The Nutorious Dirt question!

Hyokenseisou

New Member
The Notorious Dirt question!

So my bf got me a new chameleon (veiled, male, about 4 moths old) on the 17th. Despite the long drive home, the stress of a new home, etc, he ate a few crickets. The next day, some more. Overall, he's a great feeder and has been doing good. Poop and everything comes out good. Haven't seen him drink, but I think he does that when I'm not around.

But the last 3 or 4 days, I saw him take his first bite of his ficus plant on the cage (I have multiple small ones, couldn't find a good big one, yet) and I was all excited because here I'm thinking "yay!! so young and already knows what vegetation is and thinks it's yummy!" Right after, he ate a couple of bites from the leaf, he took 3-4 shots of dirt. So I freak out a little and do some googling. I come to this site, and read it's ok if they eat a little dirt for a snack, so long as the dirt pieces are small and won't impact.

So I've been monitoring his 'dirt intake'. And I catch him everyday since, going down to have a dirt snack, but up to the point where I'm kind of worried because I haven't seen him eat his crickets and all he's eating is dirt! When he does poop, I check it, and it's all the dirt he's eaten, but it's pretty much pure dirt, no bug pieces or whatever. But at least I know the dirt isn't impacting and it's coming out, right?

Anyways, we pretty much butt heads when I try and not get him eat the dirt. I see him going down, I march over the tank, he stares at me, is about to take a shot, and I quickly scare him to climb back up. It works, but I can't be standing next to the cage 24-7.



Today, we're 'fighting' as per usual over the dirt, he manages to get one shot off. So I'm frustrated and figured I'd sign up here and ask you all, "wtf is wrong with him?" But literally as I'm writing this thread, he goes back up and eats 2 crickets, downs 3 wax worms from his mag-natural ledge, and a bite of another ficus leaf.

So I don't know if he's eating dirt just to make me angry, or if it's just really THAT tasty!?!?
All his crickets are gut loaded with feed AND the multi-vitamin dust, as WELL as a good dusting before I let some loose in the cage.




Specs:
Terrarium: 3.5x3.5x1.7 feet
Two heat lamps, one UVB, one moonglow.
------------during the day: two heats and uvb, during night: one heat and moonglow
Temps: - 3 hydro/thermo readers
- 1st reader near a heat lamp, reads at around 80-83
- 2nd reader a foot away from other heat lamp, reads at 80
- 3rd read near bottom, reads at 72
(daytime temps, night time drop about 2-4 each, depending on how cold it is outside, yes it does matter)
Humidity: fluctuates anywhere from 60-80%

Substrate:
(from bottom up)
-thin layer of small turtle rocks, used for excess water for drainage
-mesh layer
-4 inches of 'eco earth' (coco-husk)

*edit: Diet:
-gut loaded crickets
-super worms (but only because the package was mislabeled kingworms, which I meant to get, and wasn't paying attention to the look of the actual worm)
-wax worms
-(hopefully soon) silk worms
-(will get some later today) kingworms
-the occasional ficus leaf

Vitamins:
-Repashy Superfoods: Chameleon calcium plus
-Exo Terra: calcium + D3

Furniture: (I've moved around some of the vines since that pic)
-various vines (fake)
-various vine plants (fake/plastic)
-2 small ficus plants
-1 false aralia plant
-1 madagascar dragon tree
-2 small orchids
-hibiscus plant (will be picking up today)
-medium waterfall fixture
-1 elk horn
-2 double feeder mag-natural ledges
-mag-natural water dripper
-1 large slate rock

Here's a video of him eating a leaf just yesterday: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZeNOxU1oRYg





So any suggestions as to why he's being such a goober??
Thanks!



(*edit: I also realized I spelt 'notorious' wrong... boy do I feel dumb, lol)
 

Texas Panther Man

New Member
Cover up the base of your plants with river rocks. You can buy them at hd or lowes in the garden section. Make sure you get the larger rocks so that he cant shoot and ingest one by mistake. That should cure the dirt fixation shortly. I covered one of males plants for a few months and now he doesnt mess with dirst anymore, I rotate plants and when i did i left the new one uncovered by accident. I havent seen him shoot at the uncovered dirt. So it may just be a juvie phase he's going thru.
 

Hyokenseisou

New Member
Cover up the base of your plants with river rocks. You can buy them at hd or lowes in the garden section. Make sure you get the larger rocks so that he cant shoot and ingest one by mistake. That should cure the dirt fixation shortly. I covered one of males plants for a few months and now he doesnt mess with dirst anymore, I rotate plants and when i did i left the new one uncovered by accident. I havent seen him shoot at the uncovered dirt. So it may just be a juvie phase he's going thru.
Thanks for the quick reply!
But what if I'm not a big fan of the rock look? Is there another way I can stop him from eating so much dirt?

It might be a juvie thing? idk... Pretty much all cases of dirt eating I've read have been with younger chams....
lol my bf joked "He's a kid, kids like dirt." Then a few friends I was talking to while playing games with were like "What!?! You never ate dirt as a kid!?!?"
So it really might just be a 'kid' thing to eat dirt. lol
 

ferretinmyshoes

Veterinarian
Staff member
Cover the dirt with screen if you don't like the rocks look. Just cut a circle the same size as the pot and a slit from the outside to the trunks of the plant and it will hardly be noticeable against the dirt since it's about the same color. Worked great for me!
 

Texas Panther Man

New Member
Ferrt beat me too it. Yeah do the screen thing. It works also and it is better for your plants, It allows the roots and soil to dry better.

I was looking at your info on your setup. And i think i would get rid of that waterfall. Unless its placed high up in the cage its prob going to be a trap for bacteria. As feeders and poo will end up in there. Jmpo. Good luck with the little "Joe Dirt".;)
 

Hyokenseisou

New Member
@Ferret: Not a fan of the screen look either... haha... And the plants in there aren't potted, the whole bottom of the tank has dirt and rocks (rocks underneath) and the plants planted directly. I'd rather go with the rocks. (lol sorry, I'm pretty pick about the look inside the tank as well) I think that might be the only option.

@Texas: Yeah I've been thinking about getting rid of the waterfall... I haven't really seen him drink from that or do anything with it, and I'm just constantly cleaning it.
 

kaylie

New Member
Yeah, any substrate small enough to go in his mouth needs to be covered somehow. Also, I read you have lights for night time? Your cham won't sleep with any lights on. If you're worried about temps get a ceramic heat emitter or a small room heater so his sleep won't be disrupted.
 

svinyard

New Member
So he is eating the Coconut Husk not plain dirt right? I just looked at your info sheet.

Also I'm not sure if all of those plants are non-toxic and obviously he is eating some. I would definitely double check the lists that are on here as I'm far from an expert.
 

kaylie

New Member
Also, search the forums about gutloading for more ideas on what to feed crickets for a better variety for your cham. Greens like collards, mustard, and turnip are good, as well as veggies like carrot, squash, yam, etc.
Multi-vitamin should only be given once a month so as not to overdose. Dust feeders with calcium without D3 every feeding, with D3 twice a month, and vitamin once a month.
 

Hyokenseisou

New Member
@ Kaylie: I only have a heat lamp and a moonglow at night. And depending on how warm it is, it'll be either or, or both. Lately, I've just needed the moonglow only, which is surprisingly dim I find.
And I did fail to mention, I switch off the dust between the calcium + D3 and multivits every couple days. But I will try and dust a bit less.
As far as plant matter goes, he seems to only be interested in the ficus right now. I tried offering him some other veg and tried strawberries and peaches the other day, but he could care less (the crickets were more interested than he was).

I'm trying to find a feeder breeder locally that I can get silkworms and other things from, instead of a pet store, cause the mark up on those are crazy.

I'm going to assume the carrorts, yam, squash, etc would need to be boiled so they're softer, right?

@Svinyard: Well the package says "Eco-earth", which is apparently a coco husk mixture. So yeah, not just regular dirt. The kind of 'dirt' they sell at pet stores for substrate, the appropriate stuff for reptiles.

I already double checked all my current plants with multiple sites if they're safe or not, and they are a-ok for consumption (and he's only eaten the ficus so far).

However, in due time I will be switching the other two out for larger ficus' and hibuscus, to keep the look of the tank more consistant. He doesn't like the one with lack of branches (the dragon tree) cause there's not really anything to grab onto and he is awkward about climbing it. It's kind of cute to watch actually.
 

Hyokenseisou

New Member
Sorry for the double post... But I realized that I think I might not actually have the multi-vitamin dust...
I have a calcium + D3, and chameleon calcium plus. And unless the repashy is a multi? In any case, I'll pick up up today just in case.
The repashy says to use with every feed?? And the cal+d3 doesn't say how often to use that one...
 

Silkyslim

New Member
You'll want to dust lightly with the D3 calcium 2 times a month. He should be getting most of the D3 he needs from the lighting you are providing and the bi-monthly supplementation makes sure there is enough in the body without overdoing it. You'll want to provide the multi vit about 2 times a month as well.
Calcium without D3 should be used lightly at every feeding except the times you are using the other 2.
 

Hyokenseisou

New Member
You'll want to dust lightly with the D3 calcium 2 times a month. He should be getting most of the D3 he needs from the lighting you are providing and the bi-monthly supplementation makes sure there is enough in the body without overdoing it. You'll want to provide the multi vit about 2 times a month as well.
Calcium without D3 should be used lightly at every feeding except the times you are using the other 2.
K just to double check:
Cal+D3 bi monthly, multivit bi monthly, cal w/o d3 every feeding except during the multi +/ cal+d3 dusting
Got it.

Now each time I do the cal+d3/multivit's, should I be doing those at the same time, or alternating them? ie, pick a saturday then go:
1st sat of the month - cal/d3
2nd sat - multi
3rd sat - cal/d3
4th+ sat - etc
And the cal w/o d3 sunday - friday?
 

carol5208

Chameleon Enthusiast
your cage should be completely DARK at night, even the slightest bit of light can prevent your cham from sleeping.
 

svinyard

New Member
I'd say 95% of keepers on here would recommend zero substrate other than rocks or something. Judging from your setup I'd say you have had frogs in the past and want to stick with this.

I too am a fan of the planted vivarium but it doesn't always work. Seems like it is becoming a hazard in your case...might take it out for the sake of the cham. Impaction can be pretty serious, though I'm far from an expert.

How tall is your cage? Is it really only 1.7ft high?

Oh and ditto on no lights...not natural or needed. I'm not sure how old your cham is or even what type but most can tolorate a night drop down to about 60. Montane species like Jacksons and Quads especially.
 

Hyokenseisou

New Member
I've never had frogs before actually, lol.

No the tank is 3.5 tall, 3.5 long, and 1.7 deep. I guess I had those numbersi n the wrong order.

He's 4 months, male veiled.
 

kaylie

New Member
Now each time I do the cal+d3/multivit's, should I be doing those at the same time, or alternating them? ie, pick a saturday then go:
1st sat of the month - cal/d3
2nd sat - multi
3rd sat - cal/d3
4th+ sat - etc
And the cal w/o d3 sunday - friday?
Sounds good.

your cage should be completely DARK at night, even the slightest bit of light can prevent your cham from sleeping.
Exactly. No light whatsoever at night. Even though moonglow is supposed to mimic moonlight, it is still light and needs to be off.
 

kaylie

New Member
As far as plant matter goes, he seems to only be interested in the ficus right now. I tried offering him some other veg and tried strawberries and peaches the other day, but he could care less (the crickets were more interested than he was).

I'm going to assume the carrorts, yam, squash, etc would need to be boiled so they're softer, right?
Lol this is what I meant... Feed those greens and veggies to the crickets. Whatever goes into your crickets is what goes into your cham. You could use a small cheese grater to make it easier for the crickets to eat if you want, I do.
 

junglejoe

New Member
I recomend a nice tank change.. try to orginize the cage with a few potted plants.. keep the bottom of the cage clear.. for easy cleaning.. the dirt will house bacteria very easily..all his fecies and the cricket fecies.. on top of the moisture creating mold.. i would for sure look into finding another route for the cage.. and you can use hanging plants witch will minimize his eating of the dirt....waterfall i agree as well to rid of.. they dont drink from standing nor running water besides its a haven for bacteria... lots of plants with a mister and or dripper... much safer and cleaner set up.. gool luck.. and welcome to the site...
 
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