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P.O. Box 173
Sun City, CA 92586

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Parasite control
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Care Sheets - Parasites
If you're buying imported or store-bought chameleons go through the usual checklist of ailments. Dehydration is the number one priority as this is usually symptomatic of another condition, such as parasites, stress or improper care. The chameleon's skin should be plump. The eyes should be bright, round and alert. Mouths should be free of lesions or abrasions.
The parasite load of imported F. oustaleti can be high. I have had more difficulty getting rid of the parasites in this species than any other with which I've worked. Because of the size and severe parasite load that is possible, I highly recommend that a veterinarian who is experienced with chameleons handle the treatment. If the chameleon's parasite count is
low and taken care of quickly there is a good chance for a long, healthy  life.
The parasite check/treatment regimen I have used with success is as follows: Always get a fecal check so you know what you are dealing with. If needed, a round of Panacur is my first course of action. This is followed by Flagyl, if necessary. After both treatments are completed a follow up fecal exam is done. If all tests are clean, I get a blood test to rule out  any other
possible parasites. If all are negative, I wait three months and get another fecal. If the veterinarian says it's necessary, I repeat the process. I recommend an annual fecal exam as a preventative measure for all chameleons, even if they're captive bred. Chameleons are often labeled as "advanced" chameleons, and I believe this may be due tothe parasite issue, or the cost of the treatments involved to deparasitize the lizards. Once the parasite problem is resolved, however, Oustalet's are
pretty much bullet proof in my experience. Be careful purchasing an adult in a store or trade show. They may not live long if purchased too old, or the parasite issue is not controlled. When you purchase any chameleon from a trade show or pet store please do the animal and yourself a favor and get a fecal check. This is the only way to be completely assured the animal doesn’t have parasites. Any vet, even one who has no chameleon experience is capable of doing a fecal check, costing on the average 25$. This is a simple test, which can save lives if parasites are detected early. Simply take a stool fresh sample to the vet leaving the animal at home. Even a healthy looking chameleon, with full skin, a tight grip and strong tongue can harbor a fatal load of parasites, which become agitated and grow to unmanageable levels in a relatively short amount of time in captivity. Parasites are aggravated by stress, which is a huge issue with any chameleon. There is no reason for responsible chameleon owners to allow a chameleon to die from a parasite load. Even a very heavy load of parasites, if caught early, in an otherwise healthy chameleon, can be treated and cured. Not all parasites can be detected by only a fecal check. Additional tests such as blood tests may be needed as well. The average prospective chameleon owner needs to be prepared to spend not only time on this creature, but money. The chameleon itself will normally be the least expensive of the start up costs for your pet. Although I believe chameleon should be in natural sunlight as much as possible, an indoor environment is fine for most animals. You will need the right cage (full screen a minimum of 2 foot by one foot), lights (a full spectrum florescent and a heat dome light), plants (something non toxic like a ficus benjemin), Hudson Sprayer for the water, humidifier (do yourself a favor and pay for the more expensive one with the auto shut off), sticks and vines etc.  The hidden costs will include the parasite check, possible treatment, follow up vet visits as well as a follow up fecal check and possible blood work or other tests for bacterial infections may be needed.  Parasites sound scary. But in reality not only do chameleons usually come from the wild with some sort of parasite, captive animals can contract them at any time from their feeder insects. This is perfectly normal. An annual fecal check is a wise precaution for all long your chameleons, wild caught or captive bred.
Take precautions to make sure they have been deparasitized if they are wild caught, keep humidity at a high level and house separately. Chameleons will become stressed by viewing another chameleon in a cage across the room. If you notice solitary the chameleon being stressed, coloring up, hissing or puffing up for no apparent reason, they may be seeing their own reflection or have view of a chameleon in another cage.
 
Basic Chameleon Buying Guide
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Care Sheets - Picking a Healthy Chameleon

When purchasing a new chameleon, go through this checklist to make your purchase and assess your new captive’s health.
1. Check your chameleon for full, alert eyes that are free from matter and injury.
2. Place your hand under the chameleon and lift gently. Allow the chameleon to walk onto your hand to check its grip. Never yank or pull the animal from a branch, even a small tug can result in damage to the joints. If your chameleon’s digits or joints are swollen, it could be an infection or an injury. Seek qualified veterinary treatment right away.
3. If able, try to see if the chameleon will eat or drink. No visible drool or mouth injury should be present when looking inside the mouth.
4. Listen for popping or wheezing when the chameleon breathes. This may be an indication of an upper respiratory disease.
5. Always check the skin for bruising, cuts, ticks or mites.
6. Obtain a fecal check for parasites as soon as you acquire your chameleon. Even the Hawaiian species can contract parasites. All insectivores in stressful conditions have the potential for a spike in parasite production

 

Are you ready for your chameleon?
When choosing your group keep in mind that male + female = babies and babies could still come from retained sperm if all you have are WC females. Obviously this will tack on some extra responsibility that you will need to consider. Of course there is a chance that they won’t breed, but I would make the assumption that they will and plan for it. If breeding is the intention then a 1.2 or 1.3 group would be a good start. I personally feel that having two or more females instead of one takes some of the breeding pressure off the one female. Males from my observations are always ready to breed so to have just one female puts a lot of pressure on her – so two or more is better. I also find that females tolerate advances from males pretty well.

 
Why Gutload Your Prey Items?
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Care Sheets - Diet & Supplimentation
Gut loading feeder insects is the best way to get usable vitamins to your chameleons.
Jackson’s chameleons are especially sensitive to excess amounts of synthetic vitamin A. When vitamins are used improperly, it may cause either an inferior amount of vitamins to your chameleons or vitamin toxicity, which can lead to gout or edema and even become fatal.
Dusting with dry vitamins is questionable, because beta carotene and other essential ingredients do not work well in a dust form. It is better to gut load these vitamins into the insect and then feed them to the chameleon? The beta carotene beadlet, in particular are so large due to the fat lipid which protects the viability of the  beta carotene (the vitamin A source) it is far too large to stick to any feeder prey item. Beta-carotene builds immunity and is a powerful antioxidant that improves immune function and promotes mucous membrane health. This helps reduce upper respiratory infections chameleons are prone to. In fact, dietary intake of beta carotene can enhance cell-mediated immune responses.

This type of gut loading ensures the insects are properly vitamin rich, and free of any toxins which may be used to grow the insects. Insects are grown often on items such as chicken mass, which when fed to crickets can have toxic levels of vitamin A for chameleons needing to be purged through the gutloading process, and replaced with healthy types and amounts of vitamins which the chameleon can use . I gut load my feeder insects with Sticky Tongue Farms Vit-All to provide vitamins and amino acids, and then I dust prey with Sticky Tongue Farms Miner-All to provide calcium and trace elements. I use the indoor formula for chameleons kept indoors and the outdoor formula for chameleons exposed to natural unblocked sunshine for more than 12 hours throughout the week.
Jackson’s chameleons are one of the most readily available chameleons in the market place today. They can easily be found in pet stores, and at expos. I prefer to be able to see a chameleon before purchase for a health check. However, Internet sales can be a safe and rewarding experience with a reputable dealer. These fascinating gentle mini dinosaurs are a good choice for any level of hobbyist.  Once a healthy chameleon is purchased, guidelines for housing and husbandry are followed, the biggest challenge any keeper will encounter is exposing this chameleon to unfiltered sunshine.  I cannot stress enough the importance of natural sunshine, especially for a live bearing species.  The joy and entertainment these animals can bring is ultimately worth the effort and research for setting them up properly from the beginning of your relationship.
 
Hydration
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Care Sheets - Hydration
Keeping a chameleon fully hydrated is important. If the chameleon is not properly hydrated when shedding, a skin tourniquet may form on toes and joints. This can result in loss of the digit or foot. Using a pump sprayer, mist plant leaves and the chameleon's body twice daily. Allow them to drink for at least 3-5 minutes. Gently rain on their head until they start to drink. They will lick water off leaves, but it is better to rain on them. They are rainforest creatures after all! Take note if your chameleon repeatedly rubs its eyes on branches. This could be the first stage of an eye infection or simply trying to clean dirt out of it. Proper hydration again plays an important roll here. When the chameleon is in a rainstorm shower, it has an opportunity to clean its eyes. If the eyes do become infected, swollen, leaky, mattered shut, contact your veterinarian for antibiotics.

Humidity needs are very similar for most chameleons. Get a humidity gauge, aim to keep humidity above 60% when possible. Use a cool mist ultrasonic humidifier if the humidity drops lower than 60%. The hotter the temps the higher the humidity requirements will be. If it is hot and dry, the chameleons can turn into chameochips, especially the montaine species. Even if you supply a humidifier, your chameleons will benefit from being placed in a “rainstorm” in your shower once a week. We feel the "shower method" is very successful. Place the chameleon on a clothes drying rack or plant in a shower stall or tub. Turn the shower on so a light room temperature rain is falling on your chameleon. Leave the chameleon in the shower to drink for 30 to 60 minutes once a week. During the dry seasons showering may need to be repeated more often.

To avoid a sudden shock to your chameleon, allow them to walk onto the plant or clothes-drying rack on the side devoid of rain fall and into the water stream slowly.  When I studied Jackson’s chameleons in Hawaii it rained daily. If the rain was slow to start, the chameleons seemed undisturbed, but if the rainfall came on fast, quite a few chameleons jumped off their branches with a thud onto the ground and scampered for cover. This sudden shock can be stressful and result in injury to a captive chameleon.  Be aware of how this little creature is going to react to what you are doing to them.

If you keep your chameleon in an outdoor enclosure, an automated misting system is very handy. Regular lawn sprinklers can be set so individual stations activate one at a time during the day, and one of these might include the enclosure within its sprinkling radius. Do not think just because a water system is in place the chameleon has enough water. Make sure at least once per week to observe the system for efficiency. An unseen problem can mean disaster for you chameleon.
 
Enclosure Requirements-DIY Chameleon Tube Cage
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Care Sheets - Cage Requirements

Building your own enclosure is often satisfying for a handy person. In the many years that I have kept reptiles and amphibians, I often built my own enclosures.
Chameleons present special challenges in what materials you can safely use and how you design the enclosure. In this article, I will discuss the various considerations you will face housing chameleons and detail some inexpensive caging solutions for them. Caging Considerations 
Chameleons in particular are very sensitive creatures; they are sometimes considered delicate or even impossible to sustain for a long period of time. As co-owner of Sticky Tongue Farms, I have been told many times that I can’t do the exact thing that I have done for years, which is to successfully house, breed and hatch several species of chameleons over many generations. Still, whether you plan to keep one animal or hundreds in a greenhouse, certain rules must be followed.
Try to duplicate the animal’s natural habitat as much as possible. For instance, if you live in the desert (like I do) and have desert chameleons such as Chamaeleo oustaleti or C. verrucosus, they might like the heat and enjoy basking in 110 degrees. However, when they have had enough, a fully shaded area with a bush and a mister is necessary. On the other hand, in such heat species from Cameroon (e.g., C. montium or C. quadricornis) could potentially drop dead before they find the shade. Education is as crucial as observation for chameleon keepers. Some chameleons, no matter how perfect the enclosure is, simply won’t tolerate being enclosed.
Sometimes misinformed pet store employees or show vendors encourage hobbyists to purchase aquariums for their chameleons. I implore you to reconsider this habitat choice.
In the past, it was thought that chameleons had a problem with the airflow in aquariums. Through years of observation, it is now agreed that the reflection, not the lack of airflow, is the real culprit. The chameleon perceives the other chameleon (its reflection) as a constant threat. Without the ability to escape the aggressor, the animal’s stress level is so elevated that the immune system starts to break down, inviting illness. I’ve only been able to successfully use an aquarium with small leaf chameleons like Brookesia peramata or B. superciliaris. With all other chameleon species, I discourage aquarium use. 

If you can’t afford to spend money on the proper environment, don’t purchase the animal. The biggest expense is often the enclosure, not the animal itself. Easy-to-assemble or preassembled cages that are fine for chameleons are available at reptile shows, or through reptile magazines and the Internet.
And, of course, you can always build your own.
Sizes and Placement
Most people are looking for easy, inexpensive housing and settle for an enclosure that is too small for their chameleon. Size is always important. A minimum of 2 feet square by 2 feet tall per subadult to adult chameleon is recommended. If space is an issue, remember that height is always more important than width for these arboreal species. Putting a cage on a table or hanging it can also make a chameleon more comfortable. The enclosure should be large enough for the chameleon to exercise. Any and all rough, exposed edges must be covered with wood, silicone or plastic tubing to prevent injury.

If the chameleon paces and claws at the enclosure all day, it may need a different environment. Simply moving the enclosure to a different part of the house may be all that is needed. Stress is the enemy and should be reduced at all cost. Housing chameleons separately and out of view of each other is crucial for their health and well being. Don’t assume that chameleons on opposite sides of a room are separated sufficiently, especially if they’re still in plain view of each other. Long-term harassment, even from a distance, will cause a chameleon to stop eating, get respiratory problems or die unexpectedly. It takes longer to purchase the supplies than actually assembling the tube cage!
Lighting Suggestions 
If housing your chameleon indoors, place the enclosure in a well-lit area, but don’t put it in direct sunlight coming through a window; this can rapidly bake your chameleon.
There are many brands of reptile-specific lights available; you want a lamp that produces high levels of UVB and UVA.
Chameleons also require a heat source for basking. A combination of fluorescent tube lights and a dome reflector with a heat lamp has worked best for me. Do not allow your chameleon to come into direct contact with any light or heat source, otherwise it could get burned.
A few monitored hours per week outside is better than no natural light at all. If you allow your chameleon to free range in the yard, however, it could escape. Instead, keep your chameleon in a secure cage, such as the tube cage described, while it’s outdoors. Again, be sure there is a shady area to which it can retreat (the plant in the tube cage should be able to provide some shade). Misty and Humid 
Chameleons are tropical animals and need moderately high levels of humidity. During dry seasons, wild chameleons rely on morning dew during dry seasons for hydration. A dehydrated chameleon will drink from standing water, but this is an act of desperation. Plus, chameleons are susceptible to respiratory and eye infections brought on by dehydration.
Watering twice daily via a pump sprayer or automatic mister is my preferred method for hydrating chameleons. When the relative humidity is low, I place a cool mist humidifier by the chameleon enclosures. A weekly soak in the shower for adult chameleons is also advised; lukewarm water on a light mist or spray for an hour is all that is needed.
Some species may even be momentarily startled by a shower. In Hawaii, I have seen them jump out of trees to the ground when it started to rain. When they realize what is happening, they settle down and drink normally.
Feeding Techniques 
There are as many different theories about feeding chameleons as there are species. The tongue is a muscle and needs to be exercised or it will atrophy. Hand feeding is great fun, but nothing is better than watching a chameleon hunting for prey and stretching every muscle in its body, hanging precariously, then shooting its tongue two-and-a-half times the length of its body for a clean hit. Allowing your chameleon to “hunt” on occasion is a good idea. A chameleon becomes lazy if it’s only fed from a dish, and the tongue will often shorten permanently.
Loose crickets, however, can turn on chameleons if too many are allowed to roam the enclosure. Prey items have been known to eat on chameleons’ eyes and skin. Make sure your chameleon eats any offered crickets within a short time, and placing cricket food in the enclosure reduces the risk to your chameleon. A combination of feeding techniques can be used, including by dish, hand and free-range feeding. Not all chameleons eat the way you think they should, so experiment to see what works for yours.
A friend has had luck placing a brick in a plastic tub so the worms and crickets crawl around on it, enticing picky eaters. Others use paper towel tubes with the same success; the crickets crawl over the tube and make better targets by attracting the chameleons’ attention. Be sure no paper towel remnants remain on the tube to be accidentally ingested.
Position the food dish where the chameleon is sure to find it. It is important to have a stick or branch directly over the dish for easy access. Tongue injuries can result if they get stuck to glass bowls or sticks.
Feeding hatchlings to subadults is harder because pinhead crickets are nearly impossible to offer in a dish. Hand feeding at this age is also difficult. Simply place the prey items at the base of the plant, and allow the crickets to crawl through the branches. Again, take care not to put in too many crickets at one time, as they seem to really enjoy feasting on newborn chameleons.
Cleaning the Cage 
Chameleon enclosures need to be clean for optimal health. Weekly cleaning with the removal of fecal matter, dead insects and leaves is recommended. This reduces the chances of ants and other pests being attracted to the enclosure. Parasites and bacteria can be a potential problem for keepers as well as chameleons. Maintaining a clean environment and washing your hands reduces the chance of you becoming ill. Use a disinfectant to kill bacteria. Disinfectants, however, are not effective on parasites.
The chameleon should be removed from the enclosure during cleaning, and any cleaning products should be thoroughly rinsed out of the enclosure to prevent any harm to your chameleon.
Hatchling Housing
I was once caught by surprise when dozens of chameleon eggs hatched simultaneously. Needing to house all these new babies, I improvised by using a 40-gallon trash can, a clip light, a small tree and paper towels for a substrate.
This temporary housing was not only inexpensive, but also effective in keeping the humidity up and stress levels down. My home is busy with dogs, kids and adults, and the trash cans provided a visual barrier that an entire clutch could use for weeks until they were separated into screen enclosures.
To house hatchling to subadult chameleons, attach mesh screening to your tube cage, over the hardware cloth. Hatchlings usually will not eat out of a food dish, and their pinhead crickets need to be contained in the cage. This can be accomplished by fastening mesh around the outside of the tube and then siliconing the bottom plastic saucer in place. The mesh keeps the pinheads in the cage.

 

How to Build a Tube Cage for Chameleon

I use tube cages, with their inexpensive and quick design, exclusively due to the ease of cleaning and mobility. To construct a tube cage, you will need the following, all of which is available at your local hardware store:
•    A 4-foot wide, 57-inch-long piece of quarter-inch hardware cloth. This comes in a plastic-coated variety that is better for a chameleon’s sensitive feet. A piece this size will be enough for one 17-inch-diameter, 4-foot tall cage. Some stores will cut it for you. If you buy a larger roll, you will need wire cutters to cut a piece the size you need.
•    Six hog rings, wire ties or zip ties Hog ring pliers
•    Clear silicone caulking
•    Caulking gun
•    Two plastic plant water saucers measuring 17 inches in diameter.
•    Plants
•    Sticks
•    Small bungee cords
Roll the hardware cloth into a tube so that the tube fits snugly into one of the plant saucers. The two ends of the hardware cloth should overlap about 3 inches. (The diameter of your cage depends on the diameter of the plastic plant saucers that will go on the top and bottom. You can use larger saucers for a larger-diameter cage. Just measure the circumference of the plant saucer you want to use, and add 3 inches so you can overlap the ends of the hardware cloth when forming the tube to fit into the saucers.

chameleon-cage-1

STEP #1

If you have a roll of hardware cloth to cut, sitting or using a weight on the unrolled portion works well while you're cutting and measuring.


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STEP #2

Roll the cut hardware cloth into a tube and place one end into one of the plastic water saucers to measure for a snug fit.


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STEP #3

The water saucers will be used on both ends of the tube to shape the cage.


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STEP #4

Once rolled to the proper diameter, secure the hardware cloth at the top and bottom using fastners such as hog rings, wire ties or zip ties.


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STEP #5

Use additional fasteners to secure the 3-inch "flap" created by the overlapping hardware cloth. Do not leave any gaps.

Secure the top and bottom of the tube with a hog ring or zip tie. Fasten the remaining zip ties, hog rings or wire ties along the edge until no gaps appear.
Place one end of the tube inside a plastic dish and secure with silicone. Put a bead of silicone along the hardware cloth seam on the inside of the cage. Be liberal with the silicone all along the edge to cover any sharp edges.



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STEP #6

Use silicone caulking to attach the bottom plant saucer to bottom of the cage. Caulk along the circumference of the saucer on both the inside and outside of the cage.

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STEP #7

Run a bead of caulking along the seams of the cage where the hardware cloth overlaps. This helps prevent possible injury to the chameleon as a result of sharp edges.


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STEP #8

When the caulking has dried, your cage is ready to be furnished with a plant and perches for your chameleon. Place a nontoxic plant inside, and some perches. A chameleon’s feet are very similar to a bird’s feet. Provide various sized branches and sticks in the enclosure. This encourages proper circulatory function and eases cramping and joint pain. If only one size of branch or perch is provided, foot problems may occur. Fresh, green, smooth branches from the yard or different sizes of dowels are OK. Variety is the key to exercising the feet properly.

 

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STEP #9

Use small bungee cords to secure the top of the cage. It should fit tightly so the resident chameleon can't move it. When the silicone dries, the tube cage is surprisingly durable and will take years of abuse. If the silicone becomes loose or the saucer breaks, simply attach a new saucer in the same fashion. The hardware cloth will outlast plastic saucer replacements many times over. Wire can also be fashioned into a handle and secured to the cage to make moving it easier.

 

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STEP #10

Using a pump sprayer twice a day to mist your cage and chameleon reduces the chances of dehydration.


Outdoor Living 
Permanent outdoor enclosures need to be constructed to prevent pests from chewing through the enclosure and attacking the chameleon. Plastic-coated hardware cloth seems to withstand the elements better than regular quarter-inch wire.
Ants also pose a threat. Like crickets, ants seem to go for the eyes and can kill a chameleon if not caught in time. Some chameleon keepers place the legs of the table on which the cage sits into cans containing vegetable oil. Ants won’t cross the oil; the ones that do will drown (as long as the oil hasn’t solidified).
Spraying insecticides of any kind around the enclosure is not a good idea. Loose crickets can ingest the poison and in turn be eaten by the chameleon.
Rats are a problem in my neighborhood, and they are brutal to chameleons, often eating tails and limbs. Outdoor enclosures should be constructed of coated wire to keep rats out. They can eat through the window screening that is used in some store-bought chameleon enclosures; these screened enclosures are only recommended for indoor chameleons.
Whether you build or buy your chameleon’s enclosure, try to give your pet a habitat that mimics its natural environment as much as possible. This will ensure that your chameleon thrives.