Veiled Chameleons

a green and yellow Veiled Chameleon resting on a branch

A Veiled Chameleon is a lizard native to Saudi Arabia and Yemen. They’re a lizard that is able to change their skin’s color to blend in with the environment. It’s one of the few reptiles that can change their skin’s color.

Veiled Chameleons are known for being able to climb walls and trees. They are very capable of climbing almost anything. They are also very curious, and enjoy investigating everything in their environment.

Veiled Chameleons can be a number of different colors, including bright gold, green, or blue. Veiled Chameleons can be very entertaining to watch, especially when they change their skin’s colors. They are very easy to care for and will need little maintenance.

A Veiled Chameleon needs a large enclosure, because they need a lot of room to move around. They’ll also need a hiding place so they don’t feel threatened by other animals in the house.

They are very easy to take care of, and will only need basic things like food and water. They are very calm and laid back, and are content just hanging out in their enclosure. You can purchase a Veiled Chameleon from a reptile store, or a breeder. They typically cost between $40 and $100.

Veiled Chameleon Information

  • Average Length: 18 to 24 inches
  • Average Weight: 4 to 6 ounces 
  • Skin Appearance: Multi-color with bold color bands 
  • Skin Colors: Bright gold, green or blue
  • Grooming Needs: Low
  • Shedding: Every few months
  • Sensitive to Touch: No
  • Biting Tendency: No
  • Tolerance to Heat and Cold: No tolerance to cold
  • Good Pet: They don’t like to be handled.
  • Safe with Children: No
  • Good with Other Pets: No
  • Suitable to live in an Apartment: Yes
  • Good for Less Experienced Pet Owners: No
  • Weight Gain: Normal
  • Health Concerns: Metabolic Bone Disease, Respiratory Diseases, Mouth Rot, Gastrointestinal Disease
  • Allergies: None
  • Average Life Span: 6 to 8 years


The Veiled Chameleons are native to the high elevations in the Arabian Peninsula. They live on the border between Yemen and Saudi Arabia and are typically found in wooded areas.

Physical Appearance of Veiled Chameleons

a green Veiled Chameleon holding on to a leaf

Veiled Chameleons are known for their bright colors with bold and contrasting bands all along their body. Males are bright gold, green, or blue with yellow or orange bands. Females are less colorful than males and are usually green, and will often lack a solid vertical color band. Many females will have color spots or markings, or horizontal stripes if they don’t have the vertical bands like the males do. Like all Chameleons they can change colors based on their surroundings and mood.

Veiled Chameleons are one of the largest Chameleon species. Males can grow up to 24 inches long, but females are shorter and don’t grow more than 18 inches long. While the Males are longer, they are thinner than females.

Both male and female Chameleons have a casque or helmet-like structure on top of their head. The casque looks like a tiny swelling on young hatchlings but can grow up to 2 inches high when they become adults. Females have smaller heads and shorter casques than males.

Because of the unique shape of the casque, some say it resembles the hat the Pope wears. Their casque does have a purpose, it keeps Chameleons hydrated because it channels water down to their mouth.

Temperament of Veiled Chameleons

Veiled Chameleons are the most aggressive among all the Chameleon species. They are territorial and a solitary species. They should always be kept alone to prevent them from fighting. Males tend to be more aggressive than females.

Veiled Chameleons are startled easily and afraid of things they view as a threat. Because they are easily frightened, they don’t like being handled. Handling Chameleons, not just this type, can cause them a lot of stress.

Their Compatibility with Children

a green and yellow Veiled Chameleon walking up a a branch

We don’t recommend letting children handle your Veiled Chameleons. These reptiles are very territorial and can get aggressive. They are known to bite and may hurt your children. The good news is because they are small their bites rarely cause anything more than a little pain. It’s still not a good idea to let children handle them unless you know how your pet will react.

If your children handle your Chameleons or play near their tank, always have them wash their hands. This is because most Chameleons are carriers of infectious bacteria like Salmonella which can cause diarrhea, fever, and abdominal pain. Washing their hands should keep your children from contracting bacterial and fungal illnesses from your Chameleons.

Living Space for Veiled Chameleons

Veiled Chameleons need a well-ventilated living enclosure. Glass or wooden enclosures are not recommended because they limit the airflow and can cause respiratory infections. Screen-sided or mesh enclosures are best for Veiled Chameleons.

If the outside temperature where you live is between 70°F and 100°F, your Veiled Chameleons can have their enclosure kept outdoors. If you decide to keep their cage outdoors make sure the temperature doesn’t go over 100 or your Chameleons will overheat. It’s best not to keep the enclosure in direct sunlight or the enclosure will likely get too warm for your lizards.

Enclosure/Cage Size

Baby Veiled Chameleons can be housed in a smaller 16L” x 16W” x 30T” enclosure. This size is close to a 20 gallon fish tank. The babies grow fast and will need a larger home before too long. Adults will need a cage of at least 3L’ x 3W’ x 4T’, about the size of a 65 gallon aquarium.

Having a bigger enclosure is always better because it’s easier to create separate warm and hot areas inside the enclosure.

a green Veiled Chameleon walking along a log

Decorations

Veiled Chameleons like to climb and their enclosure should have lots of non-toxic plants and branches. Broad-leafed plants like Hibiscus, Pothos, Dracaena and Ficus trees make great decorations. Artificial plants can be mixed with natural plants to fill in any holes and make their enclosure look more natural.

Your Chameleon will be happiest with different sized branches inside their enclosure. The diameter of the branches should vary so that not every branch or stick is the same thickness. Birds are the same way and it’s not good for them to have the same size surfaces to grip all the time. The branches should be placed diagonally and at different heights to let your Chameleon climb to different places. Remember to keep a few branches below the basking spot.

Substrate

For substrate there are a few good choices. 2 to 3 inches of coconut fiber or reptile bark works really well. Reptile carpet is also a good choice if you want something longer lasting. Paper towels, butcher paper and newspapers can be good substrate options if the other ones are not available. Paper may not be the best choice, but it is easy to replace.

Avoid using substrates like gravel, sand, moss or others that are made of small particles. Small particles could get attached to their tongue while catching food. By not having any small particles, you keep them from accidentally eating indigestible substrate.

Best Climate for Veiled Chameleons

Chameleons are hardy and can adapt to different environments. This is one of the reasons for them being a popular pet reptile.

Temperature

The temperature in the warm area of the cage should be between 72 and 80°F and 85 and 95°F in the basking area. A ceramic heater or incandescent light is a good way to heat the enclosure during the day. 

The temperature at night should be cooler than the day time temperatures. The temperature at night is good between 65 and 70°F. 

You’ll want thermometers to monitor the temperature in their enclosure. The best place is in the basking area and the farthest place from the basking area. Then you can check the temperature in both locations every time you pass by their enclosure to make sure the temperatures are good.

Lighting

Veiled Chameleons need a full spectrum UV light. The UV light should be kept on during the day so they get enough UV light. Your Veiled Chameleons should never come in contact with them because the bulbs are incredibly hot and will burn them badly. UV bulbs should be replaced every 6 months because they lose their efficiency over time. Sometime between 6 and 10 months they will produce very little UV and it may not be enough to keep them healthy.

Humidity

Veiled Chameleons need a moderate humidity level of 50 percent. Misting the plants in their enclosure twice a day should keep the humidity in this range. 

A water bowl for drinking is not needed because Chameleons don’t drink water from it. While they don’t drink from a bowl, water evaporating from it can help keep the humidity up if you are having problems with low humidity. A drip system can be added to let fresh water drop into the enclosure for extra humidification.

A hygrometer should be added so that you can measure the humidity in their enclosure.

The Attention a Veiled Chameleon Needs

As we mentioned before Veiled Chameleons don’t like being handled and are happiest if watched while in their enclosure. Most of the attention needs involve looking after their enclosure and feeding them properly.

As for the attention they need, it’s really not very much. Making sure that the temperature and humidity are at the correct levels is most of what they need. Feeding them as needed and spot cleaning their enclosure will be the only “work” you’ll do to keep them healthy and happy.

Health Issues

Common Health issues in Veiled Chameleons are:

Metabolic Bone Disease

MBD is the most common disease found in pet reptiles. The disease is caused by your reptile not having enough vitamin D to properly absorb calcium. Being exposed to UV lighting helps them create vitamin D that they can use to absorb calcium.

 Symptoms include:

  • Lower jaw swelling 
  • Limb swelling
  • Facial bone softening
  • Loss of appetite
  • Seizures
  • Lethargy

An X-ray can help identify the extent of the disease. Sometimes MBD can lead to fractures, thin bone tissue or thickened bone shafts. The disease is more common in reptiles less than 2 years old.

If left untreated the disease can also lead to death. Consult your vet immediately if you find any of the above mentioned symptoms in your reptile.

Treatments can range from injecting your reptile with mineral supplements to medication and dietary modifications. To keep your reptiles from having MBD, they should be fed a diet rich in calcium (or calcium supplements) and have daily exposure to UV lighting.

Respiratory Diseases

Respiratory infections are a common health issue in reptiles. Poor enclosure conditions like excessive cold or humidity as well as stress can lead to respiratory infections or pneumonia. 

Symptoms include:

  • Nasal discharge
  • Sneezing
  • Bubbles in mouth
  • Labored breathing
  • Lethargy

Take your reptile to your vet if they have any of the above symptoms. Antibiotics are commonly used to treat the disease. If the infection is severe, they may need to be hospitalized.

Respiratory symptoms can become serious if not attended to in the initial stages. Maintaining the right temperature gradient and humidity levels inside their living enclosures can prevent your reptile from getting respiratory diseases.

Mouth Rot

Mouth rot, or infectious stomatitis, is an infection in a reptile’s mouth. Mouth rot is very serious and can cause your reptile a great deal of pain, and could eventually lead to their death. Mouth rot is typically caused by an injury to your reptile’s mouth, or their enclosure not being kept at the correct conditions.

Symptoms of mouth rot in your reptile are:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Blood in your pets mouth or their water bowl
  • Swollen areas in their mouth
  • Weight loss

The first step to fixing the problem is finding out if they injured their mouth on something, or if their enclosure’s conditions are not right. If their mouth is injured you should get them to a vet to have them look at your reptile. If the problem is environmental then fix the problems in their enclosure.

No matter what the cause of your reptile’s mouth rot, you’ll still need to take your reptile to your vet because the treatment requires prescription antibiotics. Surgery may be required depending on the severity of the mouth rot. Because this infection kills tissues in your reptile’s mouth, areas may need to be removed, including teeth. It’s better to prevent this problem before it happens by keeping your reptile’s enclosure at the conditions they need to be happy.

Gastrointestinal Disease

Gastrointestinal (GI) disease is a common parasitic infection found in reptiles, including tortoises. The disease can also be caused by improper feeding habits.

Symptoms of the disease include:

  • Weight loss 
  • Runny or smeared stools
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea 

A major cause of concern is that this disease can be transmitted to humans while handling the sick animal. This is why its important to wash up after handling each reptile you have.

If you find any of the above symptoms in your Russian Tortoise, take them to a vet immediately. Your vet will take a sample of your reptile’s stool to identify the parasite. In most cases medication will help treat the disease.

Salmonella

All reptiles are potential carriers of salmonella bacteria. The bacteria is present on their skin and shells (for turtles) but doesn’t seem to harm them. A major concern is that the disease can be transmitted to humans. Salmonella can cause serious and life-threatening conditions in humans. 

Symptoms include: 

  • Fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain in humans

As a preventive measure, we always recommend washing your hands after handling any reptiles. Pregnant women, young children and older people shouldn’t handle reptiles. These people are at an increased risk of getting infected because they have a weaker immune system.

Grooming and Care

Chameleons shed their skin regularly and younger Chameleons shed even more often. When your Chameleon is preparing to shed, their skin color will become dull and they may start eating less. They might start rubbing their skin against rough edges in their tank to loosen the skin or puff out their eyes.

Chameleons don’t need a bath because it can be stressful for them. Chameleons keep themselves clean by shedding their dead skin. They shed often enough that they don’t need to do anything else to keep clean.

To help them shed, make sure the humidity is at the levels your Chameleon needs. If it is too low you can mist the tank as needed to keep it up. You can manually mist the tank or add an automatic drip system. Higher humidity conditions will help your Chameleons shed easier and with less stress.

Remove the old skin after it has been shed while you spot clean their enclosure. Avoid peeling any skin off of your Chameleon yourself because it can cause bleeding or infections.

Remove extra food and any fecal matter from their tank daily. Replace the substrate completely once a month.

Their nails do not require trimming because they need the nails to grip the branches and climb. Their nails should wear down naturally because of all the climbing they do.

The top of the tank should be cleaned every other week. A deep cleaning should be done once a month when the substrate is replaced. While doing the deep cleaning, remove your Chameleon as well as all decorations and sticks from the tank. Use a 5 percent bleach solution to clean the entire tank. Disinfect artificial decorations before placing them back inside. Rinse the enclosure carefully and let it dry completely.

Once the enclosure is dry, add the decorations and place your Chameleon inside. Always wash your hands after cleaning their tank or handling them.

Feeding A Veiled Chameleon

a Veiled Chameleon on a stick catching prey with their tongue

Veiled Chameleons are insect eating reptiles and crickets should be their primary diet. If you want to give your Chameleon some variety they can also be fed locusts, butter worms, roaches, silkworms, grasshoppers, superworms, mealworms and waxworms. Avoid feeding them wasps, fireflies or other insects that can sting.

Young Chameleons under 6 months should be fed 2 – 3 times a day. From 6 months to 1 year they only need to be fed once a day. Once they reach a year they only need to be fed about 3 times a week. The reason younger Chameleons need to be fed more often is because they’re growing. After they hit 12 months most of their growing has stopped so they don’t need as much food.

Young Veiled Chameleons should be fed as many crickets as they want to eat everyday. This might mean you are feeding them 12 to 15 smaller crickets per day. Avoid feeding them wild-caught insects because these could have been exposed to pesticides. Make sure you remove any uneaten insects after about 5 to 10 minutes.

Gut loaded insects are best and don’t take that much more time than regular feeder insects. We have a great article on how to Gut Load your feeder insects. Dusting feeder insects with calcium and vitamin supplements every other week is another great way to get your Chameleon extra calcium. Dusting your Chameleon’s food is very important if your pet is housed indoors because they might not be getting enough UV rays. The extra calcium will help protect them from MBD.

A small portion of their diet should consist of plant material. Give them small amounts of fruits and vegetables like collard greens, dandelion leaves, kale, butternut squash, blueberries and thin slices of pear or apple. The fruits and vegetables will help round out their diet and make sure they’re not nutritionally deficient.

Because Chameleons do not drink from a water bowl, it’s not necessary to have a bowl inside their tank. Make sure that there is condensation or water drops available for them to drink so they don’t dehydrate.

Related Questions:

Do Veiled Chameleons Have a Sticky Tongue?

Veiled Chameleons have a long sticky tongue that they use to catch prey. They can shoot their tongue up to 1.5 times their body length. Their tongue shoots out of their mouth in the blink of an eye and can catch prey up to to half their own weight!

Why are They Called Veiled Chameleons?

They get their name from the bony casque on the top of their head. Veiled Chameleons are also called cone-headed Chameleons.