Questions and Answers

By Don Wells


Wells, D. (2002). Questions and Answers. Chameleons! Online E-Zine, May 2002. (

Introduction by the CHAMELEONS! staff:

This Question and Answer column will be a regular feature. CHAMELEONS! welcomes questions from the readership. Don will gather the submissions and pick representative questions to answer in forthcoming issues. As is typical with Q&A columns, Don cannot respond personally or answer all questions that are submitted. He will select the questions that he feels offer the most benefit to the general readership. As the questions are answered bi-monthly, only time insensitive questions should be submitted. Questions may be anything regarding chameleons from husbandry to politics. Submit questions to and include "Q&A" in the subject box. Questions may be edited for length and clarity.

Best Egglaying medium

1. What is a good material to put in the bottom of my female panther chameleon's cage for her to lay her eggs in? Right now I have a mixture of sand, vermiculite, peat moss, and bed-a-beast . She tried to dig a nest once but apparently did not like it. All she does now is try to get out of her cage looking for some where else to lay her eggs.


I prefer a good garden-type soil with lots of humus over any other laying media tested to date. Chameleons will often utilize just about anything if they are desperate, but experience has taught me that soil seems to be the thing they most like to use and will consciously choose when given a choice of mediums. A good product that many use in the United States is Supersoil® a commercial potting mix available nationwide. Walmart sells it, for instance. In other areas of the world, a good potting soil that's dense and yet loose enough for the chameleon to dig in will work if you don't have any available from the garden.

Once the eggs are laid and unearthed you should move them to another medium such as vermiculite. I prefer Cocopeat® or otherwise called Bed-a-Beast® in the pet trade or similar ground coconut husk type product.

Get them out! and be quick about it!

2. Can eggs from a recently deceased chameleon be viable? How would I go about saving them?


Indeed you can save them - with certain constraints.

1. The animal must be very fresh and have just expired. If autolysis (degradation) hasn't set in yet you must remove the eggs from the oviduct quickly. I prefer, if possible, to sacrifice a gravid animal if I know, beyond any doubt, that she will not live and is close to death. Immediately after death I open the entire body cavity and extract the eggs if they look at all viable. I do this as fast as possible using as sterile of a proceedure as possible. See the article this issue regarding the necropsy of a chameleon. You will learn a lot from this article, I hope.

2. The eggs must have a good calcium layer on the shell. Eggs that have soft shells poorly calcified and yellowish in color have virtually no survival possibilities.

3. You can't be the squeemish type at all!

4. Hatching varies. Egg viability seems not to be related from one clutch to another. I have seen animals that have had eggs taken hours after death and the eggs hatched fine . With others the eggs were extracted almost immediately after death and none survived. It's well worth the try, I think, and I would always extract eggs from a dead female whenever it's possible that the eggs are mature enough.

Chameleon Escargot?

3.Are snails safe to feed to chameleons? I have read many pro's and con's relating to this subject.


If I have land snails available - that I know are safe - I feed them to any animal that will eat them. I have never seen any indications of problems from feeding them to disuade me from this viewpoint. I have checked for parasite problems in animals fed European Brown Land Snails and have found none. I don't think the parasites they carry are infectious to Chameleons. I definitely would not use any snail species that has a life cycle involved with water, though. Unfortunately, most snails have a life cycle involved with water. Water-type snails are often vectors of Flukes and other such parasites. Until I see proof otherwise, I will continue to use land snails as food.

Ziplock babies

4. I have a baby Panther Chameleon with its head out of the eggshell but it has not emerged in the past two days? I am worried something might be wrong with it? What can I do? The egg seems to be drying up and I am worried that the baby won't be able to exit if I wait much longer.


A. Leave it alone! I have found, through the years, that hatchlings will often take three or even up to six days to hatch. Usually, neonatal chameleons that still have egg yolk to absorb will take longer then ones that are fully absorbed and ready to greet the new world. The important thing to always remember here is that the hatchling must have a clear way to breathe. If they do, then I leave them to hatch out all the way naturally. In my opinion, getting the baby's head out of the shell so it can breathe without difficulty is all you should do to assist it.

I discovered a method years ago that has worked like a charm in cases where the baby takes it's time to exit the egg. I take a ziplock-type plastic bag and slice some slots into the side of it while deflated. You can use scissors to do this with or some other cutting type object. Don't cut out pieces, just make slashes and about three to four inches from the bottom of the bag. Insert a clean cloth or paper towel that's quite damp with water but not to the point that its actually dripping, into the bag. Place the egg and the baby in this as carefully as you can and seal the bag shut. The ambient humidity will rise sufficiently to keep the baby hydrated and the eggshell from drying up during the hatching process. The water content isn't high enough to drown a newborn baby once its out of the shell. Place the whole thing back in an incubator and just observe through the clear sides of the bag. Usually most hatch in a few days and after absorbing the yolk. Sometimes some never complete absorption and will die, that's the law of the jungle!

Yuck worms!

5. My Panther chameleon has what looks like worms that are clearly visible under it's skin. These are about two to three inches long and there are four of them spread out under the surface of my Chameleon's skin. What should I do about them? I thought captive bred chameleons weren't supposed to have parasites?


What I believe you are describing are adult stages of Filarial worms your animal has gotten as a result of an insect biting and transmitting these into its bloodstream. I do not believe that these worms are known from areas within the Unites States so its most likely that your animal is not a captive bred animal and someone has sold it to you as such. either unwittingly or as a way to get more money for it? More and more people demand captive bred chameleons and dealers know this and often misrepresent wild caughts to unsuspecting clients. Filarial worms are very common in wild-caught Panther Chameleons.

Filarial worms are introduced to the chameleon by an insect that acts as a carrier/vector and are microscopic larvae that inhabit the insects saliva and were taken in from another prey animal, most likely another reptile. The worm larvae are transmitted to an animal, such as yours, and then live in the blood and finally migrate in small numbers to areas under the skin where they mature and begin producing more larvae for insects to spread around. Often, when adult worms are spotted by a keeper and taken to a vet the doctor will remove these sub-dermal worms by a simple surgical procedure. Treatment of the chameleon using potent vermicides is important to rid the chameleon of larval stages of these parasites in addition to the adult stages. I want to caution you that Chameleons can die as a result of heavy parasite loads dying in the circulatory system after medication. This is just one more reason why captive-bred animals are so much better to begin with and usually free of at least this particular parasite. Unfortunately, you probably were duped by a seller who represented this animal as a captive bred so that you would buy it. In the future always try to patronize breeders themselves or commercial operations selling only captive bred animals. Often reptile shows are sources of such crooked sellers so beware of such vendors and ask others with experience who to purchase your animals from. You'll find captive bred and reared animals command a higher price tag but in the long run they are a lot cheaper when you don't have heavy vet costs involved and the potential of losing your pet to parasites.

This MPEG shows a surgery in process of the removal of a subcutaneous nematode (a parasitic worm that is living under the skin)

Courtesy of Winda Widyastuti

Don Wells

Don Wells has worked with animals much of his life. His present interests include disseminating proper husbandry techniques for animals kept in captivity. He has kept multitudes of insects and continues to experiment with new species.


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