is a crucial element in successful chameleon keeping. If not presented
properly, water-related disorders kill chameleons faster than any
(tree living), chameleons are not likely to encounter standing water
so using a traditional water bowl will not work. Most fail to ever
recognise this as a source of water.
the morning dew and during rain storms as well as the naturally humid
conditions of their environment keeps the chameleon well hydrated
in the wild.
ventilation would normally be sacrificed in order to create a humid
environment. Unfortunately this is not an option with chameleon keeping
as clean fresh air is equally as important to the chameleon. In fact
it appears successfully providing humid conditions in a vivarium comparable
to natural conditions for the more commonly kept species, such as
Veileds and Panthers (80-90% humidity) can results in respiratory
problems. Its almost impossible in a small environment to maintain
a good flow of fresh air to prevent bacteria/mould buildup as well
as high humidity. For this reason keepers tend to recommend medium
humidity (50-60%) and greater access to water.
this balance it is important to understand how a chameleon sees and
reacts to water.
off dew or shining through water droplets entices and eventually triggers
the drinking mechanism in chameleons. This is not hugely different
to the principle advertisers use to advertise cold drinks. Most are
shown in glasses covered with water droplets in brightly-lit conditions
and these images subconsciously make us thirsty.
way to provide water is by spraying the enclosure several times a
day or by using a dripper or both. In theory this is fine however
in practice these methods are rarely sufficient.
why we must again look to conditions in their natural habitat. Misting
to simulate dew does not really work in captivity. This is because
the water tends to evaporate too quickly. In their natural habitat
the high humidity prevents this from happening. Therefore misting
must represent rain.
only last a few minutes at most which is far too short. Sometimes
it can take in excess of 5 minutes constant spraying to trigger the
drinking response. A guide should be 15 minutes of spraying twice
a day and the spray should always be angled so the water drips over
the foliage to provide as natural an effect as possible. Unless the
chameleon chooses to sit in the spray, try and avoid spraying them
directly as this can put them off taking water in this way.
It is important for the cage, particularly the branches, to dry out
drippers are excellent additions to all cage setups if used correctly.
They work best if they drip onto and through foliage so the light
catches the drips.
can be as simple as a cup with a few holes in or purpose built. They
are best used after spraying when the drinking reflex has been triggered.
A dripper not only makes it easier for the chameleon to drink a lot
of water but can also be used to administer water soluble supplements
are recommended in addition to heavy misting for all large chameleon
species as there is a tendency for them to suffer from kidney problems
in later life if not fully hydrated.
using a dripper, make sure you see the chameleon drinking. Just because
the dripper is in the right place for the owner does not mean it's
necessarily in the right place for the chameleon. They are fussy!
to consider when presenting water
used for holding water should be approved for food use. Some plastic
containers may taint the water and therefore lead to rejection.
ALL water used with Reptisafe. This will remove chlorine etc from
the water and prevent eye problems which untreated sprayed water can
use artificially softened water. This is usually too high in salts
(or bottled water with added calcium) may help get additional calcium
Some studies suggest hard water gives humans more usable calcium than
taking calcium supplements so it may be assumed that chameleons get
more calcium from hard water than regular dusting the food with calcium
water in drippers and hot (not boiling) water in sprayers. Water as
a mist looses temperature quickly hence hot water going into the sprayer
will only be warm once sprayed.
Additional water can be given manually by dripping water from a syringe
(no needle on end!). If you can train the chameleon to drink in this
way administering vitamins and drugs is very easy and stress free.
use of water soluble supplements via the dripper is a good idea. Products
we have used successfully are the vetark range:
Liquid multi vitamin drops
Critical Care Soluble total rehydration and food product
Avipro Soluble multi vitamin and pro-biotic (re-establishes good gut
Calcium Lactade Soluble Calcium
Zolcal D Liquid Calcium and Vitamin D
Like all supplements they should be used sparingly. As some chameleons
are sensitive to artificial/manufactured supplements, where possible
it is suggested the majority of their nutrients come from properly
gutloaded food. Therefore when using supplements always use less than
the stated dose unless advised otherwise by your vet.
Hydration/Re-hydration of sick animals
chameleons like this oustalett may have sunken eyes and casque at
the later stages. This is serious. Not only will it kill a chameleon
quickly but even ones that recover may suffer from related problems
later on in life if not treated quickly enough. As always, prevention
is better than cure.
check your chameleon daily you should notice the early stages of dehydration.
Often only greater access to water is needed. But do make sure the
way you present water to the chameleon is acceptable to it, not you.
If you don't ever see your chameleon drink it probably does not. This
is particularly common in Veileds kept in the UK and in most cases
by spraying for in excess of 5 minutes prior to running a dripper.
have small stomachs so any attempt to force liquid intake must take
this into consideration.
A Chameleon can drink between 10 and 30 ml per kg of body weight throughout
the day. This will vary due to metabolic rate. Small amounts every
few hours works better than all at once which can be detrimental.
For a sick
animal, particularly one with poor food intake or vomiting/diarrhea
then more than plainwater is needed. Most re-hydration products used
for babies/young children are suitable eg dioralite. You can buy a
product called lectade through your vets and this is better in the
long term as it's a complete liquid feed.
Work out the daily dose then divide this into as many doses as possible
throughout the day without stressing the chameleon too much. If you
have a particularly nervous chameleons fewer doses must be used compared
to one that drinks from a syringe already.
Chameleons water in the right way and in the right quantities will
cause serious and often fatal health problems. Chronic low-level dehydration
is often undetectable to the eye, and usually leads to kidney failure
followed by death.
This is seen more often in the larger species such as Veileds and
Panthers and usually in males at around 3-4 years old. I believe it's
only more common in males because the females have usually already
died from the huge demands of egg laying before this really becomes
latter stages of dehydration/kidney problems the chameleon usually
refuses food. If you suspect chronic dehydration or kidney problems
see a vet immediately. The vet will need to measure the uric acid
levels in the blood.