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Taking care of chameleons as pets is not as hard as you might first believe. Chameleons are quite easy to take care of in terms of feeding and enclosure.
Among the most recommended pet chameleon and most popular is the bearded leaf chameleon. It also goes by the name “stump-tailed chameleon”.
At times you may find the word Rieppeleon brevicaudatus, which you might find to be a bit of a mouthful. But, all of these names point to the same little guy.
The bearded leaf chameleon is the most common one to be used, and it is derived from its behavior.
The chameleon looks more like a dead leaf. Actually, the Chameleon is able to flatten itself and play to be dead.
This resemblance to a leaf and also the size gives it the name, bearded leaf chameleon. It’s also one of the smallest chameleons widely available to buy.
Where Are They Found In The Wild?
This chameleon is traditionally found in Africa. It’s specifically located in the eastern side of Tanzania.
Most times it can be spotted in the eastern region of Tanzania in the Uluguru and Eastern Usambara mountains.
This area has similar environmental features as the Galapagos Islands and the Bearded leaf chameleons are located in the cool tropical forests which they are well adapted for.
Their preferred habitat is in areas with trees and leaves. This is adaptation is just the same as other chameleons.
Chameleons live in forests and woodland areas as they find survival easy there. They can easily adapt even in terms of feeding. Their preferred habitat also facilitates their nature of changing colors. An example is the camouflage ability.
Most Chameleons including the bearded leaf Chameleon use the Camouflage ability. In forests and woodlands, they are easily able to camouflage and blend in with their surroundings.
The bearded leaf chameleon may be spotted in different colors such as brown, tan and green. It can and will change colors to match its environment, which can make spotting them in the wild tricky.
This is ability to change colors is a defense mechanism. When it spots a predator coming close, the next step is to change color.
The males and females have different features. The males can be noticed as they have longitudinal stripes that are bright. Male bearded leaf Chameleons seems to be more bright and flashy. They are considered to be flamboyant.
Females are often less flashy as compared to males. Actually, most of their features may seem to resemble other chameleons, the major difference being their short tail.
The bearded chameleon normally uses its short tail for support purposes when climbing or taking prey.
The other major difference from other chameleons is their beard. Its look is where the chameleon gets it’s “bearded leaf chameleon” name.
When closely observed under its chin there is a tiny goatee. This is why it’s referred to as bearded.
Although other types of the leaf chameleon have this goatee this specific species is more visible.
You will notice their resemblance with most of ‘dwarf’ and ‘leaf’ chameleon species.
Buy A Bearded Leaf Chameleon
To buy a bearded leaf chameleon, you may need to visit a specialist dealer or arrange for an import from another country. It’s also possible to buy them online, and we have a list of resources at the bottom of this page to arrange your purchase.
They are actually found at very reasonable prices.
The bearded leaf chameleon is easy to take care of and requires only the most basic of gear and resources.
The most important thing is to ensure you fully adhere to the necessary conditions required for the survival of the chameleon.
Caring for this chameleon is easy as the size also makes it more convenient. Most species of the bearded leaf chameleon normally lies within the range of 3 inches in length.
Males tend to be slightly larger than the females
Caring for Your Chameleon
The bearded chameleon has the same lifespan as the other common types of a chameleon. However, the care it gets also determines how long it will live.
The bearded leaf chameleon can be compared to the other larger species of chameleons. under the proper conditions, a full-grown bearded leaf chameleon can live for four years- especially.
In the wild, the bearded leaf chameleon, like other species, faces harsh conditions. They include lack of food, extreme temperatures, and dehydration. However, housed bearded leaf chameleons have a higher chance of survival. They easily get access to water, food, and shade.
Parasites also interfere with the chameleon’s food. When you purchase a chameleon ensure it is in good health condition. An ill chameleon may not be able to survive in an enclosure.
Most times when the bearded leaf chameleon is unwell it will hiss. A veterinary care assistant should be able to help you know the chameleon health condition. It’s easy to know a healthy chameleon based on its eyes activity.
It will normally have constant motion in the eyes and is full-bodied with a high degree of alertness. For purposes of good health hydration levels are important. Hydration influences the ability of the bearded leaf chameleon to survive in the enclosure.
Immediately you transfer the chameleon to its new environment to ensure the humidity levels are fit. Most times, imported bearded leaf chameleons may find it hard to survive in the new setting.
Healthy chameleons, later on, get used to their new environment. If the chameleon was unhealthy during the transfer it may die in the process. Most times after the transfer to a new location the bearded leaf chameleon will have minimal to completely no movement. At times the chameleon may spend the whole day in a single spot.
This should not be a cause for alarm. As long as you don’t hear hiding sound their health is fine. It’s always important to consult a licensed veterinary before importing a chameleon. Most times when the bearded leaf chameleon is introduced to a new environment it tends to remain still. However, it may make minimum movements when not being watched.
An enclosure is home to the chameleon. When designing the enclosure you need to have all the relevant requirements. You should do research on the chameleon adaptations.
The enclosure should be able to resemble the real wild environment. The Bearded leaf chameleon has different survival features as compared to others. The enclosure materials actually differ.
The Bearded leaf chameleon can comfortably survive in reptile terrariums. It is recommended to use glass. This is quite different from other species which will be easily be frightened by their own reflections.
Glass seems to work better in the enclosure, it’s actually very efficient in terms of conserving the humidity level. The terrarium is the best advisable material especially for bearded leaf chameleon adapting to a new humid environment.
Plastic also works as well as glass. In areas where the humidity levels are high the glass is the best option. However, you should be able to control the temperature levels.
The enclosure will need to be adjusted to look more like the wild forest environment. The best option can include branches or sticks with leaves and detritus. The leaves and branches help the chameleon to climb and also sleep on the twigs. It would be better if you can find branched twigs to add to the natural touch.
The chameleon products you choose to use should not interfere with the lighting. Low-light house plants such as fern asparagus and pothos could also come in handy. House plants are actually ideal for this setting. There should probably have leaves and limbs with a small diameter.
Although plants work well in this new environment do not put much vegetation. The bearded leaf chameleon is considered cryptic and can easily disappear. They have an excellent ability to camouflage and will easily blend in with the leaves’ color. Among their great ability is also the climber’s skill.
The bearded leaf chameleon is easily able to climb on a screen very fast and could actually escape. It can steadily walk on the glass without slipping out. It’s always advisable to put on a tight lid as a cover. Ensure the lid fits tightly across the entire enclosure’s corners.
The covering should be able to attach tightly especially if you also have other house pets. Applying a slippery liquid on the top liquid could be important so the chameleon is not able to escape.
Pets such as cats and dogs may want to attack the chameleon. There is also the practice of housing the bearded leaf chameleon in an aquarium. In such a case you can apply a layer of Vaseline on the top side of the glass.
This ensures the chameleon is not able to climb and escape. However, ensure the environment has no other pets such as dogs and cats. In this case, you choose an aquarium set up try as much as possible to get rid of predators. The use of a lid is the best in case you have other pets.
Heat and Lighting
Heat and light are very essential when keeping a chameleon in an enclosure. When dealing with reptiles heat is of great importance. Reptiles are cold-blooded and have no special way to store their own heat. Normally, they rely on the direct heat from the sun.
In the case they do not access sunlight they may be affected health-wise. This is among the reason most enclosures have lamps attached. The heat source takes the place of direct sunlight.
In terms of heat and lighting sources, chameleons respond differently. While other reptiles need access to light and heat chameleons do not have to. The Bearded leaf chameleon does not need UV supplementation as compared to other reptiles. Actually, it does not require any additional heat source.
Other species of reptiles such as lizards require heat source as it acts as a representation of heat from the sun. The Bearded leaf Chameleon does not normally get direct access to the sun as it normally stays under plants and rocks. Most of these areas hardly ever experience sunlight. This does not mean that the bearded leaf chameleon cannot have UV light.
Actually, there is no harm attached to UV light. It’s not adapted to sunlight do to the way it hides under shade. Heat may, however, be relevant so as to help attain the required temperature level.
In the case you allow light to the enclosure, ensure it does not exceed the recommended temperature. Too much light may heat up the aquarium and dry the substrate. This should not be the case as the substrate should always remain damp. You need to be careful in terms of the heat levels that access the aquarium. It’s actually very rare for the bearded leaf chameleon to bask on the sun.
In case you find the process of heat and lighting difficult you can use relevant equipment. It is recommended to use a hygrometer and a thermometer. The thermometer will help measure temperature while hygrometer measures humidity levels. It will be easy if you can find an alternative area with no access to direct sunlight. At this spot, you can also do away with artificial lighting. A spot near the window would actually work well.
When choosing a spot to ensure it does not give in too much light. Bearded leaf chameleons usually hunt in dark areas. Ensure there is no much lighting that will hinder them from catching prey.
It will be easy to find a spot even in terms of the required temperature levels. Normally, the required temperature is 65°F to 80°F. This temperature lies in the same range as the room temperature which is usually 70°F. The room temperature makes the bearded leaf chameleon easy to survive in an aquarium or indoor terrarium.
The Bearded leaf chameleon will survive very well in the aquarium with no major issues. Actually, the room temperature fits in perfectly. However, it’s also important to consider differences in regions. Although regions room temperature may vary, the difference is minimal.
Normally, most temperature variation would either be 10°F more or less. This variation is fit and offers no major difference. In other areas, you may need to increase the temperature levels. The best recommendation is the use of low emitting lights such as fluorescent bulbs.
The use of lamps for enclosures has been highly used and recommended. The best practice is the use of thermostat lamps. These types of lamps are able to control the heat levels more effectively. A thermostat is highly reliable.
The substrate is among the important features to observe in almost all enclosure. The substrate plays a big role in the animal’s growth journey. They are a number of recommendations in terms of substrate mixture. However, it is always wise to research widely before applying any substrate.
The humidity level is normally determined by the substrate. Different chameleon species normally have differences in humidity needs. While others are so demanding, others seem to survive at an average humidity level.
However, no matter the level of humidity required the substrate should be fit to hold water. There are various substrate types and they will perform differently. The most recommended substrate for the bearded leaf chameleon is the natural one. This could include leaf litter, pear moss or organic humus.
There are also commercially available substrates. An example is the coconut fiber. The natural substrate seems to work better. Sometimes when you use the wrong substrate it may cause health challenges when eaten. It’s always advisable to consider the health of the chameleon. Eating of raw fiber may cause ingestion. Sometimes it may lead to death.
Whenever you suspect the bearded least chameleon has eaten the substrate contact a licensed veterinary instantly.
Food influences both the growth and health condition of any animal. Not having the right food could lead to the death of the animal. When making food decisions it’s always important to find food suggestions parallel to the animal’s natural habitat.
Such food suggestions will work well with their digestion. These animals are taken from the wild where they get food with enough nutrients. They are also used to hunting for their own food. Introducing them to new feeding habits can be a bit difficult at first. Most animals may fail to eat at all. However, the bearded leaf chameleon is able to adapt easily.
The Bearded leaf chameleon is flexible enough in terms of food patterns. It will actually eat any food that presents itself. They are not quick to search for food. Actually, you may not see them eating unless food is introduced. They have a powerful tongue that is propulsive. It’s quite longer than their body length. Their eating habits are very flexible even in terms of the prey size.
Normally the bearded leaf chameleon will feed on arthropods, fruit flies and pinhead crickets. The bearded leaf chameleon has a very low level of body fat hence requires to eat from time to time. The recommended food supply level could actually make the chameleon spend time without eating.
If you feed the bearded leaf chameleon well it may stay for a while without eating. Normally, bearded leaf chameleons do not spend much time eating. They have low energy requirements. Other species of chameleon may eat more frequently. The main determinant is actually the energy requirement.
Their eating habits are average or low than other chameleon species. The Bearded leaf chameleon can actually survive on a few pinhead crickets per week. You can opt to introduce natural food items in the terrarium.
Arthropods are great meals for the bearded leaf chameleon however they may also affect the breeding of eggs. There is also another option of gut-loading of food. This may however not be common. However, bearded leaf chameleons will hunt for their prey themselves without help.
The best way to prevent these predators is by providing foods such as cricket food. You can just offer a few feeders for the crickets as normally the bearded leaf chameleon will finish the cricket in a week. The other option is to put the prey feed in a bowl that is low rimmed. Sometimes the food like crickets may turn to be predators. However this not a concern as they Bearded leaf chameleon can defend itself.
Water and Humidity
The conditions present in an animal’s environment will determine its lifespan. Most animals get their adaptation from the way they grow. The level of humidity influences the survival rate in an environment. Since most chameleons are used to forest life they will require the same conditions in an enclosure. You may be required to adjust the temperature and humidity levels to meet this.
The presence of Humidity and water is an essential element, especially in captive-bred animals. Even for the bearded leaf chameleon, it requires enough humidity levels for survival. However, the bearded leaf chameleons are not as sensitive to humidity as other chameleon species.
In terms of humidity, this may vary depending on the region of residence. Some regions may have lower humidity levels than the recommended. In such cases, you may be required to provide humid conditions. This can be done by misting the enclosure at least twice every day.
The process of misting will normally be done based on the environment. Most times the winter season may tend to be dry and this may require misting. In incidences where humidity levels are higher to the required level, you may require less must. Although misting is useful and helps in humidity provision do not overdo it. Misting should not make the enclosure wet.
You also need to consider the option of water containers. Water containers help when the chameleon baths as it passes through the water. it is able to provide humid conditions to its body. In case you choose to mist the container you may not require to put a water dish. Bearded leaf chameleon while in the wild will normally get water from dead leaves. Non- toxic leaves and dry ash also provides water for chameleons.
Misting should be done sparingly, as not to completely wet the whole containers. There are good misters that can help you do this. You can also use the normal water bottle. Heavy misting does not necessarily seem to affect them.
Handling and Temperament
Different animals have various aggression rates. While other is friendlier others seem more like the attacking kind. However, most animals taken out of their natural habitat will be aggressive.
This is normal as they just try to protect themselves from predators. They will actually see you as more of a threat. However, the way you treat an animal determines its response to you. If you are gentle enough it may feel secure and confident. Most people will try to handle animals in a harsh manner.
When you grab an animal it feels there is a threat and the response is protection. Different animals have various mechanisms. As for the Chameleon, it can bite you as a way to protect itself.
However, all animals have a special way to relate to them. When an animal feels secure it gets comfortable around its owner. You should definitely try this out. The same applies to chameleons.
The handling option for the bearded leaf chameleon is quite easy. Their small size makes them easy to handle however they are vulnerable.
Since they are small in size they can be easily crushed. It’s also quite easy to drop them due to their slippery nature. The Bearded leaf chameleon is easy to observe as they are not shy. Actually, they are not frightened by people’s presence.
However, it is not easy to notice them move at all. They are actually considered as sedentary chameleons. Most of the time bearded leaf chameleons will only move when eating. Their activity is different depending on gender.
Females will most of the time stay on the terrarium floor while males stay on top of provided furniture. You should consider putting comfortable furniture in case you are caring for a male bearded leaf chameleon.
It’s easy to spot their location based on their behavior. The male usually has bright colors and stripes. Females, on the other hand, are not bright. Actually it’s harder to locate the females.
When you hold the bearded leaf chameleon on your hand you may hear a buzzing sound. This could also be a defensive mechanism. Different chameleon species apply different mechanisms. Sometimes the prey may turn out to be a predator. Large cricket may want to attack the bearded leaf chameleon. At other times hissing may be a response to pain. A veterinary may help figure out this.
Breeding is not as hard considered you are able to pay close attention to the Chameleons. When breeding it is not advisable to have male bearded leaf Chameleons staying on one terrarium. Males are normally very aggressive. Actually they will most of the time be fighting. While others will take dominance others may be harassed.
The idea for females bearded leaf chameleon does not seem to be a good one. Females may not be comfortable in one cage. Especially in cases where the cage is small. Also, avoid incidences of larger and smaller bearded leaf chameleons being kept in one cage.
Actually, both male and female bearded leaf chameleon seems to have the same characters. Most of the chameleons both male and female with stay and sleep at the same spots over a period of time.
Some of the chameleons may even spend more than a day at the same spot. Although they seem to stay at a spot for many hours there is normally a routine change of spots. Though these changes are small when you carefully observe them you will be able to identify this. W
hen you decide to house more than one bearded leaf chameleon on the same enclosure they sometimes seem normal. Actually, they may seem to wander around and not to notice the presence of each other.
Some other cases may involve difference in the behavior of some chameleons. Some will seem to be more active while others may want to stay at a corner with no activity. This is considered as the stress condition.
The other chameleons will continue to move freely across the cage. Whenever you spot a change in the activity of a bearded leaf chameleon you should move it to a different terrarium or enclosure.
During the breeding season, you will notice the brightest level of males to increase. This is especially their stripes and colors. They will be close to where the female bearded leaf chameleon is located mostly.
Females may at times not want to breed. During such times it will violently rock from side to side whenever the males approach. The male bearded leaf chameleon is normally resident even when rejected by the female.
They normally ran fast and will constantly try to tackle the female bearded leaf chameleon. However, even in this much effort female will only breed when willing. The Female Bearded leaf chameleon normally tries to resist by rolling over on their back.
They will actually try as much as possible to push away the male. After a tough try with no success the males will normally quit and move away.
To know a female bearded leaf chameleon has bred, you should check on its size. It will actually increase in the body size. This is expected to happen one month before it is eventually able to lay eggs.
The chameleon normally lays from one to five eggs. The body size will actually increase in size based on the number. The eggs are not that big as they can be compared to a grain of rice.
When it’s time to lay eggs the female bearded leaf chameleon digs a hole on the ground. Sometimes it may just lay the eggs on the ground. The eggs will require to be incubated for about 60 to 75 days.
The temperature levels of the incubator should not change during this time. When eggs are left on the ground they will be at a threat of the predators.
The other best incubation for the eggs is medium room temperature. The room should have a humidity of 75%. Alternatively, you can also use perlite and vermiculite as incubator. Immediately the young bearded leaf chameleon is born they can start feeding.
Because of the nature of their large heads they can feed on fruit flies and pinhead crickets. While they are still young you are supposed to consult a veterinary. When such young animals get sick they treatment will tend to be a problem.
The chameleon needs enough nutrients for survival. The recommended nutrients include vitamins and calcium. When feeding the bearded leaf chameleon you should dust it with powdered supplements.
Even the insects should also be dusted with supplements. You should be able to interchange the use of calcium and vitamin. You can use phosphorus and calcium without D3 and vitamin once in a while. Calcium with D3 is also important for the bearded leaf chameleon once in a month.
The young ones should be removed from the cage when they are hatched. This is in case they had not been artificially incubated. In case they were you can transfer them to their new cage. The same age young ones can be kept in one cage without any problem. You should be able to adjust the cage with artificial plants. The plants help in climbing and hiding.
You will also need to monitor the temperature level and maintain it at 76°F. Temperatures exceeding 76°F may affect the hatchling’s health condition. Its also recommended for you to give UVB light access to the Chameleon. You should be able to mist the cage a number of times a day. The hatchlings also require to well fed. Ensure you dust the food with calcium at least once every week. After 3to 4 months you can separate the males and females.
What do bearded leaf chameleons eat?
Bearded leaf chameleons eat the same food as others. Bearded leaf chameleons are okay with various types of food. Actually, they will eat any small size food they find and can easily ingest. Their tongue also helps them to easily hunt for any food type.
Bearded Leaf Chameleons will normally try and eat any food or prey that is able to fit between their mouths. Normally it is measured using it’s head size. They are even able to eat pill bugs that are as large as 3 to 8″. Their favorite food is crickets and fruit flies.
They can also feed on insects. Although they can hunt for their food the new environment requires feeding them. It’s also important to provide the Bearded leaf Chameleon with enough vitamins and nutrients.
It’s recommended dusting the food with vitamins once per week. There is an option of natural food items. Bearded Leaf Chameleon can also feed on arthropods. The most important thing is to ensure the chameleon eats food that is with enough nutrients.
Where does the bearded leaf chameleon live?
They are used to forests and woodland areas. Normally you will notice them climbing on twigs with branches. Mostly they will try to hide on the leaves. The Bearded leaf chameleon uses its camouflage ability to hide in between the leaves.
The Bearded leaf chameleon survival is easy in the forests. They are able to hunt for their food in such a location. Normally they will also adjust their bodies to a flat position to look like a dead leaf. This nature makes them hard to be found.
Can a Bearded Leaf Chameleon bite?
All chameleons have their own defense mechanisms. The Bearded Leaf Chameleon is not an exception. Among its defensive mechanism is to stay in a flat position. Most chameleons will actually play dead.
The other method is by camouflaging. They also bite. The Bearded leaf chameleon will bite in case they feel threatened. Before the attack and bite, they will normally produce a hissing sound.
When they are completely frightened they tend to stare at the object or predator. They will normally bite you in case they feel threatened. The key point here is to create a warm atmosphere of trust with the animal. Just be calm the way you act. Do not rush to grab it anyhow.
How do you handle a Bearded leaf Chameleon?
The tips for doing this are very simple. The first is to create a secure environment for the bearded leaf chameleon. Create an atmosphere of trust between you and the animal. All chameleons need gentle handling.
When you force or grab the chameleon you can get bitten. Most times grabbing it or hard pressing the chameleon may cause you to be bitten. You may actually be bitten more than once when handling a chameleon.
Chameleon bites are not poisonous or harmful to humans. It’s always important to handle the chameleon gently so it’s used to your handling. When it is used to the owner it will be more comfortable when in the hand. It will actually have more activity.
What may cause a Bearded Leaf Chameleon to hiss?
Hissing is a way to say something is not right. Most animals have their own special way to express their feelings of insecurity or even danger. Bearded Leaf Chameleons will normally hiss as a response to what they feel.
It may be as a result of discomfort or pain. Even though they are now in the cage they still remain to be fragile. Chameleons can injure their bodies, legs, and feet. As a result, they will hiss in response. Sometimes eye infections can be a cause for hissing. In case you are importing a chameleon, a hissing sound should act as enough warning to you. In case you notice this before going through with the importation, it will be wise to cancel the plans.
Check out our other Lizard care guides here.