Chamaeleo (Trioceros) wiedersheimi, the Monet of the Chameleons

By Mike Coraggio


Coraggio, M. (2005). Chamaeleo (Trioceros) wiedersheimi, the Monet of the Chameleons. Chameleons! Online E-Zine, February 2005. (

Imagine a chameleon painted by Monet: Bright flashes of color, bold and exciting features, and yet subtle and intricate details. Monet’s subject would surely have been none other than Chamaeleo (Trioceros) wiedersheimi. This chameleon is best described as a piece of art or a gem of the chameleon world. Both sexes are a bright neon green ground color. Male C. wiedersheimi chameleons are ornamented with a scalloped dorsal crest, dressed on top of the head with cobalt violet and banana yellow spotting. Eye turrets have a cinnamon stripe and the body is painted with a yellow or peach half lateral stripe. The female C. wiedersheimi are no less spectacular. The dorsal crest of the females is smooth, while the top of the head is decorated with jewels of cobalt blue and bright yellow scales. Eye turrets of the females are splashed with an olive green stripe and the body is bejeweled a yellow or amber half lateral stripe with violet spots. Chamaeleo (Trioceros) wiedersheimi is a petite chameleon. Males are around 5 to 7 inches while females are slightly smaller.

Male Chamaeleo (Trioceros) w. wiedersheimi after misting. Photo Courtesy of Chris Anderson

Female Chamaeleo (Trioceros) wiedersheimi perreti. Photo courtesy of Chris Anderson

Chamaeleo (Trioceros) wiedersheimi, also known as the peacock chameleon, is from the cooler montane regions of Cameroon and Nigeria. Daytime temperatures in these areas rarely peak above 80 degrees with an average in the middle 70’s range. Nighttime lows are significantly cooler with a 10 - 15 degree drop as a norm. Rainfall is abundant and humidity is high. This chameleon can be found frequenting low bushes and the sub canopy levels of the montane rainforests. A subspecies, Chamaeleo (Trioceros) wiedersheimi perreti, does exist. According to the original description of C. w. perreti (Klaver & Böhme 1992, Bonn. zool. Beitr. 43 (3): 433-476), “this subspecies differs from C. w. wiedersheimi by dorsal surface of casque convex (flat in C. w. wiedersheimi), parietal crest indicated on anterior part of the casque (consisting of keeled scales on posterior part in C. w. wiedersheimi), gular crest consisting of blunt, conical scales (more prominent, less blunt scales in (C. w. wiedersheimi), and tops of the dorsal crenulation with 7-11 enlarged scales (only 2-4 in C. w. wiedersheimi).

Comparison of parietal crest is Chamaeleo (Trioceros) wiedersheimi perreti (left) and Chamaeleo (Trioceros) w. wiedersheimi (right). Photos courtesy of Chris Anderson

Chamaeleo (Trioceros) wiedersheimi's spectacular color and unique appearance gift this chameleon with great "curbside appeal." It is a highly sought after species with very specific requirements. Many imported specimens come with health problems and are severely dehydrated. High stress levels lower the immune system while pathogens begin to take over. Poor conditions coupled with stress often lead to the chameleon's demise. Because of this species shy nature, those specimens that do survive can be particularly difficult to acclimate. It is for these very reasons that this species is best left to the advance chameleon enthusiast. The following is paragraphs will be used to describe general and specific husbandry requirements for this species.

Male Chamaeleo (Trioceros) w. wiedersheimi. Photo Courtesy of Chris Anderson

Chamaeleo wiedersheimi is a smaller chameleon species so an enclosure 15” x 15” x 24”(H) is acceptable for one animal. Housing a pair in an enclosure 24” x 24” by 36” is possible, but the enclosure must be well planted to provide ample hiding places and visual barriers. I have housed small groups consisting of 2 males and 3 females in an enclosure roughly 48” wide, 36” deep, and 60” high with success, however this is not recommended. If attempted, animals must be monitored carefully for any signs of aggression. If this occurs animals should be separated immediately.

Chamaeleo wiedersheimi is from a rainforest region with high precipitation, lots of vegetation, and cooler temperatures; the enclosure should be constructed accordingly. Enclosures should be constructed of screen for ample air supply, but must contain humidity. Humidity in Cameroon rainforests can range on average from 70-100 percent. In captivity, this can be accomplished through several daily mistings or a humidifier. My enclosures are built into the wall and are made up of plexiglass on four sides, a screened front door, and a screened top. I recommend using a small computer fan to circulate air, though this is not paramount. Chamaeleo wiedersheimi is a rainforest species, so use your imagination while setting up the enclosure, this can be the best part of husbandry! Enclosures can be made as simple or complex as you would like. Plantings can consist of Ficus benjamina, Hawaiian Schefflerra, pothos or phildendron, Antharium, and ferns (this is a small sample of what you can use). Make sure that plants are thoroughly rinsed from any pesticides. An assortment of branches or vines is also desirable. Choose a plant pallet that is both aesthetically pleasing and functional (stay away from toxic plants) and above all have fun!

Once planted you will need to consider lighting. I use Zoomed Reptisun 5.0 UVB bulbs and Ocean Sun bulb (for plant growth). There are many reptile bulbs on the market, research before use. This species is found under the rainforest canopy and receives filtered sunlight at best. In most cases a basking bulb is not needed, as a daytime temp of 70-75 degrees is desirable. If a basking bulb must be used take care to ensure that the temperature of the enclosure does not exceed 80 degrees. Prolonged exposure to temperatures above 80 degrees can have an adverse on this chameleon species.

An example of a densely planted C. wiedersheimi enclosure. Photo courtesy of Chris Anderson

C. wiedersheimi will accept a variety of food items, in my experience, however, freshly imported C. wiedersheimi can be picky eaters. I always try to keep a container of flightless houseflies on hand as I have rarely had trouble with this species accepting this food item. Other food items can include: crickets, small waxworms and waxmoths, mealworms, small silkworms, walking sticks, and small mantids. A diverse diet is a necessity to the chameleon’s health and reproduction. I recommend dusting Rep-Cal Herptivite (blue container) and Rep-Cal calcium (pink container) once a week for non-gravid adults, twice a week for babies and gravid females. This species has been noted to be prone to hypervitaminosis A. This occurs when the chameleon receives excess vitamin A. The body cannot process the excess, and a coating forms on the liver. Outwards symptoms include inflation of skin on the upper chest cavity. Care must be taken when using vitamin A, it is essential to a chameleon’s well-being but must be given in small doses. C. wiedersheimi has a high water/humidity requirement. To keep them healthy, mist the enclosure 2-3 times a day. In addition, drip cups or the shower method 1-2 times a week for 20-30 minute intervals will provide the chameleon with ample times to rehydrate. Keeping your chameleon hydrated is key with rainforest species such as Chamaeleo wiedersheimi, Chamaeleo montium, and Chamaeleo quadricornis.

Female Chamaeleo (Trioceros) wiedersheimi perreti. Photo courtesy of Chris Anderson

C. wiedersheimi can be difficult to breed successfully in captivity. Many of this species arrive in a dehydrated state with a parasite load. It is important, if one would like to breed this species that a fecal is run to check for parasites. The chameleon should then be treated accordingly, given an acclimation process, and a clean bill of health. Always quarantine your chameleons before introducing them to one another. A little precaution can save a large amount of trouble. If kept healthy and in ideal conditions, one should be able to get their C. wiedersheimi pair to reproduce successfully. Again, husbandry is the key, and with it comes successful reproduction. The female should be introduced into the male’s enclosure. Upon introduction the male’s colors will intensify. Cobalt blue and yellow on the head will become neon in color. Eye turrets will turn from cinnamon brown to scarlet. The male will approach with subtly twitching and bobbing. If the female is receptive she will remain green and slowly walk away, allowing the male to catch her. If she is gravid a threat display will occur, upon which she should be removed from the enclosure. This species is not particularly aggressive and upon a threat display the male will rarely pursue the female. If this occurs, remove the female and try again in a bout a week. When mating occurs, leave the female with the male for a few days. This is a shy species, so try to keep an eye on out for aggression but do not disturb the pair during breeding. When the female displays gravid coloration remove her from the male’s enclosure. Gravid displays include dark coloration, mouth gaping, and swaying in a threatening posture.

Gestation for this species occurs at around 4-6 weeks. Monitor the females feeding and drinking. A few days before she is ready to lay she may become antsy and go off feeding. May is a key word. I have had several females never go off feeding until the day they laid. If the enclosure is not equipped with a laying site and the female appears gravid it is safe to move her to an egg depositing site at about 3-4 weeks. I use 5 gallon buckets with a sterile potting mix for my females to lay in. The soil should be moist but not soaking wet. Take two fingers and press into the soil. It should indent and not collapse. If it collapses add a bit more water. The buckets are planted with a small ficus and some branches. A screen is placed on top with a fluorescent light. If crickets remain n the bucket uneaten remove them. They can inflict damage to the female or eat holes in the eggs. Flightless houseflies are a much safer food item. When the female is ready to lay she will climb down and dig a small hole (in my experience around 4-6 inches), upon which she will deposit 3-8 eggs. The eggs for the size of this chameleon are fairly large and larger clutches are a rarity. Once the female has finished burying the eggs and has climbed back onto the plant, she can be moved back to her enclosure where she should be extensively rehydrated. Eggs can be removed and incubated at 68-72 degrees. Hatching will occur in 5-8 months.

Male Chamaeleo (Trioceros) w. wiedersheimi. Photo Courtesy of Chris Anderson

Neonate Chamaeleo wiedersheimi are small and should be housed in a simple setup to monitor feeding. I use a standard 10 gallon aquarium with a screen lid to accomplish this. It keeps humidity at an ideal setting and allows me to monitor feeding and drinking. The tank is set up with small ficus plants, pathos cuttings, and branches. The floor has a simple unbleached paper towel. The babies are fed flightless fruitflies ( d. hydei and d. malanogaster ), pinhead crickets, and infant waxworms. Food should be readily available. They eat quite a bit and poop quite a bit more! The tank should be kept clean, I change the paper towel every other day. Tanks are misted 2 times a day with distilled water.

Chamaeleo wiedersheimi is a spectacular chameleon species. This species has Monet’s touch in every way.

Mike Coraggio

Mike's infatuation with chameleons began in 1995 with his first chameleon handbook and amplified only with reading. His interests in chameleons only continue to grow. Some of his chameleon research includes field studies on Hawaiian Jackson chameleon populations in Maui and publication involving caesarian sections performed on eggbound Furcifer pardalis. He has experience with the husbandry and reproduction of 23 chameleon species. Current breeding interests are concentrated on the rainforest chameleon species of Cameroon and Tanzania. In his spare time, Mike enjoy countless hours of college work-just kidding! He is a student at Rutgers University finishing up his BS in Landscape Architecture. His love for chameleons is only matched by my love for the outdoors, traveling, and working with poison dart frogs. You can reach Mike at


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