Veiled Chameleon in Massachusetts (Chamaeleo calyptratus)
Also known as the Yemen Chameleon, the Veiled Chameleon makes a wonderful pet for both reptile experts and beginners. While interesting pets to watch, they frighten easily and may bite. They should be handled only when absolutely necessary, and you should always wear gloves when doing so. Jabberwock Reptiles, located here in Massachusetts, can help you with this and any other care you need for your Veiled Chameleon.
Origin: Mountains of Yemen and Saudi Arabia
Native habitat: Semi-arid; from tropical and subtropical plateaus to semi-desert valleys
Size: 14-24 inches. Males are larger than females, sometimes by 12 inches or more.
Lifespan: 3-8 years
Appearance: Males are green, and this green ranges from a bright lime green to a red olive drab depending upon the lizard’s emotional state and the surroundings. The green color is marked with bands of bright gold, green and blue mixed with yellow, orange and black, and spots of yellow, brown, and blue. Non-breeding females and juveniles are typically uniform green with some white markings. Breeding and gravid females are a dark green with blue and yellow spots. Males have small spurs, or heels, on the back their rear feet; females do not.
Activities: Veiled chameleons are tree dwellers. They are ambush predators capable of lying still for a long time while awaiting an insect to eat.
Misc characteristics: They are solitary lizards that become stressed if housed with other animals, including other Veiled Chameleons. Two males kept together will fight. Females should not be kept with other females; or even with males.
Veiled Chameleons living in Massachusetts need their housing to be built very specially for them in order to enjoy a long and life life so far away from their natural habitat. Their enclosure needs to be tall enough for climbing and roomy enough to provide a thermal gradient. For an adult Veiled Chameleon, the size should be 4 feet long x 3 feet wide x 4 feet high at a minimum. It is also best to avoid enclosures made entirely of glass, such as aquarium tanks, even if they have a screen top, because your Veiled Chameleon needs the cross-ventilation that a wire mesh enclosure provides.
Inside their enclosure, they require plenty of branches for adequate climbing. Their feet are shaped to cling to branches, and they dislike walking on flat surfaces, so they need a lot of thick plants in the enclosure with branches at least the width of their body. They will use these branches as sleeping spots, basking spots and perches to spend their day relaxing.
In order to keep him or her comfortable, you must keep the ambient temperature in the enclosure at 80-85 degrees F in the daytime and in the low 70’s at night. There should be a 90-95 degree basking spot. Since Massachusetts can reach much lower temperatures than this, it is crucial that you use a combination of heat lamps and incandescent bulbs to supply the heat.
These pets need 10-12 hours of daily exposure to direct UVB rays for good health. Use UV lamps specially designed for reptiles, leave lights on for 10-12 hours during the day and turn them off at night for a natural day/night cycle. In addition to quality indoor lighting, whenever possible you should also expose your chameleon to as much natural sunlight as possible. This will be tough during a Massachusetts winter, but certainly possible during the summer months.
Feeding and Water
They use their long, sticky tongue to capture insects. Crickets are the staple for the Veiled Chameleon, but you should feed it a variety of insects, as well as some vegetable matter such as romaine and mustard greens. Other insects should include night crawlers and cockroaches, and on special occasions it is okay to do waxworms and mealworms.
Chameleons prefer to drink water that is in drops or on leaves and do not always recognize standing water as a drinking source. In order to give them something to drink, you will need a container above the cage that drips water onto the leaves in the enclosure.
We are a long way from Yemen and Saudi Arabia. Keeping a reptile pet in our northern climate is not always easy, but it is worth it. Please call Jabberwock Reptiles at 781-729-0135 with any questions you have regarding caring for a Veiled Chameleon here in Massachusetts.