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Veiled Chameleon

Veiled Chameleon Care Sheet

Chamaeleo calyptorarus
Developed with and approved by qualified veterinarians
Veiled Chameleon Caresheet

Typical veiled chameleon appearance and behavior 

  • Veiled chameleons can look in any direction without turning their heads or shifting body position because each eye can swivel nearly 180°
  • Their eyes can move independently (called monocular vision), so they can see two different directions at one time
  • They have very long tongues (sometimes twice as long as their body length) that they protrude to catch insects
  • Their toes are prehensile, meaning they can grasp branches for climbing
  • They use their prehensile tail to wrap around branches for stabilization as they climb
  • They are tree-dwellers and reside on branches and in plants exclusively
  • Veiled chameleons change color, depending on temperature and mood; they also change color to camouflage themselves when hiding
  • Males are generally larger and more vibrant and colorful than females; male veiled chameleons also have tarsal spurs on their hind feet
  • They have a horn-like bump on top of their heads called a casque that helps direct dripping water into their mouths for drinking
  • Veiled chameleons become highly stressed when handled; regular handling is not recommended

Veiled chameleon characteristics

Care Difficulty Intermediate
Average Life Span 5+ years with proper care
Average Adult Size 18–24 inches long, depending on species
Diet Omnivorous
Minimum Habitat Size At least 2 feet in each dimension for juveniles; at least 3 feet in each dimension for adults

Habitat 

Habitat size

Veiled chameleons will reach adult size in 9–12 months under ideal conditions; upgrade your habitat size as your reptile grows.

To accommodate normal behavior and exercise, select a habitat with an appropriate size and shape, preferably taller than wide, with screened sides. Chameleons do better in a well-ventilated habitat; rather than glass tanks, habitats constructed of mesh or screen are recommended to improve air flow and prevent mold from developing in the habitat 

Building your habitat

Chameleons are arboreal (tree-climbing), so they need vertically oriented habitats with different levels for climbing to regulate their body temperature. 

  • Substrate: Generally, substrate is not recommended for chameleon habitats, as it can get moldy from dripping water. Chameleons are also known for eating bedding that is in particles or chunks and developing gastrointestinal tract obstructions as a result; if bedding must be used, stick to reptile carpeting, coconut fiber or paper towels  
  • Plants and décor: Create a dense area of nontoxic, real or plastic plants and vines (but not silk, which won’t absorb water) on one side for hiding; create a more open, exposed area of branches for basking on the other side. Live plants will help maintain habitat humidity, which is critical to keeping chameleons hydrated. When selecting branches, compare the width to the size of your chameleon’s feet to be sure they can grab onto the branches. Branches and vines also should have some horizontal sections for your chameleon to perch on easily
  • Temperature: Maintain a temperature gradient of 90–95°F on the warm end and 70°F on the cool end); use an incandescent light or ceramic heater as primary heat source. Ideally, the habitat temperature should not fall below 70°F at night.
  • Humidity: Maintain less than 60% humidity; mist plants as needed to provide water for your chameleons to drink, even if you have a dripper
  • Lighting: To ensure your reptile is making vitamin D in their skin so they can absorb calcium from their food, provide UVB rays with full-spectrum lighting for 10–12 hours a day. Place a horizontal branch approximately 6–8 inches below the UV bulb so your chameleon can while for basking. An incandescent day bulb can be used for the basking area during daylight hours only; use a ceramic heater or a nocturnal or red incandescent at all hours to help maintain temperature within recommended range. UV bulbs should be changed every 6 months to ensure adequate ongoing UV exposure as the potency of the bulb wanes

Cleaning your veiled chameleon’s habitat 

Thoroughly clean and disinfect the habitat at least once a week. To safely clean the habitat:

  • Place chameleon in an additional secure habitat or carrier
  • Scrub the tank and furnishings with a reptile habitat cleaner or 3% bleach solution
  • Rinse thoroughly with water to remove all traces of the reptile habitat cleaner or bleach smell
  • Dry the tank and furnishings completely 
  • Add clean substrate (if you use substrate) and décor items back into the habitat before returning the chameleon to the habitat

Feeding 

What to feed your veiled chameleon

A well-balanced veiled chameleon diet consists of:

  • A variety of insects, including gut-loaded crickets (recently fed with high-calcium foods, such as mustard greens, collard greens, squash and commercially available cricket diets), roaches, mealworms, hornworms, CalciWorms and waxworms
  • Dark, leafy green vegetables, such as collard greens, mustard greens and deep green lettuces, as well as live plants including pothos, hibiscus, dracaena, schefflera and ficus leaves

Things to remember when feeding your veiled chameleon

  • Chameleons will not drink water from a bowl. They rely on moisture on plants for water; mist plants 4–5 times daily for 2 minutes at a time so that leaves are saturated and dripping with water, or use an automatic mister or dripper to do the same. Misting systems also help maintain humidity 
  • Do not offer insects that are larger than the width of your chameleon’s head
  • Juveniles should be fed once to twice a day; adults can be fed every other day
  • Alternate sprinkling food with a calcium supplement that contains vitamin D and one that does not, plus sprinkle food with a multivitamin supplement once a week
  • Vegetables not eaten within 12 hours should be discarded

 

Veiled chameleon care

Chameleons regularly shed their skin; ensure the habitat humidity is at an appropriate level to keep your chameleon hydrated to allow proper shedding. To facilitate shedding, be sure to mist your chameleon (avoiding their face) and the plants in the habitat several times a day.

Where to buy a veiled chameleon

Petco sells veiled chameleons in stores. Call your local location ahead of time to ensure availability.  

Habitat mates for veiled chameleons

House adult veiled chameleons separately, as they are aggressive when housed together, and do not house different reptile species together. If juveniles are housed together, they must be the same size; significant size discrepancies can cause additional stress and potential aggression.

Veiled chameleon health 

Signs of a healthy veiled chameleon

  • Active and alert
  • Clear eyes
  • Body and tail are filled out; ribs are not visible
  • Healthy skin (no scabs or crustiness)
  • Clear nose and vent
  • Eats and passes stool regularly

Red flags (if you notice any of these signs, contact your veterinarian)

  • Weight loss or decreased appetite
  • Inability to hold abdomen off ground/hunched posture
  • Mucus in mouth or nose
  • Swelling around eyes 
  • Tongue hanging out of mouth
  • Obvious curvature or bowing of leg bones and/or spine
  • Lethargy
  • Bumps, sores or abrasions on skin
  • Labored breathing
  • Paralysis of limbs or decreased ability to grasp with toes
  • Abnormal feces
  • Nonrotating eye(s)

Common veiled chameleon health issues

Health Issue Symptoms or Causes Suggested Action
Health Issue Gastro-intestinal disease Symptoms or Causes Runny stools, caked or smeared stool around the vent area and loss of appetite; can be caused by bacterial, viral or parasitic infection Suggested Action Consult your veterinarian
Health Issue Metabolic bone disease Symptoms or Causes Inability to absorb calcium due to insufficient UVB light or improper dietary calcium/vitamin D supplementation; if untreated, can lead to a disorder characterized by deformities, softened bones, fractures, swollen limbs, lethargy, decreased appetite, weight loss and death Suggested Action Consult your veterinarian; provide ample UVB lighting and the proper amount of calcium and vitamin supplements
Health Issue Respiratory disease Symptoms or Causes Labored breathing, decreased appetite, lethargy, mucus in the mouth or nose and/or bubbles from the eyes, nose or mouth; can be caused by a habitat maintained at an inappropriate temperature or inadequate humidity level Suggested Action Consult your veterinarian; ensure habitat is the proper temperature and has adequate humidity
Health Issue Low dietary vitamin A levels Symptoms or Causes Swelling around both eyes Suggested Action Consult your veterinarian
Health Issue Egg-bound female Symptoms or Causes Sitting on bottom of habitat, unable to climb, open-mouth breathing, refusal to eat, lethargy, sunken or closed eyes Suggested Action Consult your veterinarian; ensure proper temperature and humidity, adequate calcium in diet and substrate depth that allows for digging to lay eggs

FAQs 

  • What do veiled chameleons eat? Veiled chameleons eat insects (crickets, mealworms, Dubia roaches, hornworms, CalciWorms and waxworms) and vegetables (leafy greens).
  • How often should I feed my veiled chameleon? Juveniles should be fed 1–2 times a day, and adults should be fed every other day.
  • What vegetables can veiled chameleons eat? Veiled chameleons can eat leafy greens, including collard and mustard greens, as well as nontoxic plants, such as ficus and pothos.

Additional care sheets

Notes and resources

Ask a Pet Care Center associate about Petco’s selection of products available for the care and happiness of your new pet. All products carry a 100% money-back guarantee.

Because all reptiles are potential carriers of infectious diseases, such as Salmonella bacteria, always wash your hands before and after handling your reptile or habitat contents to help prevent the potential spread of disease.

Pregnant women, children under the age of 5, senior citizens and people with weakened immune systems should contact their physicians before purchasing or caring for reptiles and should consider having a pet other than a reptile.

Go to the Centers for Disease Control at cdc.gov/healthypets for more information about Reptiles and disease.

Note: The information in this care sheet is not a substitute for veterinary care. If you need additional information, please contact your veterinarian as appropriate.