Questions and Answers

By Ken Kalisch


Kalisch, K. (2003). Questions and Answers. Chameleons! Online E-Zine, May 2003. (

Calyptratus ... The Veil is lifted?

Dear Mr. Editor,

My name is Heath and I just recently purchased a veiled chameleon and its my first chameleon but its doing quite well but my question is do the chameleons bite because I would like to hold him and yes I do know that you are not to supposed to hold them too much but I would just like to get him and hold him every other day. Can you also help me with another question? My chameleon is just maybe 2 months old but he is already showing a lot of aggression and I was wondering if you could tell me if the chameleon will just change colors when you hold him.

Yes, Heath, chameleons can bite. The reason is usually a stress response to a reptile that is feeling threatened and is trying to protect itself. He is basically telling you to back off and leave him alone.

The difficult part of answering this question isn't what most people want to hear and that is to leave them alone. A chameleon, as a general rule is a secretive creature. They are built to blend in with their environment and lay in wait for passing prey. I have experienced chameleons that seemed to enjoy catching a ride on their owner's hand/arm shoulder or head. But I really think that the behavior can be attributed to be more about the chameleon wanting to get somewhere than wanting to hang out with the keeper.

I have had many friendly such chameleons. Time permitting, I usually would accommodate their wishes and pick them up. But the choice was theirs. The only times I choose to handle them is when I need to move them or to examine them. The rest of the time they call the shots on when and if I have physical contact with them. Young chameleons are especially skittish and are more likely to try and protect themselves, as he gets older and more accustomed to you and his home he may settle down and ask you to take him for a walk. Just use patience and give him time.


I recently acquired a baby veiled chameleon probably around 6-7 wks. of age at the Kansas City Reptile show. When purchased it seemed very healthy. However within two days after bringing it home I noticed it seemed very sleepy all of the time. She would eat fine but then fall asleep.

Over the next week she wouldn't open her one eye and began to become very clumsy. She has also started open mouth breathing periodically. I have the temp and Reptisun bulb and all the calcium and everything, mist the cage, and have a running fountain going all of the time. I was told that this could be something to do with an upper respiratory infection. Do you have any suggestions of what to do?

Thanks a lot.

This is an unfortunate and sadly common dilemma. Yes, it does sound as though you chameleon has a respiratory problem. I would also suggest that you purchased it with the illness. The treatment of this type of problem is much more difficult in neonate chameleons than in adults mostly because their small size makes it difficult to administer medication in proper doses.

I would surely suggest taking the chameleon to a Veterinarian that works with reptiles as soon as possible. There are medications that can be given to the chameleon to treat the infection. Once the Vet has done his part, I would also suggest that the temperature should be maintained in the mid 80°s F and the humidity levels are kept in the 70% range and that the cage is not in a draft until the chameleon has recovered.

You didn't mention what kind of setup you have it in, but I would suggest a screen cage with the Repitsun 5.0 fluorescent bulb and a 60 to 75 watt basking light. An all glass aquarium type of setup can be much more difficult to control the temperature and controlling the temp can be more of a problem especially with the use of basking lights. You don't want to overheat the little one and the screen cage will allow the chameleon to have a better choice of temperature gradients.

Babies can be tricky, but with a watchful eye, a little luck and a good Vet, you should be able to pull the little guy through.

My adult Veiled male was diagnosed with metabolic bone disease when he was about 3 months old. He is now 1 1/2 years old and seems to be doing well. We are always concerned about his Calcium intake and make sure that the crickets have a well-balanced, high Calcium diet. Other information that we obtained said that we could offer him a pinky mouse occasionally and that if he would consume it, it would be an excellent source of Calcium. We got a fresh pinky that had just nursed, and he ate it! Not long after this, his veil swelled up and hasn't returned to normal yet. It has been about 3 hours. I am now concerned that this was the wrong thing to do, even though we research and read all we can on how to keep him healthy. Do you have any advice or information on our situation? He had no trouble swallowing the pinky, either, but now we are concerned about the unusual veil swelling. I would appreciate any information you can give me.

Thank you!

Jane McNerney


There is no reason to believe that the ingestion of the pinkie has anything to do with the swelling of the casque. I would recommend that you take the chameleon to a Veterinarian that works with reptiles as soon as you can. So often there are things that go wrong with our pets that are difficult to explain and we can only speculate on what is wrong. Most if the time chameleons are excellent at masking their illnesses. So it is possible that the swelling of the casque is coincidental to you feeding the pinkie to the chameleon and not related to the pinkie at all. Hopefully the Vet will be able to determine the cause and provide a diagnosis/treatment for the swelling. Don't wait, the sooner the vet can examine the chameleon the better the prognosis for a successful outcome.



My name is Kim, from Rotterdam - Holland, and I could really use your help! 2 weeks ago I bought a young melleri specimen. I have about 1 and a half year chameleon experience with Calyptratus, so I'm really too "green" for the melleri.....

As I bought him (it-don' t know if its a he or a she) I did see the specimen indication "melleri" but I also saw 3 swollen feet, 1 (left front) from the elbow and I saw the nicked horn. My beginner experience thought of a calcium deficiency, and I thought I could save the animal taking him home and giving him calcium, and Korvimin. As I searched the Internet for melleri, I found out I had brought a special animal home.

Next morning I contacted Mr. B. (well known in Holland as Chamaeleon breeder and keeper) He really helped me out, and as good and as bad as its get: I 'm really trying to make the best of it. Right now he is in a 1.70-meter high glass display-case, depth: 40 x 50 cm.

As I learned, they originally live in Acacia-plants, I brought one I still had at work home for him, yet as the plant wasn't well taken care of, I decorated it with some plastic leaf-plants so he would have something to use for cover.

I have made ventilation holes in the top of the case and as the glass-door does not completely enclose: he has plenty of ventilation.

I have made requests to build him an terrarium 1.70 high x 70 cm x 50 cm dept: with 2 ventilation gratings.

He has one 40watt lamp (which after reading your article will be changed for a 25 watt lamp = 28°C. The 40watt gives about 32°C and 1 new UV lamp.

I have offered him crickets, larva and grasshoppers. I have only seen him eat some crickets. All food animals are powdered with Korvimin.

As water is so important to him, I spray water on the plant every day at morning, but to make him drink, I have to force him. : I take him out, put him on my chest and make him take water from a pipette in to his mouth. (He does not spit it out! he swallows it!)

If I drip: I would still be dripping 10 hours later....

His feet are getting better, the swellings are less and he is able to make some use of the front feet again.

As Mr. B. saw him the day after I bought him, he stated that the chameleon did not have lack of vitamins or calcium, but he had been fighting.

According to his opinion it was a young melleri: about 1 year old.

He also thought the animal was looking ok, and he a good chance to survive.

He told me about the difficulties of remaining a melleri in captivity, as it seems they will suffer from a not defined disease and die after about 3 years.

Please, could you answer me the following questions:

1- Are the circumstances I describe right for keeping the melleri in captivity?

2- Could the obligation to drink as described be too stressful to him? And if so: what should I do?

3- Is my theory about the acacia foolishness or is it a possibility?

4- Could you give me more details and recommendations for the best way to keep the melleri in captivity (forget the outside-cage: this is Holland : always rain and cold!)

I hope you can help me,

Thanks for your time,

Many regards,



I think that the best thing I could say in regards to space requirements for Ch. melleri is go as large as you possibly can. Bigger is always better. I was able to keep a pair in a screened cage that was 3 feet wide x 4 feet deep x 6 feet high (about 1m wide, 1.3 m deep, and 2 m high) and that proved at certain times to be close quarters for them. I always say if you can go larger, go a big as you can.

The method you are using to administer the water can cause the chameleon stress and probably isn't best except for short-term hydration needs. I would recommend looking at a drip system of some type that the flow of water could be regulated. There are many inexpensive drippers marketed for chameleons available now that you can use and will allow for hours of slow regulated dripping. This will allow the chameleon the opportunity to drink without the stress of being handled.

I really like the fact that you did the research on the Acacia trees. I have often done similar research to try and find more info on a species and how to find ways to mirror their natural environment in captivity. Bravo to you for the thought and effort you put into doing the best for the chameleon in your care! GO for it!

As far as your caging needs, I would suggest you review the articles in the November 2002 issue on Melleri. I think it will answer a lot of the questions you may have about caging and if you are feeling really creative read Allison Banks article on how to do a cageless set up in the March 2003 issue.

I just re-read your article regarding Mellers Chameleons. About a month ago I acquired a very large WC Meller chameleon with the hopes of eventually breeding them. Unfortunately, I was unable to acclimate her and she has passed away. She had been digging quite a bit and I believe she had become impacted. Immediately upon her passing I extracted 25 eggs from her. I have the eggs in a Styrofoam container at room temperature (72-78 degrees is what I keep my home at) the eggs are placed on top of a 1" thick layer of moist perlite. I am allowing slight ventilation. If you could tell me of any corrections I need to make if its not too late please e-mail me back.

I would also like to know your opinion on housing 2 Mellers Chameleons in a 6 ft tall 3 1/2 wide X 3 1/2 foot deep enclosure.

Your input on my situation is greatly appreciated,

Jeffrey L. Byrd


I am sorry that your female didn't survive. The process of egg laying is a very stressful process and all to often wild-caught gravid females arrive and have little or no time to recover from the riggers of importation not to mention the additional demands of egg laying. The demands of producing eggs and laying them are a hardship for them even under the best of situations. Hummm... did I make the point clear that egg laying is a hardship on the female chameleon? I have found that one of the most common causes of death in females is usually related to reproductive issues.

I would say that your incubation set up sounds fine. I would suggest that you try and keep the temperatures to not go over 76° F.

As far as the size of the cage for two Ch.melleri I think you will find the answer in the previous question. I will say - besides bigger is better - that no matter how large the cage, you will still need to keep and eye on the inhabitants. The literal limits of any size cage eliminates the ability of the pursued chameleon to get away. Keep a watchful eye on them and if aggression occurs be prepared with another cage just in case.



My name is Justin, and I need some help locating some information. I came across a pet store that had a chameleon and they said it was called a dwarf chameleon. However, this does not tell me very much since there is many dwarf species of chameleon. When I researched it I found that is a Dwarf Fishers Chameleon. I am interested in it however I do not have a credible source for the care of this animal. So I thought that maybe you could point me in the right direction.

Thank you for your help.


The species, Bradipodium tavetanum was once classified as a subspecies of the then called Chamaeleo fischeri group. It is a very nice smaller form that is still considered as part the general B. fischeri complex. The good news is that they do share similar husbandry requirements with them. I would suggest referencing any of the current information on B.fischeri species. There are several good books to use such as: " A field guide to the Reptile of East Africa" (reviewed in the January 2003 issue), "Chameleons, Natures Hidden Jewels", by Petr Necas and the Barron chameleon books will also give you some basic info on their care.

Bradipodium tavetanum are a woodland dwelling species and like to be kept in well-planted environments with good sources of UVB light and places to bask. Ideal temperatures are in the mid to high 70°s and the humidity should be in the 60% range. I would not recommend housing them together as sometimes the males can become fairly aggressive. I hope this helps clarify things for you and gives you some sources for more information.

Hi Ken,

I was browsing around for some information on keeping hoehnelii and thamnobates. I live in England and have kept a handful of species some year's back including fulleborni weidersheimi, paradalis, montium and also a member of the CIN. I since stopped keeping chameleons due to work commitments at the time but I'm looking to keep hoehnelii or thamnobates now and was searching the web for any info, I know several chameleon keepers in the England and some who have had thamnobates in the past but not now, also I've been offered hoehnelii but I don't know anyone personally who has had success with them, I can read info from the net until I'm blue in the face. It is whether or not I trust the source, I'd rather read an account of someone's findings or talk to someone for advice on these species, also try and find if anyone has thamnobates in England or Europe we've asked around but yet to no joy.

ps. I got one of my old chameleon books out the other night and was reading your account on keeping parsonii haven't read that in years, I've been offered some parsons that are due to arrive in a few weeks but the price is way to high £1000 each that's like $3000 a pair! How much aprox do CB ones when available go for in the US? Also Globifer looks nice never actually seen one for real! £345 cb baby. Is there a good stock list I can visit on the net even if it US only give us some idea of availibity today?

Anyway thanks for reading and information greatly appreciated.

Richard Butler


There is nothing worse than knowing what you want and not being able to find it. All I can say is to persevere! If you look long and hard enough I think you should be able to find the species you are looking for. The fact that you are in England improves your chances, as I am aware of many people in Europe working with both species. Just hang in there and keep looking.

As far a people having success with C. hoehnelii? Yes, they have been very successfully maintained and bred in captivity. I know of several people in the US that have felt that they are an excellent candidate for captivity and have raised several captive generations. I know that captive bred babies are available here in the states, not a lot but they are being produced. I would say that they are as easy to care for as Chamaeleo (Triceros) jacksonii, with very similar husbandry requirements.

I am still working with Calumma parsonii and I am glad that the prices are what they are. They were so cheap that at the point just before the exportation band went into effect you could purchase one for under $100.00!!! That's just not right! These majestic reptiles are so slow to grow and reach maturity it seems a crime to make them available for sale at that price. Yes, the prices have surely inflated but it is a more reasonable reflection of the reptile one is to acquire. If you pay a premium price for a Parsonii, I am fairly confident that you are going to make every effort to do the best you can to keep it properly.

The prices you mentioned are within the price ranges I see here in the US. For the most part the availability of Parsonii and other Malagasy species is really only limited to the four exportable species, Furcifer oustaletti, F.pardalis, F.lateralis, F.verrucosus and any other species that has been captive bred here in the states. Of the four exported species mentioned all have been bred successfully in captivity. The greatest captive breeding success is probably F.pardalis, which has been bred to 6th and 7th generations and beyond. All of the other Malagasy species have been bred inconsistently and captive bred offspring are few and far between!

I do find it very interesting that you have the availability of species there that we do not have here. We had one Malagasy shipment arrive here labeled as "farm raised" and it was confiscated. Something has changed if you are able to receive shipments in England of Parsonii and Globifer. Very interesting..

Good luck in your search and please keep me posted on the status of the importation changes.

Thanks to all of you for your thoughts and inquiries!

Ken Kalisch

Ken Kalisch has worked with over 40 species of chameleons in the last decade. He was co-editor of the Chameleon information Network, as well as being published by Advanced Vivarium Systems dealing with his experience breeding Calumma parsonii parsonii in captivity. He was the editor of this CHAMELEONS! EZine from March 2002-March 2004.


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