Veiled Chameleon (Chamaeleo calyptratus)



With their beautiful colors, exciting patterns and unique features, veiled chameleons are quite the sight to see. They have tall helmet-like headpieces atop their heads and crested ridges above their eyes that look like veils – hence their name, veiled chameleon. Their bodies are primarily green and have dynamic patterns in combinations of oranges, yellows and browns. Veiled chameleons are relatively large compared to other reptiles and are tree-dwellers, living their life up in the trees, branches and vines. Like humans, veiled chameleons are very active during the day and sleep at night. 

Also known as the Yemen chameleon, the veiled chameleon is originally from the mountain ranges and valleys in Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Their natural habitats within the coastal mountain ranges have lots of rain, and the slightly drier valleys they reside in have plenty of water and vegetation all year. Lately, the veiled chameleons have established wild communities in Florida and on the island of Maui.


Veiled Chameleon Fun Facts

  • Veiled chameleons have eyes that pivot almost 180 degrees! This allows them to look in nearly every direction without turning their heads. 
  • Veiled chameleons can change shades of color, to display their mood or to camouflage 
  • When stressed they change to bold colors such as yellow and black 
  • Veiled chameleons have long tongues with muscular tips to catch prey 
  • The tall helmet-like headpieces atop their heads that are used to direct water from leaves into their mouths


Veiled Chameleon Average Size and Life Expectancy

One of the biggest types of domesticated chameleons, fully-grown adult male veiled chameleons can reach lengths up to two feet long from head to end of the tail. Mature adult females grow to around 18 inches long, and the hatchlings are about three to four inches long. 

A well- accommodated and very healthy male veiled chameleon can potentially live six to eight years. The females don’t live quite as long, usually averaging four to six years.


Housing Your Veiled Chameleon

Territorial by nature, veiled chameleons can get stressed when housed with others – so once they reach adulthood at eight to 10 months of age, it is best to keep only one per cage. If your budget allows, larger cages are better for adult veiled chameleons – something around 2-feet x 2-feet x 4-feet would be perfect. For a smaller female adult chameleon, a slightly smaller cage would also be fine. When the chameleon is young (under six months), the cage should be small enough for it to catch prey with ease. A 16-inch x 16-inch x 30-inch cage would be excellent for young. 

When purchasing a cage, look for one with at least two side screens to provide optimal airflow for your veiled chameleon. Stay away from glass terrariums because they lack the necessary airflow causing stagnant air, which can cause dangerous upper-respiratory infections. 

To provide your veiled chameleon with a fun, interactive and comfortable habitat, decorate the cage with plenty of live and artificial plants, vines and other greenery. Include places for the chameleon to hide, these will help them to feel safer and more secure. Vines are perfect for providing horizontal basking and resting areas while also presenting a way for the chameleon to move across the habitat. Live plants are wonderful for contributing to the humidity levels inside the enclosure while also providing natural shelter. Some live plants that are safe for the veiled chameleon to live with include: 
  • Weeping Fig 
  • Umbrella Plant 
  • Pothos Plant 
  • Hibiscus 
  • Dracaena


Substrate for your Veiled Chameleon

Special substrates are not recommended for using in the veiled chameleon’s habitat. The chameleon will spend its days lounging in the plants and vines above the floor, so particle substrates are not needed. Plus, feeder insects may try to bury in them, and they become something extra to clean. Some people choose to leave the floor uncovered, as this provides effortless cleanup. You can also select something simple, such as newspapers or paper towels, just remember to change them frequently, at least once a week.


Temperature's for your Veiled Chameleon

Having a heat source in one corner of the cage will provide the veiled chameleon its basking spot. Create the basking spot with a heat lamp positioned about six to eight inches above a branch or vine – so the chameleon can climb as close to the heat as it likes. Place the heat lamp over the screen or suspend it from the top of the cage. The temperature under the heat lamp should be between 85- and 95-degrees Fahrenheit. 

Like other reptiles, veiled chameleons are ectotherms, indicating they require both warm and cool places in the cage to regulate their temperatures properly. This is called thermoregulating. Place two thermometers, one on each end of the cage, to assure the temperature ranges are sufficient for your veiled chameleon. The temperature on the opposite end of the cage from the basking spot should be between 72- and 80-degrees Fahrenheit. 

During the night, the veiled chameleons are fine with a temperature drop, as long as the temperatures stay above 45-degrees Fahrenheit. It is not necessary to purchase a separate heat source for nights as long as you turn the basking lamp on in the morning for your veiled chameleon.


Veiled Chameleon Lighting

A UVB light that runs the length of the cage is essential for indoor veiled chameleons to get necessary vitamin D, to promote calcium absorption and to prevent metabolic bone disease. Basking in the glow of the UVB light is similar to perching on a branch under the sun in the wild. To set your light up, get a full-spectrum UVB light, place it on top of the screen and position a branch about six inches under the light.


Veiled Chameleon Water & Humidity

Since veiled chameleons are habitually in the vines all day, they do not understand how to drink water from a dish. Instead, they usually find their water sources in dew and droplets of rain that glisten in the sun. To provide these droplets, mist the chameleon’s cage two to three times a day. Always leave time for the shelter to dry out all the way between misting periods and don’t let excess water gather on the floor. 

Live plants will also help to provide moisture in the enclosure as well as installing an automatic drip or rain system. You can run the drip system during the day twice a week. This will give the chameleon big, juicy droplets of water to drink and will also keep the plants watered. Veiled chameleons enjoy humidity levels of around 50 percent – to assure these levels are sustained, purchase a hydrometer to measure the humidity inside the cage.


Veiled Chameleon Food

Since veiled chameleons love to eat crickets & dubia roaches, you can use them to make up a primary staple in the chameleon diet! Young veiled chameleons need to be fed twice a day, and you can gradually work up to every other day as they grow to adults. 

When feeding your veiled chameleon crickets and dubia roaches, the insects should first be dusted with a vitamin and mineral supplement with calcium to assure the best health for your chameleon. This is especially important for baby chameleons to get the proper nutrients they need to develop. Put the insects in a container with the powder and shake gently to cover them. 

Gut loading, or feeding the insects a nutritious diet before serving them to the veiled chameleon, provides optimal health benefits for your chameleon. Feed the insects either a vitamin-packed powdered diet or go natural with squash and dark leafy greens such as mustard or collard. 

Other foods that you can offer your veiled chameleon as snacks include: 

Insects: 
Produce: 
  •  Dark leafy greens 
  •  Zucchini 
  •  Squash 
  •  Bell pepper 
  •  Blueberries 
  •  Apple 
  •  Pear


Conclusion

Veiled chameleons make great pets for anyone that appreciates watching really fascinating- looking creatures interact with their natural habitat. You will have such a great time watching them hunt as their eyes move 180 degrees in their head to find prey and their tongue shoots out across the cage to catch prey. With the proper temperature and sized habitat and a nutritious mineral filled diet, your veiled chameleon will live a thriving life and will be sure to entertain you.