Questions and Answers

By Christopher V. Anderson


Anderson, C.V. (2005). Questions and Answers. Chameleons! Online E-Zine, June 2005. (

Q: How much do they eat?

We just purchased a Veil Chameleon that is now about 8 months old.

We have seen articles about feeding them crickets, however, none of them say approximately how many per day an adult Veil Chameleon should eat. Is there a number?

Also, are Super Worms recommended for them, as we've heard that with the hard shell, they're hard to digest?

Thanking you in advance for your response.

Ed & Debbie

A. Unfortunately, there isn't an easy answer to your first question. To start off with, adult males and females need different amounts of food. An adult chameleon only needs maintenance energy resources as their growth, as adults, is greatly reduced. Furthermore, they don't require much excess as they aren't producing significant bulk increases or eggs like females. Basically, they only need enough food for them to maintain their normal activity levels without diminishing their bodily form. Females, on the other hand generally need maintenance energy resources and production energy resources as they are often producing eggs. The requirements of production needs can vary and the availability of these nutrients can alter the size of production. That is to say, the amount fed can influence the size of the clutch of eggs and at the same time, the risk to the female. Too much food can cause obesity in both males and females, potentially even other metabolic issues. In females, too much food availability can cause excessive egg production which runs a significant risk of shortening the life of the animal. Unfortunately, the amount required for maintenance can vary based on factors such as prey size, nutrient content of the feeders (largely a result of the gutload they are provided with), size of the chameleon (as this varies within the species), environmental temperature, etc. Unfortunately, there are simply too many factors to be able to give a reliable concrete number to feed.

My recommendation would be to get an idea of how many feeders your chameleon would like to eat if you allowed him/her to eat freely. Read up on the nutrition articles in the back issues of the E-Zine so you understand the nutritional requirements of them and then try to manage the intake so that over time, an animal of healthy weight and build remains fairly consistent or in the case of females, isn't producing clutches of dangerous sizes. If you purchase a scale to keep track of weight, you will be able to monitor these changes and react accordingly as subtle, continuous changes over time can be hard to notice in the absence of numerical data. I've found scales to be invaluable in learning about my chameleons' growth and needs and would encourage all readers to invest in one and monitor their animals.

Moving on to your next question, I'll start by giving out the usual commentary on variation in a chameleon's diet. Varying the feeders available to captive chameleons is extremely important. Some feeders are healthier than others and as a result, should be offered more freely than others. Varying the diet and gutloading the feeders appropriately combined are very useful in providing a good assortment of nutrients to your animal(s). While I don't list superworms among my favorite feeders or one that I would consider extremely nutritious (I tend to hold that spot for feeders like silkworms, roaches, crickets, etc.), they are often greatly enjoyed by chameleons and are much better feeders than mealworms. A major difference between superworms and mealworms is relative body size to the amount of chiton present. As size increases, volume increases faster than surface area. The surface area is the highest concentration of chiton in mealworms and superworms and as a result, the larger superworms have more nutrition to them with relatively less chiton which is hard to digest. As a result, I'd say that superworms are a far superior feeder to mealworms but shouldn't be offered with the same regularity as other feeders like roaches, silkworms or crickets.

Q. Inheritance and health

Hello. I recently "inherited" a veiled chameleon that is approx 3 years old. He is about 10 inches long and is just beautiful...I followed all the guidelines for checking to see if he is healthy and he seems to be a magnificent specimen. My question is...He was living in my son's room for the past 3 years. I am uneasy about moving him to another location in my house. Is this harmful?? I would like to send a picture of him to you to see. I feed him crickets, dusted with the calcium dust, flies, and make sure he has water. I have a full spectrum bulb, a reddish light and a daytime bulb that came along with the package...He is in a large open air reptarium....I want to keep him healthy...I am a 45 year old mom who sort of got stuck taking care of him when my 15 year old decided he was too much trouble. Can you give me some advice...I don't want him to go to another home for fear of someone not taking proper care of him....Thanks....

A. First, I'm pleased that you are taking as much care in ensuring the health of your son's chameleons as you are considering your rather sudden inheritance of him. Unfortunately, many don't receive the same care as you are showing after owners of any age decide they don't have time or interest in them.

You're welcome to send photos to me if you'd like ( but I do notice a few things in your description that I should talk about. To start with, as long as the enclosure your veiled is in provides enough plant cover that he will feel able to comfortably hide and you don't move him to a high traffic area of your house, moving his enclosure should only cause short term stress that can be correctly fairly quickly.

Secondly, as long as the temperatures in your house are not getting too cold at night (60sF is fine), you probably don't need the red night light. These bulbs are generally used to provide a heat source at night when the basking bulb is off. The fact of the matter is, however, that chameleons actually benefit from a night temperature drop and as such, the night lights are really not necessary.

Finally, make sure that the flies you are feeding are captive produced (there are a number of sellers who sell pupae and maggots for rearing your own) as wild caught flies can carry large numbers of parasites and are generally not the greatest feeders. I'd also recommend you read over the gutload article in this issue and consider the points brought up by Jason regarding the benefits of gutload over full reliance on artificial dust supplements.

It sounds like you are working hard to ensure the health of your son's chameleon. Keep up the good work and, again, I must say I'm very pleased with the concern for the chameleon that you've taken.

Q. Hypervitaminosis?!?!

Hello. I own a 7-month-old female Veiled Chameleon. Recently, I have noticed her throat appears larger than normal. This doesn't seem to be the "puffing up" throat when they get angry, rather, it just appears that the area around her throat is inflamed. Also, on her back left leg, there is a patch of dark skin. It doesn't change color or pattern when the rest of her body does, it stays dark. I was wondering what was wrong with her? I make sure she always has proper lighting and food. I also spary her entire cage 3 times a day. Am I giving her too many vitamins? Is this a vitamin overdose? Thanks for your help!

A. What you've described with the swelling of the neck sounds like classic symptoms of edema. Edema in chameleons is often caused by hypervitaminosis (over supplementation). Some chameleon species are in particular prone to over supplementation which can be triggered by a number of vitamin sources. Gutloads high in certain vitamins (most notably vitamin A and high carrot use in gutloads) is one common source of excessive vitamins. Use of supplements too often and failure to realize the correct need of calcium vs. vitamin supplements is another common cause of hypervitaminosis. Unfortunately, you will need to see a qualified reptile vet to determine the exact cause of the edema and work out a treatment for it.

While I can't reliably diagnose the dark patch of skin on your chameleon either, it sounds like it could be a burn. Make sure your chameleon can't get too close to it's basking spot and get this checked by a vet at the same time as you get the edema looked at.

Q. Notation?

I see chameleons listed for sale with numbers in front of them, like 0.2, 1.3, etc. What do they mean? Is it age or something like that?

A. This is common notation by keepers and breeders to indicate the numbers of and sexes of specimens in their collection. 1.2.3 Furcifer pardalis, for instance, indicates 1 male, 2 female and 3 unsexed specimens of Furcifer pardalis. Often, when unsexed individuals are not present, the third number will be left out and only the male and female notation indicated.

Q. Drinking and sleeping!

I got a veil female chameleon and she does not drink water and does not sleep; I would like to know what can I do for her to drink water? when does veil chameleon sleep? I just do not know what to do for her to drink water and I am worry

A. Chameleons are diurnal which means they are awake during the day and sleep at night. If light is present at night when they are trying to sleep, this will often keep them up. If this is the case, light should be removed from the room, the cage moved or the covered to allow your chameleon to sleep.

As for watering, chameleons don't drink from standing water. Their cage and plants should be misted a couple times a day for at least 5-10 minutes a session to help stimulate drinking. Further, a drip system can be used by punching a small hole in the bottom of a cup and letting water slowly drip into the leaves of the plants in the cage. If this does not stimulate drinking, try increasing the time of each misting session.

Q. Angry Veiled

I have a one year old female veiled chameleon who has recently picked up a bad habit. When I first got her she would let me pick her right up without any fuss. However, now she hisses and tries to bite at the sight of a hand going into her cage. She has a healthy diet of about 15-20 crickets a day and she looks wonderful. What could this be? And should I not try to pick her up anymore?

A. A number of years ago, here was a magazine issue, I believe it was Reptiles Magazine, that had a number of chameleon articles in it. I particularly remember this issue because it had an article on veileds and they quite rightly referred to them as the "asocial beauties." I've found that this basically sums up the generalized personality of this species. Veileds have a high tendency to be aggressive adults who will often hiss, gape and lunge, if not actually bite, when bothered. You're welcome to try to change this over time but I think you most likely will need to accept that it is their general temperament. They can still be handled when needed but you should probably just learn to watch your fingers!

Q. Waterfalls

What's your input on waterfalls? I am looking to purchase a waterfall to put in my veiled chameleon habitat. I do not intend on using the waterfall to benefit my chameleon in anyway. I just want to make a habitat that will fully benefit my veiled and also be eye catching for me. I have asked other chameleon owners about waterfalls, but I have not found any helpful answers yet. Many people do not use them, some say it's ok, others have said that they are too dangerous. I will not buy one if it in ANY WAY will harm my chameleon. So what are your suggestions?

A. I would discourage the use of waterfalls in chameleon enclosures under the majority of circumstances. They basically serve as an excellent source of bacteria growth unless thoroughly cleaned regularly. Chameleons also have a tendency to defecate in water sources, further adding to the probability that you are going to decreasing the sanitation of the enclosure. Since chameleons will often drink from moving water sources, the danger that your chameleon will be adversely affected by the water quality directly is significant, much less potential indirect exposure affects.

Christopher V. Anderson

Chris Anderson is a herpetologist currently working on his Ph.D. at the University of South Florida after receiving his B.S. from Cornell University. He has spent time in the jungles of South East Asia, among other areas, aiding in research for publication. He has previously traveled throughout Madagascar in search of, and conducting personal research on, the chameleons of the region. He has traveled to over 35 countries, including chameleon habitat in 6. Currently, Chris is the Editor and Webmaster of the Chameleons! Online E-Zine and is studying the kinematics and morphological basis of ballistic tongue projection and tongue retraction in chameleons for his dissertation. Chris Can be emailed at or


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