Senegal Chameleon care can be somewhat daunting if you are a beginner since they have high-humidity requirements that need to be met in order for them to have a long, healthy life.
Chameleons are also susceptible to dying of stress-related diseases, which can also be a big issue for new keepers or enthusiasts.
Most chameleons will require specific conditions and high enclosures for a proper upbringing so that you can ensure they will have a rewarding, happy life as your pet. The home you give them needs to be just right for them to thrive in captivity.
This means lots of plants to climb and frequent daily mists for these sensitive reptiles, which is why they are not always recommended for beginners, but we think it’s important that you just do a lot of research before you get one if it is your first time.
You must be attentive to your pet’s needs, meaning you must be ready to prepare for the commitment and maintenance that comes with keeping a chameleon. As long as you can check these boxes and are willing to take the time to read up on properly caring for your pet chameleon, they can make rewarding pets.
If you are planning on getting this pet for a child to care for, we think it is best that an adult take care of the chameleon and that the child is supervised if they are going to handle it.
They are not the best pets for children who don’t know how to care for their complicated needs.
Many people find chameleons interesting due to their ability to change color, but not many people understand the concept or know why or how they do that.
There is a misconception that they change color in order to camouflage themselves against their environment, but that is not the case. Actually, chameleons will mostly change their color to regulate their body temperature or communicate.
To maintain a favorable body temperature, chameleons may turn a darker color in order to absorb more heat in cold temperatures and will turn pale to reflect the sun’s heat in hotter temperatures.
This is also known as thermoregulation.
They might be changing color to woo a possible mate, males might do it to signal at other males to stay away, and females might use their color change to show interest in mating.
So how do chameleons change color?
Under most chameleon’s transparent outer layer of skin sits two laters of specialized cells. The layer beneath the outermost layer contains chromatophores and the layer below that are guanophores, the second cell layer.
Chromatophores contain yellow and red pigments, whereas guanophores have a colorless crystalline matter we call ‘guanine’. Guanophores reflect the blue of incident light meaning that if the upper layer of chromatophores is yellow in color, the reflected light will be green.
They also have a layer of dark melanin-containing cells called melanophores located even deeper below the two layers of cells we just explained. These will influence the color and lightness of the reflected light.
Now that we know a little more about chameleons in general, here is more about Senegal Chameleons and how to care for them in the best way you can.
Senegal Chameleon Facts
- Experience Level: Intermediate
- Scientific Name: Chamaeleo senegalensis
- Family: Chamaeleonidae
- Size: 7 to 11inches
- Weight: 2 to 4 ounces
- Diet: Insectivorous
- Lifespan: 5 years
They are one of the four most popular pet chameleons and are also the smallest on the list.
Contrary to popular belief, they are actually not the same chameleon as Pascal from Tangled; that one is predicted to be a Grace, Veiled, or Flap-necked Chameleon, for those interested.
Cameleons have cone-shaped, fused, overlapping sets of eyelids that cover all of their eye except the pupil, offering protection to their most essential organ. Their eyes have way more visual cells than humans, are able to rotate at 180 degrees, and can focus independently on separate objects or all objects together.
Senegal Chameleon Appearance
These chameleons are typically lime or leaf green but may sometimes appear olive green with spots that may appear dark gray or brown, depending on their mood or whether or not they are basking.
Males will usually be smaller than their female counterparts.
Senegal Chameleon Location and Natural Habitat
Senegal Chameleons have a very wide range, making their population unknown. While they are listed as Least Concern by the IUCN Red List, they may still be threatened by the pet trade, as a lot of chameleons are.
This species of chameleon is native to West Africa. Their range includes Nigeria, Cameroon, Mali, and Senegal, of course!
They typically enjoy moist, brushy savanna or forest edges. They are somewhat abundant, making them easy to find and collect for the pet trade, which is why they are so popular.
Senegal Chameleon Diet
In the wild, Senegal Chameleons will eat a diet of stick insects, crickets, grasshoppers, locusts, and mantids.
Since they cannot hear very well, they will use air vibrations and low-pitched noises to figure out where their prey is.
Many reptiles possess the Jacobsen’s organ, which is right where you’d expect their nose to be and gives them the ability to smell chemical particles. In chameleons, however, this organ is a lot more reduced in its ability to smell. This leaves them to use their other senses when catching their prey.
When prey is in sight, they catch it by first focusing their eyes on their target, then shooting their sticky tongue out of their mouth to grab it.
Senegal Chameleon Lifespan
This small chameleon is known to grow up to an average of eight inches and can live up to five years. However, females who lay numerous clothes are more susceptible to dying early.
Senegal Chameleon Breeding Habits
The Jacobson’s organ, which we just mentioned in the last section, is also used for communicating readiness for mating between the same species through the release of chemical messages.
Most Senegal Chameleons reach sexual maturity within about 5 to 6 months.
However, while they are commonly imported and popular in the pet trade, they are quite hard to breed in captivity. Many captive breeding programs have attempted and failed.
At only 6 months, healthy female Senegals can produce around 2 to 3 clutches of anywhere from 15 to 75 eggs per year, if you are lucky. Senegals do not breed regularly, which is why it is hard to breed them in captivity.
If you are attempting to mate your chameleons, you must remove the male as soon as copulation is completed because the female is highly likely to attack the male right after mating.
They will typically lay their eggs within 70 to 90 days after copulation.
Senegal Chameleon Predators
Common predators of chameleons in these areas include birds, snakes, and other mammals.
Senegal Chameleon Legality
Most chameleons are illegal to take from the wild, especially those classified as a Prohibited Dealing animal under the Biosecurity Act 2015, specifically listing Veiled Chameleons, Panther Chameleons, Jackson’s chameleons, and other common chameleon species.
However, most are allowed to be kept as pets, bred, and sold in all states except Maine as long as you have a permit, also known as CITES papers.
Where to Buy Senegal Chameleons
You must find captive-bred chameleons because most wild-caught chameleons will, unfortunately, carry parasites and may also have stress-related illnesses. We recommend that you avoid getting a wild-caught chameleon.
It is crucial that you are doing your research and finding a reputable breeder or pet shop. Take your time to watch its movements and actions before going through with the deal to make sure that it is a healthy chameleon.
Indicators of an unhealthy chameleon you might want to keep an eye out for are if it is refusing food, has excess mucus around its mouth or nasal passages, or cloudy eyes. These could be signs of infection or just an overall unhealthy lizard.
You should also pay attention to their skin and color. If you see many dry patches, it could be an indicator that the breeder or shop is not taking care of them well or that the chameleon is sick.
We hope that before you purchase your chameleon that you are mentally and financially prepared to take care of all their needs.
A chameleon may be priced anywhere from $30 to $300 depending on the shop you’re buying from, age, and its species. Senegals are typically priced lower, at around the $30 to $60 range, which is only one of the reasons that they are so popular.
Senegal Chameleon Care
For this chameleon, a mesh or screen enclosure is the best option.
A single adult chameleon should not be housed in an enclosure any less than 18 inches wide by 24 inches tall. They require taller enclosures since they are avid climbers.
A 29-Gallon enclosure is recommended.
As always, the bigger the better when it comes to picking a size for your pet’s enclosure.
They should be housed on their own until they reach sexual maturity.
Make sure there is an easy-to-access cage opening since you will need to frequently spritz their environment unless you are going to install a mister.
Senegals require high humidity, which can be hard to maintain with a mesh cage, but they also must have proper ventilation. This is where foggers, drippers, and automatic misting systems come in handy.
Keep in mind that chameleons are quite sensitive, meaning they need the perfect environment in order to thrive and live a healthy life.
In order to keep your pet chameleon healthy, you should put the effort into daily cleaning and upkeep to maintain a fresh environment.
There is something call spot cleaning, which you should be doing daily like cleaning out any fecal matter, leftover food, and such.
Here is a good video that you can use as an example:
Any substrates or other decorations should be changed or cleaned on a weekly basis and you should do a full deep cleaning once or twice a year. A full cleaning consists of emptying out their whole enclosure and disinfecting it completely.
While most owners will simply use newspaper or reptile carpet, which is totally suitable and a lot easier to clean.
However, if you prefer the look of a natural or particulate substrate, be sure to avoid using those with small particles such as sand or cat litter. Avoid gravel, cedar, corn cob bedding, and any other beddings that might hold too much excess moisture.
In most cases, your chameleon won’t need any substrate for its flooring.
Proper lighting and temperatures are crucial for your Senegal Cameleon’s health. You want to consider setting up a temperature gradient to allow your pet a cooler and warmer area to allow them to thermoregulate.
We recommend providing your chameleon with a warmer basking area on one side of their enclosure and a cool spot on the other side. This will allow your chameleon to alternate between the gradients, picking an area that can properly regulate their temperatures according to their needs.
You want their enclosure to stay around 74 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit and their basking area to remain between 85 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Nighttime temperatures can drop around 72 degrees Fahrenheit to mimic their natural environment out in the wild.
Do not allow your enclosure to drop below 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
Humidity is one of the most crucial parts of keeping your delicate chameleon healthy. Without high humidity, your Senegal Chameleon will grow lethargic, be dehydrated, and will have a hard time shedding properly.
Hydration can be kept by frequent misting with a sprayer or an automatic mister.
Using a spray bottle, you can just thoroughly mist their enclosure several times a day. An automatic drip system will ensure that they have a constant supply of water and an automatic misting system will release water droplets into the air, increasing humidity.
If you decide to go with a drip system, be sure to install a proper drainage system as well to ensure that their environment doesn’t get too wet.
Regardless of the method, a hygrometer should be installed into your pet’s enclosure so that you can check their humidity instantly.
For a Senegal Chameleon, you will want to maintain a humidity level of around 60 to 90 percent.
Having plants and plenty of foliage will also increase the moisture in the air of their enclosure.
Senegal Chameleons will require both heat and full spectrum UVB lighting in their enclosure. Depending on the room temperature, enclosure size, and type of enclosure, you should figure out which heat lights and what wattages will allow you to achieve the temperatures you need.
A popular choice for chameleon enclosures is the 60-watt bulb. You should also install a thermometer within their enclosure to keep a close eye on their temperatures.
Your heat lights will be responsible for keeping your enclosure and basking area at appropriate temperatures.
Let’s talk about the importance of UVB lighting, shall we?
This special light is crucial for your chameleon’s health since it will technically be a substitute for natural sunlight. UVB will help increase your pet’s metabolism, activity, appetite, and will also synthesize Vitamin D3, a crucial vitamin needed for proper calcium absorption.
Without UVB lighting, you run the risk of your chameleon developing Metabolic Bone Disease, which will stunt their growth, causing them to suffer from weakened bones.
Be sure to keep their UVB lamp unfiltered and at least 12 inches away from the highest point in their cage to prevent thermal burns.
They will need plenty of UVB so get yourself a UUVB fluorescent bulb and install it for them. We suggest you keep this on for 12 hours a day then off again for 12 hours at night to keep your pet on a natural routine.
Senegal Chameleons love to climb high and hide for safety, so you will want to provide them with tons of foliage and climbing options. They feel safest up high in leaves and foliage.
The most important thing when it comes to choosing your plants is that they are pesticide-free and non-toxic.
You want tall, potted plants that aren’t too colorful since that can stress them out sometimes. A good rule of thumb is to use a mix of fake and real plants, if possible without any need for a substrate.
Some good plants are hibiscus, ficus, and golden pothos. They should also have some vines to climb and lots of leaves and foliages to hide behind.
They will actually drink from wet leaves rather than a water bowl, so you must keep your leaves nice and wet with a daily spritz of water.
In captivity, you can feed your Senegal mealworms, crickets, and other gut-loaded lizard-friendly insects available at pet stores.
Be sure to dust their insects with calcium powder, another crucial part of their health.
You can feed your adult chameleon 5 to 10 large bugs every other day and smaller Senegal Chameleons can eat daily. Put their insect prey up in their foliage or into an elevated dish.
Be sure to remove any uneaten prey after a few minutes after your pet stops eating because leaving them in the enclosure can cause them to bite your chameleon, which can lead to bites susceptible to infection.
Senegals are notorious water drinkers and will need a consistent supply of water. They don’t drink from water bowls and prefer to lick droplets from leaves, other foliage, and even the sides of their enclosure.
Whether you decide to go with a drip system or the manual spraying method, make sure you get the leaves really good.
You can tell that your chameleon is dehydrated if their feces are dry, their urate is orange or yellow, their skin seems to be folding, their eyes look sunken, they are acting lethargic, and are showing signs of a loss of appetite.
Senegal Chameleons are quite the characters and are laid-back, fun pets to keep. They are usually shy, docile creatures that are fun to look at.
They aren’t very playful and do not enjoy being handled.
While they are not typically aggressive toward humans, they are extremely territorial toward other chameleons.
Keeping adult Senegals together is not recommended, as it can lead to violence. Being around other chameleons makes them nervous, causing them to stress out, become territorial, and fight.
In some cases, juveniles that know and trust each other already may show their bond with the act of sitting in a row while holding tails. This unique behavior has only been seen in juveniles that have had the chance to get to know each other since a young age.
They are also just generally easily stressed out, which can cause an illness that might even be deadly in some chameleons. Dying from stress is not a strange occurrence among these lizards.
As long as they’re left alone, fed properly, have their needed UVB, and have plenty of high foliage to climb with leaves to drink from, a healthy chameleon can be an entertaining pet to watch.
These shy, delicate chameleons prefer to be in their enclosure, climbing their vines and foliage, and would much prefer not being handled.
If you attempt to handle your Senegal, they will become extremely stressed out. While they can eventually become accustomed to handling, they do not actually enjoy it, so we really don’t recommend it.
Just enjoy their beauty in seeing them grow healthy and watching their unique selves move around. Let them climb, bask, and hide in peace!
Senegal Chameleon FAQ
Senegal Chameleons can be very territorial and stressed out creatures, so we strongly advise against doing so.
You should refrain from keeping chameleons with other reptiles as it can lead to fighting, injury, and other territorial behavior. It will also reduce their quality of life since they are easily stressed.
Senegal Chameleons may change when they are basking, hunting, ready to mate, or doing other activities. Brown colors may indicate depression or might also just be a sign of brumation.
A female may turn brown or white if they are carrying eggs or want to communicate that they are not ready to mate.
Sick chameleon may also darken in color so if they are typically a bright green but have suddenly faded to brown or black, you might want to check in with the vet to see if your pet is doing okay.
Generally, two different species of chameleon have to be in the same genus in order for mating to happen. Even if they are different species in the same genus, they might not even attempt to mate. In the off chance that they do, their eggs are likely to be infertile and offspring might not be viable.
That being said, Senegals are of the Chamaeleo genus, whereas Jackson’s are of the Trioceros genus, meaning an attempt to mate them will most likely not work out.
Senegal Chameleons can be great pets to have with their beautiful greens and cute curly tails. You can watch them climb, walk around with their unique bodies, and they might even change colors on you.
Chameleons, in general, can be very rewarding pets with the right care and husbandry to keep them healthy and happy.
We hope that this article taught you something new or at least helped you out with your endeavors into becoming a chameleon expert!
Leave a comment down below about your Senegal if you have one or let us know about anything else we might have left out.
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