Rhampholeon brevicaudatus

Scientific name Common name(s) alternate scientific names described by year size brood

Rhampholeon brevicaudatus

Bearded Pygmy Chameleon Rhampholeon boettgeri, Brookesia brevicaudata, Chamaeleon brevicaudatus
see a species list of Rhampholeon
Matschie 1892 Small Live

R. brevicaudatus is a member of the pygmy leaf chameleons indigenous to coastal Tanzania where it inhabits grass and leaf litter of of the evergreen rainforest floor. It may be found at elevations between sea level and 1300 meters. Total length is to 4 inches. This is one of a growing list of chameleons known to "buzz" or vibrate when threatened. 

Housing: Because R. brevicaudatus needs constant high humidity, an aquarium is the best choice for housing. A 20-gallon long aquarium is good for a pair or trio but males should not be housed together as inter-male aggression is well developed. Aggression between siblings and juveniles is quite possible as well so a close eye must be kept on them to watch for signs stress or overt aggression. A 3 to five inch soil layer is required, along with a variety of plants and ground cover such as dead leaves, mosses and cork bark to hold humidity up and provide hiding places. .

Lighting: Only a single cool, white fluorescent bulb is required over the length of the tank. Basking and UVB bulbs seem not to be necessary.

Hydration: Misting heavily twice a day with a fine mist works well in supplying water needs. A dripper tends to over-soak the soil and should not be used. The mist should drip from the plant leaves but the surface of the soil should be allowed to dry out between mistings.

Temperatures: The writer has successfully maintained R. brevicaudatus at temperatures from 62ºF to 87ºF. This may be higher than most recommend but 1 month with high temperatures of 77ºF-85ºF did no harm. With higher temperatures, however, higher humidity is crucial.

Breeding: Breeding occurs throughout the year. R. brevicaudatus reproduction does not shut down for winter although there may be a slight slow down. Two to four clutches are possible in a year, with eggs 1 to 4 eggs in a clutch. Eggs have been successfully incubated by leaving them in situ and also by removing them from the tanks and incubating them at room temperatures that varied between 67ºF and 87ºF. Both methods yielded 100% hatching rates. Incubation times were from 60-75 days. Fertilization from retained sperm has been reliably reported (L. Christenson, personal communication). 

Care of the Young: The hatchlings grow rapidly and readily eat pinhead crickets and both large and small fruit flies. I feel a mix of all 3 is best in providing a mixed diet. Young become sexually active as early as 3 months laying first clutch at about four months old. Fertility on these early eggs is not yet known. Young can be raised in-groups but should be separated at about 2 months old to stop aggression and unwanted breeding.

Contributed by Craig Goldie

For another excellent care sheet on this species see Martin Spicer's contribution at http://www.martinsreptiles.co.uk/ukchams/stumptailcare.htm

Klaver, C. & W. Boehme. 1997. Chamaeleonidae. Das Tierreich, 112: i-xiv' 1 - 85. Verlag Walter de Gruyter & Co., Berlin, New York.
Martin, J., 1992. Masters of Disguise: A Natural History of Chameleons. Facts On File, Inc., New York, NY.
Necas, P. 1999. Chameleons: Nature's Hidden Jewels. Krieger Publishing Company, Malabar, FL.

Spawls, S., Howell, K., Drewes, R., and Ashe, J. 2002. A Field Guide to the Reptiles of East Africa. Academic Press, New York. 

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