Questions and Answers

By Don Wells


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

Meadow Plankton

Q. I have often read about Meadow Plankton. What is this and how do I catch it? Isn't it dangerous to feed wild insects because of pesticides and other things like parasites?

S.W. Running Springs Calif

A. Meadow Plankton is basically a colloquial name for lots and lots of bugs caught in a fine mesh net while running it through green meadow-type grass and weed fields. It can also be used around garden plants if sufficient enough to harbor a good insect population.

Good Meadow Plankton can consist of all forms of insects both harmless and possibly dangerous such as stinging bees, wasps and such. I do not regard small spiders as dangerous and feed them regularly to all sorts of herps that seem to love them. Even bees and wasps seem to be gobbled up by some lizards but they can pose some risks and its up to the individual to do what they feel is correct when feeding these to their animals.

I use a fine meshed bird or aviary net to collect Meadow Plankton with. Usually, the keeper also collects up lots of weed seeds and leaves etc along with the insects. I usually dump the entire mass into a bottle and then allow the insects to fly out of a small hole into the cage where they are eagerly eaten. The left behind leaves and other detritis is simply discarded after all the insects have escaped. Some insects are naturally avoided by chameleons and they seem to know what's good and what isn't. Ladybug larvae are a good example of this. Nothing will eat them that I have found.

Sorting out some "bad". insects that sting is simple by just putting a hole in the lid of the bottle that allows certain sizes to escape and doesn't allow bigger stinging insects to pass through. Generally speaking, most small plankton is consumable and a great way to get needed nutrients into your animals.

I generally don't worry much about parasites from the use of wild insects. Its conceivable that they can carry them but I haven't seen much evidence of it in my own animals.

Eek! You feed what?

Q. I have a friend that says roaches are good to feed to Chameleons. Since I don't have any idea where to get these other than ones locally in houses that are dirty and I think they are potential disease carriers where does one get clean roaches to feed and what about escapees?

M.A. Boston Mass.

A. In the next issue of Chameleons I hope to be able to strongarm my friend who is the King of all roachkeepers to write an in depth article on roaches and all that you ever wanted to know but were afraid to ask! In brief to answer your questions - Roaches come in many forms and sizes. I prefer them to just about any other food insect because they are the easiest of all to raise in captive conditions. They are also very nutritious and chameleons eat them like candy.

One thing you must know and that is roaches are the among the cleanest of all creatures and are not disease carriers anymore than your fingers are! They have gotten a bad rap!

A number of roach suppliers can be found online and I can heartily recommend the following webpage for sources and information This page will get you into the world of Roachraisers like none other! Good luck, they are addicting! I like mine dipped in sour creame and sprinkled with sugar and paprika!

Who is sicker, the Vet or the chameleon?

Q. My Veiled Chameleon is at my vets and about to have its tongue surgically removed. I don't know what to do. I think the vet is crazy and this animal will just die without his tongue! A few days ago I found my chameleon in his cage with his tongue hanging out and unable to take it back into his mouth, he seems to have no control over it anymore. My vet tells me it has to be removed or the animal will die. What do you recommend?

B.T. Miami Florida

A. Because I am not there and can actually see your animal I can only speculate on your problem. Hopefully you have an experienced vet who has done this sort of thing before?

I have seen many chameleons over the years that have all of a sudden lost control of their tongues. Sometimes this is caused from trauma such as the animal biting its own tongue, an insect sting or injury as a result of shooting its tongue out and injuring it on the surface that it hits. Othertimes it can be caused from toxins from fouled foods etc. In any case the tongue of a chameleon is a very deleicate thing and doesn't seem to be able to take a lot of abuse.

I have seen complete recovery to tongues that are retractable and that the animal can keep in the mouth but cannot shoot out. I have seen tongues that could not be retracted and they usually dry up and are definitely not going to get better on their own. Sometimes recovery will take weeks or even months to right itself. Some never do. Causes are not always from trauma and medical conditions elsewhere in the body can cause this condition also. Too many synthetic vitamins for instance can cause a similar syndrome in some animals. When the vitamins were left out of the diet the animals recovered in short order.

Chameleons can live without their tongues and many learn to eat on their own after losing their tongues. I once received a wild caught Flap Necked Chameleon that didn't have a tongue and had learned to eat in the normal grab and swallow method of most lizards. This animal came out of the wild with this handicap. After surgery you most likely will have to hand feed your animal and hopefully he will recover and live a normal lifespan but most likely will always need more attentive attention than not.

Do you like your grasshoppers in this shade of green?

Q. Do chameleons see color?

S.P. Phoenix Arizona

A. Geezo! I could have gone all month without that one! Honestly I don't know! If I had to guess though I would have to say they either see color or see something different between colors if they only do see grey,black and white etc. Too many times I have seen animals light up at the sight of a green colored grasshopper that's virtually the same shade of grey that a brown cricket would be if it only saw black and white and tones thereof. I have had chameleons that would go on hunger binges and the only color of insect they would take would be yellow cabbage butterflies and other yellow insects. I cant help but believe that like birds, chameleons do detect the differences between colors and even shades of colors. Whether this is by some means we do not yet understand or not I can't really say. You got me on this one!

A dash of Ambanja and a pinch of Sambava...

Q. I am wondering how can panther chameleons in the wild maintain different color morphs? Wouldn't they just interbreed and be all one color?

C.T. Susanville Calif.

A. Panther morphs are constantly being discovered probably more than any other species of Chameleon. Because they range over a large territory which includes several islands as well as other areas that are cut off from each other due to natural barriers, different colored forms have evolved over time. Even within some areas however, different morphs seem to have appeared such as in the Ambanja area of Madagascar. Many of these are pretty debatable as to whether or not they are true morphs, however, and just not variations on one theme. More often than not, color change over a long period of time has taken place due to segregation of the animals from each other.

Breeding between morphs is not interbreeding at all. They are technically all the same animal just in different clothes, basically. There are definite differences between the body builds of several morphs and I think this is just another sign of gradual change towards future speciation in the distant future. Because they are not able to reach each other in nature they cannot breed between the morphs thus they stay pretty stable in coloration from each locality.

Garden Hose Toxins

Q I recently read that it is unsafe to drink from a plastic garden hose because there are environmental toxins in the plastic that can cause cancer. Is it safe for my chameleons to be sprayed from it?

B.T. New York

A. A human lives a lot longer than a chameleons does. I seriously doubt that the toxins from a garden hose will effect a chameleon in it's short lifetime. Normally, environmental toxins and contaminates have to work over many years to cause health problems. I do think its always advisable to let a hose run for a minute or so before using it on even plants. Flush your garden hose out before drinking from it for no other reason than they build up large quantities of gram negative bacteria which can effect your health as well as any animal that drinks from it.

If you're really worried then don't use a hose to water from or get a chemically inert type of hose used for chemical handling in labs.

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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