Proper housing and management of animal facilities are essential to animal well-being, to the quality of research data and teaching or testing programs in which animals are used, and to the health and safety of personnel.
A good management program provides the environment, housing, and care that permit animals to grow, mature, reproduce, and maintain good health; provides for their well-being; and minimizes variations that can affect research results.
Specific operating practices depend on many factors that are peculiar to individual institutions and situations. Well-trained and motivated personnel can often ensure high-quality animal care, even in institutions with less than optimal physical plants or equipment. Below are things you should consider creating care sheets.
Many factors should be considered in planning for adequate and appropriate physical and social environment, housing, space, and management. These include:
- The species, strain, and breed of the animal and individual characteristics, such as sex, age, size, behavior, experiences, and health.
- The ability of the animals to form social groups with conspecifics through sight, smell, and possibly contact, whether the animals are maintained singly or in groups.
- The design and construction of housing.
- The availability or suitability of enrichments.
- The project goals and experimental design (e.g., production, breeding, research, testing, and teaching).
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Four Horned Chameleon Care Sheet
Cage and Habitat
Most four-horned Chameleons are not as large as a Crocodile or cat, and as such can be housed in smaller cages, I like to say 16x16x30″ as a minimum, and as with most larger ones; bigger is always better.
Most keepers recommend screen tanks but some can successfully be kept in glass terrariums of sufficient size, provided certain criteria are made.
Glass can have certain advantages for temperatures and humidity, especially in certain climates, but for this care sheet we will look at the use of screen cages.
Typical horizontal and vertical branches and vines should adorn the cage as well as sufficient foliage for hiding places and areas for water drops to form.
Live plants are always a good idea to help maintain humidity and create a natural environment. Be sure to check your plant and make sure it is non-toxic.
As always it is a good idea to wash the plant and cover the soil with rocks too large for the cham to eat, so as your chameleon cannot eat the soil. Some common plants are pothos, fiscus and umbrella trees.
Lighting will be placed above the cage as well as a possible dripper and (or) mister. Bottom of the cage I recommended left bare ( no substrate ) for ease of cleanup and to avoid bacteria and accidental ingestion of substrates.
Temperature and humidity
Since we are talking about the four-horned chameleon, one of the biggest differences in basic keeping is the temperature and humidity levels.
As these chameleons typically live at higher elevations they are subject to much lower temperatures and higher humidity, and as such can suffer from overheating and dehydration.
Baby or very young four-horned chameleons are even more susceptible to overheating and dehydration and should be kept at lower temps and monitored closely.
Ambient cage temp high 60’s to low 70’s
Basking site temp high 70’s to mid 80’s
Nigh time temp drop of 10-15 degrees is allowable and beneficial
Responsibility as a keeper:
This means you will require a typically lower wattage basking bulb, ( start with 40w and work up from there ) as well, you create a rather small basking area and have found the chameleons to utilize it in the am for an hour on so and then move off to other areas of the cage. With this comes more frequent misting.
I suggest the use of an automated misting system and in dryer climates, possibly a cool air humidifier, also the use of an air conditioning unit may be required in hotter climates, as these four-horned chameleons do not respond to heat well (in a part of Canada air conditioning in the hot summer months to keep the Chameleon comfortably in the low 70s is used).
Along with the basking light, we will also need to provide a source of UVB. As with all chameleons they require exposure to uvb rays to help produce vitamin D, aiding in calcium absorption.
Now, most chameleons are found to live closer to the ground and in dense vegetation and thus expose themselves to lower amounts of uvb radiation. ( Chameleons are rarely seen spending much time basking in uvb high areas of their cages ) yet providing your chameleons with the typical 5.0 range uvb bulb but will change less frequently say every 8-10m.
UVB fixture and Bulb, in the 5.0 range, typically recommended is the linear tube style
Change bulb approx, every 8-10m.
Responsibility as a keeper:
You are going to want to maximize the area to which you provide UVB light, most keepers suggest the use of a linear tube-style fluorescent UVB bulb and fixture that is the same length as the enclosure is wide.
READ ALSO: Does Acrylic Block UV Light for Chameleons?
Following the thought that most chameleons are closer to the ground and such require less UVB exposure, we must look at the use of supplements with the four-horned Chameleons.
As always this is a tricky topic as there are many schools of thought out there and many different products with different strengths and compositions.
I will generalize by saying that chams require a much lighter amount of the typical supplements, and have been shown to show signs of gout and hypervitaminosis when not properly supplemented.
Below I will go over 3 different supplementing schedules. For most cases in this care sheet, I avoid mentioning the exact product to remain unbiased, but with regards to supplements and how different levels of the elements can be, I feel it is a much more accurate and simple way to explain.
First is with the use of typical products of rather high levels of d3 and vitamins,
( I do not recommend this approach ):
Plain calcium without D3 at most feedings ( rep-cal )
Calcium with D3 once a month ( rep-cal )
Multivitamin once a month ( rep-cal )
Second is a schedule used and had positive results with:
Plain calcium without D3 most feedings
Multivitamin with D3 twice a month ( reptvite )
Third is my new current schedule and has been working with positive results:
Plain calcium at most feedings
All in one multivitamin with D3 four times a month ( repashy calcium plus )
Responsibility as keeper:
As with supplementing with any cham, less is more, and with chameleons, this is more true than ever. Tend to only feed your adults 4 days a week and with only a very light dusting.
Feeding and Watering
I have defiantly found that chameleons eat far less at all ages than that of a comparative aged veiled or panther. As adults, feed only 4 times a week.
Use the same types of the feeder as with most four-horned chameleons, with crickets and dubia as a stable and various worms as treats.
Feed females slightly less and cut back their amounts earlier in life, not only does it help slow/lower egg production, it helps with the fact that many females tend to have an endless appetite if not regulated.
Babies: fed all they can eat
Young/Juvenile: approx 10 crickets a day
Adult: approx 5 crickets, 4 days a week.
Females: fed slightly less
Responsibility of the keeper:
As with all chameleons feeder variety and gut loading is very important. I have found my quadricornis especially, to welcome any new feeder offered. Typical feeder size determined by mouth width is also applied.
As with most four-horned chameleons water is offered through either a mist ( hand sprayer or auto mist system ) and/or a dripper.
With chameleons living in areas of higher humidity and rainfall they should be offered more water than a veiled or panther, this can be achieved by longer misting and dripping sessions.
This will help ensure your cham will not suffer from dehydration. This is even more true with younger chams as they can dehydrate very quickly.
Although most species are not what I would consider common amongst the average lizard keeper they are growing in popularity and soon most likely availability as keepers and breeders alike find the interest and beauty in “the horns and fins.”
I will say the biggest challenge for many keepers is realizing the lower temperatures and higher humidity required, and even more so for younger chams.
So chameleons are a slightly more delicate species and require a few modifications to the common techniques of keeping veiled or panther chameleons. But with close attention to these changes, they are a very rewarding chameleon and quickly become the jewel of many keepers’ collections.
As always each chameleon is different, and female chams have their own special requirements for the egg-laying process.
The knowledge and opinions aforementioned are based on personal research and findings. Please always use your own better judgment and seek the advice or help of a veterinarian or other qualified professional when required.