Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.
Chameleon fanciers are indeed fortunate that the chameleon best suited for captivity, the veiled or concave-casqued chameleon (Chamaeleo calyptratus) is also among the most beautiful and interesting of the group (it is also pathologically anti-social, but so are most of its relatives!). Turquoise, emerald green, yellow and tan, each in many shades, all find a place in this lizard’s repertoire of color changes. Male veiled chameleons approach 2 feet in length while females top out at about 14 inches.
The bony, 3-4 inch high casque (helmet-like structure) that crowns the male’s head gives the species its alternative name of “concave-casqued chameleon”. The casque of the female is much smaller.
In addition to conferring the impression of greater size upon its owner – an important consideration in territorial disputes – the casque functions as a water condensation surface. Water gathering on the casque is funneled to the chameleon’s mouth by movable skin flaps, aiding survival in the dry habitats in which this species dwells.
Ample space and ventilation are key in successfully keeping veiled chameleons. Weather permitting, heavily-planted outdoor cages are the ultimate in chameleon homes. Our outdoor aviaries are perfect …housing chameleons in this manner also offers the best chance of breeding success. Our large screen cages and terrarium top add-ons are ideal for indoor maintenance.
Feeding Veiled Chameleons
Dietary variety is an absolute must when it comes to keeping even the hardiest of chameleons, and the veiled is no exception. A diet restricted to crickets and mealworms will lead to your pet’s early demise. The main portion of their diet should be comprised of roaches, crickets, mealworm beetles, super mealworms, butterworms, waxworms, silkworms and tomato hornworms (these last two now available via internet dealers).
All chameleons become “nutritionally bored” over time, and most eventually refuse once-favored foods that are offered continually. With that in mind, I consider wild-caught insects, collected from pesticide-free areas, to be an essential element of chameleon husbandry. Zoo Med’s Bug Napper is an excellent insect trap.
Sweeping a net through tall grass and searching around outdoor lights will also yield a wide variety of tasty treats…katydids, grasshoppers, cicadas, moths, butterflies, beetles, caterpillars and other insects will all be eagerly accepted.
Nutrient Loading Feeder Insects
Food insects should themselves be given a nutritious diet before being offered to your pets. Please see my article Prepared Diets and Food Supplements for House Crickets for further information.
Leaves and Flowers….for a chameleon?
Oddly for a species belonging to a family of such highly-evolved predators, the veiled chameleon consumes a good deal of vegetation. Favored plant foods include dandelion (flowers and leaves), Ficus, romaine and the flowers of Nasturtium and Hibiscus.
Vitamins and Minerals
Adults fed a varied diet require a vitamin/mineral supplement once or twice weekly; the food of growing chameleons should be supplemented 3-4 times each week.
An interesting article on feral veiled chameleons in Florida is posted at http://www.naherpetology.org/pdf_files/208.pdf.
Future articles will cover the care and breeding of this species in greater detail…meanwhile, please write in with your questions and comments. Thanks, Frank Indiviglio.