March 11, 2010

A Chameleon's Tongue

Interesting stuff today at livescience.com:

It's powered by a special mechanism, one that separates the tongue's projectile-like motion from direct muscle contraction, and allows it to accelerate at 41 Gs, said Christopher Anderson, a researcher at the University of South Florida. One G is the normal force of gravity. An astronaut feels about 3.5 Gs during a space shuttle liftoff. A mere 8 Gs will cause most people to black out.

Read the whole story: Chilled Chameleons Still Quick to Snag a Meal.

Posted by Jeff at 09:50 PM | Comments (5)

July 06, 2006

Veiled Chameleon Eggs

These eggs are from a chameleon that I owned a few years ago. She was my first chameleon and I made a lot of mistakes with her. Three days before she died, she deposited these eggs. If you wonder how much size a chameleon loses when she lays eggs, this'll give you a fair idea. However, how much she loses depends upon how many eggs she has, and that can vary a lot.

Veiled Chameleon Eggs
Posted by Jeff at 01:32 PM | Comments (190)

June 30, 2006

Frequently Asked Questions

The most frequently asked question that I get on this website is something along the lines of: "Help! My chameleon is very very sick! It has a growth! Something is stuck in its rectum! It's lethargic! Etc." The best response that I have to this is the following, which I actually did use to answer one person who had a problem:

I believe there are no good suggestions for that other than to take the chameleon to a qualified vet and be prepared to take whatever measures are necessary to find the problem and fix it.

Do it yourself veterinarian-ism isn't a good idea. It never is. The fundamental question is: How much do you value the welfare of the animal?

Chameleons are an advanced pet, as opposed to a pet for novices, and they require more, not fewer, trips to the veterinarian than a novice pet such as, say, a cat or a dog. Yet many people routinely take those pets to the veterinarian for yearly check-ups, even when the animal has no apparent problem. Chances are that those pets, when acquired, didn't even cost 1/2 as much (if they cost anything at all) as people pay for chameleons. Yet, still, even when a chameleon has a very significant problem, people are more inclined to search the Internet and look for "home remedies" than to simply put the chameleon into a critter keeper and visit a veterinarian.

That's really the bottom line. Prey animals, such as lizards, hide illness very, very well. If they don't, they get targeted by predators. By the time it becomes visible to you, the problem is likely so severe as to require immediate and drastic intervention - something that only a qualified veterinarian can provide.

This site should be thought of as a prevention website. I put things up as I become familiar with them, and as time permits, with an eye toward preventing problems from happening in the first place. It is not a "do it yourself veterinary" site.

That doesn't mean that you shouldn't ask the question somewhere on these pages if you feel the need. Perhaps another visitor, possibly myself, will have something valuable to tell you about your situation. Go ahead and ask.

If you really need answers quickly, though, whether you're going to visit a veterinarian or not, I can't recommend any action more strongly than to join the Chameleon Journals mailing list and ask your question there (note: unfortunately, the owner of the site allowed her domain to expire; it no longer exists, but she has registered a new domain name: chameleonjournals.net; unfortunately, it's been roughly a year and she's not uploaded a site yet). There are many chameleon owners, just like you, and breeders, and even a veterinarian or two on that mailing list, and they're on it because they want to hear from you, to learn from your experiences, and to help one another solve problems. Just do it. Do it now.

The most likely reason for your chameleon to be dying:

Metabolic Bone Disease

The symptoms include: a weak grip, trembling or shaking when walking, a curved head casque, curved bones in the legs, broken bones, undigested insect parts in the chameleon's stool.

The two most likely reasons for this problem: inadequate UVB lighting; inadequate calcium in the diet. For a little bit of information about UVB lighting, click "A Chameleon's Environment" and scroll to the paragraph that begins with "About the lamps" (below the second quote box). For proper nutrition, visit "Keeping Crickets and Gut Loading".

Be aware, however, that if your chameleon is already displaying physical symptoms, simply giving the chameleon now what it has actually needed all along is likely to be inadequate. See a veterinarian. You're also going to want something like Grav-Aid/Calci-Herp.

Good luck!

Posted by Jeff at 06:32 PM | Comments (379)

Keeping Crickets and Gut Loading

Finished Cricket Container

One of the most frustrating aspects of keeping chameleons is dealing with crickets. We either find ourselves running back and forth to the pet store several times per week, or we try to keep enough crickets at a time at home in order to be able to feed our pets for days or weeks at a time. I have chosen the latter aspect of the cricket problem, so I purchase crickets 1000 at a time. (I buy them at 3 weeks old). Even with just one chameleon, this works out well. I buy them from an excellent supplier, by the way, The Cricket Factory, and if you're in the western United States, I can recommend them fully. In fact, they might be great nationwide, but since they're located in California and crickets need a short journey, I think I'll keep my recommendation to the west only.

I found the design for my set-up on another website, and I wish I could find it because it really gave excellent instructions. The best pages I've been able to find while looking for the one I want are this one, but it isn't as good one I saw earlier (maybe you can find it!). Let me give a little advice: absolutely, positively, use a hot glue gun to glue the screens to the storage bin. Do not try other glues or you'll be sorry (I did; I learned the hard way).

Why Crickets Die

Obviously, the way you want your crickets to die is by them being eaten by your chameleon. You don't want them dying for any other reason - that's money down the drain. If you have to choose a second favorite reason for them to die, that reason ought to be old age. The main frustration that people have when they try to keep crickets is that they don't live long, so from my experience I'm going to share the primary reasons crickets die:

1) Lack of ventilation. Someone told me, while I was getting crickets from a pet store, that when crickets die they give off a gas, and that the gas they give off kills the other crickets.

Cricket Keeper

Ever see these Kricket Keepers? As you can see, they provide very little circulation. There are holes on top, but there's no way for air to flow through them. Anyone who has ever kept a few dozen crickets in one of these keepers and has opened the top knows that the crickets give off one heck of a stench - and that stench is largely trapped within the container...it just builds up and builds up and builds up. They've probably also noticed that when they die, they die several at a time. If you choose to use one of these Kricket Keepers, and I'm not suggesting that you shouldn't, be sure to only keep a few crickets in it at a time, maybe 20 max, and keep it next to an open window or some other source of air flow. Otherwise they're going to die at the rate of about 1/2 dozen at a time. (By comparison, when I buy a 1000 crickets at a time with my set-up, I doubt if I have more than 20 or 30 die over the course of 6 weeks.)

2) Lack of water (or other source of moisture). You should never allow your crickets' water to run dry. Even if you're using Cricket Quencher, or Cricket Pillows, you should continually add water to them as they dry out (at least once daily).

3) Lack of nutritious food for the crickets. In the short term, you can feed them just about anything. You can even use Fluker's, which seems to me to be made more for the purpose of keeping costs down than for nutrition. It sells well, I think, because it appeals to buyers looking for something cheap. Also, people want to be able to walk into a store and pull the product off of a shelf, and Fluker's is well packaged for that process (in fact, I save the Fluker's jars and re-use them with a different grain based food that is typically shipped in sandwich baggies!). But there's a huge warning about this: gut load is incredibly important for your chameleon, and you've got to do better than merely a grain product. (Here is a much better grain product, by the way, and I'll go into more detail about gut loading below.)

4) Temperature. I have no experience with temperature killing crickets, but I find warnings about this everywhere. Most pages which warn about temperature make an issue about low temperatures killing crickets and they recommend using heaters. I have not experienced this. Instead, I've found that keeping crickets between 65 and 70 degrees slows down their growth rate, and I lose less due to old age. So, I've included temperature simply because I've seen so many other keepers include it, but I'm skeptical.

Ventilation

Finished Cricket Container

As you can see, this design allows plenty of airflow through the cricket's enclosure. The top and both ends are almost entirely screen. About three inches is left above the screen on the ends to prevent the crickets from being able to climb to the top. You may wonder why, if they can't climb to the top, we should bother with a top at all. Well, crickets also jump, occasionally, and we don't want them hopping out.

Creating this kind of airflow will do more to prevent cricket deaths than anything else you do. Providing inadequate airflow is the mistake that people make the most. And without it, you can expect significant shrink of your cricket supply.

Food and Hydration

I present these two topics as just one topic because they blend into one another. You'll see what I mean.

I have had significant problems with my chameleon suffering from edema. This was brought on by a deficiency in its nutrition. I've had the edema come on three times, and was cured twice before we, my veterinarian and I, figured out what was wrong. Its first experience with edema resulted from it being fed exclusively crickets which were gut loaded only with the "greens sauce" mentioned a bit down the page. The second time it was being fed exclusively crickets which were gut loaded only with the grain based product which I'll describe first. Information about those experiences are on another pages, but you should consider the information below about cricket feeding and hydration within the context of proper gut loading.

The driest food that I give to the crickets is a grain based cricket food. I feed it, and the other foods, to the crickets using feeding trays which come with the purchase of the aforementioned Kricket Keepers:

grain-based-cricket-feed.jpg

This food, Premium Blend Cricket Feed, is highly nutritious, not just for the crickets, but also the chameleon. I have also found that it is enough to sustain crickets throughout their 6-8 week lives, but it is definitely NOT nutritious enough to be used as the crickets' only gut load; if you use it exclusively, your chameleon will suffer (well, mine did, anyway).

The next food that I give to the crickets will probably surprise you. But, owing to my experience with edema with my chameleon (and lots of consultations with her veterinarian), we've found it to be the cure for the nutrition deficiencies which led to her edema. I recommend this highly:

A/D Canine/Feline Food

A/D Prescription food for cats and dogs.

I don't know where to buy it online (perhaps try eBay), but chances are good that the closest veterinarian to your home will sell you a case. Buying by the case tends to be the best buy, and it'll last a long time.

The importance of this gut load for the crickets (according to my chameleon's veterinarian) is that it provides more and/or different building blocks for protein (amino acids) than are available with the other foods alone. It was the introduction of this product to my chameleon which cured her of her edema. In my experience, the only substitute for using this as a gut load is feeding the chameleon a variety of other insects: superworms, mealworms, butterworms, etc. Personally, I think you should do that anyway, but this prescription dog and cat food will not only go a long way toward ensuring adequate nutrition for your chameleon, but it'll simplify the cricket keeping process. Also, there's quite a bit of moisture within the food, helping to ensure that your crickets remain well hydrated.

Next, and this food is even wetter than the A/D, comes the gut load most highly recommended by my veterinarian: a "sauce" made of dandelion greens (extremely high in calcium, extremely high in beta carotene, this is about 40% of my mixture), watercress (extremely high in calcium), collard greens, mustard greens, and endive.

I put all of these greens together through my juicer, which has an attachment which forces the pulp and the juice to be mixed together (I call it the "applesauce attachment"), and it makes a big mess of pulp and juice - sort of like baby food. It's very very nutritious for your chameleon and your crickets, and as a bonus it is very very wet. It helps to prevent cricket death from dehydration.

I buy the dandelion greens from a local health food store called, "Wild Oats". I also try to buy the other greens there as well, because they tend to have them available as "organically grown", which means that they don't use pesticides. Obviously, since we're feeding these greens to crickets, pesticides should be avoided! I try to make a lot of the applesauce mixture at a time, since it can be a pain, and then I divide the mixture up into sandwich baggies, place one in the fridge for daily use, and put the rest of the bags into a container in the freezer for safe keeping:

Dandelion, collard, mustard greens, and watercress, pulverized into an applesauce like mixture

Incidentally, the choice of greens is an important one, and other choices are available. The Iguana Society web page has a food chart which gives nutritional information for a lot of greens. The greens should be chosen in a very similar manner as to how they recommend that they be chosen for an iguana. Here are the keys: AVOID oxalates; CHOOSE high calcium greens; and to a lesser extent, try to stay away from the goitrogens.

Next is not a food at all, but is intended just for hydration: Calcium Fortified Cricket Quencher:

Calcium Fortified Cricket Quencher

The main point of using the Cricket Quencher is to prevent crickets from drowning. I use it by filling a feeding tray to the top with the Cricket Quencher, then I add water until its just about running over. Every day, at least once, I add more water to the feeding tray. If you do this, the Cricket Quencher will last a long, long time, and you won't be purchasing it very often. You'll also go a long way toward making sure that your crickets are properly hydrated.

Last, I also use Cricket Pillows. These are little pillows with plastic on one side and a sort of gauze type of mesh on the other side. Inside, they have the very same type of gel (or powder, when dry) as is found in the Cricket Quencher. The bonus of these things, however, is that the gel is somewhat unavailable to the crickets. If they run out of all other sources of moisture, they'll burrow into the pillow to get at the gel. When this happens, it ruins the pillow and is a great indicator for you that you haven't been giving your crickets enough moisture. I find that my pillows last a long, long time.

Cricket Hydration Pillows

What else?

You also need something in your enclosure for the crickets to climb on. They like darkness. Interestingly, they also seem to like togetherness. The ideal product is, of course, egg trays. You tend to get enough from your cricket supplier with your cricket order, but if you have another source of them, get them. Crickets defecate, but they also seem to urinate some kind of wet brown stuff. It soaks into the egg trays and causes them to take on an odor. Over time, you'll wish for replacements.

Incidentally, it's good to buy not just one, but two storage bins. You'll need the second one for midterm cleanings. Below are some photos which should give you the idea. It's not a very pretty sight, and the enclosure should be actually cleaned with soap and water between batches of crickets, but a general sweeping is enough most of the time.

cleaning1.jpg cleaning1.jpg cleaning1.jpg

When removing the egg flats to the temporary container, be sure to turn them upside down so that the cricket feces can fall into the bottom of the cricket enclosure where it can be swept out. Do it slowly enough, and the crickets will hang on as they're being turned upside down. Do it quickly, and you'll spook them and make them jump. So be careful.

cleaning1.jpg cleaning1.jpg cleaning1.jpg

Finished:

cleaning1.jpg

Good luck!

Posted by Jeff at 05:37 PM | Comments (44)

February 16, 2006

Biting

Today I was bitten by a veiled chameleon, and I have just one thought to share:

OUCH!

Posted by Jeff at 01:12 PM | Comments (195)

January 31, 2006

Showering Chameleon

How to make sure that a chameleon is well hydrated:

veiled chameleon in the shower Veiled chameleon in the shower (close up)

A two or three of those per week, with lukewarm water, gives the chameleon the wet look.

Posted by Jeff at 02:05 PM | Comments (73)

December 21, 2005

Gular Edema Cured

I'm happy to report that the gular edema which affected my chameleon has entirely disappeared. Apologies for the weird photo, below, but she's very camera shy, and this photo from a few days ago when she was shedding is about the best I could come up with to display her neck. Notice that the huge swelling which used to be there before is no longer present:

The chameleon's edema has completely disappeared.

You might also notice that her body and legs look quite a bit different, too. It seems to me that she was actually retaining water all over, not just in the neck.

Before describing what changes I made which (probably) resulted in the elimination of the edema, let me recap her diet prior which led up to the edema (and was likely it's cause):

My chameleon ate almost exclusively crickets. The crickets were gut loaded with a sort of applesauce-ish type of mixture made of near equal parts of: 1) dandelion greens, 2) collard greens, 3) endive, and 4) watercress. That's the main dish. The dandelion greens actually probably represented closer to 30% of the mix, rather than 25%. They're also given two side dishes: 1) bee pollen, and 2) dried egg yolks. For hydration, they received calcium fortified cricket quencher. Two or three times per month, the crickets would be dusted with vitamin powder and calcium powder before being introduced to the chameleon.

For hydration, my chameleon's enclosure is partially showered, 3 times per day, 1 minute per shower, with an automatic showering system. Total, it probably dumps about a quart of water into the enclosure every day, wetting the leaves, most of which drips into the substrate.

The most commonly reported cause which I found on the Internet for gular edema was excessive vitamin A. In all cases that I found where the source was referenced, preformed vitamin A in vitamin powders was referenced as the culprit. I saw no reports of beta carotene being reported as a problem (but I have read advice not to hydrate feeder insects with carrots, though edema was never referenced as a reason to not).

The gut load which I was using for my crickets turned out to be unusually high in vitamin A (I presume beta carotene, but I don't know), due primarily to the presence of the dandelion greens which accounted for at least 58% of the vitamin A in the mix (based upon 25% of the mix coming from dandelion greens). By way of comparison, my gut load contained about 21.4% as much vitamin A as an equivalent amount of pure carrots.

The veterinarian was skeptical that the gut load could be the problem. In her opinion and/or experience, edema caused by hypervitaminosis had always come from supplements, not natural food sources, and further, she was of the opinion that even if the chameleon had been eating the gut load directly, rather than through the crickets, it'd be so healthy of a diet as to not likely cause any problems. In short, she couldn't explain the edema, and said that surgery was the next logical step to finding the problem (a step she neither indicated was preferable to the edema itself, nor the reverse). She pointed out that edema can be caused by many things and that we had no strong evidence to point to any particular cause.

I'd also found reports on the Internet about edema being caused by organ failure due to chronic dehydration. That was a scary prospect, as I seem to remember one report saying that the organ failure would probably be permanent. Nevertheless, I took dehydration to heart as a possible cause for the edema.

The changes I made were these:

1) I introduced superworms to the chameleon's diet. The superworms are kept in a bedding of high calcium and high nutrition worm bedding. The chameleon received about 3-5 superworms per week. The superworms are offered potato slices for hydration.

2) While I continued to provide my previously mentioned gut load to my crickets, I also gave the aforementioned worm food to the crickets as well. They seem to love it (in fact, it's sold as cricket food too, although when sold as cricket food it's ground a bit more finely than it is when sold as worm bedding).

3) I switched from feeding the chameleon few adult crickets to feeding about twice as many smaller crickets (this had nothing to do with trying to solve the problem, but I think the change should be mentioned).

4) I began giving the crickets water and potatoes for hydration, in addition to my original gut load (which is wet) and the aforementioned cricket quencher.

5) I bought a small tree and began giving my chameleon warm showers in the bath tub for 45 minutes to an hour per session, roughly 3 sessions per week, by putting the tree into the shower and the chameleon in the tree. The temperature of the water is just a bit more than lukewarm, certainly not anything like hot, and the chameleon loves it. Well, she does until it begins to run cold, then she heads for parts of the tree which are not being showered.

That's all of the changes that I can think of, and I don't know what, if any of them contributed to the end of the edema. For all I know, it may have just been an illness, like you or I catching a cold, which she eventually got over. Or it may have stemmed from an injury, since healed. But, for someone else who is experiencing problems with neck swelling, i.e., gular edema, this information may be helpful. So good luck!

Posted by Jeff at 02:39 PM | Comments (100)

November 21, 2005

Veterinarian and Neck Swelling, II

For review, my chameleon has had an issue lately with her neck being swelled up (see Neck Swelling):

Neck Swelling

When I searched the Internet, I found this type of swelling to be commonly mentioned, called "edema", and was attributed more often than not to over supplementing (i.e., powdering crickets, for example) leading to an excess of vitamin A. Well, I very rarely powder crickets for the chameleon. I prefer to rely almost exclusively upon gut loading the crickets for the chameleon's nutrition, so I only dust on those rare occasions when I'm feeding crickets to the chameleon without them being gut loaded. That's about 2-3 times per month.

However, my gut load may have too much vitamin A. My gut load has three parts: A) masticated greens, B) bee pollen, and C) dried egg yolk. The masticated greens (think applesauce, except made with greens instead of apples) include dandelion greens, collard greens, watercress, and endive. As it turns out, dandelion greens are very high in vitamin A. I said "may", however, because I've just taken the chameleon to the veterinarian, and the veterinarian doesn't find excess vitamin A to be a very good candidate. She's of the opinion that vitamin A problems come from supplements, not from natural sources. And she's of the opinion that all of the greens I am using are very, very healthy for the chameleon.

I had an x-ray done:

Veiled Chameleon x-ray
View larger image.

You can see the ring around the chameleon's neck. In the top image, it appears as on each side. In the bottom image, it appears larger, and within it is a dark blob of an area which leads up, then turns sharply to the right toward the chameleon's abdomen. That, if I understood the veterinarian correctly, is the fluid that's been building up.

Anyway, although the immediate cause of the problem isn't known (and probably couldn't be known without some kind of invasive surgery), the best guess seems to be that the antecedent for the swelling is the pregnancy, which is getting quite severe. It may be sort of like the strange complications that many human females have when they're pregnant. You can compare the amount of space which is taken by the eggs now with the amount of space which was taken by them six months ago in the next image (you can tell the difference in the size of the chameleon as well):

Veiled Chameleon x-ray old and new
View larger image.

The other possibility is that it does have to do with vitamin A excesses. With both of those possibilities in mind, I'll be giving the chameleon extra crickets in an effort to help her to develop her eggs as soon as possible, and I'll be offering the crickets a grain based gut load in addition to what they've been getting. The result will be reduced vitamin A going to the chameleon.

We'll see what happens.

Posted by Jeff at 11:48 PM | Comments (77)

November 11, 2005

Neck Swelling

While my chameleon has had neck swelling on and off all of her life, usually corresponding loosely to feedings, she's got it all of the time now, and I'm wondering if there's some kind of medical problem that maybe I should be aware of. Here's a photo:

Neck Swelling

I would have preferred a photo from the side, but she doesn't respond well to the camera, even from 5-10 feet away, so this was the best I could get (at least she didn't hide completely behind the vine like she would when I'd try to get a closer shot). She is engaging in a bit of "puffery", there, which you can see directly under her chin, which she was doing to intimidate the camera. That swelling around the neck, however, is like that whether she's intending to threaten or not.

Anyway, is this normal? I think I've been feeding her more, lately. Mostly I give her 10-14 adult crickets about every other day. Perhaps I am feeding her more than is necessary, and maybe I should go back to a daily regimen.

I've made a pretty big deal out of having sand available, almost since she was hatched and brought home, because my previous chameleon died, in part, due to not being able to lay eggs. So far, this chameleon hasn't laid an egg, even though she's had eggs in her for months and months, and she's older than my previous chameleon was when she died. This x-ray was taken on May 9th of this year (6 months ago):

Eggs Present

Someone told me that female veileds live a lot longer if they're kept on a restricted diet and are allowed low temperatures. I've not worried too much about temperatures, but until recently I've probably been more restrictive on her diet. Maybe I'm overdoing it lately with crickets.

Thanks!

See Neck Swelling II.

Posted by Jeff at 02:53 PM | Comments (18)

May 25, 2005

A Chameleon's Environment

The following response occurred on another entry. I prefer to answer it here, as that entry is getting rather long:

I have a 5-6 week old CB Veiled about 3"-4" long. I have it in a small 12" Depth x 18" Width x 20" Tall Screened Reptarium. I have a UVB Fixture and a 50 Watt Halogen basking lamp. I also have a drip system that gets filled 2-3 times a day with warm spring water. It is filled with lots of climbing areas and fake leafy vines. I have his basking area 3"-4" away from the light and ample areas to thermoregulate. I have a few questions for you.
1: The timed lighting system turned off the other night, and when it came on the next day (12 hour cycle) he gaped his mouth a lot and he positioned himself hanging down from his vine and shook as if he was trying to regurgitate something. I also noticed him bulging his right eye. He also leans to one side when he is resting on his perch or vine. There is no yellow in his stool indicating dehydration or newly formed wrinkles of any kind. Is there any problems that you foresee or am I being an overprotective Veiled keeper?! He also seems not to like misting at all!
2: What size should he be to move him to a new cage? I am building a cage that will be 24" depth x 24" width x 48" Tall
3: I was also wondering about lighting. I was thinking of using 2 of the 8 and a half inch Compact UVB Mystic Fluorescent bulbs and fixture available at www.bigappleherp.com and a Repti Halogen bulb and reflector dome for heat, light and UVA rays also available at www.bigappleherp.com. These will go on top of my larger cage that I build. Will this lighting be more than sufficient? And where can I find rock walls or large pieces to decorate my Reptarium once it is done?

Going through the questions one bit at a time:

First: On asking me questions. I recently read that there's a "saying" in the chamelon world that, "most keepers can keep a chameleon alive for 2 years because that how long it can take to kill one through poor husbandry." Well, I've only had one other chameleon, and that one lasted less than 1 year. While I do have a chameleon, I am by no means an expert. If you really have a concerning question, while I wouldn't discourage you from asking me (and anyone else who might have a clue), I would also encourage you to join this chameleon forum and ask your question there. There are amateurs and experts there who will answer your question, and who will referee one another's answers. (And don't be afraid of your mailbox filling up - it's actually an unfortunately slow list.)

I have a 5-6 week old CB Veiled about 3"-4" long. I have it in a small 12" Depth x 18" Width x 20" Tall Screened Reptarium. I have a UVB Fixture and a 50 Watt Halogen basking lamp. I also have a drip system that gets filled 2-3 times a day with warm spring water. It is filled with lots of climbing areas and fake leafy vines. I have his basking area 3"-4" away from the light and ample areas to thermoregulate. I have a few questions for you.

About the lamps: Did you know that you can buy UVA/UVB basking lamps? (One brand. Another brand.) I consider having bought one of those to be one of my best investments so far. What the chameleon really needs is that UVB, especially, for Vitamin D3 synthesis, so it doesn't really do much good for it to be basking under an ordinary heat lamp, does it? Next, the florescent lamps, while they are purchased for their UVA/UVB, don't produce the heat that makes a chameleon want to bask under it, right? I will never buy another regular flood again. I do, however, have a 48" fluorescent light, and have recently added a UVA/UVB fluorescent coil lamp (to help illuminate the depths of my 6' Reptarium), I don't think I'd go back to relying upon them exclusively. I attribute the better bone structure in my current chameleon compared to my previous chameleon primarily to the UVA/UVB basking lamp (which, unlike the other fluorescent lamps mentioned here, actually get warm enough to encourage basking).

1: The timed lighting system turned off the other night, and when it came on the next day (12 hour cycle) he gaped his mouth a lot and he positioned himself hanging down from his vine and shook as if he was trying to regurgitate something. I also noticed him bulging his right eye. He also leans to one side when he is resting on his perch or vine. There is no yellow in his stool indicating dehydration or newly formed wrinkles of any kind. Is there any problems that you foresee or am I being an overprotective Veiled keeper?! He also seems not to like misting at all!

My chameleon can't stand misting. Many chameleon owners report the same thing, especially if they mist with room temperature water. It's often recommended that hot water be used, always testing first by spraying your own hand to find out how far away you need to mist from in order for the air to adequately cool the water before it hits the chameleon. I've also seen advice not to mist chameleons which are stressed by it - and I rarely mist mine. The Chameleon Journals has a "scare page" about the water needs of a chameleon, and I keep that in mind, but since I make it rain in the chameleon's cage 3 times per day, 1 minute per session, I don't worry too much about it. Still, given that scare page, I do mist occasionally, hoping to circumvent any eye problems (especially) which may come from the lack of a wet enough environment.

I've seen that kind of gaping behavior, also. Maybe it doesn't mean anything, maybe it does. In the case of my current chameleon, it usually means that its skin is starting to itch and it's about to shed. If your chameleon wasn't so young, I'd wonder about its skeletal structure. If I were you, I'd start filling my mind with everything there is to know about metabolic bone disease in chameleons. If anything kills your chameleon, it'll probably be that. (And it wouldn't hurt to get an x-ray done of your chameleon at the age of around 4 months so that you can see how you're doing.)

2: What size should he be to move him to a new cage? I am building a cage that will be 24" depth x 24" width x 48" Tall.

My advice is to move it to the new enclosure as soon as you can. Chameleons don't like to have their environments altered, and the longer you keep it where it is, the more accustomed it'll become to its current set-up. But more than that, ask yourself why you should restrict it to such a small space? I'll bet you can't find any answers which benefit the chameleon, but instead the answers you find will serve your own convenience. (And what's neat about your question and your set-up is that you seem to really care and to be willing to apply the diligence necessary to properly keep your pet!)

3: I was also wondering about lighting. I was thinking of using 2 of the 8 and a half inch Compact UVB Mystic Fluorescent bulbs and fixture available at www.bigappleherp.com and a Repti Halogen bulb and reflector dome for heat, light and UVA rays also available at www.bigappleherp.com. These will go on top of my larger cage that I build. Will this lighting be more than sufficient? And where can I find rock walls or large pieces to decorate my Reptarium once it is done?

Like I said earlier about lighting, I no longer like the idea of providing any kind of basking (i.e., heat) lamps which don't also supply UVA/UVB. However, I also include fluorescent UVA/UVB lighting to supplement the UVA/UVB basking lamp that I use, and also to help illuminate the cage. Maybe I'm paranoid about the skeletal structure of my chameleon, but maybe not. Metabolic bone disease seems to be the primary killer of chameleons and I prefer not to take chances. I also wonder about 50 watts being enough. I used to actually use 250 watts, but now I use only 100 watts and I wonder about it being enough. Given the small size of your enclosure, I can understand the 50 watt limitation, however. Also, with regard to the UVA/UVB lamps that I've been recommending, your enclosure is way too small for them, as their UVA/UVB properties require certain minimum distances from your pet.

With regard to the rock wall, I can't say that I share your enthusiasm for it. The chameleon isn't going to want to have anything to do with it, and it seems to me that if it's provided, then food may hide within its cracks, and the chameleon may attempt to crawl on the wall in order to get to the food. Chamemeleon feet aren't exactly designed for that purpose, so that would concern me. As for other decorations, I suppose you can find them in any pet store. But the chameleon mostly just wants plants and vines to crawl upon, and plants are pretty darned decorative, aren't they?

Posted by Jeff at 09:37 AM | Comments (255)

May 22, 2005

Veiled Chameleon Ears and Hearing

I just noticed something odd about chameleons: no signs of ears. I wondered about that, so I did some searching of the Internet and found little said about this strange omission from chameleon heads. I did find one little tidbit, though:

Initiation of substrate vibrations during courtship has also been reported recently in vertebrates. The veiled chameleon, Chamaeleo calyptratus, produces plant-borne vibrations that may be used in communication (Barnett et al., 1999). This is especially intriguing because Hartline (1971) noted thirty years ago that structures for hearing in chameleons and snakes were at least superficially similar, and thus chameleons might detect substrate vibrations (Barnett et al., 1999).
--American Zoologist, Vibration and animal communication: A review

And to think I've been tip-toeing around at night and keeping my music low during the day for the little critter.

Posted by Jeff at 09:39 AM | Comments (79)

May 14, 2005

Substrate - actual use

On an earlier entry, I showed what substrate I use and how to prepare it. In this entry, I'll show how I use it:

Chameleon cage

To the right is my entire chameleon "cage", which is more of a mesh enclosure called a "reptarium" by its manufacturer, Apogee. The reptarium is ready to be cleaned (you may notice some flecks of debris on the floor of the reptarium). Notice that you do not see the Eco Earth substrate mentioned above.

(Just as a side note, notice also that the three hanging plants are not hanging from the mesh enclosure, but instead are hanging from strings which are attached to the ceiling. This seems to me to be a very useful, yet under-used technique for decorating chameleon cages.)

Cleaning the chameleon's cage

So, to start out, what I do is remove everything that's on the bottom of the enclosure. In this case it's a waterfall, a decorative piece of driftwood, the chamelon's tree, and a small shelter for crickets when they're looking to get out of the rain. Then I remove everything that they were sitting upon until I reach the mesh at the bottom of the enclosure.

The bottom of the empty cage

You'll notice a couple of flaws in the mesh on the bottom of the enclosure. That's because the bottom used to be the top, and the chameleon's basking lamps burned right through the mesh. The instructions for using the enclosure said that wouldn't happen, but - it did. Thus the top became the bottom and I covered the holes with duct tape. The mesh enclosure is sitting inside a plastic liner (scroll to the bottom at that link) which protects the carpet from moisture and other products generated within (*smirk*).

The first thing I do is place an assemblage of raised flooring on the bottom of the cage to provide an air gap between the bottom of the cage and the substrate above.

Flooring for the bottom of the cage.

Here is a photo of the flooring assembled on the bottom of the cage:

Flooring assembled and installed.

Then I spread weed blocker across the top of the flooring. Note that I do not cut the weed blocker to fit the cage - the roll is just sitting outside out of the way and still attached to what is lining the bottom of the cage:

Weed blocker contains the substrate.

The next step is to add the substrate:

The substrate added on top of the weed blocker.

Now comes the reason why I didn't cut the weed blocker as part of a previous step. I scroll out enough of the weed blocker to fold it back over the top of the substrate - and then I cut it. This prevents the chameleon's food from burrowing within the substrate and prevents the chameleon from accidentally ingesting it. It also gets wet, and holds a little bit of water on top of the weed blocker; thus there is some water which evaporates and never makes it into the substrate. Still more importantly, enclosing the substrate this way makes it very easy to remove during the next cleaning. I simply pick up all of the substrate at once, containing it within the weed blocker.

The substrate is now contained by the weed blocker all around.

Although I don't show the step here, I then cut one more length of weed blocker from the roll and place it as an additional layer on top of what you see in the photo above. This additional layer may be changed much more often than is necessary for the substrate, thus keeping a sanitary floor without having all of the work described here.

Much better!

The only step left is to replace all of the knick-knacks.

The finished job.

Though I'm going to save the details for a later post, the reason that I use this substrate, and the reason that I said that I like the substrate to be bone dry before placing it within the cage, is because of how I hydrate the chameleon. A lot of water - a lot - makes it to the bottom of the cage. This substrate is VERY absorbant. When water enters it, it soaks up even better than a sponge and distributes the water throughout its fibers. Thus the water doesn't present a drowning problem for crickets, and it has a better chance of evaporating before the next hydration. In addition, because it is so absorbant, it holds a great deal of water, thus providing for a lenghty amount of time between changes. In addition, when it's damp, it's helping to increase the humidity of the air above. It's quite useful.

Look forward to a future post on making it rain, automatically, every day.

Posted by Jeff at 12:27 AM | Comments (137)

May 09, 2005

A Trip to the Veterinarian

My veiled chameleon and my cockatiel both had their first trip to the veterinarian today.

A cockatiel and a veiled chameleon visit the veterinarian.

The cockatiel was, for the most part, just along for the ride - at least I thought so, anyway. I was really only going because I wanted an X-ray done of the chameleon. But the next thing I knew, I was watching a needle stick into the bird's jugular vein and about 1/2 tablespoon of blood being pulled through that needle into a syringe. So that bird has had a hard day! If I had lost that great of a percentage of my blood, I'd have lost consciousness and gone into convolutions and spasms (it's happened before). The poor bird took it well, though. I was also surprised at how good he was at sticking to my shoulder. I'm starting to think that I could take it outside and it wouldn't fly away (though I've no intention of trying).

The chameleon was transported within this Kritter Keeper.

The chameleon, however, had an even harder day. I did everything that I could think of to try to keep its stress level down as much as possible, but near-disaster happened. When the vet was attempting to remove the chameleon from its carrier, the chameleon grasped the top of the lid with both front feet and hung on. I reached over to help by getting his feet undone, and that's when the chameleon moved into "rapid flight" mode. The next thing we knew, we were hearing the sound of the chameleon's body smacking against the hard floor from about 4 feet in the air. Not good. But it doesn't seem any worse for the wear.

A cockatiel and a veiled chameleon visit the veterinarian.

You can see the eggs showing up in this X-ray (and no broken bones from a fall!). I expected that. In addition, I was hoping that he'd give a glowing report on how big and strong the chameleon's bones are. Well, it was nearly glowing, but not perfect. Do you see the chameleon's toes? Those should be a darker white ("lighter white"?) to be perfect, but the rest of her bones are looking pretty thick.

The veterinarian gave me some rather specious arguments about supplements and gut loading with Fluker Farm's cricket gut load and cricket quencher. He made a speech about the vitamins and minerals in those things not being "organic", and therefore not adequate. He said, "You can smear vitamins all over Wonder Bread and give it to your children, but they're not going to grow." Yeah, well, that's obvious, but that's a macro-nutrient thing, not a micronutrient thing. And the cricket gut load is not on Wonder Bread, it's inside of animals (crickets, mealworms, waxworms, etc.).

But that's not the main thing which was wrong with his argument. Instead, he was putting his attention on the antecedents (what the food is made of) rather than results (the empirically observed results of the food on the animals). Does he honestly think that Fluker Farms just adds a bunch of vitamins and minerals to some grain and then think, "Well, the nutrients are there, it must work!" That would be silly. When the food fails to nourish, the pets die. When pets die, people get discouraged and fail to buy more. Or if they do, they'd tend to try different feeding techniques and Fluker Farms would lose the business anyway. No, be reasonable here: a company is going to test its products and let its formula evolve to best suit the animal.

Nevertheless, I'm taking his advice on gut loading to heart. While I'm quite sure that the Fluker Farms cricket gut load is probably better for the chameleon than is most food that parents feed their kids, I think it could be made better by using fresh vegetables. The vet warned against using any kind of lettuce, or chard, or spinach. I asked about the spinach, and he responded by mentioning something in the spinach which binds the calcium (I think), so it wouldn't do any good. It sounds like he knows what he's talking about with the vegetable thing. He also said not to feed the crickets carrots. In short, he said to stick to three types of greens: collard greens, endive, and dandilion greens. I only know of one store that sells dandilion greens, and I'm not sure whether its year 'round, but at least the other two are readily available. And they're still going to get the commercial gut load occasionally, as well as the cricket quencher. Mostly, I intend to mimick closely these gut loading recipes from ChameleonNews.com.

A cockatiel and a veiled chameleon visit the veterinarian.

And, in case you're wondering, that's a giant piece of feces and uric acid, compliments of the chameleon about 1/2 hour before my appointment with the vet. The chameleon was really good to provide that sucker. I was so proud. (Vet reports no signs of parasitic infection.) Ya gotta have one of those when you head to the veterinarian!

Posted by Jeff at 02:04 PM | Comments (513)

May 05, 2005

Eco Earth and Forest Bed Substrate

Below is the substrate that I use in my chameleon's pen, Eco Earth. (Here is the link to how I use the substrate, which is not simply lining the bottom of the pen with it). The current page is about the substrate itself, as opposed to how it is used.

Forest Bed, Eco Earth, Substrate

The "Forest Bed" pictured to the left is a different brand from Eco Earth, but ultimately the same thing: ground up coconut husks pressed into bricks. You can often find both in a pet store, often with different prices, though I can't imagine why - they seem to be the same weight (though one brand makes a smaller, more dense brick than the other). What's neat about the link to the Eco Earth I've been using here is that it's only $5.99 for 3 bricks. The lowest price I've been able to find where I live is $4.99 per brick. Of course you have to factor in shipping, which if you bought nothing else you'd get as inexpensively as $5.95, for a total cost of $11.94. That's a savings of $3.03 as compared to the stores around here (sales tax may present yet a greater savings). The Internet rocks! Anyway, moving swiftly on....

Forest Bed Substrate Expanded

The instructions say to add 1 gallon - 4 quarts - of water to a container with the brick to expand the substrate, but because I want the substrate bone dry before I put it into the chameleon's pen, I use as little water as possible. In the case of these pictures, I first used 3 quarts of water, which ultimately wasn't enough, and I needed to add another 2.5 cups. You can see how large the brick grew after absorbing the water! (The measuring stick is 8 inches long.)

Forest Bed Prepared

Drying the Eco Earth substrate is the major pain in the asterisk about using it. Consider what your climate is like, then ask yourself how long you think it'd take to evaporate a gallon of water from a bucket into the air. That's about what you have to expect when it comes to drying that gallon of water out of the substrate. It can take days. For this reason, it's a good idea to have it prepared and dried out long before you anticipate needing to use it.

Drying Forest Bed Substrate

To dry it, I put it out into the sun using a method which will help to prevent any breezes from either blowing it away, or blowing foreign debris into it. In this case, I used a box, open on one end to the sun, and kept the other sides up to block the wind. It took a few days, considering it was done in April when the temps aren't too high and the humidity is.

Dried Forest Bed Substrate

You'll notice that when it's completely dry its color will have reverted back to the color of the original pressed brick. At that point it's ready for me to use. Dryness is important given my method of hydrating my chameleon - but that's an entry for another day! (Check back soon.)

If you're interested in seeing a time lapse video of the expansion of the bricks, you may see it at the link below. However, because the video is such a large size, and because I don't want people embedding it on outside websites, I've placed it within a protected area of this website which requires a username and a password. They are:

Username: Veiled
Password: Chameleon

Note that they are CaSe SeNsItIvE

"Expand" AVI file (12.0 MB) (MediaPlayer or RealPlayer)

"Expand" animated gif (26.33 MB)

Posted by Jeff at 10:27 PM | Comments (10)

April 14, 2005

Muscidifurax raptor and House Flies

Okay, these things are cool (I borrowed these photos from the Universal Chalcidoidea Database):

Male Muscidifurax raptor

That is a male Mucidifurax raptor, a wasp which parasites on Musca domestica, the house fly (I'm guessing it goes after other flies as well).

Here's a female depositing an egg within the pupa of a house fly:

Female Muscidifurax raptor.png

I've been reading about Musca domestica because they and their larvae seem to be on the menu at Internet bug stores, such as the American Cricket Ranch, for the feeding of various critters. I just bought 150 of them because I wanted to get something for my chameleon to hunt besides crickets...they're too easy and she must get a bit bored with them. Besides, variety is important for nutrition. One hundred and fifty was the smallest amount I could get for the low-low price of just $3.99 plus shipping. Another dealer wanted to sell me 5000 pupae which would emerge in just a couple of days for $15...what would I do with 5000 flies?! I'm thinking that 150 is over the top. So I was also wondering what it'd take to raise the suckers for myself. After reading about that for a bit, I decided that it's probably something best avoided. But when I visited this page on the house fly, I was introduced to that awesome little wasp with the cool name: Muscidifurax raptor.

Check out it's life cycle:

Muscidifurax raptor and Musca domestica's life cycles

(I borrowed that image from a page about the wasp, where it is credited still elsewhere, the Ciba-Geigy Corporation.)

The place that wanted to send me 5000 house fly pupae, Beneficial Insectary, apparently sells those little wasps to people who want rid of their flies. Remember that the next time you find yourself trying to deal with those suckers.

Posted by Jeff at 10:59 PM | Comments (7)

April 07, 2005

Before Buying a Veiled Chameleon

I was asked within a weblog comment for advice on purchasing a chameleon. This is what seems to me to be most important from the beginning. In addition to this, you should read the care sheet, then follow the links at the bottom of the care sheet to read care sheets written by others. Some of them will give advice on selecting a healthy chameleon, as well.

This was all written at a moment's notice - I'll update it soon, and probably often.

First and foremost, realize in advance that a veiled chameleon is going to cost you a lot of money - and I'm not talking about the purchase price of the chameleon itself. I'm talking about what it takes to take care of it properly.

The temptation is to want to just get the pet, then make do with what you have at first and then to slowly, over time, improve the pet's habitat. But, really - don't skimp on this. If you do, it's the lizard that'll suffer. The biggest mistake that people make is purchasing the animal and then setting up its environment. Spend the money, then spend a few days, perhaps a week, getting an environment put together before purchasing the chameleon. Here's a setup list which mirrors what I have for my chameleon. I've taken no shortcuts, and I'd expect anyone who really wants to care for their pet to take none either:

Initial setup: Using Petsmart for prices (except where indicated)
Reptarium: (29x29x60) $149
Reptarium liner: $25.99
Substrate: $5.99
Clamp lamps: (At least two.) $20.98
Basking light bulb: $7.99
Nighttime heat lamp: $6.49
36" Florescent lamp hood: (PetCo price.) $48.99
36" UVA/UVB florescent light: (PetCo price.) $36.99
Hanging pothos plants: (I have 3.) $25.00
A small tree: $20.00
Cricket Keeper: $14.99

That's to get you started, and it totals: $362.41 (without sales tax) - and without the price of the chameleon!

Next you'll want to purchase a chameleon. Expect about $90 (without tax) local retail, or about that much including shipping if you buy online.

So now, just to get started, we're up to $452.91

If you visit many websites where people feature their chameleons, you'll probably notice that NO ONE has a cage that is less than about 2.5 feet by 2.5 feet at the bottom and about 6' high. Anything less is really skimping for a chameleon. They're climbers - they need up and down space, and lots of it.

So now that you've seen the price of getting started, consider what it'll cost per year:

Crickets: (10 small per day, or 6-7 large for older lizards - $0.80/day.) $292.20
Cricket food: (For gut loading - a necessity;PetCo price) $5.98
Cricket quencher: (Calcium fortified, also necessary.) $7.47
Vitamin powder: $5.99
Calcium powder: $11.99
Basking lamps: (About 3 per year.) $23.97
Nightime heat lamps: (About 3 per year.) $19.47
36" UVA/UVB florescent lights: (About 2 per year.) $47.92
Substrate: $23.96

That comes to, per year: $438.95 - without tax; with tax, where I live: ~$512.23 - or $36.58/month.

So plan on spending around $450 just to get a proper set-up going. You may visit all kinds of online pet supply stores which advertise "complete set-ups" for much, much less - but I promise you, they're wholly inadequate and you'll feel bad keeping your pet veiled chameleon in such conditions. And you'll feel ripped off when you find yourself re-purchasing what you should've purchased in the first place: the proper size and type of set-up.

Next, plan on spending around $40/month on maintenance (food, etc. - and notice that I haven't included sales taxes anywhere).

If you're going to buy a chameleon, my advice is to print out this page and try to mimick it as best as you can - especially the size of the enclosure. And crickets alone aren't adequate food - more expensive food, most notably (for chameleons) butterworms, should be purchased and fed regularly. Good luck!

Posted by Jeff at 11:59 PM | Comments (279)

April 06, 2005

Shedding Sucks

This video (link below) was taken about a week ago.

The poor lizard. It looked so uncomfortable.

One funny thing, though, that you can't see much of in the video but you can get a glimpse of is the little bit of skin which was shedding off of the skin of its eye on its right side. As it moves its eye around, that little bit of white skin flies around like it's waving a little flag. That bugged the heck out of me - I just wanted to help the thing get the skin off. Even after a week, there's a little bit of skin still stuck to its forehead which has been there for days.

Veiled Chameleon Eats Shedding

Posted by Jeff at 12:16 AM | Comments (113)

March 23, 2005

My chameleon is an idiot

So I'm wanting to take a video of my chameleon as she goes after and eats some food. She missed the food, possibly in part because of this smooth move (the video is shot through mesh, accounting for some of the blur):

Veiled chameleon falls

That was from over 5 feet above ground.

About 3 minutes after that fall, and as I'm transferring the video to the computer, I hear the sound of paper crinkling within the pen. I turn and see the chameleon walking down a brown paper lunch bag that I have hanging on from the side of the mesh. The bag had crickets in it and a little hole in one corner so that they'd have a way to get out. I put this bag in there realizing that the chameleon would not be able to grip it and, therefore (I thought), the chameleon wouldn't even attempt to walk on it (my previous chameleon would never have tried such a thing). But the chameleon I have now was walking on it, losing its grip, and sliding bit by bit down the bag. I held my breath until it managed to get a grip on a plant. She likely would not have survived the fall.

Posted by Jeff at 05:59 PM | Comments (126)

March 22, 2005

First Day

A face only a mother could love:

Baby female veiled chameleon

Actually, I take that back...veileds' mothers don't love them.

Anyway, this is this tyke's first day living here. She's the site's new mascot!

No name for her yet.

Posted by Jeff at 09:52 PM | Comments (29)