A Chameleon is a reptile species famous for its camouflaging techniques. This species is endemic to the deserts and rainforests of Africa. Those who usually inhabit the desert are brown, while those in the forests are green. Aside from their ability to change their skin color, they got plenty of other unique traits that make them wonderful pets at home!
If you want to know more about petting a Chameleon, make sure to read further!
More than 150 species of chameleons are recognized, which vary in size from a thumbnail to a house cat. Some species are endangered (like the Tiger Chameleon), but some are still commonly found in their range (such as the Drakensberg Dwarf Chameleon). Despite their differences, they all have an excellent sense of sight—they can move their eyes in two different directions, giving them a panoramic view of their surroundings.
Chameleons are found in the mainland of sub-Saharan Africa, on Madagascar, and small parts of northern Africa, southern Europe, southern India, Sri Lanka, and western Indian Ocean. Almost half of the known species are found in Madagascar.
Characteristics of a Chameleon
Average weight: 14.4 ounces
Average life span: 12 years in the wild
Average size: 21 inches
Contrary to popular belief, when a chameleon changes color, it doesn’t camouflage itself to blend with the environment. Instead, it changes color according to its emotions, changes in light, humidity, and temperature. The brighter the color, the more dominant the male and the more attractive he is to the opposite sex. Meanwhile, a submissive male is gray or brown. Female Chameleons use their colors to accept or reject a suitor, and can also communicate that she is pregnant.
But how exactly can they change colors? The outer layer of the its skin is see-through. Under the layers are unique cells with pigment, a substance that gives living things colors. To change color, the brain sends a signal to the cells to get smaller or bigger. When this happens, pigments from various cells are released, and they mix to create different skin tones. For example, a mix of blue and red pigments make the Chameleon look purple.
Chameleons possess prehensile tails they can use to wrap around branches. The tail functions as a Chameleon’s fifth limb. Their hands and feet have large toes that help them cling on surfaces well. Unlike many lizards, when their tails are severed, Chameleons can’t regrow them.
Another interesting characteristic is the Chameleon’s tongue action. It possesses an ultra-sticky tongue, which can be 2.5 times longer than its body.
Caring for a Chameleon
Taking care of a Chameleon is not advised for beginners since their requirements are quite stringent. They are only for advanced herpetologists and hobbyists. Since Chameleons are highly territorial and solitary animals, they should be kept by themselves. When choosing a Chameleon, it’s best to pick a captive-bred one, since wild-caught ones are usually aggressive and prone to parasites.
To set up an enclosure for your pet, pick a well-ventilated terrarium that’s approximately 16 x 16 x 30 inches. Choose a substrate that is 2 to 3 inches thick. Coconut fiber or reptile back would be ideal. Make sure to spot clean the floor material regularly and change it at least once a month. After securing the necessities, design the enclosure with rocks and real or artificial branches wherein your pet can bask on. Make sure that it’s at least 8 inches away from the enclosure’s heat source.
You can help your pet regulate its body temperature by keeping the bottom part of the enclosure cool and the top warm. Its ambient daytime temperature requirement varies between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit, while the basking area should e between 80 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. At night, regulate the temperature between 65 and 70 F. It requires a 12-hour light/dark cycle, so make sure to track your temperature regularly. A UVA/UVB bulb is also necessary to supply your Chameleon with its much-needed UV lights. The humidity level is required to be between 65% and 80%. You may use a hygrometer to measure this.
A Chameleon feeds on various insects, so you may feed as many types of insects to your pet. Crickets, super worms, wax worms, mealworms, and roaches are great starters. Aliment should be gut-loaded with calcium before feeding your pet. You can also provide leafy greens such as cabbage, lettuce, and spinach to your pet.