Questions and Answers

By Jason Descamps


Descamps, J. (2006). Questions and Answers. Chameleons! Online E-Zine, May 2006. (

Veileds Ahoy...

Q. I have just started getting back into reptiles and own two veiled chameleons both under a year, and a male that is just a little boy right now i was just emailing you to see if you have done any work with the Veiled species and what you think of them compared to others, I live in Minnesota so the only real choices of chameleon species i have had other then ordering online is the Veiled, I have read and been told that chameleons are show animals, not something to be held, and can tell by my female that she is not into, but was also wondering what you have to say about taming a chameleon. When ever you have time if you could get back to me that would be cool thanks a lot.

A. I have worked with C. calyptratus for many years and have bred multiple generations. They are a more tolerant species than many other chams but should still be considered show animals. All chameleons are look but don't touch pets. Taming really isn't something that should even come into consideration. What you may consider tame may in fact be a stressed or ill chameleon. Your best bet is to strive to provide the proper husbandry while maintaining a stress free environment to your chams. Keeping handling to a minimum is paramount to that task.

Water Works

Q. Hi I was wondering if I needed to boil water to mist the chameleon, or will tap water be safe enough?

A. Water types have always been a spot for disagreement in chameleon keepers. Many insist that only filtered or purified water can be used while others have used straight tap water for years without incident. I have personally used only tap water for my chameleons and have had great success with them. I do have to clean misting nozzles a bit more frequently but I have had no other ill effects. If you live in an area with exceptionally hard water or if you use a salt based water softener then I would opt for bottled water. The excess minerals and sodium associated with these types of water can be harmful to your chameleon. If you choose to boil your water or use bottled water there will be no harm in doing so.

You've got me there

Q. I came across your site when trying to answer something that has been puzzling me. About 15 years ago I lived in Blantyre, Malawi, Africa. I was given 15 or so Chameleons which I enjoyed keeping for many months until I left the country. I found them to be amazing and curious creatures and spent many hours fascinated by them. On the first day they were given to me they were quite stressed having traveled by car in a carboard box. One I later called scales, very forcefully climbed on top and mated with another who died in the process. Afterwards I always assumed scales was a male but many months later was very surprised to see her lay and bury 20 or so eggs. Sadly I left before any hatched. Can you please explain scales behavior with the dying mate and if chamelions change sex??

A. I'm afraid I can't explain the behavior fully. Many times chameleons in stressful situations will react in strange ways. What may have seemed like mating may have instead just been forceful mounting. As with most vertebrates, chameleons cannot change sex. My best guess as to what you saw was merely a reaction to chameleons being kept is a close proximity, stress and possibly some leftover health issues. Sorry I couldn't be of more help.

A Helping Hand

Q. Is there any way I could contribute to conservation efforts for chameleons such as C.J. merumontanus, whose habitat is so threatened? I keep a couple of chams anyway, but this would serve a greater goal.

I have 30 yrs. of experience keeping a variety of herps, and building various terraria/vivaria for them. My brother and I both worked for Jay Cole herpetologist at the Amer. Mus. Nat. Hist. in our early days. We both now teach science, including Environmental Science at private high schools.

Please let me know any ideas on who to contact to proceed. Ideally, we'd keep data and contribute to a 'studbook' type of thing. Thanks

A. Sadly there are very few projects that direct support chameleon conservation. There are a few farm raised programs out there that many consider a conservation step in eliminating WC chameleons in the trade. A few of us attempted to raise money for a research project in Madagascar a few years ago and found that majority were not interested in the field project or helping to fund it.

Ultimately your best course of action in a conservation project may be one of the land purchasing projects that are ongoing in Madagascar. These projects attempt to purchase plots of forest to prevent logging and burning, thus saving the wild chameleons.

Choosing a Breeder

Q. Sorry to bother you, but I was reading the Online E-zine article about choosing breeders, and I have been to several websites, read literally hundreds of posts on different forums, and talked to a couple of breeders. I am just curious if you could refer me to your top choices of breeders, based on two things, their honesty and chameleon care and the price. I know I should not be looking to find "cheap" chameleons, but I also would like to pay the least price for a good product. I am steering towards purchasing Ambilobe Panthers, probably one male and two females to start a breeding project for fun and as a hobby as I love reptiles, so if you could suggest a couple and even tell me what price range is a good price range for them. Thank you for your time, and keep up the good work.

A. First of all, it's never a bother. That is what we are here for. You are definitely starting things off the right way. Doing research prior to the purchase often makes the difference between success and failure.

While I can't recommend any particular breeder while being in an editor position, I can provide a little direction. What you'll want to look for when talking to any breeder is a willingness to provide all relevant info on the animals in question. Will they provide pictures? Will they provide bloodline information so you are 100% sure you are buying unrelated animals? Will they provide information on how they are being housed, fed, and supplemented?

Questions like this will help you make an informed decision.

A Future Keeper


A. It's really great to hear of a young man that is so interested in reptiles. I'll do my best to hit each of your questions individually.

All reptiles are capable of carrying bacteria such as salmonella, however with a strict regiment of hand washing and awareness of where the animal is allowed this risk is easily minimized. Captive reptiles should not be kept or allowed in areas where mouth contact is frequent, ie. the kitchen. Supplies such as cages, plants, bowls etc. should be clean separately from other household items or even better in a separate sink. After contact with any reptile or their homes and accessories hands should be washed with an antibacterial soap for at least 15 seconds. Or an alcohol based hand sanitizer can be used if available.

Reptiles are often parasitized at differing levels. Wild caught animals will often harbor high concentrations of parasites that, when coupled with the stress of importation and sub-optimum care, can cause a myriad of health problems including death. Captive bred animals can still harbor parasites but the risk of health complications from these parasites is very low. I always recommend starting with a captive born animal whenever possible and always when the keeper is a novice. The chances of success are much higher by choosing this route.

With all that being said, chameleons can be a tremendous amount of work and require a tremendous amount of time to care for properly. They really don't like to be touched, held or even looked at for long periods of time. Generally they do not make a good first reptile for these and many other reasons. In my opinion you and Landon would be much happier with a gecko, such as a crested gecko (Rhacodactylus ciliatus) or a leopard gecko (Eublepharis macularis); or a bearded dragon (Pogona vitticeps). All three of these animals are easy to care for, live long captive lives require a minimal amount of care and are available for a reasonable price as captive born babies.

Many of the chameleon keepers you find on the E-zine, including myself, have kept and bred one or more of these species before making the jump to chameleons. The experience and knowledge gained by starting with one of the animals mentioned above will help prepare you and Landon for success with a chameleon down the road.

Pardalis Perspectives

Q. I just purchased a female panther chameleon for breeding, from screameleons, and I had a few questions. First, I would like to know what I should put at the bottom of my cage, if I even should put anything at the bottom? and when the eggs are in the ground, should I take them out, or leave them in the ground until they climb out by themselves? Also, what do I need to know about incubation?

My friend had some questions also, he is Scott. He has a multi mix panther chameleon. It has in it mostly green bar ambilobe, and also has some nosy be from his mother, he is completely blue. He wanted to know if it would be alright to breed his with my full blood ambilobe. He also wanted to know what the BEST kind of plant for chameleon. We already know the main kinds of plants, but we wanted to know if there were any secrets behind any of the plants. Like some ficus trees are poisonous. Thank you very much

A. It is generally accepted that no substrate is the best option for chameleon caging. There are people who have had varying degrees of success in using substrates but my recommendation is always to skip the substrate and go with a bare bottom cage.

There are several options for egg laying and nesting many of which were coverd by Ken Kalisch in the Jan 2003 issue, A Simple Nesting Site (found at A Simple Nesting Site ). My personal preference for nesting sites has always been a 32 gallon trash can with 2 foot of a soil/sand mix. I moisten the substrate slightly so it will hold a tunnel but not be soggy wet, add a few branches for climbing and a light source and you are ready to go. For certain species I have also planted a small tree in the can for cover and security, many times the eggs are laid amongst the roots of this plant as they would be in the wild. I have used this setup for many years and have never had anything but fantastic results.

For most chameleons species it is recommended that the eggs be removed for incubation. The Incubation Strategies article written by Francois Le Berre in the July 2003 issue (Incubation Strategiesl) has some good information to begin your research into incubation of chameleon eggs.

As far as Scott's questions go I'll answer the plant one first, there are hundred of varieties of plants that can be utilized in chameleon cages. There are really no secrets to keeping the plants alive and healthy. Most issues with plants in cham cages arise from too much moisture. The roots remain wet and begin to rot over time, killing the plants. For some great advice on plant choices check out Brandy Snow's article, Introduction to Common Plants for the New Owners in the August 2004 issue (Introduction to Common Chameleon Plants).

In regards to breeding the cross locale animal with a pure locale animal; this is a subject that many people feel very strongly about one way or the other. Many people feel that the commercial appeal and the different colors produced by these crossings justify the crossing of locales and therefore have no issue with this practice. While others feel that with the limited bloodlines available, the uncertainty of continuing imports and the overall beauty of the pure locale animals there is no need to cross locales and that the practice itself may end up diminishing the captive population at some point in time. The decision to make this type of cross is ultimately up to the individual but care must be taken in how these offspring are represented. These animals must always be represented as cross locale animals and must be sold as such, many would be breeders that would purchase these animals will insist on locality specific animals and even if the offspring look like 100% Ambilobe they must still be sold as what they actually are. Locality crossed animals.

Jason Descamps

Jason Descamps has been keeping and breeding reptiles and amphibians for over 12 years. To date he has worked with over 135 species of reptiles including breeding 18 species of chameleons. His current focus is creating a stable captive chameleon gene pool through the CCBTD and working with rarely bred chameleon species such as C. (Tr.) weidersheimi, C. (Tr.) werneri, and C. (Tr.) fuelleborni. Jason served as an assistant editor for the Chameleons! Online E-Zine from December 2005 through February 2008.


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