Lots of questions...especially concerning lighting!


Established Member
I have been doing tons and tons of research over the past month about veiled chameleons and setups and lighting etc...

I am planning on purchasing a male baby veiled (probably only a few months old) from the PetSmart where I work. He is definitely not getting the complete care he needs there, and I am determined to give him the perfect home. I am going to describe my plan of action thus far and ANY thoughts or suggestions are greatly appreciated!!! (Especially about supplementation, because I've read so many different things about calcium with d3, pure calcium, multi vits., etc...and its so confusing!)

Enclosure: I am planning on either building my own or purchasing one of the apogee reptariums...and if i get one of the reptariums i was planning on the 175 gallon size.

Lighting: SO stressed about this one...i swear i read something different everywhere i look. After hours and hours of reading i was planning on using a combination of fluorescent bulbs (2) and a basking/uvb bulb. One site i was reading SWEARS on the powersun type basking bulbs that produce basking heat as well as uva/uvb. I also read that these might be too strong or intense for chameleons...especially such young ones? For the fluorescent bulbs i was planning on using a combination of the Reptiglo 2.0 full spectrum along with either the reptiglo 5.0, 8.0. or 10.0....whichever one you all suggest. THEN i read that reptisun are better, and i know they have the 5.0, 8.0, 10.0 types, but do they also recommend using them in combination with a 2.0 type full spectrum bulb (if such a thing exists by reptisun?) I guess what im REALLY wondering is about those powersun type bulbs...because they sound really cool.

Misting/Hydration: Do any of you use waterfalls in your enclosures? I tested one out at work tonight and was surprised at how effectively they worked. Seemed like a pretty good idea, do any of you have experience with them? I was also debating between a drip system or an automatic misting system such as ZooMed's Habba Mist that i saw in a magazine. I have also read on websites that you can put your chameleon on a tall plant and place them in the shower with the water pointed at the wall and bouncing off and hitting the plant and the chameleon, and wondered if you all thought that was a good idea. Seemed kinda harsh to me....but i guess some chams love it? If i did choose to ever do that i think i would wait till my cham was full grown...

Anyways....as you all can see i have many many many questions that i just don't think i will be able to answer for myself by reading website upon website. I need some expert opinions and advice...absolutely anything is appreciated. I feel that i have acquired a load of good information about keeping chameleons, but i just need some reassurance on the really important stuff. Thanks in advance for anything that anyone can contribute! :)
I would advise a good check of the chameleon. Working in the place may help you to make a good decision as you are not taking the word of someone who is just trying to sell it to you. Supplementing and lighting are good concerns to have and inquire about. I think first should be the visual check of the chameleon.

The arms and the legs are what I always look at first. These limbs are very similar to humans as we are both arboreal species by nature. With small chameleons the lower and upper portions of these limbs should be about equal in diameter. These should be straight. The muscular development differs between a human and a chameleon. Chameleons lift with their hands, a human lifts near it's core. I think the differance in preferance is related to the mid section design of the animals. This means a chameleons wrist area and ankle will have more developed muscles ultimately making it harder to investigate these areas. The humorus and femur of the chameleon are always easy to see. Lack of a lot of muscles and being the longest bones in the body make them good spots to look at when looking for bone deformities. Then check out the spine and tail. The tail should be able to roll up completely. You may not actualy see this but you will most likely see them roll it up a little. This should be a tight roll. Touching itself every where except the exact center. The casque (big pointy part of their head) should be firm. Gently with two fingers try and push the casque side to side. Should not be rubbery. The jaw is another point of interest. It should shut evenly and firmly. Now veiled among other species do look like they are frowning but lip to lip contact is what you are looking for here. Also check the whole body for bumps. Chameleons have scales but a bump is different and you should be able to tell the difference. If you are for some reason unsure about this when checking the animal use the opposite side to compare.

Dehydration is pretty common. Sunken eyes, loose skin (almost looks like veins) are good signs the chameleon is dehydrated. The feces can tell you too. It looks like bird poop. A nice black steamy turd and white urea (urine) around the area. IF the white part has any yellow to it the chameleon is dehydrated. This is not a huge concern but can play a factor if other parts of the check are suspect.

Chameleons are dinurnal. This means they are awake during the day. Eyes should be opened. They should also be alert. Scanning every where. Some older chameleons may stare a bit but this is not normal for youngsters. An open mouth can be an indicator that something is not right. Chameleons will open their mouth when they get to hot. This allows saliva to evaporate with the incoming air thus cooling the core of the animal. It can also be a sign of an upper respitory infection (URI). Other signs of this may be popping, wheezing while breathing. The mouth itself is something you want to look over if possible. Depending on the veiled's temper this may not be to hard. You are looking for white cottage cheese looking discharge. Also any swelling around the teeth and lips.
I have been observing him for the two and a half weeks we had him in. At first i was concerned because he was not eating. I offered him everything that we possibly could, and then 6 days after we got him i saw him eat fruit flies for the first time. I also saw him eat a cricket the next day. Also, his eyes seem to be open most of the time during the day, except for when i mist him. I try to mist him every chance i get because dehydration is something that i am most concerned about. When i mist him, he obviously doesn't like getting wet and always climbs to the top of his enclosure where he can hang from the screen top and shuts his eyes. I have also noticed he is a little bit shaky sometimes while he is climbing and walking around. I know that that can also be a bad sign...but other than that he seems pretty good. He seems to be growing already, when we got him in he was about the size of my thumb....absolutely tiny.
Sorry I guess I should have finished my post before submitting the response.

I would recommend a 5.0 (means 5% UVb) or higher rating for a veiled. If you plan on using a reptarium they are not know for being bright cages. They can diminish the UVb that enters the cage. I personally use reptariums I choose to up the bulb to account for the lose in the mesh (8.0 for me).

Reptisuns do have bragging rights over a repti-glo. They have been proven to pentrate deeper into a cage with the same percentage bulb. This is why there is talk over them being better.

I personally have not use mercury vapor bulbs before (powersun). I think someone else would be better to advise you on this. This seems like it is a more advance technique may not be your best option.

I use Rep-cal supplements. The brand is not as important as the content. One is straight calcium. This is supplemented because most feeders have poor calcium to phosphorus ratios. Another is calcium with vitamin D3 no phosphorus. Vitamin D3 is essentail for the absorbtion of calcium. Chameleons do synthesis this when exposed to UVB. The problem with just depending on the light is that it can never match the sun. The last is multivitamin. Used sparingly to provide access to things that your chameleon may not be getting. The calcium with D3 is an area of concern. When chameleons are little they will need more when they get older less. A young veiled should be getting this two to three times a week. When an adult maybe once a week. The multivitamin can either be given once every two weeks or monthly. The straight calcium is given any time to other ones are not used. This is at least an approach alot of keepers use and gives you something to think about.

Veileds do not usually appreciate being misted. This does not mean they need less water. Something like a Habba Mister is not a good option. Chameleons are all different in personality. Most take several minutes of misting to trigger the drinking response. A garden sprayer is a good starting device to provide water with. Fill with hot water and spray. The hot water is because it will cool when it travels through the air. This helps it not to be such a shock when it hits the chameleons skin. The garden sprayer can be sprayed continuosly which is also not as shocking to a chameleon. A typical recommendation for a veiled is 20+ minutes a day of misting. I use two long durations and a couple short ones.

A drip system is not a bad option to experiment with. Some chameleons will drink from them some will not.

Waterfalls are not really good either. In an open air enclosure they will not help humidity to much. Chameleons also like target practice when they poop and the waterfall is most likely where it will go (I am being serious they do like to aim). This means frequent water changes will have to happen, little help to humidity and almost no chameleon will drink out of it. Paying $40 for something that will utlimately become a toliet is not that good of a purchase. Crickets and other feeders are incredibly dumb. Alot will drowned in the water.

ALot of first time buyers make the mistake of waterfalls and habba misters only to be dissatified with them later on. If you look at it like this you saved $80-90 which could pay for part of the cost of an automatic mister down the line.

One thing to keep in mind with taking care of an animal like this is that you will not only be caring for the chameleon but also all the feeder insects they will eat. Some thought into gut loading and storage of these insects will be necessary. Not usually a big deal but something to consider. Many people over look this aspect.

Veileds do eat vegatation. It is advisable to use all real plants. You will have to take care of these too. Some have toxic concerns. They really do help the humidity and look better so it is well worth the extra to me.

When looking to purchase one inquire about what supplements they have been using, misting, feeders....etc... Really you work there so you maybe able to get correct information and see for yourself on some of these subjects.
What do you mean by shakey?

Rocking back and forth as he walks or shakey like an alcoholic who has not had a drink in awhile. Rocking back and forth is normal. Shakey is not a good sign at all.
Mine used to get shakey when he was hanging upside down from the screen cage. Glad to see that a PetSmart employee is doin research on chams.
You said..."I have also noticed he is a little bit shaky sometimes while he is climbing and walking around"...is he shakey or is he imitating a leaf blowing in the wind?

Background info....I have kept/breed/hatched/raised veileds for over 12 years and my females usually live to be about 6 years old and the males even older. As a matter of fact I lost one female tonight :( that has been with me for over 5 1/2 years and was about 6 months old when I got her. I will miss Miremba....she was a gentle veiled.

What I do for them is this...keep in mind that I live in a cold climate...and things may have to differ depending on where you live.

I use a regular incandescent bulb in a metal housing for a basking light...which I place to one side/corner of the cage. This helps to create a range of temperatures throughout the cage. I have double florescent fixtures over each cage as well. They house one regular florescent bulb and one Repti-Sun 5.0. The wattage of the incandescent depends on what is needed to provide the proper temperature. I don't use a basking light on veileds that are under 4 months of age as a rule...the temperature in their cages needs to be a little more moderate IMHO because their small bodies heat up and dehydrate faster than adults do. Please be aware that the UVB should not pass through glass or plastic. Also, be aware that the chameleon must be kept warm enough to be able to digest its food.

I have branches and plants in the cages to give the chameleon a place to climb and hide. I use no substrate in arboreal chameleon's cages. Some can cause impaction, some contain toxins that can kill the chameleon, etc.

I gutload my insects and feed them a nutritious diet paying attention to the amount of phosphorous, calcium, D3 and preformed vitamin A that is contained in what I use to feed them.

I dust the insects before feeding them to the chameleons with a phosphorous-free calcium powder at most feedings since most insects we use have a poor ratio of calcium to phos.

I dust twice a month with a vitamin powder that contains a beta carotene source of vitamin A. There is some controversy about whether chameleons can convert beta carotene to preformed vitamin A or not....so some people dust with a vitamin powder that contains preformed if they feel that the chameleon needs it. Beta carotene sources won't build up in the system...but preformed vitamin A can. Excess preformed vitamin A can prevent the D3 from doing its job and lead to MBD.

Because my chameleons usually only get UVB from artificial means, I also dust twice a month with a phos.-free calcium/D3 powder. D3 from supplements can also build up in the system...so don't overdo it.

I don't use waterfalls. They look pretty and sound pretty...but they are very difficult to keep germ-free. I mist the chameleons every day and use a dripper on the cages of any chameleon that is over 4 months of age every day. I don't trust the drippers on small/young chameleons.

Here are some sites that you might like to read...

Chameleons are not the easiest lizard to keep in captivity...but if you get the husbandry right, they can live long healthy lives.
Thanks for all of the replies, lots of good reassuring info. When i say that he is shaky sometimes, i mean that when he is walking upside down, hanging from the top of the cage, his arms shake a little when he reaches. So only when he's hanging upside down. Otherwise, he seems fine. I also know what all he is being supplemented with because i am the one who feeds him, when I'm there. At PetSmart we use the Herpcare calcium with vitamin D supplement....i dont know how good that is, but we do carry the Rep-cal line of products as well, maybe i should check into those. I think i am going to take some pictures of him tomorrow and see if i can get some posted on here so you all can take a look at him.
I'm bringing my camera to work this afternoon and will take some pictures of the little guy. Thanks for all of the info....anyone else have any opinions they would like to share?
Here are a few of the better pictures that i took tonight. If anyone has any opinions/suggestions feel free....i appreciate it! I also have many more pics...so if you think a different angle or pose would tell you more, just let me know. Thanks!


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Good to know! I just wish he would eat more...he rarely eats! Unless i'm just not watching him when he does it, he is very shy....but it seems like i am ALWAYS peeking at him! I'm glad to hear that he looks healthy, but i think i am going to hold off for a little while longer and not buy on impulse. I am planning on taking my time setting up a really nice enclosure and then ordering a panther from kammerflage. Panthers are my true weakness! :)
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