Brevicaudatus or Pygmy Leaf Chameleons are a great first time chameleon. Their small size is great for small houses and apartments. They have all the characteristics of bigger chameleons, but in a small package. These small lizards are very fun to watch, but because of therir small size their more of a look but don't touch kind of pet. They have small little legs and arms that are very fragile. Most of these chameleons come captive bred, so make sure to get them from a reliable breeder or source. Most that are bred in captivity are very curious and show no fear, They will gladly eat crickets right out of your hand.
Setting up your Chameleons Home:
Pygmy Leaf Chameleons are great for people that love plants and have a green thumb. They do much better in live planted vivarium with various different plants. They love having vines and small leaf stocks they can fit their little claws around. Make sure before you put any plant in with your chameleon to make sure it is reptile safe. They don't eat any live plants, but feeders that escape could nibble on the plants and in turn poison your chameleon if the plant is not safe.
( Find a list of Chameleon/Reptile Safe plants for vivariums here:
Setting up a planted viviarium is fun and lets you use your creativity to choose what plants you like. First you need a proper tank. With some chameleons they say the screened in tanks are better for airflow. With pygmys, you do not want a all around screen viv. Pygmies need a pretty high humidity, and when you have all screen it makes it easier for the humidity to escape, and results in more monitoring and spraying. Exo Terra vivariums are perfect for Pygmies. The screened in top and extra air holes make it perfect for airflow and the glass walls keep in the humidity. A trio of Pygmies can fit compfy in a 12x12x18 exo terra, but be careful you do not want to mix two males, they are a tolerant species but will fight with other males. Then don't mix a male and female unless you want them breeding. Hatchlings and young Juvis can be housed in a kritter keeper for a few months. You can place a small paper towel on the bottom of the keeper to hold humidity. Also supply some small fake plants for them to climb on.
When setting up a natural, or live planted viv the first thing you have to start out is with a drainage layer. With pygmies they need high humidity and to be sprayed a few times a day. With a drainage layer it allows the water to escape out of the dirt preventing mold. For this first layer you want a product called hydroballs. They are sold at any pet or reptile store. They are small balls made of clay, the clay absorbs the water helping your plants to collect the perfect water they need, and preventing the water from staying in your dirt. You want to wet them then place about a 1 1/2 inch on the bottom of the tank. The next layer you need for your tank is a screened layer. You can get any screening from any hardware store. Make sure it is the fine bendable screening like used on screen doors. The screening is layed down over the hydroballs to prevent the dirt from getting into the drainage layer. The next layer is optional, ontop of the screen you can put a layer of crushed charcoal ( I HIGHLY Reccomend doing this outside) you can crush the charcoal up with a hammer. Lay a thin layer over the screen then place another screen ontop of the charcoal. This prevents mold and absorbs feces inside the tank but a lot of places do not use this layer, as long as you keep your tank clean, they can be fine without this. If you do use charcoal make sure to let your tank air out for a few days before adding your pygmies. The next layer is your dirt or planting soil. I really like how plants grow in the eco earth. Eco earth is shreded up coco fibers that mimic natural potting soil, but is much more safer for your reptiles because it has no harmful chemicals or plant foods in the eco earth. Eco Earth can be sold in any reptile department at any pet store. They come in small bricks, but don't let them fool you. One brick will be just fine for the bottom of their viv, and even have enough for next time you want to renovate or plant new plants. How the Eco Earth works is you place it in warm water and it turns into a soil like dirt. It then expands up to 6 times it's brick size. A small brick or medium will be more then enough for your pygmies tank. You want to put a about 3-4 inches of eco earth spread evenly around the bottom. You want to make it deep enough to plant your plants in so they have room for their roots. On top of the dirt you can add any type of frog moss, you usually can find these in small packages. The moss is again optional, but if you are having issues with humidity it is a good idea to add some type of moss for your chameleons. The moss makes a naturalistic decoration and also holds humidity very well.
Adding your plants:
The first thing before adding in your plants is again to make sure they are safe if they a accidently consumed by your pygmy. You can get plants from any hardware store, or even some places on line specialize in plants for vivariums. Getting your plants from a specialty store is sometimes safer because no pesticides or chemical plant foods are used with these plants. As long as you wash all the dirt out of your plants roots and thoroughly wash the plants from a local hardware store are not a problem.
When planting your plant you want to plant the roots as far down as you can. I usually plant my plants all the way down until the top of the screened layer. You want a heavily planted viv, but also want to make sure each plants roots have enough room to spread out and grow. The more plants you add into your vivarium, the happier your pygmies will be. They love having vines and trees to climb and because of their small size need plenty of foliage to hide in.
Another important thing needed for your vivariums ground floor is a cleanup crew. You can use small earthworms or springtails. Their job is to cleanup decaying plant matter or feces that has been left behind. Do not worry if your chameleon picks off a few, they will grow and cultivate in this new eco system. Just make sure your chameleons are big enough to eat them before adding them to the viv.
Other Decorations for your viv:
Pymies also love vines. You will want to add at least one medium to small vine going across the tank. It makes a nice transport station to each different plant. Ours also enjoy sleeping and sunning on the vines under the uv light. Do not add anything too thick, they will use more plants and vines that are easier for their small claws to wrap around. You may also add a small hide if you would like. I personally have never seen them use a hide as they mostly spend all their time up in the plants, but all chameleons are different.
Because of the eco earth, you really don't need to add a laybox with females, if you would also like to you can though. Be careful to watch your female for digging, it is important to supply the females with extra calcium after eggs have been layed. Egg laying takes a lot of their calcium reserves and drains them, it is important to store them back up very quick for your fermale.
Temperature and Humidity:
Unlike a lot of other reptiles, pygmies do not require a basking spot. Pygmies are actually quite the opposite, too high of a temp is more harmful to them then lower temperatures. Pygmy Chameleons live in the small shrubs and bushes of the forrest. The lower part of the forest is usually colder than the tops of the trees. It is usually more damp as well. Pygmies need a constant temperature of 70-78F. Higher temperatures past 80 will stress out and end up killing your chameleon. Usually perfect room temperature is great for your pygmies. Summer can be tricky keeping the temperature down for your chameleons, If you do not have a AC move them to the basement or a cooler room in the house. On really hot days you can also place a icepack on top of a paper towel over half the screen on top of you vivarium.
Humidity is also another important part of keeping chameleons. where they live is a very humid forest enviroment. You want to simulate this as much as you can. You will want to keep their humidity in the 50-80% range. Some people purchase reptile mist systems, these are nice because you can program them when to go off. a low cost efective way is to just use a nomal household spray bottle. I would reccommend buying a new one, you don't want to mix any leftover chemicals into your pygmies viv. It is reccomended to spray it one hour after you have turned therir lights on in the morning and one hour before you turn their lights off at night. All seasons are different have various times with low or high humidity, just spray accordingly to when you think your chameleons need it.
The best tool for your pygmies viv is a Thermometer/ Humidity gauge. There are plenty that will read both. At any hardware store in the gardening section they have accurate thermometers usually under 12$. These are much more accurate than the reptile thermometers. Be sure to pick one up that will also read the humidity as it is very important for them.
( Ones Like this will be fine : http://www.walmart.com/ip/Accurite-Digital-Thermometer-with-Humidity-Monitor/16888914)
Pygmies do not need a heat lamp like a lot of other reptiles, but they are lizards that move about thoughout the day and do need some kind of light/ sun source. When Lighting your pygmies you have to be very careful with temperature. The only light they will need will be uv for the plants growth. If you are keeping your chameleons in a room at room temperature the uv light will be more than enough light for them and your plants.
You want to be careful when picking a UV light. You do not want the wattage to exseed 26 watts. Any stronger wattage could warm up your pygmies a little too much. You also do not want to go over a 2.0 UV range. These guys do not need a lot of UV, too much could be to strong for them. Their plants are small and also do not require a lot also. We use the Repti glo 2.0 (http://www.amazon.com/Repti-Glo-Compact-Fluorescent-Spectrum-Terrarium/dp/B00101IC7G/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top) In the winter we used the 26 watt and in the summer we use the 13 watt. But if the temperatures in your area are too high for a certain day and the light keeps making their viv too warm they can go fine without a light for a day or two. UV is really good to have for all day dwelling reptiles, it mimics the suns natural rays and all around increases the health of your reptile. Be sure to replace your uv bulb every 6 months.
Feeding your Pygmy Chameleons:
Pygmy Chameleons are a very small Chameleon species that lives solely on bugs. Baby Pygmies are raised on fruit flies. You can order flightless fruit flies that wil lnot fly into your kitchen and get in your food. The flightless fruit flies are also easier for the hatchlings to catch. If you do not like the idea of fruit flies you can also feed hatchlings pinhead crickets that are only a few days old. With all reptiles you want to remember to never feed them anything that is bigger then the space between their eyes.
When your pygmies are a few months old you can start to ween them off of fruit flies and onto small crickets. You can also feed small phoenix worms and silk worms. All Chameleons are different though, we have one that likes phoenix worms and our other one will never touch anything but crickets. Always be sure to gutload your crickets before feeding them to your chameleon.
Since there is Eco earth lining the bottom of your natural viv it is a good idea to place your crickets in a small bowl. The crickets can not escape from. Your pygmies will pickup on where the bowl is and wait for it to be filled very quickly. The bowl is a good idea because when eating chameleons tongue will pick up everything around the cricket. Dirt and debris is very hard for any reptile to digest and can in turn make them inpacted and eventually kill them. The crickets in the bowl are free of debris and make it easy for your pygmies to find food as well. I would place around 4 of 5 small crickets in the bowl. This allows them to decide when they are hungry and will usually take them the whole day. Be sure to remove any uneaten crickets or bugs at the end of the day.
Suppliments and Vitamins:
Like almost all reptiles pygmy leaf chameleons need calcium and vitamins in captivity. In captivity reptiles will not get all of their natural food sources they would find in the wild to supply them with all the supplements they need so it is our job to make sure they get these vitamins they need.
Pygmies are not as dependant on calcium as bearded dragons and other day dwelling lizards. A calcium dusting over their crickets around twice a week is perfect. A Vitamin and Mineral suppliment like reptical ( The Blue Label) is good at around twice a month.
It is not necessary to keep a water bowl in with your pygmies. Pygmies need humid environments and will need to be sprayed at least twice daily with a spray water bottle or misting system. Usually when they are sprayed they will lick the water off of the leaves, kind of like a morning dew. Because of their small size it is more of a hazard to keep a water bowl in with your chameleon, they are very tiny and can drown if the water bowl is too big or too deep. It is better to go without one in my opinion. We had a shallow bowl with ours for a few months and I never saw them once drink out of it. I did see them lick the leaves and water droplets around the tank, we decided to take the water bowl out. They also get moisture from the bugs they consume.
Cleaning up a vivarium is very easy. Most of the work is done for you by your earthworms or springtails. If feces is seen in the enclosure I usually just take a tissue and pick up the big piles. From spraying your pygmies you will get water spots on your glass, I usually just take a face cloth and wipe it away with just plain water. Do not use any chemicals or soaps near or in the viv, it can be very toxic for your chameleons to breath in. Take out any uneaten insects every night and thats about all you have to do to keep your ecosystem running smoothly everyday.
Every few months you can add a little eco earth, or if you want to plant new plants inside the viv. You can also replace moss every few months if you like, this is all up to you.
Enjoying your pet Pygmy Chameleons:
These small chameleon's antics are great to watch
for hours. They have plenty of character and require little space. They will adapt very quickly and know their shedules. Usually shy creatures, some will even allow their owners to feed
them right from their hand. Again be careful with handling these small lizards, too much handling can easy cause a chameleon to over stress. The best thing for these guys is to be watched from
inside there viv. They make a great window to learn about the life on the forest floor.