Yemen Chameleon - Chameleo calyptratus
Description-A large active chameleon from arid regions of Yemen, Males have a very high crest, with fantastic colours. Females are slightly smaller and are normally shades of green (except during breeding colours or when gravid) Total size is up to 24" but half of this is tail. They can live up to 8 years in captivity.
Housing-Juvenile Yemen chameleons can be housed together until about 3" snout to vent length, then it is best to separate them. Yemen chameleons can grown extremely fast if given the right conditions (adults in 4 months). A good sized cage for an adult would be a screen mesh vivarium, 2ft x 2ft x 2ft. If using a conventional wooden vivarium, I would strongly recommend a minimum size of 3ft x 2ft x 3ft (W x D x H). Newspaper is the best substrate as this will reduce risks of substrate accidentally ingested. You can use fine sand or dry fine bark chips but feeding should be carried out by offering food in a clean tub (see below). Other decor to include is a variety of branches of different diameters, do not use doweling as used for birds and this doesn't give the lizards feet any form of exercise. Plastic plant can be added and real plants are also suitable, the best to use are Fiscus types, these will also be eaten by your chameleon.
Temp and light requirements-UV lighting is required, Reptisun 5.0 or 8.0 are perfect. The photo period should be set at 16 hours on and 8 hours off. Heating should always be provided at one end, with a heat gradient ranging from 36oc down to 24oc. A night time temperature drop will not not harm them if no more than a drop of 8oc (i.e. min night temp of 16oC). Heat can be provided by either a ceramic bulb or a incandescent SPOT light, both of which should be wired into a DIMMING thermostat. It is normally better to use a lower wattage heat source that stays on for longer, rather than a heat source that the thermostat keeps turning off (therefore always providing a basking area for your chameleon). Heat pads are NOT recommended for Yemen chameleons as they must be able to bask under a heat source.
Foods and Feeding-Yemen chameleons are omnivores and are easily catered for. A selection of insect livefoods should be fed. Locust are by far the best food source out of the insects but any of the crickets can also be used, locust also have the advantage of climbing up off the floor and are more accessible to the chameleon. When feeding, you will have to learn to judge how much your lizard will eat without your vivarium running alive with insects, this is especially true of Black Crickets, these have been known to kill lizards while they sleep. Mealworms and wax worms can also be fed. Variety is always the key, with locust making the bulk of the diet and then a nice mix of the other insects. The chameleons should show interest in the food when it enters the cage, if not, it is a good sign you are feeding them too much. You can also try feeding your adult chameleons on defrosted pinkie mice, this is especially good for egg laying females. Nutrobal vitamin supplements should be used at least 5 times a week on growing chameleons, and then twice a week on adults. Females can have supplements on every feed during egg laying. Fresh water is best offered via a drip systems as they will rarely drink from a dish. You can have very elaborate methods to provide dripping water but 2 of the most effective ways are 1, placing an ice cube on top of the screen and allowing to slowly melt, creating a slow drip into the cage or 2, a small tub with a pin sized hole underneath, fill this with water and place on top of cage so that the drips land on the plants. You can also have a water dish in the vivarium although this is unlikely to be used. You can also spray the vivarium daily, early morning is a good time, try not to spray the chameleon directly as they do not normally enjoy being hosed down! Live flies (hatched from NON dyed maggots) give your chameleons a good opportunity to 'tone up' their skills and can help keep them active, please remember that they contain little in the way of nutrients so only use occasionally.
Alternative feeding - (should be used if newspaper is not used as substrate) Place all food items in a feeding dish, place feeding dish high up in cage. Ensure that it is small enough to allow chameleon to climb out but big enough to stop the insects jumping out. This will reduce the chance of substrate becoming ingested, although in reality, wild chameleons don't have this luxury.Overall rating / Comments - 8 out of 10, great lizard for beginner or more experienced collector, These lizards are not suited to regular handling and should be kept as a display animal only. Please remember, as with ANY PET, please wash your hands after handling or cleaning vivarium.