Pet Turtles: Ornate Wood Turtle Care and Breeding

Ornate Wood Turtle, R. p. manni

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Tornadohalt

The well-named Ornate Wood Turtle (Rhinoclemmys pulcherrima), also known as the Painted Wood Turtle, Honduran Wood Turtle or Central American Wood Turtle, is one of the most exquisitely-beautiful land turtles in the Western Hemisphere. The first I saw, as a boy working for a NYC animal importer, stopped me in my tracks…as did others encountered in the field 30 years later! As curious and intelligent as the North American Wood Turtle (they are not related, by are similar in many ways), these striking creatures make wonderful, long-lived pets, and are regularly bred in captivity.

 

Description

Ornate Wood Turtles vary greatly in coloration, with some specimens being hard to describe in words. Those sporting the most color tend to be found in the southern portion of the range, and are classified as the subspecies R. p. pulcherrima. However, all are gorgeous, and unusually-brilliant examples may be found among any of the 4 subspecies, and in captive-produced hybrids.

 

Ornate Wood Turtle

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Tornadohalt

The carapace is deeply etched by the growth annuli, resulting in the same rough, sculpted look that we see in the North American Wood Turtle. The shell is clad in subdued-to-vivid red and yellow blotches and eye-spots, and a complex pattern of red and orange lines marks the head. Adults average 7-8 inches in length, with males being the slightly-smaller sex.

 

Range and Habitat

The four Ornate Wood Turtle subspecies range from Sonora, Mexico along the western half of the country to Costa Rica; they also occur in eastern Guatemala and eastern Honduras.

 

Largely terrestrial but often entering shallow water, they favor forest edges and riverside thickets and sometimes adapt to overgrown fields and farm borders.

 

Habitat

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by FlickreviewR

The Terrarium or Cage

Ornate Wood Turtles reach 8 inches in length and are quite active. A spacious home is essential to their health and well-being.

 

Hatchlings may be raised in aquariums, but adults do best in custom-made enclosures that measure at least 4’ x 4’ in area; outdoor maintenance is ideal when weather permits. Plastic-based rabbit cages and cattle troughs can also be modified as turtle homes. A pool of shallow water measuring 1’ x 2’ or larger should be available.

 

Suitable hiding spots are important to even well-adjusted pet turtles; these include deep substrates into which your turtles can burrow and commercial shelters such as the Zoo Med Turtle Hut.

 

Substrate

Cypress bark and similar products, or a mix of topsoil, peat and sphagnum moss, may be used as a substrate. I always add dead leaves as well…Ornate Wood Turtles will occupy themselves with hunting for hidden invertebrates each time a new batch of leaves or grass clippings is introduced.

 

Light

Ornate Wood Turtles need daily exposure to UVB light. Natural sunlight is ideal, but be aware that UVB rays do not penetrate glass or plastic, and that fatal overheating can occur quickly.

 

Your turtle should be able to bask within 6-12 inches of a high-output UVB florescent bulb, such as the Zoo Med 10.0. Mercury vapor bulbs broadcast UVB over greater distances, and also emit beneficial UVA radiation. Be sure to provide shaded areas as well.

 

Heat

Temperatures should range from 72-85 F, with a basking site of 90-92 F. Incandescent bulbs may be used by day; ceramic heaters or red/black reptile “night bulbs” are great night-time heat sources.

 

Provide your pet with the largest home possible, so that a thermal gradient (areas of different temperatures) can be established. Thermal gradients, critical to good health, allow reptiles to regulate their body temperature by moving between hot and cooler areas. In glass aquariums and other small or poorly ventilated enclosures, the entire area soon takes on the basking site temperature.

 

t243860Humidity

Overly dry conditions may cause health concerns. The substrate should be misted daily; moist retreats, a large water area, and a dry basking site must also be available. Reptile humidifiers can be useful in arid climates.

 

Companions

Females and youngsters usually co-exist, but must be watched as dominant individuals may attack others or prevent them from feeding. Males usually fight, and often harass females with near-constant mating attempts.

 

Breeding

Three to five eggs are produced at a time, and females may deposit up to 4 clutches per year. Breeding usually occurs between August and December.

 

Females sometimes have difficulty passing their eggs, especially if the diet lacks sufficient calcium. Gravid (egg-bearing) females usually become restless and may refuse food. They should be removed to a container measuring at least 5x the length and width of the turtle and provisioned with 6-8 inches of slightly moist soil and sand. Gravid females that do not nest should be seen by a veterinarian as egg retention always leads to a fatal infection (egg peritonitis).

 

tp29811Feeding

Ornate Wood Turtles have not been well-studied in the wild, but their appetites appear to know no bounds. Pets should be offered a diet comprised of whole animals such as earthworms, snails, crickets and other insects, crayfish, prawn, minnows, an occasional pre-killed pink mouse and a variety of fruits, greens and vegetables. Canned invertebrates, especially snails, can be used to increase dietary variety. A high quality commercial turtle chow such as moistened Zoo Med Aquatic Turtle Food should be mixed into your turtle’s salad.

 

Goldfish should be offered sparingly, if at all, as a steady goldfish diet has been linked to kidney and liver disorders in other turtles. Spinach and various cabbages cause nutritional disorders and should be avoided.

 

The calcium requirements of Ornate Wood Turtles, especially growing youngsters and gravid females, are quite high. All food (other than vertebrates and commercial chow) should be powdered with Zoo Med ReptiCalcium with D3 or a similar product (D3 is not necessary for turtles that have access to natural sunlight). A cuttlebone may also be left in the cage, although not all turtles sample one. Vitamin/mineral supplements such as ReptiVite with D3 may be used 2-3 times weekly.

 

Temperament

Ornate Wood Turtles adjust to captivity quickly, and soon learn to anticipate feeding times and to take food from the hand. Many owners compare them to North American Wood Turtles in responsiveness, intelligence and longevity.

Hi, my name is Frank Indiviglio. I’m a herpetologist, zoologist, and book author, recently retired from a career spent at several zoos, aquariums, and museums, including over 20 years with the Bronx Zoo.

Please check out my posts on Twitter and Facebook.   Each day, I highlight breaking research, conservation news and interesting stories concerning just about every type of animal imaginable. I look forward to hearing about your interests and experiences as well, and will use them in articles when possible.

 

Please also post your questions and comments below…I’ll be sure to respond quickly. Thanks, until next time, Frank.

 

Further Reading

 

Keeping the North American Wood Turtle

 

Keeled Box Turtle Care

Emperor Scorpion Care: The Best Supplies and Terrariums

Threat display

Hello, Frank Indiviglio here. Among the world’s 2,000+ scorpion species we find creatures of every conceivable size, description and lifestyle – some deadly, others which make interesting captives for mature keepers. I had the good fortune to work with many during my zoo career, and most of the supplies that I relied upon then are now readily available to hobbyists. The following article will assist you in preparing for scorpion ownership or adding to your supply of scorpion care items. Most of the information is applicable to a wide array of species…please post below for more specific information about the scorpions in your collection.

 

Scorpion Terrariums

Scorpions are best kept in aquariums topped by screen covers secured with cage clips or plastic terrariums with locking tops.   I favor deep or “extra-high”models for Emperor Scorpions and other burrowers, so that they can construct tunnels and caves.

 

t260271_2Hiding Spots

Caves and hideaways designed for reptiles make ideal scorpion retreats. Cork bark is also ideal, and very versatile. I like to bury cork bark slabs below the substrate – Emperors evacuate burrows to them and will create a complex underground habitat if given enough space.

 

Plants

Many scorpions do great in complex, planted terrariums. I often use Earth Stars (Cryptanthus), a common house plant that is very sturdy and thrives in low-light conditions. Please post below for information on other live plants that can be used in scorpion enclosures.

 

Comsobuthus sp. with young

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Fusion121

Substrate

A mix of coconut husk and peat moss or top soil works well for Emperor Scorpions other rainforest natives. For burrowers, add just enough water so that the substrate sticks together when squeezed…keeping it so will help to prevent tunnel walls from caving-in.

 

Scorpions that are native to arid habitats can be kept on a sand-gravel substrate.

 

Light

Red reptile night bulbs do not disturb scorpions and so will allow you to watch their nocturnal activities.

 

Heat

Most scorpions thrive at temperatures of 76-86 F (please post below for specific information, as needs vary among the different species).

 

 

Scorpion under black light

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Ladyb695

Red/black reptile night bulbs or ceramic reptile heaters can be used to warm the terrarium. Reptile heat pads and tapes should also be considered, but these often do little to heat the air. All heat sources will dry out the terrarium, so it is important to monitor humidity.

 

mediaHumidity

Proper humidity levels are critical to good health, normal activity and successful shedding. A hygrometer (humidity monitor) is an essential piece of equipment for the serious scorpion keeper. A reptile humidifier or mister will be useful in dry rooms; otherwise you can rely upon a hand-held mister.

 

Tropical forest species require humidity levels in the range of 75-85%, while those native to arid habitats do best at 40-50% humidity. Desert-dwelling scorpions spend much of their time in humid burrows, and should therefore be provided a cave stocked with damp sphagnum moss.

 

Food and Water

Most scorpions will thrive on a diet comprised of crickets, mealworms and earthworms. I’ve also offer wild-caught insects, roaches, waxworms, and other invertebrates as well, and believe this is key to the long-term health and breeding success of some species.

 

Canned grasshoppers and silkworms moved about with a long-handled forceps are an excellent source of dietary variety.

 

Scorpions obtain water from their prey, but should also be provided with a shallow water bowl.

 

Miscellaneous Supplies

Always use forceps to offer food, remove debris, re-arrange terrarium furnishings, and prod scorpions into carrying containers. Small nets should also be kept on hand.

 

Extra plastic terrariums can be used to isolate aggressive or injured individuals.

 

Super glue and petroleum jelly are sometimes useful in treating exoskeleton cracks and other injuries. Please see the cautions noted in the article linked below, and post below for information before attempting to care for an injured scorpion.

 

Please check out my posts on Twitter  and Facebook. Each day, I highlight breaking research, conservation news and interesting stories concerning just about every type of animal imaginable. I look forward to hearing about your interests and experiences as well, and will use them in articles when possible.

 

Please also post your questions and comments below…I’ll be sure to respond quickly. Thanks, until next time, Frank Indiviglio.

 

Further Reading

Treating Sick and Injured Scorpions

Scorpion Care Overview

Thawing Frozen Mice and Rats for Snakes and Other Reptiles

Frozen rodents are now widely available in the pet trade and, when used properly, are a safe food source that can save time, space and money. As opinions vary concerning proper thawing methods, I thought it might be useful to outline the procedures that are followed in major zoological parks.  Based on the human food guidelines set down by the US Department of Health and Human Services and the US Department of Agriculture, they have served me well throughout my career as a zookeeper and herpetologist.

 

General Considerations

There are two safe methods that can be used to defrost rodents intended as reptile food – refrigeration and cold water.  Microwave defrosting has certain drawbacks and should be avoided (please see below).
Shared by Flickr user Soregasim

Frozen rodents purchased from a store or breeder should be re-packaged in clean zip-loc bags before being placed into your refrigerator, freezer or sink.  Bowls into which these bags are placed (for warming or cold-water thawing, see below) should be reserved for that purpose…do not use bowls that will also hold your own food, even if the rodents are in clean bags.  My apologies if this seems obvious, but I am continually amazed at how many people place their health in jeopardy while attempting to care for their pets!

 

Thawing Mice and Rats in a Refrigerator

Thawing under refrigeration is the method of choice in professional collections.  It requires a bit of forethought, but is very safe and requires no effort on our part (other than moving the food item from freezer to refrigerator!).

 

Thawing time will vary in accordance with refrigeration temperature (usually 35-40 F).  The USDA uses 8-10 hours per 1 pound of meat as a general guideline; a mouse can be expected to thaw in 2 hours, a rat in 4-5 hours.

 

Fail safe rule: place frozen rodents in a refrigerator for overnight thawing and use them the following day.

 

Thawing in Cold Water

This method is faster than via refrigeration, but requires periodic water changes, and leaves more room for error.  Frozen rodents in zip-lock bags are placed in a bucket of cold water for 30 minutes, after which time the water is dumped and replaced.  An adult rat can be thawed in as little as 1 hour.

 

The bags used should be leak-proof, lest harmful bacteria begin to colonize the food item.

 

Warming and Using Thawed Rodents

After thawing, rodents must be warmed somewhat before being fed to pet reptiles.  This is best done by placing the bagged, thawed rodent in a bucket or other container of warm water.  Timing varies, but plan on 10-20 minutes for a mouse in warm but not hot-to-the-touch water.

 

Use rodents shortly after thawing and warming.  Whole animals contain internal organs, previously-consumed food, and unpassed wastes, and they decay rapidly.

 

Common Mistakes

Do not thaw rodents at room temperature or in hot water (this applies to our own food as well).  Bacteria associated with disease and decay, which can be assumed present in all rodents, begin to reproduce at 40 F.  Such bacteria can take hold on the thawed, outer surfaces of a food item despite the fact that its center is frozen.

 

Rodents should never be thawed in microwaves used for your own food.  Thawing in a microwave reserved specifically for pet food is possible, assuming one can ascertain that the food item is completely thawed yet not partially cooked.

 

Rodents thawed under refrigeration can be re-frozen (if they have remained refrigerated).  Rodents thawed in cold water should not be re-frozen.

Hi, my name is Frank Indiviglio.  I’m a herpetologist, zoologist, and book author, recently retired from a career spent at several zoos, aquariums, and museums, including over 20 years with the Bronx Zoo.

Please check out my posts on Twitter and Facebook.   Each day, I highlight breaking research, conservation news and interesting stories concerning just about every type of animal imaginable.  I look forward to hearing about your interests and experiences as well, and will use them in articles when possible.

 

Please also post your questions and comments below…I’ll be sure to respond quickly.  Thanks, until next time, Frank. 

Fishing Spider: Habitat and Care

1234The largest true (“non-tarantula”) spiders that most folks in the USA will ever encounter, Fishing Spiders are at once fascinating and a bit intimidating. This is especially so for egg-guarding females, who may prefer to fight rather than flee when disturbed. I recently came across one such female below a dock, while accompanied by my 5 ½ year old nephew. Thanks to my long career as a zookeeper, the little guy has been up close to a huge array of animals since infancy, and especially favors spiders. After locating the spider, we swam out from beneath the dock to plan our capture strategy. Noting my sidekick’s smaller size, and the fact that he has handled snakes longer than himself, I suggested that he go back and collect it, as the area was cramped. “No way, man” was all he said!

 

But ferocious appearances aside, Fishing Spiders make great terrarium inhabitants. Due to their size and boldness, they are very easy to observe as they catch fish, walk on water and care for their eggs and young. I’ve never understood why more spider enthusiasts have not taken an interest in them… perhaps this article will change some minds!

 

Cameroon Fishing Spider with tadpole

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Howcheng

Tarantulas are not the only Vertebrate-Eating Spiders

Most folks know that large tarantulas sometimes catch small lizards and other vertebrates, but among the true spiders this strategy is relatively unstudied. A recent survey of the subject, published in the June 18, 2014 issue of Plos One (please see link to article, below) revealed that at least 18 species in 8 families feed upon fish. Despite being small and slightly built by tarantula standards, Fishing Spiders, aided by vertebrate-specific neurotoxic venom, can take prey that exceeds their own weight 5-fold.

 

North America is particularly rich in Fishing Spiders, most of which are classified in the family Pisauridae. Eleven family members are documented fish-catchers, and others may do so as well. Also known as Nursery Web Spiders, some live far from water and eat insects, while others move between aquatic and terrestrial habitats.

 

The Dark Fishing Spider

My favorite is the Dark Fishing Spider, Dolomedes tenebrosus, which ranges from southern Canada west to North Dakota and south to Florida and Texas.Females measure over 1 inch in body-length, and their legs span 3+ inches. The grayish-brown body is marked with black, and the legs are banded, but individuals vary.

 

Fishing Spider with young

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Brummfuss

Maternal Care of Eggs and Young

Female Dark Fishing Spiders carry their egg cases, which may contain up to 1,400 eggs, suspended between the chelicerae (fangs), pedipalps, and spinnerets (large wolf spiders, which resemble fishing spiders, carry their eggs at the rear of the body, attached to the spinnerets).

 

Egg-guarding females that I collect in July often produce a second fertile egg case in September. Those I’ve kept near an east-facing window regularly basked in the morning sun with their egg cases, and then took shelter as temperatures rose.

 

At the end of the incubation period, the female constructs a web in which she suspends the egg mass…hence the alternate name, Nursery Web Spider. She stays with the hatchlings for awhile, defending them against predators. My females refused food at this time, but would rush out and “push” crickets that ventured near the web, and would strike at forceps placed in their vicinity.

 

Dark Fishing Spider eggs hatch from July to September. Outdoors, the young hibernate during the winter and become sexually-mature by the following May-June.

 

Hunting and Fishing

Fishing Spiders employ varied hunting techniques. Mine leap at moths, chase down crickets with blinding speed and, most amazing of all, snare guppies and minnows from beneath the water’s surface. In large, planted terrariums, most split their time between lying in ambush on bark slabs and “fishing” at the water’s edge.

 

Anecdotal reports suggest that some Fishing Spiders lure fish to the water’s surface by wiggling a leg in imitation of an insect. I don’t believe this has been definitely documented (please write in if you know otherwise), but the theory is a fascinating one. When hunting at the water’s edge, they anchor the rear 6 legs to a dock, plant or rock and keep the front legs on the water’s surface. Fish, tadpoles or insects that disturb the surface are instantly attacked, with the spiders moving out over the water for several inches if necessary. Flying insects that fall onto the water likely comprise the bulk of their diet in most habitats.

 

Along the Delaware River, I’ve also observed Fishing Spiders standing on the water’s surface, 1-2 feet from the shore, after dark. They are unaffected by a weak flashlight beam, and, much like over-sized water striders, quickly “skate” over to grab insects that I toss in their vicinity. They can also dive and swim below the surface, but I’ve yet to observe this personally.

 

Fishing Spider Care

Caution: Although Fishing Spiders are not considered to be dangerously venomous, they are fast and will not hesitate to bite.  We know little about spider venom, and the possibility of an allergic reaction must be considered….please do not touch any spider with bare hands. Be sure to check your spider’s location before opening the terrarium, as they are incredibly fast.

 

The Terrarium

Dark Fishing Spiders do fine in simple terrariums, but show themselves to their best advantage if provided plenty of space, live plants, upright cork bark slabs and a small pool of water. I use large battery jars or 5-10 gallon aquariums which have a water area created by attaching a panel of glass to the aquarium’s sides with silicone. Complex terrariums allow the spiders to show off their impressive hunting skills, which are most evident when they leaping at moths or flies and snaring fishes.

 

Male on water's surface

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Bryce McQuillan

Feeding

Fishing Spiders are quite voracious. Captive females have even been observed feeding upon dead fish, and a photo in the article linked below shows one grabbing a bait minnow from a miscast fishing line (I once accidentally hooked a hawk in Venezuela, but this is the only “fishing for a fishing spider” incident I know of!).

 

Along with guppies and minnows, I offer wild-caught moths, grubs, tree crickets, caterpillars and such when possible, saving crickets and waxworms for the cooler months (wild adults expire in September-October, but captives can live well into January). Hatchlings will take fruit flies, springtails and “meadow plankton”. Small frogs, tadpoles, dragonfly larvae and even slugs have been documented as part of their diet in the wild.

 

Light, Heat and Humidity

I keep my Dark Fishing Spider terrariums very moist, but others have done well in dry set-ups with a daily misting. Hatchlings desiccate easily, and so should be kept in humid enclosures. Normal room temperatures suit them well. I’ve also kept several related species that frequent upland habitats…all have proven to be interesting, hardy captives.

 

While they are not at all shy about feeding by day, Fishing Spiders really come into their own at night. A red reptile night bulb will be a great asset if you wish to observe them after dark.

 

Display, male Peacock Jumping Spider

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Jurgen Otto

Other Spiders in the Terrarium

Fishing Spider fans will also enjoy the Huntsman or Giant Crab Spider (Heteropoda venatoria), a large, aggressive Asian species that has become established in Florida (of course!) and elsewhere. Jumping, Crevice, Wolf, Crab and Orb-Weaving Spiders, along with countless (literally!) others, also make fascinating terrarium subjects. Please see the articles linked below for information on keeping other spiders, and be sure to post your own thoughts and experiences.

Hi, my name is Frank Indiviglio. I’m a herpetologist, zoologist, and book author, recently retired from a career spent at several zoos, aquariums, and museums, including over 20 years with the Bronx Zoo.

Please check out my posts on Twitter and Facebook.   Each day, I highlight breaking research, conservation news and interesting stories concerning just about every type of animal imaginable. I look forward to hearing about your interests and experiences as well, and will use them in articles when possible.

 

Please also post your questions and comments below…I’ll be sure to respond quickly. Thanks, until next time, Frank.

 

Further Reading

Jumping Spider Care

Collecting and Keeping Huntsman Spiders

Beyond Webs: Swimming, Spitting and other Spider Hunting Strategies

Plos One Fishing Spider Article

Chameleons as Pets: Breeding Senegal Chameleons

Flap necked Chameleon

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Lix

Female Senegal Chameleons (Chamaeleo senegalensis) often surprise their owners with eggs…indeed, they are among the most prolific of all lizards. Yet successful captive breeding presents us with many difficulties, and losses of both eggs and gravid (egg-bearing) females are all-too-common. This is a shame, because with proper care these fascinating creatures can provide one with a valuable introduction to chameleon care and breeding. Today we’ll examine the reasons behind most breeding failures, and look at some useful changes we can make to improve this sad situation.   Note:  Photo above is of a Flap-Necked Chameleon, formerly considered to be a subspecies of the Senegal.  Please click here for a photo of a Senegal Chameleon.

Tough Lizards that Burn Out Quickly

Senegal Chameleons live fast and die young, with 2-5 years being the average lifespan even for those receiving excellent care. Like most creatures with this lifestyle, they mature quickly and reproduce often. Female Senegal Chameleons can breed at the tender age of 6 months, and even with a less-than-ideal diet can produce 2-3 clutches of 15-75 eggs each year.   Senegals are also quite durable – in the short term – and often feed well and develop eggs even when stressed by collection from the wild and substandard care. This leads to a false sense of security among novice owners, and, in time to frustration, as the new lizard feeds, develops eggs, then then dies along with her clutch.

The Problem

The root of many breeding failures lies in the fact that Senegal Chameleon collection is simpler and cheaper than captive reproduction. Because they breed so prolifically, wild-caught females are usually carrying eggs in some stage of development. Collection and shipment is hard on chameleons, which by nature are stress-prone, and all the more so where gravid females are concerned.   In addition, misconceptions as to their care abound. Many keepers fail to appreciate just how much living space and privacy these (and all) chameleons need, and the necessity of providing a proper nest site. While most understand the need for calcium supplementation and UVB exposure, captive diets still typically lack appropriate variety, and the importance of an adequate water supply is often over-looked.

Katydid (favorite chameleon food)

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Vishalsh521

Studies have shown that Senegal Chameleons choose prey in accordance with their nutritional needs, and that other species regulate basking time (under UVB) in tune with their circulating Vitamin D level. This is important research that bears directly on our ability to keep and breed this fascinating lizard…please see the articles linked below, and post any related questions you may have.

Introducing Potential Mates

Although female Senegal Chameleons can reproduce at 6 months of age, pets should be at least 1 year old before being introduced to a male. At younger ages, they are still adding bone mass, which requires ample calcium intake. Egg production presents an additional calcium drain, increasing the likelihood of metabolic bone disease.   Female Senegal Chameleons are generally as territorial as are males, and will attack a potential mate if they are not ready to breed. Always introduce a male by placing his cage near that of the female, and drape a semi-transparent cloth between the cages as an extra stress-inhibitor. Females in good health will show their intentions right away – threatening the male if not receptive but refraining from attack mode if willing to breed. Receptive females will also exhibit color changes and an enlarged or bulging cloaca.   If your female is not ready, relocate the male’s cage to another room and try at a later date. Captive conditions change the normal ebb and flow of reptile hormones, so it’s best to try at various times during the year.

Mating and the Gestation Period

If the female appears ready to mate, allow the male to move into her cage on his own, as handling may stress the animals and forestall breeding. Copulation can last for 1-2 hours, during which time both will likely show some color changes. Remove the male as soon as they have copulated, as the female will likely attack him shortly thereafter.   Female Senegal Chameleons typically lay eggs within 70-90 days after mating. However, much longer and shorter gestation periods have been reported. The confusion may arise from the fact that captive diets, light cycles and such can affect the time it takes for the eggs to mature. Bear in mind also that a single mating can result in numerous fertile clutches, and that unmated females frequently lay (infertile) eggs. To be safe, always have a suitable nesting site available to all females (please see below).   t4291

Common Concerns: Low Calcium and Dehydration

Gravid females have extremely high calcium requirements. A calcium-poor diet will cause metabolic bone disease, a condition wherein calcium is leached from the bones and replaced with fibrous tissue. Calcium also assists in producing the strong muscle contractions needed to expel eggs from the body. Calcium deficient females will retain their eggs (a condition known as dystocia) and will eventually expire from infections (egg peritonitis) or related problems. I favor ZooMed calcium supplements, and always nutrient load feeder insects unless they are wild-caught; please see the article linked below for more on calcium supplementation and diet.   Females fed a high calcium diet may nevertheless retain eggs if they are dehydrated. Senegal Chameleons rarely drink from water bowls, and the water volume they take in when the terrarium is sprayed is often insufficient. Water dripped from a punctured contained set atop the terrarium is more likely to meet their needs. You’ll need to place a container below the drip cup in order to catch excess water. A reptile humidifier will also assist in keeping your chameleon properly hydrated.

The Nest Site

As mentioned, female Senegal Chameleons should always have access to a nesting site. Most will not release their eggs unless provided a suitable place in which to dig a nest chamber. A plastic bin or storage container measuring 18” x 18’ x 18” works well. Some individuals will use smaller containers, but a depth of at least 12” is essential.   The nest box should be filled with a mix of sand and top soil or coconut husk. The substrate should be kept slightly moist…just enough so that it clumps a bit when squeezed. If too dry, the female’s egg tunnel will collapse as it is being dug, and she will abandon the site. The terrarium walls near the site should be covered with cloth or a similar material, and the cage itself should be located in an undisturbed part of the house. The terrarium’s regular basking bulb, or an additional one, should be used to warm the nesting area.   t248523

Incubating the Eggs

Senegal Chameleon eggs have been successfully incubated at temperatures ranging from 72 to 80 F. At 77 F, they typically hatch in 6 months. A high-quality reptile egg incubator is the surest means of assuring a successful hatch.   The eggs can be set-up in vermiculite at a water-substrate ratio of 1:1 by weight. Even for mathematically-impaired individuals such as I, this is easy to accomplish – please see this article for a simple explanation.

Termite (food for baby chameleons)

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Esculapio

Baby Chameleons!

Newly-hatched chameleons present a unique set of challenges, especially when it comes to providing a healthful, varied diet. Please see this article on feeding tiny reptiles and amphibians, and those linked below, for more info.

 

Hi, my name is Frank Indiviglio. I’m a herpetologist, zoologist, and book author, recently retired from a career spent at several zoos, aquariums, and museums, including over 20 years with the Bronx Zoo. Please check out my posts on Twitter and Facebook.   Each day, I highlight breaking research, conservation news and interesting stories concerning just about every type of animal imaginable. I look forward to hearing about your interests and experiences as well, and will use them in articles when possible.   Please also post your questions and comments below…I’ll be sure to respond quickly. Thanks, until next time, Frank.  

Further Reading

Senegal Chameleons: Common Health Problems  Senegal Chameleon Diet Study  The Best Foods for Chameleons The Best Reptile Egg Incubator

Scroll To Top