Questions and Answers

By Don Wells


Wells, D. (2002). Questions and Answers. Chameleons! Online E-Zine, July 2002. (

Introduction by the CHAMELEONS! staff:

This Question and Answer column is a regular feature. CHAMELEONS! welcomes questions from the readership. Don will gather the submissions and pick representative questions to answer in forthcoming issues. As is typical with Q&A columns, Don cannot respond personally or answer all questions that are submitted. He will select the questions that he feels offer the most benefit to the general readership. As the questions are answered bi-monthly, only time insensitive questions should be submitted. Questions may be anything regarding chameleons from husbandry to politics. Submit questions to and include "Q&A" in the subject box. Questions may be edited for length and clarity.

Questions and Answers

Broken horns

Q. I have a 4 year old male Jackson Chameleon whose middle horn is crooked to the point that he cannot hit prey and must be hand fed. It also affects his balance. Local vets are afraid to cut it back. Would this be a serious risk to him? Would there be a lot of bleeding? I am considering doing this myself as he is so adversely affected. The horn curves left and obstructs his vision.


A. Chameleons that have horns are always at risk of losing one or more in combat, accidents etc. Usually this is not life threatening. In your case you have an exceptionally old boy and his horns have continued growing all through his life so they have gotten pretty long it sounds like? We often see horns on male chameleons that have grown off to the side for reasons we don't fully understand. If I were you I would ask the vet to cut ( clip) the horn back to just short of where the bend begins. If the core or the growing part of the horn is not cut back too far it will regenerate new horn growth. I usually expect that that this type of trimming will continue on a wayward horn throughout the animals life. Usually it has to be done about once per year. There should not be much blood loss if any.


Q.This is my first time raising a chameleon. I am looking at a veiled to be exact. I've had frogs, turtles and lizards in the past, most recently an iguana that died just a couple of years ago but it seems quite obvious that the chameleon is a little more exacting in it's needs. I have looked at your site for cage requirements and I have bought 'Care and Breeding of Chameleons' by Philippe de Vosjoli and Gary Ferguson. I have also checked out the care sheet put out on the internet by the Colorado Herpetological Society. I am not sure if you are familiar with those references but I thought it would help you to at least know where I am getting my information from.

I don't think I am having a problem figuring out the temperaturs and food but I do feel that I am having some problems figuring out how to heat the cage properly and which bulbs to use. I am using a 44 gallon lizard lounge cage that I am purchasing from a pet store at least to start out with. The care sheet that I referred to says this:"The best bulb for creating a really warm basking area is a spot bulb. Spot bulbs have a narrowly focused beam that raises the temperature higher than a different bulb of the same wattage. I personally prefer the spot bulbs that are manufactured by ZooMed specifically for use with reptiles, but they are a little pricey in retail pet shops. Any bulb that raises the basking spot temperature to the appropriate level is safe to use......For veiled chameleons, that means one end of the cage should be the preferred ambient temperature, and one end should be at the basking temperature...The current trend is to provide chameleons with full-spectrum fluorescent lighting that emits energy in the UVB wavelengths (290-315 nm)....The best way to provide full-spectrum lighting with UVB in a captive situation is to have two fluorescent fixtures running the length of the enclosure. In one fixture, use a bulb that emits UVB, such as the ZooMed UVB 310 bulb....In the second fixture, use a full-spectrum fluorescent bulb such as a Vita-lite."

One source talks about using a full spectrum tube and a black light tube. What lights do I actually need here and how many? Please help!

The last question is what I should use to keep the cage warm at night. I live in Washington state and the inside of my house is very cold. Do you think it would be best to use a heat mat under the cage, a ceramic bulb type heater or what?


A. Normally I wouldn't print such a long question in its entirety but there are several points in the above letter that need to be touched on and I get a lot of questions regarding these same subjects so it might help a lot of readers by going through some of the above items.

1. You have provided yourself with some very good literature to begin with. I can't emphasize enough how important this is for the beginning keeper. Most often I hear of people that have bought the animal before they have the proper housing and information to keep it. It looks like you have done your homework well so far and I commend you!

2. The caresheet you have quoted has some good advice in it. Proper lighting is one of the most important aspects of keeping a chameleon alive and healthy and should not be skimped on as far as costs involved because without it, most likely your, animal will suffer a shortened lifespan and ill health.One note of caution regarding the spot lights. These bulbs can get extremely hot and fires have been caused from them not being placed in a good receptacle as well as in a safe place. These lights should never be placed in the same space as an animal because of severe burn potential.

3. Although lighting can be expensive to install it should be done properly and placed on a timer so that your animal has a 14 hours light and a 10 hour dark cycle at least. Some keepers prefer a 12 hour light to a 12 hour dark cycle and this seems to work well also.

4. Black Lights are better left to people with extensive experience. These lights pose a real danger to not only your animal but also to you since they emit light frequencies that can potentially blind you. Prolonged exposure to strong UV rays are no joke and need careful monitoring. I would rather see you stick with the lighting from manufacturers that make them specifically for the intended purpose.

5. My all time favorite nighttime heating is done with a infrared panel. These do not cause fires, are very safe and emit a heat that's like the suns and will penetrate any animals body in much the same way as the sun does. I realize these panels are expensive and take some searching to find. The new infrared bulbs are really another form of this type of heat and work very well .This form of heat is directional and will heat a given area without emitting light to keep your animal awake and throw off its day/night rhythms. Undertank panels etc are not effective for heating airspaces and I don't recommend them for chameleons at all. If you do choose the infrared bulb as a heating device remember to check it often in case it burns out as you cannot tell when this happens by looking at it. Also follow the same precautions as you would with the heat lights discussed in number 2 above.

Care For a Veiled Chameleon

Q. I have just adopted a veiled chameleon baby and would like to read as much as possible on it. Could you please direct me to web sites and books that would be of help to me?

I am feeding this young one some dark green lettuce and crickets with calcium dusting. He has a heat and sun light source. He is thriving and looks good to me. I am finding information of this lizard very scarce.


A. There are two sources for good care that I like to recommend to the beginner. The first is The Care and Breeding of Chameleons by De Vosjoli and Ferguson (Publishd by Advanced Vivarium Systems) which is easily located either online from reptile mail order sources or good reptile oriented pet shops near you. The second and most up to date information is found on the ADCHAM Database site. There are also some very good online listserves that offer excellent advice from other members with a wide range of experience. The Chameleon Journals listserve is my favorite for this and I know there are several on also. Its always a good idea to network with other experienced keepers and not listen to a petshop per se. Some offer very good advice but many do not. It appears you have received some pretty poor advice so far regarding what to feed your animal. I would never feed a chameleon lettuce for instance. Its nutritionally deficient as well as most young Veiled Chameleons wont eat it, most likely, so depending on it for food value is false security at best. Crickets are fine as a base diet but other insects should also be given for variety sake as well as to establish a better nutritional base for your animal. Not all calcium products are created equal and you should try to use one that includes more minerals than just calcium in its makeup. You really do need to find a good source of quick information for keeping this animal. There are many things perhaps that you have not considered so far and that need to be addressed? How are you housing your animal, are you providing proper hydration and what other feeder insects besides crickets, What type of lighting have you given your animal etc etc. Please look into the above sources, they will give you a much broader insight into caring for your animal than I can provide here.

Swollen Joints

Q. I recently purchased a Fischers Chameleon from a nearby reptile store and since bringing it home it has developed a swollen front ankle joint on its left foot. Is there some medication that I can give to cure this condition?

A. Swollen joints especially plague wild caught animals. Usually these are caused from the collection process when the animal is forcibly pulled from its branch and not allowed to crawl onto the hand of the collector. Forceful pulling of these joints often injures them inside and begins a very slow but insidious infection process that often does not show up for months later. Sometimes the chameleons nails are ripped out or pulled loose and the infection begins from this point. Many times vets are baffled for cures and these infections do not seem responsive to antibiotics etc. This is definitely not a condition to take lightly and should be seen by a competent vet experienced in reptile care. The prognosis for this condition is often bleak. Sometimes your vet can help and other times no matter what he may try, it just does not work. I strongly recommend in the future you try to buy captive bred animals only, to greatly lower the risk of this and many more health conditions we see so often in wild collected chameleons. Never ever pull your animal from its perch, always allow it to walk onto your hand from where it's perched.

Don Wells

Don Wells has worked with animals much of his life. His present interests include disseminating proper husbandry techniques for animals kept in captivity. He has kept multitudes of insects and continues to experiment with new species.


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