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Interesting Facts and the Care of the Senegal Chameleon

Today we’ll take another look at those oddest of lizards, the chameleons (Family Chamaeleonidae), followed by some tips on the care of the Senegal Chameleon (Chamaeleo senegalensis).

Eyes

The cone shaped torrents that enclose the chameleon’s eyes are actually made up of fused, overlapping sets of eye lids.  By covering all but the eye’s pupil, they offer excellent protection to this most important organ.

Chameleon eyes contain far more visual cells than do our own, and can be rotated 180 degrees.  Uniquely among all animals, the eyes can focus either independently (on different objects) or together.

Vision, Learning and Hunting Accuracy

When a chameleon focuses both eyes on an insect, it hits its target 9 out of 10 times.  In laboratory situations, accuracy falls to 0 when 1 eye is covered.  However, by the second day hunting accuracy rises to 20%.  On day 4, the one-eyed hunters successfully capture insects on 50% of their attempts.

Senses of Hearing and Smell

Chameleons do not hear well …like snakes, they detect air vibrations and low-pitched sounds only.

The Jacobsen’s organ, which allows many other reptiles to “smell” chemical particles in the air, is vestigial (much reduced) in chameleons.  It is therefore assumed that they do not detect most odors.

Distribution

Madagascar is the center of chameleon diversity, with over 75 species, many endemic, living there.  Neighboring Africa, despite being vastly larger, boasts only 100 or so species.  Only 2 species make their homes in the Middle East, 2 in Europe and 2 in India and Sri Lanka.

At least 2 species of chameleon have established feral populations in foreign habitats.  The veiled chameleon (Chamaeleo calyptratus) thrives in Florida, Hawaii and Mexico, while the Jackson’s chameleon (C. jacksonii) has been breeding on Hawaii since the 1970’s and has recently been discovered in California.

The Senegal Chameleon, Chamaeleo senegalensis

Hailing from tropical West Africa (Senegal to Cameroon), this dark-spotted, tan to olive chameleon inhabits brushy savannas and forest edges.  Often abundant and easy to collect, it has long been a pet trade staple.

Some Cautions

Despite its long history in captivity, the Senegal does not breed regularly, and presents some problems as a pet.  Wild caught specimens should be avoided, as they are usually heavily parasitized and afflicted with stress related ailments.

Captive Environment

Senegal Chameleons need quite, heavily planted screen cages or an outdoor aviary , abundant UVB radiation and should be kept well-hydrated via frequent spraying or the use of a mister.  An ambient temperature of 76F with a basking site of 85F and a nighttime dip to 69-70F suits them well.

Breeding

If you are lucky enough to obtain a breeding pair, you’ll have your hands full…healthy females may lay 20-70 eggs at a time, twice each year!  Incubation time averages 6 months at 77 F, and sexual maturity may be reached by 5 months of age.

The Smooth Chameleon

The range of East Africa’s Smooth Chameleon overlaps that of the Senegal in Cameroon.  Formerly classified as a subspecies, the smooth chameleon has now been given full species status as Chamaeleo laevigata.

Male Chameleon in Madagascar image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Mbz1
Veiled Chameleon in Madagascar image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Billybizkit

77 comments

  1. avatar

    I HAVE A JACKSON’S CHAMELEON.I NAMED IT LIL’ MIKE

  2. avatar

    Are the Snegal chameleons easier to take care of then the jackson and veiled

    • avatar

      Hello Konnor, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for your interest in our blog. Senagals can be fairly hardy, but only if captive bred. Unfortunately, most offered in the US trade are wild caught, and carry heavy parasite loads. Jackson’s are more often, but by no means always, captive bred but need a great deal of space. I would suggest a Veiled…hardiest of the chameleons, usually captive bred, and not as prone to stress related diseases. Please see this article for more info and feel free to write back.

      Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

      Happy Holidays, Frank Indiviglio.

  3. avatar

    Hello, my boyfriend and I are proud owners of a pair of Senegal Chameleons. When we first got them, one insisted on being close to the other (no names, we’ll just call them one and other) even though it was obvious other was uncomfortable to the point that other would stress out and turn completely black in color. One however did not care, it persisted. Especially at lights out. One immediately would go to other and proceed to hold others tail and sleep. Other apparently is now accustomed and together is how they sleep at night. Every night. :) Just thought Id share.

    • avatar

      Hello Sandra, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for the most interesting post. Chameleons have very complicated social behaviors, and we have much to learn. One of the main impediments to captive breeding, in zoos and the private sector, is the difficulty in establishing pairs and groups. Please keep notes and continue to write in with observations…I can’t recall reading anything like you’ve described; it could be very significant.

      Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  4. avatar

    Hi, i have been thinking about buying a Senegal chameleon and i was wondering about the health risks.. what exactly are they and how common are they in this species?

    • avatar

      Hello Zach,

      Thanks for your interest. One difficulty is that they are relatively easy to collect, but not to breed; therefore, many in the trade are wild caught. Wild caught chameleons are always heavily parasitized and usually suffer stress related ailments (depressed immune system) related to collection and shipment. Even with veterinary assistance, many do not do well. I suggest you search out a private breeder as opposed to a pet store, unless the store can guarantee that their stock is captive bred.

      Other than that, the main considerations are providing a large enough cage, high levels of UVB and a varied diet…2-3 different food items will not suffice.

      Veiled chameleons are usually a better choice; please see here for further information.

      Please let me know if you need any further information. Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  5. avatar

    Hi i just got a sengal i notticed in your blog that you said something about them and live plant but just before that you were talking about veiled and was wondering if which one didnt eat plants? Also above you said something about 2-3 food items not being enough what would be some good things to feed it? Thank you.

    • avatar

      Hello John,

      Thanks for your interest. Senegals do not eat plants, as far as we know. Live plants are useful, however, to provide sight barriers and a sense of security; chameleons rarely do well in open, bare terrariums. Please let me know if you need more info on setting up the enclosure.

      Variety is very important; supplements are necessary as well, but always try to provide as many food species as possible. This article on Chameleon Diets lists many options; I hope it is helpful; please write back if you have further questions, and let me know how all goes.

      Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  6. avatar

    Can you put a Senegal Chameleon in with Anoles? We were thinking about getting my son one, because of there size we were wondering.

    • avatar

      Hello Roy,

      Thanks for your interest. Unfortunately, they should not be housed together. When related animals from different parts of the world are kept together, parasites/micro-organisms that are relatively harmless to one sometimes prove fatal to another (similar to tourists becoming ill after drinking tap water in foreign countries).

      A Senegal Chameleon may also eat a suitably sized anole. Other problems include differences in feeding styles, which make it difficult to ensure each receives a proper diet, distribution of basking sites, stress generated by a potential predator, even in absence of aggression, etc. Chameleons are best housed alone. Groups of anoles can work, given enough space. Please see this article for details, and feel free to write back.

      Please let me know if you need any further information. Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  7. avatar

    Thank you for your knowledge. All together we have six lizards and take pride in careing for them all and having knowledge to do it properly. We have a four and a half foot female Iguana(our big baby),two Leopard Gecko’s one is elbino,two Anole’s,and one Long Tail Lizard. We love them all.

  8. avatar

    Hi, My name is Heidi. I just got a Graceful Chameleon. I have no idea if it is a male or female. However I named it Dio. Dio is a very vibrant lime green and so beautiful! I haven’t been able to find much information on the species itself other than just basic care facts. I’m more interested in learning about the Graceful Chameleon, like how did it get its name? and if they will eat any plants or greens? Any info at all would be great.
    Thanks!

    • avatar

      Hello Heidi,

      Thanks for your interest. They do not take greens as far as I know. Several species have surprised us recently by eating some greens, but in general they are carnivorous. Dietary variety is extremely important. Please see this article for suggested foods and supplements, and general care info. Do not handle the lizard unless necessary, as this is very stressful to them.

      Graceful Chameleons experience a dry season in the wild, but captives do best when kept under high humidity. They will not drink from a bowl, need to be sprayed often.

      I’m not sure about the common name…I’ve not noticed that they are more (or less!) graceful than others. This article will provide natural history info.

      Chameleons are rather difficult pets for those without a good deal of experience; please write back with details as to temperature, UVB light, diet etc, and I’ll be happy to review with you if you’d like.

      Please let me know if you need any further information. Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  9. avatar

    Should I be alarmed? I took Syklone out to get some sun he started to…it looked like dancing then next thing I know he snatches up a spider. I don’t know what kind it was but he ate it and now he has his mouth is a tiny crack open and he sits under his heat light and closes his eyes. He is also a green color with brown spots. :/

    • avatar

      Hello,

      Chameleons eat a variety of spiders in their natural habitats, but they likely have evolved the ability to avoid dangerous species. There is a chance that the spider yours ate delivered a bite. Unfortunately, without an ID, and often even with an ID there’s no way to know what to expect.

      Sorry I could not be of more help, but we know very little about the venom of most species, and nothing of the effects on lizards.

      I hope all goes well. Please keep me posted, Best, Frank

  10. avatar

    Thank you so much and I think it was a jumping spider he ate I took a picture of what he looks like right now

    • avatar

      Hi Susana,

      Thanks for the update…you would have noticed serious symptoms by now had he been bitten, so I believe all is fine. Wild invertebrates, other than spiders, can be part of your pets diet and will provide important nutrients; please see this article for some ideas and let me know if you have any questions.

  11. avatar

    Hi Im Jayden. My little brother got a Senegal chameleon 2-3 days ago for his birthday. He named it Franklyn, but I don’t know if Franklyn is a girl or a boy. Everything says that males have a bulge at the base of their tale, but I dont know what the bulge looks like to decide the sex. I looked at Frank, and all I saw was a horizontal slit. Is it a girl or a boy?

    • avatar

      Hello Jayden,

      Thanks for your interest.

      The slit (opening of the cloaca) looks the same in both sexes. The bulges will appear just behind this slit in males. If the area is flat, you likely have a female or a young male (bulges appear at age 5 months to 1 year).

      Chameleons are fascinating but are quite demanding in their needs; a diet of 2-3 types of insects will not do. They also need high levels of UVB radiation, proper vitamin/mineral supplementation and plenty of room with lots of foliage to hide behind. They should not be handled at all, as it is very stressful and will lead to health problems. Please see this article on Chameleon Care and this one on Senegal Chameleon Health Concerns (please pay special attention to the section on dehydration).

      Please let me know if you need any further information. Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  12. avatar

    Im concerned for his health. He hasnt been moving, let alone eating. We have 6 crickets in his cage right now, and theyve been the same since we’ve gotten him. I mist his tank regularly. I didnt know that he wasn’t supposed to be handled. We have a red and 2 white lights, and a plant and some fake branches. My dad bought him off craigslist, and he said the guy had about 21 other baby senegals in there too. My dad says that if Franklyn doesn’t make it, he’ll buy a veiled chameleon. The senegals are very fragile- I learned from experience- and are the veiled any less fragile? Are they almost the same health wise to the senegal? He seems to sleep A LOT!! We keep the 2 white lights off in the night and only keep the red one on. I dont know why he sleeps, that’s all he’s doing when I look at him.

    • avatar

      Hello Jayden,

      Sorry for the bad news. Please send some info on day/night temperatures and tank size, so that I can get a better idea of the set-up. You did not mention UVB light – this is critical to their health. The plants need to provide complete security – if forced to remain in the open, on view, the animal will be stressed. Unfortuneatly, Craig’s List is not the best way to go about purchasing a lizard of any type, especially if you are new to the field. Chameleons do not ship well, and you need to see the animal and speak with a competent expert before making a choice. Your lizard may be afflicted with parasites, dehydrated or suffering from any number of ailments…a vet visit is your best option. Please let me know if you need help in finding a local vet with reptile experience.

      Veiled Chameleons are somewhat more hardy, but far from ideal. They and other chameleons are best suited to advanced hobbyists who have a great deal of experience with a wide variety of other lizards; even in zoos, most give us trouble. Please bear in mind the notes concerning feeding, in the last article I sent – without a highly varied diet, they will not thrive. Crickets and mealworms alone are not suitable.

      You would be much better off with a Leopard Gecko or perhaps a bearded dragon (assuming you have space and are willing to provide high levels of UVB and very warm temperatures. I would not suggest getting a Veiled Chameleon; please let me know if you need further information.

      Best, Frank

  13. avatar

    Can a male senegal breed with a female Jackson chameleon? Oh and the female is a bit bigger than him?

  14. avatar

    I got two senegeal chameleons at the expo a mouth ago, not knowing much and in a hurry didn’t ask as many questions as i should have. When i went back to where i got them the people that i got them from was very rude to my questions. (how old were they, how do i tell their sex, how big will they get, at what age do they become sexually active, etc. Can you answer some of these questions? Where can i find a good reference book on them for future references? I’ve had them for a little over a month now and they seam to be doing good i’d like to keep it that way , the people i got them from must be in it for the money not the quality or well being of the pet. Thanks for any info… Brenda

  15. avatar

    I.m hoping you or someone out there can help, my male (i think) Senegal chameleon is not looking very good. He used to move all over the cage, now he has a dark, almost black color around his mouth and his tail & back legs.,, what is it and can anything be done to help him? He used to eat from my fingers and now won’t even come to me like he used to. I think he looks very dehydrated as well ,any suggestions that may help would be greatly appreciated….. Thank You ! Brenda

    • avatar

      Hello Brenda,

      Unfortunately it’s not possible to diagnose the problem based on those symptoms, as they are common to so many ailments. You’ll need to have the animal seen by a vet. Please let me know if you need help in locating an experienced reptile vet,

      Best, Frank

  16. avatar

    I started to mist them very heavy and that seems to be helping a lot. I wonder if the problem may be that my fogger quit and i was waiting for the company to send me another one they went with out it for about 3 maybe 4 weeks. Or if it is that i have the two of them in the same cage and it’s time to separate them and give them their own space what do you think? Will wait for your reply.. Sincerely Brenda

    • avatar

      Hi Brenda,

      Dehydration is a common problem, so that may be involved. Re the 2 together, a dominant individual can stress another just by its presence…actual aggression may not be apparent. In some cases, just the sight of a dominant animal in a different cage, but in the same room, can cause stress, immune system decline etc. In general, chameleons always fare better when kept alone. best, Frank

  17. avatar

    Thanks, I separated them this afternoon and can already see a difference, still skinny but we will see what happens. I also have two baby veiled boy/girl was told they were 3 weeks old when i got them on 4-10-2013. At the moment i have them in the same cage too.. The one i think is a girl is much smaller and seems to be a bit intimidated by the one i think is a boy, Whats your feedback???????????? Brenda

    • avatar

      Hi Brenda,

      I’m not sure how the seller could have sexed them, as this is generally not possible until they become sexually mature. In any case, they are rabidly antisocial, as much or more so than other chameleons, and are best raised alone. Here is an article on their care, pl let me know if you need more info.

      enjoy, Frank

  18. avatar

    are you talking about the Senegal or the veiled As far as telling the sex ? I guess i am a little confused as far as your advice. Please let me know, Thanks, Brenda….

  19. avatar

    Sorry i forgot say that the senegal chams are about 6 mos. and the veiled are about 7 weeks now, when should i separate them and what size cage do you recomend?

  20. avatar

    Hello Frank, are you talking about the senegal chams or the vailed not being able to be sexed at an early age? The male senegal (i think) died a few days ago, the other (girl i think) is doing real goog! As far as the vailed- the boy is getting big fast, the girl is catching up though. The girl has been seen hissing at the boy They are about 7-8 weeks now. At what age should i separate them and what size of a cage would you recommend for both species ? I realy don’t want to spend alot of money on cages so I’m really looking for the size of cage they will need when they get to be adult size, Thank you so much for your advice …. Brenda

    • avatar

      Hi Brenda,

      Veiled chameleons are easier to sex than other species, as the male’s casque will be larger than the female’s even before adulthood. Senegals may be sexable by age 6 months,, but some take longer to mature.

      Veiled chameleons are especially solitary and should be separated as soon as possible. Even absent actual fighting, the mere presence of another will cause constant stress, not apparent to us, that will weaken the immune system. This leaves them open to attack by the many parasites, bacteria etc. that are always present.

      There’s no way around spending money when it comes to chameleons, although those handy with tools can save by building their own cages. Screen cages are superior to aquariums, This one would be the smallest you should consider for an adult male veiled. Females and senegals might get by in something a bit smaller, i.e this cage.

      Glass aquariums of the same or larger size as above can be used, by they provide less air circulation, which is critical to the health of most species.

      Please let me know if you need further info, enjoy, Frank

  21. avatar

    Hello Frank,

    We live in Dakar, Senegal and have been recently given a Senegal Chameleon that we named Stretch. We do not have many pet stores here and I am unsure if we will be able to purchase any live prey for Stretch. Is there any type of pellet that he may eat or should we just plan to try to catch local prey for him ourselves ? Houseflies, Mangoflies, ants, crickets roaches etc.? Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks

    • avatar

      Hi Owen,

      They will not take non-living food; wild-caught insects are an ideal diet, assuming you collect from relatively pesticide free areas, and avoid stinging, toxic species. Moths found around lights are also fgood, in addition to those mentioned. It ill also need exposure to sunlight (unfiltered…glass and plastic filter out essential UVB rays) in order to manufacture Vitamin D3 in the skin. Screen cages are best for this, but watch out for overheating. provide a large cage, plenty of shelter, and do not handle the animal…very stressful even if they do not seem to react strongly to this. Please see this article for a bit more, and let me know if you need any further info.

      Enjoy, Frank

  22. avatar

    My husband has a baby rat snake, and he was told not to put a heating rock in the tank with it. That a heating rock does not heat up right, and can burn the snake. He was told to put a heating pad in the tank with him. Or would a heat light work? It is a 29 till tank with a lock down lid. He thinks it would get to hot inside of the tank for the snake What would be the best for the snake?

    • avatar

      Hi Brenda,

      Yes, avoid hot rocks; heating pads within tanks are also not advisable. A 50 wt spotlight in a 29 gallon tank should be fine; please see this article for further info on various rat snakes. Monitor temps with a thermometer…see article for details. A 25 wt may be enough in summer if your home is particularly warm, or you can just reduce the time that the 50 wt is on. Normal room temps during the warmer months are fine. Black/red night lights can be used in winter if need be. Please let me know if you need more info, enjoy, Frank

  23. avatar

    hi Frank, my name is Lindsey, I have a Senegal, Karma. she is still young and I am collecting information to breed her in the next few yrs, as I know that breeding often shortens the life span. she is about 8 months, WC but healthy. she has yet to lay any eggs, and actually enjoys(a lot) watching the guppies, which were with her a few months ago. due to a move she’s in a full screen cage but I have a plant wall almost complete for her which will be over the fish tank, with plants that are semi-aquatic so she can sit and watch the fish. anyway to get to my actual point of this post, whould you be able to send me information on breeding Senegal to help aid my research on a successful breeding of senegal chameleons? Also any info about getting into reptile breeding would be of great intrest to me aswell. I am looking at joining the reptile breeding world but am in the research/planning stage. The main thing I am looking for is what the general interest is, I enjoy sharing my interest and knowledge of animals and am looking for a outlet. Breeding allows me to work with the animals, which I both love and find very interesting, as well as be able to find that perfect pet for the perfect family.(I worked in 2 different pet stores and worked with kids for 17yrs, both the same thing in my mind, African Gray Parrot = 2 year old child) anyway, any advice, tips or scarecrow point in the right direction would be of great interest and help! Thank you,
    Lindz

    • avatar

      Hi Lindsey,

      WC Senegal females are difficult to acclimatize and breed. If she’s doing well, best to have a vet run fecal tests as she’ll likely have a heavy parasite load. Calcium deficiencies are common, and inhibit egg laying (muscles cannot contract properly); but avoid over-supplementing, especially early on. A wide variety of food items, as described here, is essential. Hydration is extremely important as well; please see this article for further info:
      http://blogs.thatpetplace.com/thatreptileblog/2012/02/28/senegal-chameleons-and-related-species-common-health-problems/

      If you are able to obtain a male, and they get along, successful breeding will be most likely if you cycle temperature, light and humidity in tune with what occurs in their habitat..not always essential, but best results are had with other species when this is done. A suitable nest site is essential…let me know when you need info on setting up the deposition site.

      I worked for animal importers and breeders in NYC many years ago, but have been in zoos and museums for most of my adult life; unfortunately I’m out of touch with the reptile breeding business as it operates today. from what I’ve seen on the internet and at shows,I can’t imagine how anyone makes any money at it..so many people supplying the same creatures!

      Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted, Frank

  24. avatar

    Hi Frank,
    Sorry for not replying on the blog, I am use to automatically responding in email. Thank you for the information it is very helpful. As I said the senegal breeding project is still in planning stage, (I am in canada) I’m looking at a pair in sept at the canadian breeder expo, if I do find a pair I am comfortable with I will be letting them settle in and get all of them to know one before progressing to the breeding stage of the plan. Right now I have another project that is in the works, I have several tadpoles from the Gray/Bruce area (Georgian bay & Lake Huron) and I am in the process of finding out about a licence and permit to breed and sell them, as they are all native species but not on the endangered list. Another idea I had that is in conjunction with this project is breeding speices from the endangered list, although I do not know how I should go about that. I’m going to be contacting the Ministry of Natural Resources tomorrow when the office is open, any ideas about this idea would be great insight. I am unsure if I should contact Toronto Zoo about this project to see if it is a workable idea. The reason for this idea is that the endangered amphibians in my area, the children always bring me the ones they catch to show me and several have been on the list (the children usually release them back into my wood pile at my trailer after showing me). Again still in the research/planning stage of that idea.
    Thanks again for any information, it is all very useful and insightful for me! :)

    • avatar

      Hi Linsey,

      Thanks for the feedback.

      The Ministry of Natural Resources seems like a useful firs step, but I’m not familiar with the process in Canada. The Toronto Zoo is, as I recall, a member of the American Zoo Association and so would be bound by that org’s numerous rules regarding cooperation with non-member zoos and individuals. But someone in the reptile dept might be able to point you towards other organizations, etc.

      You might also check this list of Canadian Herpetological Societies…these are private individuals with an interest; some clubs are very active in conservation work and breeding.

      Best, Frank

  25. avatar

    Dear Frank, The last time I wrote to you I was having a problem tiring to figure out what was going on with what I think was my male Senegal chameleon , unfortunately he did die. Now the one that I have I think is a girl seams to have a swelled spot on her face, it is only on one side. I do not know how/what is going on or what to do, if anything. She is a very sweet chameleon, I’ve taken all of mine to the local pet store where they said they could not believe that I could handle them and they did not turn dark, and they did not bite at me. They stayed a green color. My Senegal is about 9 mos. old now. I also have two failed (boy &girl) . They are about 3 1/2-to4 mos. old now. I do not know what they will eat when they get bigger, so any and all info you could give me would great! I want to do the best that I can for them as they can not tell me what their needs are and what is best for them. Any info you can give would be of great benefit for them and me… Sincerely, Brenda

    • avatar

      Hello Brenda,

      Swellings can’t be diagnosed w/o a vet visit, unfortunately; can a simple cyst that will resolve, a parasite, infection, tumor, etc. Safest course of action is treatment by an experienced vet. The most impt key to keeping chameleons is obtaining captive bred stock…best done through private breeders; check kingsnake.com; shipping is stressful, so a local breeder, if one is available, is best. Wild caught individuals always have parasites and health issues.

      Large cages with plenty of plants and other cover, one for each animal, are critical. Also proper temps, UVB exposure, humidity, etc. Please see this article and send along some specifics as to your set-ups if you’d like further info.

      Diet must be highly varied..2-3 insect species alone will not keep them in good health long term. please see this article and let me know if you need more info. they are difficult captives, and really not suited to most private collections, unfortunately.

      Please understand that chameleons do not always exhibit signs of stress by changing color, threatening bites or trying to escape. Each activity drains precious resources…if the animal is already weakened by internal problems, it may appear quite at ease. However, handling is never a positive factor and should be avoided at all costs. Taking the animals to a pet store or elsewhere, unless absolutely necessary, should never be done. The fact that the pet store staff did not point this out to you is troubling, and indicates that you should not rely on their advice w/o checking further.

      I know it is very tempting to treat them as “pets’, but it’s impt to realize that they are animals to observe only…reptiles, especially chameleons, get absolutely nothing from human contact (other than food etc!). Please take my advice on this, I’ve been in this field since 1969…handling will weaken the immune system in ways you cannot see, and will shorten their lives . If you’d prefer a handleable species, look into a bearded dragon or leopard gecko…neither “needs” human contact, but most tolerate it with little ill effect.

      Please send me some care details and I’ll look over and offer some ideas, best regards, Frank

  26. avatar

    Hello Frank, All together I have three chameleons , A boy and girl vailed and a girl segneal. They are all in Repti-Breeze cages .The failed chameleons I have in the extra large cages and the segnal is in a large with a dubble light and a little dripper on each cage. I also have a Repti-fogger on the two bigger cages.For the last few days I have been picking the segneal up and litterly putting a criket in her mouth, and misting her often. I also have been pushing on the side of the face and getting a yellow/pus type stuff, she seems to let me put a cricket in her mouth and not spit it out after doing this. She is interested in food but I think what ever is causing her mouth to swell is hurting. She seems to not be able to or maybe it hurts to put her toung out to get food. I hope that this bit of info will give you enough to better informe me on how to deal with this, I only have the best interest for my animals well being, (they can not tell us, but it would be great if they could……) I will look forward to hearing from you soon.. Sincerly, Brenda

    hello

    • avatar

      Hi Brenda,

      Repti-Breeze is a good choice, as air circulation is impt; always use the largest sizes possible, keep separate…even the sight of another can be stressful, so use a visual barrier if you notice interactions.

      Yellow fluid indicates a definite infection; this will eventually spread unless treated with appropriate medication; can quickly become fatal once it spreads; physically expelling as you are doing will not cure the problem. please let me know if you need help in locating an experienced vet. Feeding is not a major concern at this point; best to focus on finding a vet and treating.

      Please review diet info as well, and let me know if you have any questions.

      Best regards, Frank

  27. avatar

    Hi Frank,

    Thank you for your quick respons , I will call around in the morning to see if I can get her in to be looked at. Do you think they would puy her on an antibiotice ? I do have all of my chameleons in seperate cages, also with a barrier that they can noy see each other. I know that it is a no..no.. to take your pets into a pet store, ( I remove my shoes and spray them down when ever I do go to the pet shop) , But I did take them in to have them look at them and tell me if I was right as far as their sex. According to their reptile guy I was right. He also made the coment to me that I was the first customer to come in with chameleons ,willing and able to pick them up with out getting bit. He also said that they must be confortable with me handling them because none of them became black or dark in color. Is this true or is this guy just saying what HE thinks? Look forward to your responce , Brenda

    • avatar

      Hello Brenda,

      Antibiotics are the usual course for infections, but details will depend on what the vet finds upon examination.

      The main concern re the pet store is not picking up pathogens; this would not be likely after a simple visit. It’s the fact of transporting the animals; most rely on detailed knowledge of their environment to survive…especially those that have only camouflage to protect them from predators. removal is stressful; then there’;s the extremely unnatural situation of being picked up, put in another container, driven to another place etc..no way to process that other than as a threat. Many species adjust, and there are individual differences, but handling is always a negative for chameleons.

      The ‘color change-bite” concept is commonly put forth…you’ll see it on the web all the time. Stress does not always in induce these behaviors, especially with chameleons; in many cases not moving, not changing color is a response to fear; again…all use resources, energy…animals not in the peak of health may be unable to respond, or may not do so to conserve energy. research (blood samples) has shown that stress hormones, chemical messengers, heart rates can be racing even though an animal appears calm…especially true for reptiles.

      Please keep me posted, Best, Frank

  28. avatar

    I am needing to let of some foggers to kill the fleas in our house. My husband thinks that I should cover the chams cages like i cover the fish tanks, I know that I need to take all of my animals out of the house while doing this but I’m concerned I do not want to harm my chams . I lost both my senegal chams and do not want to lose my 2 vailed too. Do you have any suggestions or advice in this area. Any advice that could give me would be greatly appreciated…. Thank You soo much.. Brenda

    • avatar

      Hi Brenda,

      Much depends on concentration, type of insecticide, etc., but removing the animals and tanks is always the safest option. Relocating chameleons is usually stressful, but no way around that in this situation. Cover the terrariums with something when you move, so that the animals can not see out…this will help.

      Just as an aside…In zoos we always use licensed pros for pest control..more expensive, but generally much more effective; companies servicing homes will also have likely have had experience with pet situations. I hope all goes well, Frank

  29. avatar

    Hi Frank, Brenda here. I did fog our home with no bad effects on any of the animals. It did kill all the house spiders and flies and what ever other critters in side, just not all the fleas. I’m sure I got some, I.m just going to have to do it again before it starts to get too cold- we live in .Michigan. As with my chams I can’t believe that they grow so fast. They are so cool, I do handle them but not often. And I rarely let anyone else handle them. They are mostly handled and feed only by me. They seem to more nervious around other people . They are about 7-8 months old now. When they get bigger what do they eat? The pet shop said “just crickets”, and some plant, I.ve already seen that (the plant) as I put one in with Zenya and she ate the whole plant! I also bought some dubas? the roaches , i was told that i could put them in with the crickets and to get them to mate i should put a sliced 1/2 orange in the cage, I don’t know if this is true or not. I was also wondering if i could put a couple of grass hoppers that i caught in the garden in with the roaches and crickets . I have given both my chams a few grass hoppers and they seemed to like them. I was however shocked to learn that hoppers get stuck together like dogs. I remember when i was younger telling my mom that she did not have to worry about me being sexual with any one, that i might not want or like to be stuck with that long, silly i know but i was young and did not know. Mom was ok about the way i was thinking though HaHa I’s all good though, May she rest in peace .she went to the lord in oct. 2011. I’ll be waiting for your response and answers to my questions if you have them until then Thank You for all your help and advice . Brenda

    • avatar

      Hello Brenda,

      Unfortunately, chameleons will not thrive, long term, on crickets alone, or on 2-3 food items. A highly varied diet, along with the proper supplements, is essential. Please see the notes under “Feeding” in this article and also here.. Please see this article on feeding and breeding Dubia Roaches. Wild aught grasshoppers and others are fine if collected from pesticide free areas. Please let me know if you need more info on wild caught invertebrates.

      Silkworms, hornworms and some of the others mentioned may be purchased online. Canned grasshoppers etc may be offered via tongs if the animals are habituated to feeding in that way.

      I always advise against handling.

      Please let me know if you need any further info, best regards, Frank

  30. avatar

    I caught 5 snakes in our back yard, 3 of them are very small the other two are not too big but are little. One of the bigger ones has a very different type pattern , almost looks like a braided type pattern. Real cool looking! My son is worried that I might not be able to get food for them through the winter (we live in MI) I do have some duba roaches and told him I could feed the snakes the roache babies , I’m not so sure . What is your opinion? Do you have any suggestions I have never seen a snake with the braided pattern before, He, it, is very cool looking, don’t want to do any harm to any of them so any advice would be greatly appreciated . I do not want to do any harm to these little guys. Thank You in advance, Brenda

    • avatar

      Hello Brenda,

      It’s not wise to handle snakes w/o knowing the species; newborn venomous snakes are capable of inflicting fatal bites. Michigan has only 1 venomous species, the eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake, small ones have a tiny “button” …beginnings of a ratlle, on the tail tip, and should be easy to ID. But I would stress to your son that unidentified snakes should never be handles…escaped venomous pets are a possibility in many regions as well.

      Diet varies a great deal among the species…rodents for most, earthworms, slugs for Brown and Garter snakes, fish for watersnakes. Youngsters of rodent eating species can be very hard to care for, as they prefer frogs and small lizards over insects. Very few, including the earthworm-eating species, will accept roaches. It might be wise to release and purchase a captive bred specimen of an easy-to-keep species (corn or king snake, etc.)

      Photos of all Michigan’s native snakes are posted here, along with info (click on species’ name). However, youngsters often differ from adults in pattern and color. A good field guide (Peterson’s Guide to Rep and Amphibs of Eastern and central USA) will have illustrations of youngsters as well. Please let me know if you need further information, best, Frank

  31. avatar

    Massassauga rattlers also have a black diamond pattern that even baby rattlers have, we have them up north at my trailer. They have now become endangered here, due to the fear of the poision, people kill them off.

    • avatar

      Thanks, Linsey,

      They do…I always advise folks to err on side of caution, even where rattlers are concerned…just in case melanistic Massassaugas, missing rattles, escaped exotics show up and cause confusion. The site I linked in last response has info on protected status of all, in case you’ve not seen. Best, Frank

  32. avatar

    Hello Frank, My female veiled chameleon is about 9 months old now. For the last few weeks she has been pacing all over her cage. She has not been with my male. Today she is digging in the plant that is in her cage, at the moment all we can see is a little bit of her tail. I’m wondering if i should remove the plant and just leave the dirt or just leave her alone and keep an eye on her? I am new at this, (1st time at having a chameleon). Please inform me of what I should do if any thing, I would hate to have something bad happen to her because of my ignorance . If she is laying eggs should I remove them when she is done as I know that they will not be fertile ? Thank You in advance for any and all advice .. Brenda

    • avatar

      Hi Brenda,

      Best to leave her, and to stay away from the terrarium for awhile. If she’d disturbed, she may retain the eggs, which can lead to peritonitis and other problems.

      I would remove and incubate. Although parthenogenesis has not been documented in chameleons, as far as I know, it has been seen in a variety of others…one never knows. Also, many reptiles can store sperm….is there a chance she could have mated before she was in your care?

      This incubator works well; homemade versions can be constructed (well, if you’re handier than I!) also. Here is a review of the Zoo Med incubator.

      Please keep me posted, best, Frank

  33. avatar

    Frank, Thank you for your quick response to my questions! I did remove the plant but not the pot that it was in. Seems to give her a little more room. She watched while I did it and then returned back to the pot and began digging again, other than that and filling the dipper for her I have left her be. I do not think that the two that I have could have mated, as they were only 3 or 4 weeks old when I got them and they were only together for about 2 maybe 3 weeks at the most when I separated them. How long does it usually take them to have eggs ? And how long should I wait if she does not have eggs before I should be concerned, and contact a vet? Again THANK YOU Brenda.

    • avatar

      Hi Brenda,

      My pleasure. Many factors affect the time it will take to deposit the clutch…health, age, clutch size, hydration, etc. They sometimes do not lay if all is not right with the nest site…false starts are not uncommon. However, if she does not lay and there is no room for a larger, deeper site, let me know…moving her to a large storage bin or similar may help. If she does not lay within 3-4 days, it would be best to see an experienced vet..please let me know if you need anything, best, frank

  34. avatar

    Dear Frank, Thank You for walking me through this stage in my chameleons life. As a newbe I really did not know what to or not to do! I basically did as you told me to do, Yesterday she laid her eggs (52 in all) I do not think they are fertile , but I did take them out and put them into containers (13 eggs per container ) I guess we will just wait and see what happens. ZenayaQ

  35. avatar

    Dear Frank, Thank You for walking me through this stage in my chameleons life. As a newbe I really did not know what to or not to do! I basically did as you told me to do, Yesterday she laid her eggs (52 in all) I do not think they are fertile , but I did take them out and put them into containers (13 eggs per container ) I guess we will just wait and see what happens. Zenaya SEAMS TO BE doing good so far, I’m still keeping an eye on her but I think all is well…… ( Zenaya is what I have named my little girl) Again Thank You , I will keep you informed about the outcome of the eggs. Like I said earlier I really do not think they are fertile , but I guess we will see in do time ..Brenda

    • avatar

      My pleasure, Brenda..very gald to hear she deposited the eggs. 52…you must be feeding her well! Be sure to up her CA supplementation, be sure she is drinking, and provide as varied a diet as possible. This article has tips for varying the die…pl let me know if you need more info. Good idea to incubate. Enjoy, Frank

  36. avatar

    Hi Frank, I haven’t written in awhile . (10-30-13) I still have lots of questions about Zenaya, her 1st clutch of eggs was 52. (the date above) I got them (a male &female veiled chameleons) on April 10, 2013 they were about 3 weeks old then. Well Zenaya laid 65 yes 65 eggs yesterday. (2-13-2014). She has not been together with the male as of yet, I thought they were both too young to have babies. Would the eggs be fertile? Is she going to have eggs every 6 mos. or so? Should I put them together- if yes when and for how long? If the eggs are fertile how long do they incubate for? I know that I should let her get her strength back after having so many eggs, that is why I’m asking when or if I should put the two together. I would also like to subscribe to the reptile mag. but when I tried I was sent to some place that was dealing with race cars, I failed to see where the to have anything to do with each other- any clue? Thanks in advance Brenda

    • avatar

      Hello Brenda,

      Nice to hear from you.

      The large cluthches are common when they receive lots of food (they are native to harsh environments, and have evolved to make the best of breeing opportunities). Femals can reproduce by age 3-4 months, although 6 months is more typical. Idealy, they should be 1 year or so of age before breeding, but it’s difficult to control the timing…if we cut back on food, nutritional deficiencies can occur, especially in young animals. No firm guidelines, unfotunately.

      The best option is to be sure the diet is high in Calcium and D3 Links are to supplements I prefer)and that she has plenty of UVB exposure; low calcium levels can lead to egg retention due to weakened muscles, inability to expel eggs, etc. Vary the diet, and provide feeder insects with plenty of high quality foods (let me now if you need details).

      Feed her well now, and be sure she gets plenty of water..increased misting and a drip system if needed.

      Some lizards are able to reproduce without having mated (racerunners in the USA, certain monitors and others) but this has not been documented in chameleons. So the eggs are likely infertile; if so, they will have a yellowish as opposed to white cast to the color. One mating, however, can result in 2-3 fertile clutches, as they can retain sperm, it seems.

      Fertile eggs can be incubated in moist vermiculite at 82-84 F for 4-6 months (sometimes to 9 months, varies a bit). You can check incubators here; this article describes the features of my favorite model.

      I’m not sure which magazine you are referring to (RSS feed to my blog?)…please let me know and I’ll check it out for you, and send along any questions you may have on care, best, Frank

  37. avatar

    Hi, Frank. Over the past couple of days my Senegal, Lady, has been showing signs of stressed coloring. Dark greys with a dark brown spottage throughout. She seems to be drinking water as normal but hasn’t ate in two days. At night, she resumes her beautiful bright green with a feint color of turquoise but by morning she’s back to be dull grey and brown. Also, when sleeping, she no longer curls up her tail into the cute spiral like normal. I’ve scheduled an appointment with a veterinarian today at 4 to have her checked up on. She’s been pretty lethargic the past couple of days. I handled her for a short time last night to get a better look at her. She went to sleep in my hands. (Though it was her bedtime).

    I dust her insects every other day with Calcium and give a supplement powder twice a month. She’s in a 18x18x24 Exo Terra enclosure. I have a misting system in place to keep up the humidity levels and even mist myself the first and last point in the day to ensure it’s nice and humid for her. I keep a pothos plant potted in the terrarium and she is cup fed, allowing no insects to escape. On average she’ll eat two crickets a day who are on a good diet themselves. Some days, she’ll eat up to 4 but not very often.

    It’s very clear to m she isn’t feeling well but myself, and a close friend who cares for Chameleons of all species (most are rescues and in poor health) and she’s stumped.

    Would the lack of interest in food and dull grey coloring indicate a possible worm or parasite issue? I am bringing a stool sample with me to the vet today. I’m unaware of how old she may be. I adopted her from somebody and he told me he had her for a year. I’ve had her for four months.

    I just wondered if you had any advice or information to offer pertaining to my situation that maybe I’ve overlooked.

    Thanks in advance,
    Patrick Clark

    • avatar

      Hello Patricia,

      Unfortunately it’s not possible to hazard a guess as to the problem, as the symptoms you describe are present in most health issues. Internal parasites are frequently involved…almost a certainty if the animal was wild-caught and has not previously been medicated. The vet visit is a wise step.

      Crickets alone, even if well, fed, are not an adequate diet. Handling is always a bad idea, but I’m assuming this was just to check the animal. Please see this article on chameleon diets and let me know if you need further info. Please also let me know how all goes…we still have much to learn about chameleon husbandry, so feedback/observations would be most useful.

      Good luck, best, Frank

  38. avatar

    Are the male or female Senegal Chameleons better as pets? I am looking to buy one. I would also like to ask what are the basic needs for a Senegal Chameleon?

  39. avatar

    Hello, in young and i’m thinking about getting a baby Senegal chameleon. And i need to know what size of a cage i need, because my brother used to have a snake and it was :)

    • avatar

      Hello Anders,

      You’ll need a large screen cage or a “tall style” tank of at least 30-55 gallons in size, along with proper heating equipment and UVB lamps; they need an extremely varied diet, and will not thrive on crickets and mealworms alone. Actually, this is not the best species to consider if you are not well-experienced in lizard care – much, much more difficult to keep than most snakes. please see this article and let me know if you need more info. best, Frank

  40. avatar

    woukd like some more info on the Senegal just got one and would like to know more about them I have mine in a 55 gallon glass tank any info would be great thank u

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About Frank Indiviglio

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Being born with a deep interest in animals might seem unfortunate for a native Bronxite , but my family encouraged my interest and the menagerie that sprung from it. Jobs with pet stores and importers had me caring for a fantastic assortment of reptiles and amphibians. After a detour as a lawyer, I was hired as a Bronx Zoo animal keeper and was soon caring for gharials, goliath frogs, king cobras and everything in-between. Research has taken me in pursuit of anacondas, Orinoco crocodiles and other animals in locales ranging from Venezuela’s llanos to Tortuguero’s beaches. Now, after 20+ years with the Bronx Zoo, I am a consultant for several zoos and museums. I have spent time in Japan, and often exchange ideas with zoologists there. I have written books on salamanders, geckos and other “herps”, discussed reptile-keeping on television and presented papers at conferences. A Master’s Degree in biology has led to teaching opportunities. My work puts me in contact with thousands of hobbyists keeping an array of pets. Without fail, I have learned much from them and hope, dear readers, that you will be generous in sharing your thoughts on this blog and web site. For a complete biography of my experience click here.
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