most scientists are calling herps "poikilotherms."

<...snip...>

Okay with all that in mind- going back to the heat tape idea- which I agree is a bad idea- because it does not match up with a chameleons morphology. Chameleons are aboreal tree dwelling they are laterally compressed to so they are able to navigate their environment and take advantage of the suns rays. Unlike a Horned toad which is almost circular in its morphology to absorb maximum radiation from G (the ground) in the first eqaution. I ask you this are trees hot to the touch? No! They are filled with water which keeps them cool and loaded with shade from its leaves reducing direct solar radiation. A sandstone rock in the desert gets quite hot. Each species has adapted to take what it can from the environment.
What we have here is differences of how husbandry is viewed, notwithstanding all the pompous indignation that has appeared over this issue. One camp desires to replicate, as closely as possible, the natural environment of the reptile. This is what you are addressing here. Since chams are arboreal and no tree limbs are warm, or better yet, no cham has ever been observed taking the afternoon heat from a limb (not talking about basking here), that this approach to warming is unnatural and hence a bad idea.

Another camp looks to science and engineering to alter the way that an animal is kept that optimizes various aspects of their environment to accomplish some goal. For example, chicken farms have become frighteningly optimized to the point that fowl are taken from chick to freezer package in a completely automated fashion. No humans actually touch them, they are processed by machines. This is why PETA was targetting KFC--the abuses as a result of this sort of system make Huxley's Brave New World a Disneyland. But I digress...

My intent is to provide my cham with a heated branch, as naturally looking as possible. This will provide a warm basking area while applying gentle heat to the abdomen that I believe will be well received. We shall see.

So, the question was never "Is this a good idea?" or "Is this natural?", but rather, "Has anyone done this and what were your results?" Needless to say, the answer is quite clear.

Are there hazards? Well, yes, the heat could be excessive. As an engineer I think I can control that--I certainly don't want Lucifer to suffer any bellyburns, in spite of his name!
 

wow

New Member
i have a question do you have a digital camera if so take a pic of your cam and set up with all of those upgrades that are suposto help the cam?
 

EarthLion

New Member
Nothing has been done yet.

i have a question do you have a digital camera if so take a pic of your cam and set up with all of those upgrades that are suposto help the cam?
Dylan,

I haven't done anything yet and only plan on one upgrade at present, which is supplying heat to the branch. I did experiment briefly with a Zoo Med "Heat Cable", but I did not like the length (12', far too much for my purpose), the wattage (50 W, again way too much), the shape (like small bore tubing) or the color, orange. What I am looking at now is a heat strip, which I plan to wrap around the upper portion of the branch for about six or so inches. At issue is what to cover it with. I really like the plastic branch as it looks and feels somewhat natural and Lucifer must like it as he uses it, as I posted before, like a "highway" through his habitat. So, I want to wrap the heat strip with something soft and brown as close to the surface of the current branch as possible. I thought of brown electricians tape, but that would introduce glue (from the edges) and I don't want to go there. Now I am thinking heat shrink tubing.

Yes, I will post pictures once complete. In fact, I am planning on setting up a webcam.
 

Jordan

New Member
Podenbeck, in referance to the tongue comment the count they count the whole process as one movement. The tongue comming out, this forces the mouth completely open, the retraction of the togue and the chomp as it comes back in all counted because it is forced by the orginal movement. Once all of these are measured and put in comparitive numbers it is then rated. The Toad Fish is number one. It lives in deep waters. When it closes it's gills it creates a weird vaccum. This forces part of the body to stretch out and lip extentsion. It only ends because the prey becomes lodged in it's mouth and the gills open other wise it would rip into peices form the pressure.

EarthLion if you want to do it then do it. I would keep a couple things in mind. One the only reason an animal like this is available to you on the open market is because of the work of countless owners before you. Over the years these techniques have been developed. Even with these techniques there is not just one way to house a captive chameleon. There are countless variation to husbandry if you are looking for something different. The key word there is husbandry. Heating in this method is not husbandry in my book.
 

podenbeck

New Member
Jordan,

I was responding based on something that I saw on the National Geographic Channel a couple months ago. So its accuracy is not the best. Buccal cavity pressure changes in fish are extremely fast that would not surprise me that they are faster. Anyway they were using high speed film and were only able to capture four frames of the salamander tongue and about ten with a chams tongue. Maybe they were just talking about terestrial species. Ill do some research to see what I can find.

After a little research I found we were both wrong. So I guess we are talking about predatory mouthparts. It appears that the trapjaw ant has the current record.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/5272094.stm

Second to the Mantis Shrimp.
I also found some quicktime movies of the Salamander in question.
http://autodax.net/Ensatinamovie.html
 
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