Senegalese chameleon

The Senegalese chameleon is one of the four most popular pet chameleons. They are smaller chameleons native to West Africa, but still as beautiful and fragile as any other species. Like many lizards, these chameleons cannot tolerate a lot of handling, so they may not be the best pets for small children. But by providing your pet chameleon with the ideal environment and diet, you can help your delicate reptile live a long life.

Senegalese Chameleon Facts

Commonly known as the Senegalese chameleon, Senegalese scarabs is the technical name for this little lizard. It can grow up to eight inches long and live up to five years, but females who lay a few clutches of eggs may not live that long.

While they may look striking, Senegalese chameleons are not for novice lizard owners. In addition to their aversion to being handled, they can also be aggressive towards other chameleons. Because of these characteristics, it is best to keep multiple Senegalese chameleons alone and content to watch them rather than play with them.

Senegalese chameleon house

The Senegalese chameleon is a sensitive reptile, so its environment needs to be just right for it to thrive in captivity. Mesh or mesh enclosures are the best option for pets. Air circulation and ventilation and plenty of climbing options are perfect in a cage with screens, but make sure the enclosure has enough height. Senegalese will climb vertically in a cage, not side to side. If a screened or mesh enclosure is not an option for your chameleon, a 29-gallon tall tank is generally recommended.

Your Senegalese cage should also be equipped with plenty of vines and artificial plants, as well as a drip irrigation system, unless you’re diligent enough to mist the cage a few times a day. Chameleons drink water from plant leaves, not from bowls, so it’s crucial that your Senegal has wet leaves in a pen that you can drink every day.

While mesh cages are best for chameleons, they are terrible for maintaining the high humidity levels Senegal needs. If you don’t spray water on your leaves every day, dripper systems, automatic sprays, and atomizer systems can help. Without high humidity in the cage, your Senegalese chameleon will be dehydrated, lethargic, and may struggle to shed.

Your Senegalese paddock should have heat lamps and full spectrum UVB lamps. Heat lamps need to be able to keep the sunbathing area around 85 degrees. The rest of the enclosure should not fall below 70 degrees. Depending on the temperature of the room, the size of the enclosure and the type of enclosure, different heat lamps and wattages may be required to achieve these temperatures.

UVB lighting is a special type of light that increases metabolism, appetite, activity, and most importantly, the synthesis of vitamin D3, which is essential for the chameleon’s calcium absorption process. It’s an alternative to the invisible UVB rays that the sun usually provides the chameleon outdoors. Without UVB lighting, your chameleon is likely to develop metabolic bone disease, unable to grow normally, and weak or fractured bones. Even if you provide calcium in the chameleon’s diet, the animal cannot absorb it without UVB lighting. Make sure your UVB lights are placed about 12 inches from the highest point of the cage that the chameleon can reach to avoid thermal burns. Ideally, the UVB light would not be filtered by anything, especially plastic or glass coverings, as this would greatly reduce the amount of UVB rays reaching the chameleon.

Senegalese chameleon food and water

Senegalese chameleons in captivity love to eat crickets, mealworms, and other insects readily available in the pet trade. It captures its prey by shooting its long tongue out of its mouth. The tongue sticks to the insect and then retracts into the chameleon’s mouth. A healthy chameleon focused on catching food will successfully catch the insect nine out of 10 attempts.

Intestinal insects dusted with calcium powder should be provided every few days, if not daily. You should never put more crickets in your chameleon’s enclosure than what he eats in a short period of time. Overnight crickets may start to bite your chameleon and cause small wounds that may become infected.

Also, since chameleons will eat live prey, it is important to have regular fecal exams by your exotic veterinarian to check for intestinal parasites.

Choose Your Senegalese Chameleon

As with most pet lizards, it is best to obtain a Senegalese chameleon from a reputable breeder, as it is impossible to determine what parasites or other potential hazards the wild-caught species may have been exposed to. Ideally, you can watch the chameleon eat before you buy it. If it refuses food, it may be a sign that it is not healthy. Other things to look out for are if its eyes are cloudy, or if it has excess mucus around its nasal passages and mouth. These signs could mean the chameleon has a respiratory infection or other illness. Lastly, chameleons with dry patches on their skin may have shedding issues, which is not a good sign, nor is it ideal to buy a chameleon that is sick.

common health problems

Like many reptiles, Senegalese chameleons are prone to several different types of health problems.

  • Respiratory Infection – It is usually the result of low temperatures within the enclosure or the chameleon’s exposure to drafts or sharp changes in temperature.
  • Stress related disorders – Loss of appetite and respiratory infections can be causes of stress.
  • Calcium deficiency — Low calcium levels may be due to lack of UVB lighting or too little calcium in the diet.
  • Vitamin A deficiency- Low vitamin A levels are usually the result of a poor diet.
  • Stomatitis – Otherwise known as mouth decay, this will manifest as redness around the chameleon’s mouth and possible drooling.
  • Intestinal parasites — Worms and protozoa are common problems with chameleons.
  • Metabolic bone disease — This is usually what happens when a chameleon cannot absorb calcium properly. This painful condition weakens the animal’s bones, making its legs appear wobbly. It can also lose appetite and may appear lethargic.

If your chameleon looks ill or behaves strangely, don’t hesitate to consult a veterinarian experienced in treating reptiles. Most of these disorders can be successfully treated if caught early.