GOOD HYDRATION: No misters any more?!

In the Naturalistic Chamelonoculture, we try to get as close to the vital natural conditions as possible and as is meaningful. For this, we use various technical solutions, which often have some limitations.

If we consider the cage as a model of the environment, we have now for several years focused on creating this little environment close to nature. And it is a great joy to see how this wave is successful! No fake plants, nice cages full of natural branches and living plants, correct lighting, bioactive ground, pollen as a part of supplementation schedules etc etc… There is one bitter truth which we need to confess: some of the factors, we will never be able to simulate like in the wild. One example for all, we will never get any UV on the bottom of the cage, only in the upper part, the limitation is a simple physics, we use a source which is too close to give enough UV at the bottom, as the intensity of any light diminishes with the square of the distance from the source.

One interesting aspect, arising thanks to an intensive work of hundreds of volunteers, educators and self-appointed or certified admins of the reputable FB groups is, that we tend sometimes overdo some activities and overreach the results. So, while some decade ago, we often saw dehydrated chameleons, we often overhydrate them, we overfeed, we overplant the cages etc etc.

My concern today is overhydration.

The optimal hydration state of a body is the proper ammount of water ensuring the homeostasis under which all physiological processes work ideally.

This optimal hydration level is reached as as a difference between the water intake and the water loss.

Water intake in chameleons happens in thee major mechanisms, out of which the first two are primary and the third is a compensation mechanism, which has many risks and pitifully is overdone very often in captivity:

1. Water contained in the food (30-90% of the content of any feeder is water)

2. Fog drinking (chameleons inhale in the wild various types of fog and facilitate intake of water to upto 2-5% of their body weight in one night)

3. Drinking of dew or rain water (this happens extremely rarely so, as a rule: chameleons do not drink liquid water in the wild)

The water loss happens mainly through

1. Exhaling vapor out of their lungs

2. Poop and urates (only after overhydrating, normally not)

People keeping chameleons work with one premise, concerning hydration, which is not true:

"We need to increase the humidity or provide fog in the in the whole cage"

This is false.

The skin of a chameleon is not penetrable by water of any form. Therefore, we do not need to care for its body actually. The critical organ system is actually the respiratory system. So, it is enough, when the chameleon breathes the higher humidity air not to dehydrate or inhales fog to hydrate.

The rule proven by me

In extensive wild and captive experiments is namely:

1. Low humidity desiccates

2. High humidity (over 70%) reduces and very high one (over 90%) even stops desiccation

3. Fog hydrates

In a well made cage, the chameleons often very quickly find out where is the best place to sit and sit under the stream of fog. And if they do not sit there every day, it is also not a big issue. In the wild, the climate is also not constant and varies from day to day from hour to hour from month to month from season to season.

People are often nervous that the whole cage does not fill fully with fog and that it flows through the mesh out or dissolves.

Same with high humidity. Then, they get to solution like to attach to the ventilation mesh sides some boards, wrap the cage with a foil or bathroom curtain or installing extra double door over the mesh etc. Mostly, it is not necessary at all.

We do not need to overhydrate the chameleons, neither we need to soak them in liquid water, they are not frogs - any cage that has excess water and needs draining is actually overflown with unnecessary water. The misters are dinosaurs in chameleon husbandry, as they provide unnatural way pressurized water, never present in the wild…

I am serious we should slowly get rid of automated misting systems and stick with fogging and drippers - or rain simulating devices/solutions. The cage and other systems are anyway enough expensive, we can save a bit here.

The automated misters are a headache for many keepers. Of course their positive is to bring automated way liquid pressurized water everywhere in the cage. (But we do not need it in fact). They are expensive, they need maintenance, they need to be attached to water and pressurized, they easily malfunction and therefore a complicated draining system needs to better installed.

Only in case we can not get the nighttime teperature under 65F and we can not use a fogger, we must compensate the water loss caused by the difference of relative humidity in the lung alveoli (around 100%) and the dry air and let chameleons drink liquid water to regain what was lost through exhalation.

This is easily made with dripper of whatever form, or as a last and not necessary way by pressurized water misting (manual or automated).

I insist we can do it much simpler and all these issues are actually rising, because we create a problem for ourselves and then try to compensate it very complicated way.

Producers of expensive equipment are of course happy to earn money on us being blind…

So, what is my suggestion?

1. Understand how hydration works

2. Make sure your chameleon is well hydrated

3. Make sure the nighttime temp does not exceed 65F

4. Throw away the automated mister

5. Install a fogger and run it at night.

6. Adjust the intensity and periodicity to the hydration level of the chameleon

7. Check the hydration level of your chameleon

8. Adjust

9. Enjoy the beauty of keeping a well hydrated chameleon

Author: Petr Nečas