Rhampholeon brevicaudatus
The Stump Tailed Chameleon / Pygmy leaf Chameleon / Bearded pygmy chameleon
By Martin Spicer http://www.ukchameleons.co.uk


Introduction
R. brevicaudatus lives in the low level bushes, grasses and leaf litter of the Rainforest's of coastal Tanzania, East Africa. They are found from sea level to 1300 meters.
They grow to a total length of 3 inches when adult (Females grow slightly larger than males).
Males are distinguished by displaying yellow/green eye turrets with black stripes radiating from the pupils and horizontal black stripes running down their flanks when in excited coloration. They also have a longer bumpy tail that tapers gradually.
Females are distinguished by the shorter length of their tail, which has a smoother appearance and tapers quite sharply.


FEMALE R. brevicaudatus

Captive Care
Housing
Clear Plastic tanks 'Pal pens', glass aquariums or Wood and glass vivariums are ideal enclosures for R. brevicaudatus. Minimum sizes for a pair is 15" wide x 10" deep x 10" high.

R. Brevicaudatus requires a naturalistic set-up with a 2-6 inch (Minimum of 2 inch for egg laying) layer of soil or Coconut fibre (Nature-bed etc) substrate, we have found coconut fibre is best as it is very absorbent and sterile so doesn't contain nasty bugs or chemicals. Cover this with dried dead leaves and a few live plants, thin twigs and branches to climb on. Plants suitable for use are Ficus pumila 'creeping fig', Ficus benjamina and miniature palms, plants can be left in there pots or planted directly into the soil but I prefer leaving them in the pots which makes cleaning so much easier. R. Brevicaudatus seems to do really well in a wide variety of enclosure sizes the smallest I have kept individual adults in are large 'Pal pens' (Clear plastic tank with ventilated lid) measuring approx. 10 inch long x 6 inch wide x 9 inch tall. Males are territorial and will fight so do not house more than one male in the same enclosure unless it is very large and thickly planted. R. brevicaudatus are one of the few chameleons that can be kept in small groups, I have found a trio (1 male 2 females) gets on well in a tank approximately 24 inch wide x 12 inch deep x 12 tall. Make sure there are some plants that they can hide in and get away from each other.

Temperatures
Daytime temperatures of 65-80F are ideal. A small halogen lamp can be used as a basking lamp (and also the sole light source) basking temperatures should be no more than 90 F max. night time temperatures can safely drop to 50F with no ill effects.

Lighting
I have used halogen desk lamps as the only source of light and have never had a problem. With wild caught adults living over 2 years and still going. I have also used 5% UVB reptile florescent tubes with the same amount of success. I am still researching whether they benefit from UVB exposure if I find anything interesting I will update this care sheet, please check www.ukchameleons.co.uk for updates. Use a normal day/night cycle of 12 hours on and 12 hours off for natural lighting hours.

Humidity / Hydration
Spray the whole cage heavily twice a day, this will provide all the water and humidity that they need. Live plants are crucial as they provide humid zones and help create the right microclimate. The substrate should always be damp as eggs may be laid without you noticing so will need the moisture to incubate in.

Foods and feeding
Foods should be no larger than the distance between their eyes being approximately 2/8 inch or slightly smaller for adults. Foods that should be offered are Small Silent or brown crickets, woodlice, fruit flies and if you can hatchling silkworms and young wax worms. (Black crickets shouldn't be used as they are more likely to bite the chameleon as it sleeps. To help avoid this feed smaller size crickets and only feed what will be eaten in one day, if any are left over try to take out as many as you can just before the lights go out). With hatchling R. brevicaudatus the only foods small enough are fruit flies and hatchling crickets ('Pin heads') until the grow larger.

Vitamin and mineral supplementation
Dust insects lightly around 2-3 times per week with a high quality Calcium powder eg T-Rex Bone Aid or Miner-all (which is better but rarely available in this country) and dust with a multivitamin powder eg nutrobal once every 10 days roughly.

This applies to babies as well but use a multivitamin once every 7 days.

Breeding
R. Brevicaudatus are easy to breed as they are kept in groups and lay their eggs in the enclosure without any special attention.

They will lay around 1-4 clutches per year with the average being 2-3, and contain 1-5 (average of 3-4) eggs per clutch.

Eggs are small the size of a Tic-Tac (around ¼ inch long). They are usually laid in the corners of the enclosure or near a hard surface like the walls or side of a flowerpot. Some people say to leave them where they are laid and others say about incubating them artificially, I have tried it both ways and have found digging up the eggs and incubating artificially is the best. You can't control humidity and don't know when babies are due, if left in the enclosure. Place eggs in a plastic container filled half way with damp vermiculite etc. and place in a warm place or incubator which stays around 72-78F at these temperatures eggs hatch at around 80 days.

The babies are tiny when they hatch measuring around 1 inch long total length!!! Baby care is not that difficult but you will need a supply of tiny insects, which can sometimes be a problem. Follow the same care as described above for rearing. The only thing that will be different is enclosure size which should be small around 6 inches x 4" x 4" this is to allow the chameleon to find food easily.

I have successfully bred these into 2nd generation and am working towards the next generation I will update the article with more successes when they happen.

Conclusion
R. Brevicaudatus are fantastic little chameleons, which are very hardy and if well looked after may live for 3-4 years or more. They are great to watch and have brilliant little personalities and if your lucky enough you will see them feed, shooting out there long sticky tongues, and hopefully be able to breed these unique little chameleons. I hope this care article helps you and you enjoy these little jems as much as I do.

 

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