Chameleons may seem a bit creepy at first sight, but like bearded dragons, they make absolutely wonderful pets. Still, beware, as they are not that easy to maintain and take care of, so if you are a beginner with reptiles in general, you should probably not start with a chameleon. For those who would like to try the adventure with one of these lovely exotic creatures, here are some advices for you.
A couple interesting facts about chameleons before starting
Before we start, let us explain the word «chameleon»: it comes from two Geek words, « chamai » and « leon », literally meaning « Earth lion ». They are exotic reptiles, from the lizard family. If you are looking for your first chameleon in pet stores, you will mostly come across Panther, Veiled and Jackson’s Chameleons, which are usually the most common species that can be kept as pets. The most interesting fact about chameleons is that they have the ability to change their color, and you are just about to learn why.
Why chameleons change color?
If most people find chameleons so fascinating, it is probably because they have this wonderful ability to change their color. But why? Well, the purpose of this feature is actually for communication, but also to regulate their body temperature. They can proceed to their color change the same day of their hatching, and may even do so while they are still in their egg. The taken color may vary from green to turquoise or black, or else blue-green.
A chameleon changing color can also be communication its emotional status. For instance, dark would mean that he is upset, as green would mean that he feels comfortable and secure. Generally, brighter colors are a sign of positive mood, as darker ones would indicate negative emotions, such as stress.
Chameleon’s physical appearance
It is quite difficult to define with precision the shape and size of a chameleon, as they may vary a lot depending on the species. They can go from only a couple centimeters up to 80 cm long. One of their incredible feature, apart from their color-changing ability, is their tongue, that can stretch up to 150% of their body.
Another curious point of their physical appearance is that they have five toes on each foot – this is not the point –, from which three are facing forward, and the two last are facing away from mid-line. This is how they can get such a firm climbing grip. Remember that wild chameleons spend most of their lives in the forest, up on the top of trees. That is also why they have a prehensile tail, meaning that it helps them to get a strong grip on branches. They actually get all most of their balance from their tail, a bit like rodents (rats for instance).
Note also that their eyes are independent of each other, meaning that they are capable of rotating in different directions, allowing them to get a full panoramic view. Be prepared, as this feature tends to surprise new owners.
What do chameleons eat?
Chameleons are part of the insectivore kind. You can feed them crickets (if you manage to keep them alive), almost all kind of worms, and many kinds of flies. You can also feed them vegetables, fruits and leaves, but only in a small quantity. Wild chameleons are even able to eat tiny birds and other smaller species of lizard.
Note that chameleons are not very cuddly. If you are looking for a sweet pet for your children to play with, a chameleon is definitely not the right choice. They don’t like being petted, hold or even slightly disturbed and strongly prefer quiet environments.
Be also aware that chameleons are solitary animals that should not be mixed with other pets, even of the same kind. They should not share their tank for instance, as they would probably end up fighting and injuring each other.
Common health issues
The most common health issues around chameleons is for them to get infected with parasites. Make sure to get yours from a conscientious breeders and avoid big pet chains, where they are much worse taken care of.
It is actually very important to check the animal health while selecting it. To make sure it is in good condition, verify he is being active and shows a bright coloration. These are usually sign of a good health and that it has been bred in a respectful environment.
What environment do a chameleon need?
It is difficult to define the size of the tank given the wide range of sizes you chameleon can be. Choose a tank that is at least five time its size in length and three times in width and height. As we said before, they like privacy, so make sure to equip the tank with a lot of hiding places. Also remember to provide them with enough material to climb on.
Chameleons make great pets, but beware, are they are not easy to take care of, and the initial equipment may be pricey, but it is essential to your pet’s happiness and well-being, so indirectly to a long lifespan. Make sure to get all the information that is necessary from other owners or specific sources.