Chameleon Calamity | A Keepers Story

Authored byDave L. Johnson

Chameleons and Crickets

Not the smartest decision but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Since starting to keep reptiles as a hobbyist some years ago one of the smartest moves I have made is becoming friends with John F Taylor, but one of the dumbest decisions was to purchase a chameleon as my first reptile.

Chamaeleo calyptratus

Baby Camilla

I have kept corn snakes (Pantherophis guttatus) and a royal python (Python regius) and currently keep bearded dragons (Pogona vitticeps), leopard gecko’s (Eublepharis macularius), red-eyed crocodile skinks (Tribolonotus gracilis), and my first choice and favourite species of any animal on the planet veiled/Yemen chameleon (Chamaeleo calyptratus). Chameleon’s are not the ideal reptile for beginners but as soon as I saw a four-week old Camilla I knew I had to have her and knew she was worth all the research I knew I would have to put in.

Chameleon Natural History

Say Hi to Techno!

Veiled chameleons are indigenous to Yemen, United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabian mountainous regions but are now residents in certain states in the U.S. since being released there and being prolific breeders. They are a simple species to sex as males tend to be larger and have spurs on their back legs and their casque (head bone fin) is larger and they are more colourful .

Camilla in ‘bloom’

Females are a base colour of green which varies in shade and have the odd white line and patch until becoming sexually active when they show the most beautiful colouration I have come across to date in a reptile. Camilla used to show sky blue, vivid yellow-orange, and even a shade I can only describe as golden.

Chameleon Enclosure

Any closer & I will show you what Chameleon means!

Most people will tell you, you have to keep chameleon in mesh sided vivarium’s but I have kept all mine in wooden vivarium’s with glass doors but added extra ventilation and my first male lived to be almost seven years old so must have been happy with his set up. They are an arboreal species so require a high enclosure with branches and vines and are the acrobats of the reptile world when it comes to climbing as they use their prehensile tail as a fifth appendage.

Dietary Needs of Chameleons

Veiled chameleon diet is a strange subject as they are an omnivore yet what they will eat varies from day-to-day and indeed also from individual to individual. My current male BA will take most insects but never eats greens so his live food is well gut loaded. Techno my first male would eat morio worms and locusts only but ate curly kale and rocket by the bowl full and Camilla my first chameleon would eat most insects and rarely ate greens but ate apple blossoms out of the trees in my garden when spending time outdoors. My advice on feeding would have to be prepared to keep chopping and changing and have a varied supply of live food on  hand.

Heating & Lighting

A basking spot is required which I keep at around 90f and humidity at around 50% which I achieve by misting with a spray bottle and placing tubs with sphagnum moss that is very wet under the heat lamp side of the vivarium. UV lighting is also required which I use a ReptiGlo 10 bulb. During research I read that their eyesight is so acute that ultraviolet rays are in their spectrum of vision but as with most things I have read on the internet, I have not come across verification elsewhere so unsure of the truth in this. Another thing I came across which could be true and explain why most veiled chameleon’s are semi antisocial is they have no vomeronasal organ which we and all other species have which defines how we interact socially. Once again this is something I read online so verification elsewhere I have not come across.


My current veiled chameleon is a male I have named B. A. Baracus due to his antisocial attitude and his apparent wish to be a Velociraptor. In all fairness though, due to the substrate kept on in the shop I acquired him from he had reason to be grumpy I guess. He was kept on bark chips as it looks good. As you can imagine due to the method of feeding he swallowed a large piece of bark which took a year for him to grow big enough to pass through his system and almost caused a prolapsed anus for the poor fella. All my chameleon’s have been kept with a tiled or paper substrate. Not very aesthetic but practical and my reptiles well-being has always been my priority.

I hope you have enjoyed reading my basic experiences of keeping veiled chameleon’s and although I would never advise a beginner in the hobby to purchase a chameleon I would advise everyone in the hobby to purchase a chameleon eventually.

Note: Chameleon translates to “Ground Lion”