Senegal chameleons are one of the four most popular species of pet chameleons. They are smaller chameleons and native to West Africa but are still just as beautiful and fragile as the other species.
- Name: Senegal chameleon, Chamaeleo senegalensis
- Size: Six to eight inches long
- Lifespan: Up to five years
Senegal Chameleon Housing
The Senegal chameleon is a sensitive reptile. The environment needs to be just right for a Senegal to thrive in captivity and the housing is one of the most important parts of the chameleon environment.
A mesh or screened enclosure is your best option for a pet chameleon. Air circulation and ventilation along with the abundance of climbing options are perfect in a mesh cage for pet chameleons. More height is preferred over a wider enclosure since Senegals will climb up a cage, not from side to side. A three foot tall by a foot and a half wide enclosure is often recommend for these smaller chameleons but larger enclosures won't hurt.
Your Senegal's cage should be equipped with plenty of vines and artificial plants to climb on and cling to along with a dripper system unless you are diligent enough to mist the enclosure several times a day. Chameleons drink their water off of plant leaves, not out of a bowl, so it is crucial there are wet leaves in the enclosure that your Senegal can drink from daily.
Although mesh cages are best for chameleons, they are also awful at maintaining high humidity which, ironically enough, is something Senegal chameleons require.
This is where the dripper systems and automatic misting and fogger systems help out if you are unable to mist the enclosure several times a day. Without a high humidity level in the cage, your Senegal chameleon will become dehydrated, lethargic, and have difficulty shedding among other problems.
If you plan on using a glass tank to house your chameleon, a 29-gallon high tank is usually recommended.
Senegal Chameleon Lighting
Your Senegal enclosure should have both heat lights and a full spectrum UVB light. The heat lights keep the basking area around 85 degrees Fahrenheit and don't allow the rest of the enclosures to drop below the 70's and the UVB lighting increases metabolism, appetite, activity, and most importantly, synthesizes Vitamin D3 which is crucial in the calcium absorption process for your chameleon. Without UVB lighting your chameleon will develop metabolic bone disease, not grow properly, and possibly even break his legs due to the lack of calcium in his system. Even if you provide calcium in your chameleon's diet, without the UVB to allow his body to use it, it is useless.
Make sure your UVB light is placed about 12 inches away from the highest point in the cage that your chameleon can get to avoid thermal burns and that your heat lights won't melt your mesh or screened enclosure.
For more detailed information on pet reptile lighting, check out "Reptiles: Light and Heat."
Senegal Chameleon Diet
Senegal chameleons in captivity like to dine on crickets, mealworms, and other insects that are readily available in the pet trade. They catch their prey by shooting their long tongue out of their mouth which sticks to the insect and then their tongue retracts back into their mouth. It is said that a healthy chameleon who is focused on catching their food will successfully catch the insect nine out of ten attempts.
Gut loaded insects that are dusted with a calcium powder should be offered every few days if not daily. You should also never put more crickets in your chameleon's enclosure than he will eat. Crickets left overnight may start biting your chameleon and cause small wounds that can become infected.
Also, since chameleons eat live prey, it is important to have a regular fecal examination performed by your exotics vet to check for microscopic intestinal parasites.
Senegal chameleons are not great for a lot of handling but they are beautiful pets. By providing the ideal environment and diet for your pet chameleon, you can make sure your delicate reptile lives a long time.