Yemen chameleon care sheet
Housing: a well ventilated, arboreal wooden vivarium
Heating: basking temperature of 100oF with ambient air temperature of 85oF
UVB Lighting: 5%-12% UVB tube, depending on enclosure height
Diet: insectivorous diet of crickets, locusts and insect larvae
Decoration: jungle environment and decor to enable climbing activity
A Yemen chameleon is best kept in a large wooden vivarium. This is because wood is an excellent insulator of heat and so a wooden vivarium will make it easier to control the crucial temperatures required inside the habitat. Other enclosures such as glass terrariums are far too efficient at releasing heat making it difficult to get up to temperature and keep this temperature consistent throughout the year. The wooden vivarium should have good ventilation to help remove humidity and replenish the air in the enclosure.
The chameleon vivarium should be at least 915mm (36") in height. There are 2 main reasons for this; firstly, it will allow enough space for your chameleon to climb into. Secondly, the vivarium needs to have a sufficient height to allow for the creation of a temperature gradient. The enclosure needs to be hot at the basking spot, but have enough distance for the temperature to drop towards the bottom.
During the day, Yemen chameleons require a hot basking temperature. This is achieved by using clear basking spot bulb at the top of the vivarium. To accomplish the required basking temperature of 100oF we use 1x 100w bulb approximately 20-25cm above a basking branch. The bulb should be controlled by a dimming thermostat to maintain the correct temperature. A bulb guard should also be used to prevent the chameleon from accidentally burning itself. Basking bulbs should be on for 10- 12 hours per day.
At night yemen chameleons require a drop in temperature. The basking light should be switched off so the enclosure gets darker. Yemen chameleons typically do not require any additional night-time heating and are happy to drop down to the room temperature.
Temperatures in the enclosure should be monitored daily using a thermometer.
Yemen chameleons live in the warm forests of Yemen and Saudi Arabia. Animals that actively bask in hot climates naturally receive a high dose of UVB from the sun. A fluorescent UVB tube should be used inside the vivarium with a reflector so no UVB is wasted. The tube should be at least 10% UVB if the chameleon is basking more than 30cm from it. Below 30cm, a 5% UVB tube is acceptable. There are 2 different types of fluorescent tube, T8 and T5. T5 tubes are the new technology providing double the range (24'') and lasting twice as long (12 months) so if possible we would recommend the upgrade.
Chameleons require UVB in order to synthesise vitamin D3 inside their skin. The vitamin D3 helps the chameleon to absorb calcium which crucial for bone structure and growth. Without the UVB the chameleon may not be able to use the calcium in it's diet.
It is recommended that T8 bulbs are replaced every 6 months and T5 bulbs every 12 months.
Whilst any loose substrate has the small potential to be accidentally swallowed, we have found this to not be a problem with coarse beech woodchips and that is what we keep our chameleons on. It is also very easy to clean.
It is essential to heavily decorate a chameleon vivarium and recreate a tree-top environment. This will help the chameleon feel more secure and also allow it to exercise its natural climbing behaviour. The vivarium should be decorated with various pieces of wood and vines to achieve this.
The chameleon vivarium should also include a lot of large leaf decorations like trailing plants or upright plants. These will catch water in the morning spray and provide drinking water for the chameleon.
A Yemen chameleon's diet consists mainly of insect livefood. We have found that brown crickets are the most readily acccepted by younger chameleons, but you can also use black crickets, dubia cockroaches or locusts (hoppers). On occasion, for variation you can offer other bugs such as mealworms, waxworms or calciworms.
We have found that adult chameleons tend to have a preference for locusts above other live foods.
The vivarium should be misted with water every morning to provide hydration and humidity. Yemen chameleons do not require as much humidity as other species so the vivarium can be allowed to dry out. Humidity should be around 50%, but it can fluctuate up to 20% each way during the day. Humidity can be easily measured by using a hygrometer.
Most chameleons can also be trained to drink from a dripper system inside their vivarium.
To provide Yemen chameleons with optimal nutrition and to keep them in the best of health, they will require diet supplementaion in the form of calcium, vitamins and minerals. These are most commonly available as powders.
Calcium should be provided daily and dusted directly onto the chameleons's food. Vitamins may be added daily for young chameleons, but adults will only require them every other day.
Any livefood for the chameleon should also be 'gut-loaded' with an insect food. This basically involves feeding the livefood a nutrient rich diet before they are fed to the Yemen chameleon. Our livefood is delivered to you already gut-loaded but this should be continued at home.
If you keep a male and female together, they may breed. You do not need to do anything to encourage this, providing they are healthy and the conditions are good, it will happen naturally. You need to consider whether you want this to happen. What will you do with the babies if you incubate the eggs?
A gravid female should have access to a nesting box to lay her eggs. The box should be large enough that she can fully turn-around inside it. We use a soil mix in there that is wet enough to clump but no more. We have found that Spider Life substrate is ideal.
The eggs should be incubated in an incubator at 84oF. We incubate our eggs in sealed boxes on a moisture rich substrate (such as Hatchrite) to trap the humidty around the eggs. After approximately 7-8 months the eggs will start to hatch, the first babies to emerge will encourage the rest of the eggs to hatch.
Yemen chameleons are amongst the easiest of pet chameleons to keep at home and we can't recommend them highly enough.
They're active during the day and provide fascinating entertainment as they fire their tongue across the enclosure at insects.
Chameleons do not enjoy being handled as much as other lizards, but they can be allowed to explore outside their vivariums occasionally.
Give a Yemen chameleon the right setup and diet and you're guaranteed to have a great family pet.