Beyond The Care Sheets with Reptilian Garden & Emzotic | Chameleon Care | S2E1

Beyond The Care Sheets with Reptilian Garden & Emzotic  Chameleon Care  S2E1

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Em:Hey, what’s up Zen Friends it’s Em, and welcome back for series two of our Beyond The Care Sheets special. This is a really amazing series where we invite different professionals to talk about various kinds of care for various different kinds of popularly kept reptile species. And I am so excited for today's very special guest. And her name is Tricia. You may be very well familiar with her because she is the wonderful host of Reptilian Garden. So, I'm just going to give her a chance to pop on here. And by magic, she has appeared. So, I'm going to bring Tricia on right now. Let's see if we can add her in. Let's see if we can get Tricia to send us a little request to join. Thank you so much for being so generous with your time and jumping on today. And hello everybody who's joining us. It's so great to see so many Zen friends here with us today. Now Tricia, I know who you are. I've been a mega fan of yours for a long time now, and we also work together. But for everybody else who might not be familiar yet with who you are, give us a bit of background on your story and who you are.

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Tricia:So, my name is Tricia, obviously. I live in Chicago and I'm a reptile keeper. I also have a YouTube channel where I make videos educating about the animals that I keep. And basically, it's like an open diary. It's my life and like setting up their enclosures. I kind of share every like aspect of reptile keeping on my channel. So yeah, that's pretty much it. I also work at Zen Habitats and I absolutely love it. I am the customer service representative there, so if you guys have any questions, I'm all for that as well.

Em:Amazing. Go team Zen. I love it. Uh, now you keep a variety of reptiles and you have one of the most beautiful reptile rooms I have ever seen. I love it. It looks just so Zen-tastic. I love it. But you keep a variety of reptiles, but the one that you seem the most focused on, that you have a wealth of knowledge around, is chameleons. And that's what we’re going to be talking about today. What initially drew you to chameleons?

Panther chameleon in the wild. Zen Habitats sells reptile enclosures for panther chameleons, veiled chameleons and so many other types of chameleons. The Zen Habitats 4x2x4 PVC Reptile enclosure is perfect for chameleons

Tricia:So, I would say their colors, obviously. They're just unlike any other reptile. Their eyes are crazy. They got those prehensile tails, their little cute mitten clamped feet. And for me I just personally think that they're so amazing because, you get to build such a good relationship and build trust with them. And there's just such an awareness. They're so intelligent and building a relationship with them is just so rewarding.

Em:That is such a beautiful answer. I love that. You know, there are so many different species of lizard out there. But you can, although a little bit difficult at times, make eye contact with a chameleon, which just gives them so much personality. Even though the eyes like doing this all over the place. But that is just so wonderful, and I'm so excited to be diving into some of the questions that some of you joining us tonight have submitted for today's Q and A. Now, there are a variety of chameleon species. Which is your particular favorite to keep and why?

Tricia:So, lately I have a panther chameleon addiction. I feel like it's mainly because they have such easygoing personalities and I do love veiled chameleons as well, but they can be very, very sassy. Panther chameleons also come in so many different locales that I just find so interesting. So, that really just drew me to panther chameleons, too.

Em:Amazing. Now, for those who are not entirely familiar with the difference between, say, a veiled chameleon and a panther chameleon, what is like the main differences between them?

Tricia:So, personality for one is a huge difference. Veiled chameleons, they have like the big veil, or casque, on the top of their head, so you can kind of tell the difference by just visually looking at that. They personally, like they are very, very sassy and defensive, whereas Panther chameleons are just a little bit more easygoing. They're both still highly prone to stress, so it's very important to respect their boundaries. But those are the two main differences. I do find that the care is very similar between the two. The only difference is like a slight little adjustment in humidity and temperature, but other than that, they're pretty much the same thing.

Em:Great. So, in terms of humidity and temperature, which species requires a higher humidity and temperature gradient?

Tricia:So, the veiled chameleons have a lower requirement during the day, but at nighttime they have the same exact requirement as panther chameleons. So, it isn't really that much of an adjustment. And that's something that gets confused, because people see chameleons and they think that they just need one set humidity requirement. And it actually does vary around this time of the day. So, they do need a really high spike at nighttime and then they can have a lower requirement during the day. The veiled just have a little bit lower of a requirement during the day period.

Em:Amazing. That is just such, I love the thorough knowledge that you're giving and sharing with us, so thank you so much. And for everybody else who's just joining and sharing hearts, thank you so much for jumping on for season two episode one of Beyond the Care Sheet. This is Tricia. Be sure afterwards to go give her a follow if you're not already over on Reptilian Garden. Now, how does the care of chameleons really differ in terms of the different other kinds of reptiles that you keep? Are there specific challenges?

Tricia:So, I think the main challenge is finding the balance between the ventilation and humidity for chameleons, because a lot of other reptiles, they have like the same like humidity, you need the right temperature, all of those things. But chameleons are very sensitive and they really need a very specific environment where they need a specific humidity. But that moisture also has to dry out during the day. And they also need that high ventilation as well. So, it's just it's a balancing act and it just, it does require a lot of knowledge and research before you get an animal. But once you can do that, I feel like that's what separates them care wise from a lot of other reptiles.

Em:Right. And you and I actually had this conversation privately a couple of months ago. You might not actually recall. But when I moved to Colorado, I really wanted to bring a Chameleon into my life. But I realized, especially in Colorado, which is high desert, it is such a challenge to maintain any kind of humidity in my enclosures. And, thankfully I have a lot of the PVC model Zen Habitats, which are great because they support up to 100% humidity. So that's been wonderful. But certainly, it can be a challenge depending on where you're living. Now in Florida, of course, people don't tend to have an issue with their humidity, because as we know from the invasive species there in Florida, the species do thrive even in the wild, where they've been introduced as an invasive species. So just on that note, I would like to say if anybody is thinking about perhaps giving up their chameleon, because it's too much of a commitment, always make sure you take it to a reptile store or a reptile rescue where they can help you to responsibly rehome your pet and never introduce into the wild. Now there is no such thing as a beginner reptile, but which reptile, which chameleon would you recommend for someone who is just starting to think about chameleons? Which one would you choose?

Tricia:So, I would say it's really tough because it does depend on the individual. The veiled chameleon has, again, like that little slight difference in humidity that does make them a little bit easier. But they have that really feisty personality. So, if you're a beginner and you're kind of worried and you want to handle your chameleon and have a good relationship, a panther would be an easier option. But, they're a little bit harder to get in the first place. The veiled chameleons are just more common. So, it really just comes down to doing a lot of research and deciding what is the best fit for you.

Em:That's amazing. And something else that people might not always be familiar with when they're just starting to think about keeping reptiles is, especially here in the United States, a lot of the chameleons we get in captivity can be wild caught specimens from Florida where they're actually collected and rather than being destroyed, they get distributed into pet stores, ready for pet homes. Now of course that's not every pet store, but is there a way that people can be guaranteed to get a more healthy kind of chameleon? Where is the best place for someone to really search for a chameleon?

Tricia:Absolutely, so that would be through a breeder. My personal favorite breeder is Frams Chams here on Instagram. They are amazing. It’s where I've gotten all of my panther chameleons. So, just going to a breeder, making sure that it's not wild caught and of course you can talk to the breeder. Ask a ton of questions to figure out if they're good for you or not and they know their stuff and they actually care about their animals. That's just so important. So, I highly recommend Frams Chams, if you guys are interested in any type of chameleon. They breed so many different species.

Em:That's great. And I know that Frams Chams have also been so kind as to supplies Zen Habitats with their chameleons as well. They've just been such wonderful personality full and healthy chameleons. So, we definitely do love our Frams Chams. Now, talking about bringing home a new chameleon. Is there a difference in care when you're going for, say, an adult versus a juvenile?

Tricia:It's actually exactly the same. When you bring them home it's just so important to make sure, it's going to be so hard, you need to leave them alone, like just straight up. Stay away from them. Don't be like staring at them all the time. Don't be hands on whatsoever. A baby or an adult. They're both highly prone to stress, especially in a new environment. So, it's just so important to make sure you give them an adjustment period for at least a week when you first bring them home, no matter the age.

Em:So, talking more about that adjustment period, does that mean completely hands off? We’re not touching them or not bringing them out? We're not “selfie-ing” with them?

Tricia:Yeah. So, it's very important. We just want to literally bring them home and put them in their enclosure. You want everything set up. Everything ready to go, and then just you can feed them in like a little cup. Put some insects in there. That's pretty much the only interaction besides misting that you want to do. Other than that, you just want to leave them completely alone to settle into their environment.

Em:That's really great to hear. Now, let's say Crested Geckos. We all know that starting off young crested geckos in a smaller enclosure does have its benefits. Does this also ring true for the two different kinds of popularly kept chameleons with panthers and veiled?

Tricia:That's a really great question. People always assume that it is good to start small and you can, however, you actually can start off with a full big enclosure. A two by two by four for any type of chameleon. The trick is that you need to completely fill that enclosure out. You can't just make it empty. Like they need a ton of hiding places to feel secure in that environment. With any animal that you're upgrading into, a large enclosure it’s so important to make sure that you fill out all of that space, and offer a lot of hiding places for them. And then they should adjust just fine.

Em:So, we're not going for a minimalist look here?

Tricia:No, we're going big right away. They grow quickly, too. I think that's the best thing to do. Just make sure you really fill it out with live plants.

Em:Oh, I love that. And actually, speaking of say like the Zen two by two by four, I believe just today we did release on the website. So, it's a general release for retail, the Meridian style, Zen Habitat two by two by four. So, it's just a great, great design. It means that you can just flip it up or disassemble it whenever you want to. It's super sturdy, so be sure to go and check that out if you're looking for a chameleon, because it is a great enclosure for them. Zen habitats two by two by four Meridian is now available. Now let's move on to one of the next questions. What are some of the common care pitfalls that you encounter newbie owners making when bringing home their chameleons?

Zen Habitats ambassador pet, Kenny on a branch in his Zen Habitats 4'x2'x4 Meridian PVC Enclosure

Tricia:So, one of the huge ones is people buying the Chameleon kit at pet stores. The Chameleon kit is like the bane of my existence. It is, it just sells things. It's overpriced and it sells things that you don't need for your chameleon at all, especially the wrong UVB. So, you don't want to be using any of those spiral bulbs whatsoever. You want a T5.0 24-to-36-inch bulb for them. It is so critically important for their health. I would say another issue is just balancing ventilation and humidity. That really is just a huge challenge when it comes to chameleons in general.

Em:Wow. So, let's talk a little bit more about those challenges. How is one more able to promote ventilation in a safe way so that chameleons?

Tricia:So, I personally love the two by two by four Zen Habitats enclosures because they're made of PVC and they have a screen underneath the door as well as at the top. So, it works like a chimney effect so they can get the proper ventilation, while also having those PVC panels that can just really hold in that humidity for your chameleon as well. So, it is like the perfect option. I absolutely love them.

Em:That's great. I think it also offers a lot more support than, say, traditional all-around screen enclosures as well, especially for those who might have an athletic and slightly pesky cat that might like to sit on top of enclosures. You’re definitely not going to encounter your Zen screen falling in because you’ve got a bit of a “chonky” cat issue, for sure. Now those who are considering bringing home a chameleon. Oh, there we go. Are we able to know if there's a difference or a benefit in bringing home a male or a female?

Tricia:So, females are going to be a little bit more challenging because they lay eggs. So, you're going to have to have a lay box for them. That's one of the main reasons why I typically go for males other than females. Females typically aren't as colorful as males either, but some people don't care about it. They're still beautiful in their own right, of course. But yeah, the egg laying is just pretty difficult and they can become egg bound, which is another stressful thing. Like if you're not providing the right lay box for them. They also have a shorter life span than the males.

Em:Great. So if somebody is looking to bring home a male, is there a way to determine the sex of the animal as a juvenile or is it really just luck of the draw?

Tricia:So, you can tell. It does depend on the species. With veiled chameleons in particular, they have a little spur on the back of their feet, so we can tell. Yeah, with panthers, I'm not entirely sure. I think that the best thing to do would just be to ask the breeders.

Em:Yeah. They would definitely have the experience in sexing the juveniles and being able to tell. Will give you the best chance of choosing either male or female, if you did have a preference. And then just speaking of being egg bound. Now that's when a reptile can't pass their eggs and it can be a life-threatening situation. What are the signs of a female chameleon being egg bound?

Tricia:So, I do not own females, so I have not experienced this. That's something that I don't want to deal with ever, which is why I don't get females. But I'm sure that it has something to do with, they would definitely behave differently. If your animal is ever behaving a little bit differently, doing some type of new behavior, that's something to go see a vet for, of course. If it's lethargic or hanging out near the bottom too. Those are also just bad signs that something could be going on.

Em:Yeah. So, any sudden changes in the behavior, that would definitely set alarm bells off for me for really any of my reptiles for sure. And I would assume that they might fire a different color as well, like maybe stress colors if they're uncomfortable. So, I think maybe would it be just fair to say if there's any change that gives you worry, just straight to an exotic vet?

Tricia:Absolutely, yep.

Em:All right, then. Thank you. Also, I just want to go and refer to some of the comments that we've been getting here. Somebody said that they felt like a terrible pet owner because they lost their crested gecko. I just want to say accidents happen even with the most professional setups. So, cut yourself some slack. You are not a bad pet owner. Just learn from it, move forward. You're totally, totally fine. Now can you share your tips for the proper UVB and hydration for a chameleon? Because I know this is something that trips people up. And you've already spoken about the spiral UVB not being particularly useful and to stay away from those. Which brands do you like?

Tricia:Repti Sun and Arcadia are fantastic. You want a T5 5.0. Arcadia has like a different percentage. I haven't used Arcadia, so I'm not exactly sure what the percentage would be for chameleons. But you do want a 24-to-36 inch long UVA UVB bulb. That's a T5.

veiled chameleon on a branch. Zen Habitats creates reptile enclosure for panther chameleons and veiled chameleons. Zen Habitats Meridian 4x2x4 PVC Reptile Enclosure is perfect for chameleons

Em:I love that. And I'm wondering because with bearded dragon owners, there's this tip that they have for allowing it to almost be diagonally across the top of the enclosure, just for like more even distribution of the UVB. Is that the same with chameleons?

Tricia:Yeah, I did the same thing with mine. That's a great thing to mention.

Em:Oh, that's great. Well, thank you very much for like verifying that, that is a good tip. I'm glad to hear it. Now, what should one have in place before bringing home a chameleon?

Tricia:Everything. Absolutely everything. You want that entire enclosure completely set up, ready to go. That way you can just place the chameleon in there, leave it alone and let it adjust. All right. Well, that is good to know. Now, this is the most requested question that I received when I asked the question over on my Instagram. And that is, how can I tame down my chameleon and get them to like me?

Tricia:Very common question. So, hand feeding is the best way to build a really good relationship with your chameleon because they won't see you as a threat anymore and they're going to look at you for food. My trick that I like to do, if you want to be able to handle your chameleon, is to actually lure them out onto your arms using insects. So, I'll hold my arm out pretty far and then hold the bug over here. They have to crawl on you even though they have a long arm. You want them to be able to crawl on to you and then be able to reach the insect. And then usually once they're out on you, they kind of chill out and they’re like, “okay, this is fine now.”

Em:That is such a great tip. And I'm guessing it could, depending on the individual personality of the gecko, not the gecko, the chameleon, that they might take a little bit longer, a little bit shorter time to get used to you. So, I'm guessing little and often would be the key to take them out?

Tricia:Absolutely, because each one, they're going to have their own tolerance levels and some are more outgoing than others. So, it can take years. Like it's not always a guarantee, but putting the work in and building that bond, again, is just so rewarding.

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Em:That's great. Thank you so much for sharing that. Now we just had a great question in the comments section by “Zen Friend 1” and they've asked: Which plants are recommended and which ones aren't to place with a chameleon, depending on species?

Tricia:So, I actually just learned I always recommended pothos and I learned that if an animal eats a lot of pothos, that can actually be bad for their health. So, I don't really want to recommend that anymore. Veiled chameleons are a little bit more likely to snack on greens around their enclosure, whereas panthers don't typically do that as much, even though both of them are just insectivores. So, it's just very important to make sure you're doing research. A great place that I like to go is Josh’s Frogs dot com. They have an entire list of plants that are completely reptile safe and they have a chameleon section as well. So, there's just so many options you can look at there to just get a good idea of what's safe for your animal.

Em:That's such a great tip. Thank you. We definitely love and support Josh's Frogs over here at Zen Habitats. They do have some really great learning resources and I didn't realize that they actually had plant safe guides for specific reptiles and amphibians. So, I will definitely be checking that out myself straight after this live as well. I'm so eager to learn more. I would love to plant out some of my enclosures a bit more. And again, thank you for submitting that question. That was a great question. Now, what are some of the most common ailments and sign of these ailments associated with keeping a pet chameleon?

Tricia:I would say dehydration. A lot of people don't realize at first that chameleons cannot drink from water bowls, so they actually need to drink water by seeing the movement around the enclosure. So, a drip system works really, really great for chameleons as well as you still want to mist them every single morning and very heavily at nighttime as well. So, if you're chameleon is dehydrated, the eyes may seem sunken and their skin can actually, if you were to pinch their skin gently, if it were to stay up, then it means that the animal is dehydrated. If it goes back down, it means that it's properly hydrated. Anything other than that, I would say if your chameleon is ever hanging on the ground, that's not a good sign and something is probably up. And again, it's just good to see a vet when that happens.

Em:That is so great. Thank you so much for that. And that actually brings me along beautifully to my next question, which was a last-minute submission by somebody who watches your channel and they said: “I just brought home my very first chameleon, yay. I think they might be coming to shed. Do I have to increase the humidity?”

Tricia:So, they're actually dry shedders but it is a good idea to increase the humidity a little bit. Just make sure that they're properly hydrated during that time and make sure that the levels are the way that they're supposed to be throughout the day and night time. But other than that, they're dry shedders and they should be able to get everything off on their own.

Em:Oh, that's perfect. I have to say, dry shedding just it gives me the “heebie jeebies.” It makes me itchy every time I see it. I'm like, “how is that comfortable? Why did nature decide that was a good idea?” It just doesn't look, it doesn't look at all beautiful or esthetic. And then suddenly the chameleon, just like a beautiful after it's all shed and happy. So, yes, a little sidetrack there. But every time I see them shedding, I'm just like *gag*

panther chameleon on a vine with green background. Zen Habitats creates reptile enclosures that house panther chameleons and other arboreal species

Tricia:I know I'm like, “I'm so sorry. I feel so bad for you.”

Em:Yes. It just looks so, so ugly. So, for anybody who is keeping a chameleon and you happen to see a chameleon shutting for the first time, it kind of looks like they're pulling like tissue paper off of themselves. There's nothing wrong. They should be absolutely fine. Just keep an eye on it. Make sure they get it all off. But with Tricia's amazing advice here, you shouldn't have any issues with the shedding. Now, what are some common indicators that your chameleon might be sick?

Tricia:So again, you're looking for sunken eyes. If they're really dark and hanging towards the bottom of the enclosure, they aren't using their feet properly, they can't clamp really strong, that's another thing. And then, of course, any type of injuries or swellings, anything like that, just go see a vet.

Em:Amazing. Thank you. Now, “Zen Friend 2” has a great question as well. And she asks: “what types of things can I put in my enclosure for enrichment other than lots of plants?”

Tricia:So, lots of different textured branches and things for them to climb on. You want them to be like some of them can be thin, some of them more thicker. The more you can add when it comes to texture, the better. And also, those rough surfaces will also help them to shed. They can rub up against it and get some of that skin off as well.

Em:That's such a fascinating point and it's not one that I've actually thought about, so I'm glad that we have that question because when keeping birds, I know that having perches of different diameters is beneficial for building the muscle strength in birds' feet. But I didn't realize that that could also potentially be applicable to chameleons. Oh, I love that. Very enriching as well for lots of different surfaces. Now we've had another question just pop up by “Zen Friend 3.” I love this question: “Why are Jackson's chameleons more sensitive?”

Tricia:So, they are a little bit more challenging because they need a significant temperature drop at nighttime. That was the one reason why I ended up not getting one. I almost did. And then I learned this and I was like “Oh, that's going to be like impossible to achieve.” So, it wasn't something that I was able to do, but that is the one thing that really makes them more sensitive and the care just a little bit more challenging than the other species.

Em:Wow. Well, that's, again, something that I didn't know. So, thank you very much for sharing that. We did have somebody who joined in a little bit later, “Zen Friend 4” says: “Hi ladies. What, if any, chameleon species would you recommend for a beginner and why?” And just to quickly recap on that, Tricia mentioned that the veiled chameleons have a bit more of an attitude and that the panthers can be a little bit more mellow when you first bring them home. So be sure after we've finished today's live to go back and check for it on our main page here at Zen Habitat's Instagram, so you can watch the entire live and pick up on all the amazing tips and tricks that Tricia has for us today. Now, if you could give some advice to those who are bringing home their first chameleons. What is like the top tips that you would want to give them? Something you want every chameleon owner to know.

Tricia:So, one tip that I actually learned, like in the last year is that when you bring a chameleon home, they feel safer up high. So, if you can boost your enclosure on top of something else that will really significantly decrease their stress and make them feel safer. So that's one thing. And then, of course, obviously do all of the research. Make sure you understand humidity, misting, hydration, and ventilation. All of those good things before you bring one home again.

Em:Again, such great tips and that is such a great time to let people know that with Zen Habitats, not only do they provide beautiful enclosures, but also different kinds of stands as well. So, for example, back here, I have the two by two by two cabinet stand back here. That's great for hiding away little things you just don't want seen, like food and stuff like that. So, if any of you want to go and check this out, be sure to jump onto the website and you can go and use the design your dream set up to see how it’ll really look in your space. That's something really exciting to do. Now, Tricia, it looks like we're going to have to unfortunately begin to start wrapping up. But I do have just one more question for you, which is, where can we find some really great resources in addition to Zen Habitats care sheets on chameleon care.

Tricia:So, Chameleon Academy on Instagram is amazing. So is Frams Chams on Instagram. They have an underscore under Frams Chams. And Neptune the Chameleon, I absolutely love her and she has a ton of great chameleon advice as well.

Em:That is so wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing those amazing, valuable resources. I'm sure plenty of people here are going to be checking those out and be sure to share them as well, with any of your friends who are chameleon enthusiasts or are thinking about bringing their chameleon's home. Tricia, thank you so much for dedicating an entire half an hour of your evening to this awesome little sort of beyond the care sheets season two episode one. There we go. I keep on switching them over. But tell us what else we can also find you in addition to your Instagram.

Tricia:So, you can find me at Reptilian Garden on YouTube, Instagram, and then Tik Tok are the only ones that I use. So, it's Reptilian Garden on all of those platforms. Thank you for having me. It was a lot of fun.

Check Out The Full Series Right Here!

Beyond the care sheets, a Zen Habitats series where reptile experts and influencers chat on Instagram live.

Em:That is so great. Well, Tricia, thank you so much. I won't keep you any longer. Everybody, please be sure to go and give Tricia a follow and thank her very much for all of her amazing sharing of her knowledge. We really, really appreciate it, Tricia. Thank you so much. Of course, today would not be possible without the amazing contributions from the Zen team, so I'd just like to give a huge shout out to everybody behind the scenes at Zen Habitats, including Joanne, who put all of the entire series together. So, a big shout out to Joanne as well as the marketing team. Now make sure that you do follow and subscribe to Tricia. She has so much more knowledge to share, not even just on chameleons, but she's very knowledgeable about a whole ton of other species as well. So, be sure to give her a follow. And as well add Zen Habitats on YouTube as well. We're really beefing up how much content we put out and a lot of effort has gone into that. So, massive shout out to Justin and Sean as well for all of their dedication to that, as well as Kasey, the animal care manager who put a ton of personality and awesome knowledge into her videos. So, thank you all so much for jumping on. Be sure to go and check out all of this livestream again. You'll be able to find it on the main page of Zen Habitats and be sure to tune in again next week for another beyond the care sheets, season two episode two. But until then, take care. Bye.

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