Veiled Chameleon Care Sheet

Veiled Chameleon Care Sheet


  • Introduction
  • Enclosure
  • Lighting
  • Heating
  • Humidity
  • Substrate
  • Décor
  • Food
  • Handling
  • Health
  • Resources


Veiled chameleons (Chamaeleo calyptratus) are approximately 22” long, diurnal, arboreal lizards native to Yemen and the Middle East. Although they are native to a more arid location, they are found mostly in a lush valleys along mountain ranges during wet season.

Veiled chameleons have large, triangular heads, protruding eyes, vertically flattened bodies, zygodactylous feet, and a curled prehensile tail. What makes them unique is their tall, pointed skull and vibrant green, aqua, yellow, and orange coloration. Males are much more brightly-colored than females.

Veiled chameleons are not easy animals to keep as pets, despite their ready availability in the pet trade. They are very sensitive to poor care, although somewhat more hardy than other chameleon species. However, when properly cared for, they can be rewarding pets that live 8 or more years.


Minimum recommended terrarium size for veiled chameleons

The minimum enclosure size for a single veiled chameleon that we recommend is 24”L x 24”W x 48”H or 36"L x 18"W x 36"H. This may seem like a lot of space for a juvenile when you first bring them home, but they grow up quickly! Height is important for arboreal lizards like chameleons because they live their lives in trees. 

If you can manage it, a larger enclosure is always better! Veiled chameleons are likely to appreciate any extra width and/or height.

Do chameleons have to be housed in a mesh enclosure?

Fully mesh enclosures are great for maximum ventilation, which is important for chameleons, but they are not required. If you live in a very dry climate a fully mesh enclosure can cause some issues, even with this more forgiving species. PVC enclosures are also a good option, especially if the front and top are ventilated. If air flow becomes an issue in any enclosure, a small computer fan can easily fix that problem.

Can you keep two veiled chameleons together?

Housing multiple chameleons in the same terrarium is not recommended, and may result in fighting, extreme stress, resource competition, and unwanted offspring. This can result in severe injuries and/or death.

How to quarantine a veiled chameleon

Note that it’s best to quarantine your new pet first. Whether your chameleon is wild-caught or captive bred, quarantine is still important. Quarantine is the practice of keeping an animal isolated and under sterile conditions in order to reduce the potential spread of disease. 

Even if you don’t have other reptiles that could potentially get infected by anything the chameleon might be carrying, maintaining quarantine conditions for the first 3 months will enable you to more easily monitor for concerning symptoms and more easily treat them as well. It’s easiest to do this with the same enclosure that you plan to keep the chameleon in long-term.

Some rules for successful veiled chameleon quarantine:

  • Keep the chameleon in a separate room from other reptiles.
  • Do not use the same equipment for the new addition as for your other reptiles.
  • Fully disinfect the enclosure weekly.
  • Get the chameleon checked by an experienced reptile veterinarian and treated for parasites if needed.
  • Observe for symptoms of disease or illness.

A reptile should be completely healthy before being transferred out of quarantine to its long-term setup.


Do veiled chameleons need UVB?

Yes! Veiled chameleons require UVB lighting for their survival. UVB lighting helps provide a clear day/night cycle, provides all of the vitamin D that your pet needs, strengthens the immune system, facilitates better digestion, and other benefits. Here are the best UVB bulbs for veiled chameleons housed in a typical 24”L x 24”W x 48”H enclosure:

For approximately 6"- 8" away

  • Arcadia T5 HO 6%, 22”
  • Zoo Med T5 HO Reptisun 5.0, 22”

For approximately 8"- 12" away

The brands we recommend here have "kits" available (in 24" length), that come with the proper fixture. If not, be sure your fixture has a reflector. Also be sure that the fixture your UVB bulb is housed in does not have a clear plastic bulb cover, as plastic and glass block UVB.

Most people do a 12 hours on and 12 hour off lighting schedule. However, you can also do longer times on during the summer and shorter times on in the winter to mimic the actual sun.

How to measure UVI

The strength of a lamp’s UVB output is measured in UV Index, or UVI. Coincidentally, this is the same measurement that the World Health Organization uses to measure risk of skin damage from exposure to solar radiation. Fortunately, you don’t have to worry about your chameleon getting skin cancer as long as you use UVB correctly. The best way to measure UVI in your pet’s enclosure is with a Solarmeter 6.5 or 6.5R.

To use the Solarmeter, hold the device vertically at basking height, with the lens pointing directly up at the lamp. Veiled chameleons should have a basking UVI around 3.0 at the level of their spine during basking, with UVI everywhere else in the enclosure being lower. Although there is a basking distance recommended in the previous section, note that factors such as the density of your terrarium mesh as well as the exact hood you’re using for your UVB lamp will affect the exact distance needed.

Other recommended lighting

As a diurnal species, veiled chameleons really do best with more illumination than what they get from just a UVB lamp. Bright light helps increase activity and appetite. To better simulate the brightness of sunlight, we recommend to also consider using a ~6500K LED or T5 HO fluorescent lamp to span most of the enclosure’s length. This is also really important if you plan to keep your live plants alive.


Best temperature for veiled chameleons

We recommend a basking area temperature of around 80-85°F, and between 72-78°F everywhere else (in the shade). Night temps should drop down to 55-65°F. Do not use lighting at night.

Best way to heat your veiled chameleon

Generally speaking, the most effective way to provide heat for a veiled chameleon is with a halogen or incandescent bulb above the basking branch. Halogen and incandescent bulbs are the best way to imitate the warmth of sunlight indoors.

Some good options are:

We recommend using the basking bulb in a dome fixture with a ceramic base. Because veiled chameleons are prone to burns, we do recommend you elevate the lamp above the top of the enclosure with Exo Terra Light Brackets.

We do not recommend you use ceramic heat emitters (CHEs), red bulbs, blue bulbs, or mercury vapor bulbs.

How to measure temperature

You can measure basking and surface temperatures using a temperature gun. Ambient temperatures can be measured using a digital thermometer. Some come in a combo thermometer/hygrometer, which we will talk about in the next section.

If you notice that your basking temperatures are too warm, dial down the bulbs’ heat output with a rheostat or dimmer. If they are too cool, you will need higher-wattage bulbs.


Best humidity levels for veiled chameleons

Like other chameleons, veiled chameleons are extremely sensitive to the moisture levels in their environment. Too high or too low can both result in illness. In order to mimic their native habitat, they do best with low humidity during the day and high humidity at night.

We recommend 30-50% humidity during the day and 75-100% at night. Humidity can be measured via digital probe hygrometer with the probe placed in the middle of the terrarium.

How to manage humidity for veiled chameleons

You can increase humidity by misting the enclosure 2x/day with a spray bottle or automatic misting system. Mist heavily first thing in the morning and then again at night. If you have a busy schedule, you may want to consider installing an automatic misting system.

Since you want higher humidity at night, you should consider a fogger or humidifier. So you don’t accidentally saturate the enclosure, you can connect the fogger to a humidistat set to a minimum of 75%.

We do not recommend reducing the amount of ventilation in your enclosure in order to trap in humidity. Ventilation is key to helping your chameleon stay healthy, and reducing air flow increases pathogen concentration and bacteria build up. It’s okay to let the enclosure dry during the day!

Humidifiers and foggers should only be used with distilled water and require frequent disinfecting to keep your reptile from getting sick.


Best substrate for veiled chameleons

Veiled chameleons are strictly arboreal, so they don’t really need substrate to dig in or walk on. With the exception of having a female, we recommend not having any substrate at all. Females will require a lay bin in order to lay eggs.

You can keep the solid bottom and add a drain that goes into a large bucket. This will require some DIY, but is well worth the effort. There are many DIY guides available on YouTube and in chameleon groups/forums if you are interested.

Lay Bin

If you have a female veiled chameleon, she will lay eggs at some point. It is best to be prepared by having a lay bin in the enclosure where she can safely lay eggs. You can use a 12" wide x 8" deep container, give or take. They prefer square shapes, in our experience! Mix plain top soil and play sand together and add just enough water so the soil can hold a tunnel. You can even add a plant to one side for some extra security, but it is not required.

What to know about cleaning a veiled chameleon enclosure

Here are some general steps you can follow for keeping your enclosure clean:

  1. Remove your chameleon from the enclosure and put it somewhere where it will be comfortable, but can’t escape. An artificial tree works well.
  2. Remove all décor from the enclosure.
  3. Vacuum and wipe down the enclosure to remove waste and leftover particles.
  4. Apply a reptile-safe disinfectant to the floor and walls of the enclosure and let sit for the disinfectant’s recommended contact time.
  5. Meanwhile, soak branches, artificial foliage, and other décor in a disinfectant rated for porous materials for the recommended contact time. Do not disinfect live plants with anything stronger than a 10% bleach solution.
  6. If required, rinse the enclosure and the accessories with clean water to remove disinfectant residue. Allow everything to dry.
  7. Arrange décor.
  8. Reintroduce your chameleon to the clean setup.

Some veterinary-grade disinfectant options that work for both porous and nonporous materials are F10SC, CleanBreak, and bleach solution. However, for porous materials, bleach solution should be in a 1:10 dilution, while you should use 1:50 for nonporous.

Can bioactive work for veiled chameleons?

Yes, bioactive can absolutely work for veiled chameleons. We recommend doing this if you are already experienced with bioactive, already experienced with this species, or fully prepared prior to getting the animal.


How to decorate a veiled chameleon terrarium

Chameleons are fully arboreal and love to hide in trees. For this reason, you will want plenty of vines, branches, and foliage to decorate your terrarium. Arrange them in such a way that the chameleon has somewhere to hide as needed, with an open area under the lighting for basking, and climbing perches available at all levels.

Be sure to securely anchor all the climbing branches to the walls of the enclosure to avoid accidental falls.

Live plant options for veiled chameleons

Veiled chameleons are skilled at climbing thin branches, but they are relatively large, and that means any plant you put in the enclosure must be able to support their weight during climbing. You also need to consider that veiled chameleons have a tendency to occasionally nibble on their plants, so you want to consider reptile-safe options.

Here are some great plant options for veiled chameleons:

  • Hibiscus
  • Lipstick Plant
  • Majesty Palm
  • Mass Cane
  • Money Tree 
  • Philodendron ‘Pink Princess’ 
  • Pothos
  • Prayer Plant
  • Rubber Plant
  • Schefflera
  • Weeping Fig 
  • ZZ Plant


How often do veiled chameleons need to eat?

Veiled chameleons are insectivores. This means that they only eat insects. Here’s a basic feeding schedule:

  • Juveniles (0-9 months) — As much as they can eat, every day
  • Adults (>9 months) — 4-10 bugs depending on size, every other day

What do veiled chameleons eat?

We recommend adding as much variety as you can. This helps ensure that your chameleon is getting balanced nutrition and a source of sensory enrichment.

Do veiled chameleons need vitamins?

You will also need calcium and vitamin supplements to prevent your chameleon from developing a deficiency. This is our recommended schedule for supplementing a veiled chameleon:

Every feeding: (one) calcium without D3

2x/month: (one) multivitamin

    It's always a good idea to make sure your feeder insects are well hydrated and gutloaded prior to feeding. We recommend Dubia Diet chow and Dubia Dew hydration crystals!

    Providing drinking water for veiled chameleons

    Although veiled chameleons don’t drink from water bowls, misting may not be enough to keep your pet properly hydrated. Installing a dripper over a leaf for your chameleon to drink from at any time of day is a good way to fill in the gaps and help prevent dehydration. This can also be accomplished with ice cubes!


    How to handle your veiled chameleon

    Reptiles generally don’t appreciate petting and handling in the same way that dogs and cats do. Some tolerate it more than others, but generally veiled chameleons prefer to be left alone. That being said, some of them learn to tolerate low levels of handling and will walk onto their keeper’s hand when offered.

    Taming tips for veiled chameleons

    Chameleons generally have a reputation for being a bit grouchy and difficult to socialize. Even if you have a calmer chameleon, it is still important to gain their trust, and be especially careful to create a positive association with yourself in their mind. It’s best to encourage your pet to come out of the enclosure and climb onto you on their own rather than simply grabbing them. Never grab a chameleon out from its hiding place as this surely will make it feel unsafe. Grabbing also often results in rib injuries, so you really do want to avoid that.

    Treats and hand-feeding are very effective for teaching your chameleon that you are not something to be feared, since food can motivate your pet to move outside of its comfort zone. You can use soft-tipped feeding tongs, but holding the bugs just with your fingers is just fine also.

    How to provide enrichment for a veiled chameleon

    Enrichment is the practice of strategically providing items and activities to encourage a captive animal to exercise natural behaviors. This also helps increase activity, reduce stress, and generally increase the animal’s welfare. 

    All reptiles can benefit from enrichment when it is provided in appropriate ways. Here are some ways to provide enrichment for veiled chameleons:

    • Rearrange the enclosure. If total overhauls are too stressful, move one thing every so often at your pet’s pace. For some individuals, that may be once a month, for others they might like once a week.
    • Scatter feeding. Rather than offering all of their food in one bowl, try putting it in various places around the enclosure or letting them chase their food, depending on what feeder you’re using.
    • Offer supervised explore time outside of the enclosure. Make sure to keep them away from situations that you can’t get them out of. Always keep your eye on them as well, you will be surprised how fast they can run for it and get lost!


    When should you take a veiled chameleon to the vet?

    Dogs and cats aren’t the only pets who need veterinary care — reptiles get sick and need professional help the same as any other pet. If you notice that your veiled chameleon has any of the following symptoms, make an appointment with an experienced reptile vet right away:

    • Mucus discharge from the mouth/nose/eyes
    • Persistent lethargy
    • Unexplained weight loss
    • Persistent lack of appetite
    • Straining/inability to defecate or prolapse
    • Open wounds
    • Swelling or bumps anywhere on the body
    • Sudden, unusually aggressive behavior

    You can find a reputable reptile vet near you with the ARAV Find a Vet tool.

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