Veiled chameleon care sheet

Quick facts:

  • Size – males can grow to about 2 feet in length while females may only attain about 18 inches.
  • Lifespan – with good care, your male chameleon may average 6 to 8 years of life. Females will have a shorter lifespan due to egg-laying and may only live for 4 to 6 years.
  • Personality – veiled chameleons are not know for being easily tamed or friendly. They are a pet best suited for display only.
  • Cage size – as with most reptiles, a large enclosure for a hatchling may stress him or her unnecessarily. Provide lots of hiding spaces or else settle for a small enclosure until they grow a bit. As they approach adulthood, a vertical enclosure of 12″ wide by 12″ deep by 36″tall will suffice. As always, larger is always better. Screened enclosures provide more airflow, which is a good thing for the chameleon. But glass retains humidity better. By far, the best solution is a combination of screen and glass for your chameleon to live a long and happy life.

Your chameleon will thrive on a diet of gut-loaded or calcium-dusted crickets, roaches, or (in moderation) meal worms. I definitely recommend starting your own dubia colony of roaches if you can handle it. They’re cleaner, fresher, and more quiet than crickets.

When I was first starting out with only one chameleon, I was overwhelmed by the noise a single petstore box of crickets can make if my chameleon didn’t eat them all. Whatever your choice and however you choose to get them (by breeding your own or buying them from the store), please be sure to feed them a food that is nutritious for your chameleon before serving up your veiled his dinner. This process works by serving the crickets a good gut-loading meal (easily available on Amazon) so that they will then infuse your chameleon with those nutrients once the chameleon eats the cricket.

Alternatively, you can buy a calcium dust, throw the crickets into a baggie with a little dust, and shake the baggie until the crickets are coated with a decent amount of calcium. Again, this allows your chameleon to get the nutrients it needs without there being any extra fuss.

Personally, I prefer the dubia roaches as they provide more nutrition for the chameleon by themselves and I can then control their diet better for the duration of their lives before feeding them to my chameleons. But this is a personal preference. Obviously, having a bin full of roaches isn’t everyone’s cup of tea! 😛 And, truthfully, waiting for your first colony to grow enough to harvest requires a lot of patience.

It is essential for the health of the veiled that they have a source of heat that comes from above as well as a source for UVA/UVB light. Chameleons in the wild will draw heat from the sun. Their sensors are on their back, not their belly. As such, heat rocks and heating pads are no use to chameleons. You need a heat lamp for an acceptable basking spot. Use any heat lamp that will allow you to achieve a temperature of 90° to 95°.

In addition to the heat, there is also the matter of UVB light. Unlike snakes, chameleons (as well as most lizards) need a source of UVB light. This provides the reptile with Vitamin D and thus aids in the processing of calcium. UVB is easily filtered by glass, so setting your chameleon next to a window will not work. Additionally, it is good for you to know that UVB bulbs will stop producing UVB wavelengths long before the light goes out. For this reason, I recommend replacing the light every six months. Failure to provide UVB can result in metabolic bone disease for your chameleon. MBD has been know to cause paralysis and even death.

For the sake of simplicity, I resort to a combination bulb. It’s also called a mercury-vapor bulb and you can find it in most petstores as well as, you guessed it, Amazon. This bulb provides an ambient heat as well as the necessary UVB. They can be a little fritzy, though. It’s really a hit or miss product. I also like the ReptiSun products, which work well in any Home Depot light strip holster. I would avoid the spiral-bulb designs, however. I haven’t experienced any problems but I have heard in the reptile trade that these bulbs may cause blindness in your reptiles. I don’t think they’re worth your chameleon’s health.

Once again, chameleons are one of those pets that make a better display animal than a cuddly little buddy. They will never be as tame as a puppy and you should definitely drop any Pascal dreams right now. If you feel like you can handle a few bites and have the patience to work for many months on befriending your little guy, then maybe you’ll be lucky enough to be able to handle him occasionally.

Keep in mind that chameleons do not change color based on their environment. They change according to mood and temperature. A healthy, happy chameleon will always be lighter in coloration. An unhappy, stressed chameleon will be dark – almost black. Do not make it a habit to stress out your chameleon because this may reduce his lifespan. Just be patient and practice according to his comfort.

To begin, open his cage door and place your hand inside or nearby. That’s all. That’s it. Read a book now. Watch some Netflix. Your chameleon needs to have time to adjust to you. Leave that hand there, though. He needs to think you’re part of the scenery. Wait about 15 minutes or stop if he starts darkening. Close his cage. Try the same procedure tomorrow.

Do this for a week or more. Do this until he doesn’t turn dark at all. Then proceed with step 2: move your hand closer to him. You may get lucky. Maybe he’ll let you get really close. Maybe you’ll even be able to touch. That’s not very likely, though. Just move your hand close enough to him for him to start changing color or start to move away and then stop. Hold your hand there. If he moves, he moves. Oh well.

Do this for another week or until he doesn’t turn dark at all. If you like, you can try introducing treats to him. I prefer mealworms for this. They’re different from his regular cuisine and I’m not afraid to let them crawl on me. Just get one in your hand and hold it near your chameleon. He should take it eventually. Get another one. I wouldn’t exceed two mealworms for a small veiled and definitely no more than five for an adult. Mealworms can cause impaction problems.

Step 3, hold your finger or your hand in front of him. Do this for as long as it takes him to explore you. If he turns dark, retreat a little. Patience is good during this process. You do not want him to fear you. Take things according to his pace and he’ll eventually realize that you’re a pretty cool tree to climb over.

When he does, finally, decide to explore you, don’t keep him out for very long. You want the experience to end on a positive note. Don’t move too fast and don’t walk. Remember, you’re a giant to his eyes. Giants eat guys like him for lunch! Just be slow and when you think he’s ready, get him a mealworm as a reward and let him crawl back into his cage. Don’t rush him. Don’t prod him. Definitely don’t just dump him.

And that’s that! If at any time he starts turning dark, just go back to the previous step. Practice this taming exercise daily, though or else he might forget. Like all reptiles, any progress you make will quickly be forgotten if it isn’t reinforced.

A final note: be mindful of your chameleon’s colors! Dark is bad. Do not stress him out or he may bite or lose total trust in you.

Darker coloration, bloated midsection, and puffy throat indicate fear. This little guy isn’t happy about something!