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Trioceros cristatus

By Mario Jungmann

Native Habitat Information: 

1. What is the native range of T. cristatus? 

Equatorial Guinea (Mbini), Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo (Brazzaville), Gabon, Nigeria, Ghana, Togo. Type locality: Gaboon. 

2. What kind of habitat do they live in? 

They live in typical Afro-Montane forest from low-lands to up to 600m 

3. What part of that habitat do they spend their time in (example canopy, low hanging trees, the ground)? 

They are undergrowth species to the spend their day mostly between ground level and 2 meters. 

4. What are the environmental conditions there? 

Typical equatorial conditions so a steady/stable temperature that doesn’t vary much around the year. 21 to 28C during the day and around 18/20C at night. Equatorial Africa has heavy rain seasons so their environment has a high humidity all year round. 

Species information: 

1. How big are cristatus? Is there a size difference between males and females? 

Trioceros cristatus is a middle sized chameleon that average around 26/28 cm in length. Makes are a bit smaller than the females and have a more prominent dorsal crest. Also males usually are more colorful.


2. What is unique about their physical appearance? 

Their dorcal crest and blue edged triangle shaped heads. Also the have a shorter tail than most Trioceros species. 

3. Are cristatus active chameleons like pardalis, or more sedentary like parsoni? 

Not close the both in my humbled opnion. Trioceros is a secretive and high alert species that rely on their camouflage and mimicry. They can be very fast I they decide to be and even jump/hop and curl up and drop if threatened.


4. T. montium, a close neighbour of T. cristatus, are know for being shy, private chameleons. Is this true for cristatus? 

They are secretive but inquisitive, that is the main difference with Trioceros montium. The are more visible and do not hide but stay still and wait for the possible threat to pass.


5. Are cristatus active chameleons, or more sedentary? 

A more in between species. They are active during the early morning and at nightfall. 

Cage information: 

1. What size of cage do you use for your cristatus? 

Typical 50 x 50 x 90 cm (LxWxH) 

2. What type of cage (screen, glass, hybrid)? 

Full sceen or hybrid (but at least 2 sides screen) 

3. How are your cristatus cages planted? 

Heavy, heavy, heavy. They are an undergrowth species so are always between the preferable large leaved plants. 

4. Do you use a substrate with your cristatus? Why or why not? 

I use none. I have the plants in trays so I can keep the floor free and clean. 

Cage parameter information: 

1. What ambient temperatures do you keep your cristatus at? Is this the same for males/females/gravid individuals? 

Between 21 and 24C. Yeas they are an equatorial species so temperature is quite constant throughout the year. 

2. Are cristatus baskers, and do you provide a basking light? What temperature do find ideal as a basking temperature? 

No, they are not. As they are an undergrowth species the tend to keep in the shade and rely on the ambient temperature. I use low level halogens for some heat, but the never seem to be under there.


3. Do you use a night-time temperature drop? What temperature is the ideal night-time temperature? 

Minimum drop. So ideally around 18C 

4. What kind of UVB do you use with cristatus? What is the maximum UVI your cristatus can access in their cages? What UVI do you aim for at basking level? What are the UVI levels where your cristatus spend most of their time? 

For all our montane species (including cristatus) we use the same configuration and conditions. So we start out with a 10.0 UVB High-output T5 tube so the animals can be exposed to a high level of UV if the choose to. The middle of the cages have a UVI of 2 to 4. And in the top part round 6 to 8. But due to the heavy foilage and planting only the top part is exposed. The animals only seem to be up at that level during the morning and descend to the lower part during the rest of the day not getting much UV exposure.


5. What humidity levels do you use for cristatus? Do they vary between night and day? 

During the day the cages are misted 4 times a day by an automatic rain system for several minutes. So humidity stays high between 60 and 70% during the night humidity goes up to 100%


6. What hydration methods do you use? Misters/drippers/foggers? 

All of the above! 

7. Are your cristatus active drinkers? Is a dripper suitable/useful? 

Drinkers no but the love humidity so a dripper should only be used in addition of misters/foggers. 

8. What is your misting schedule? 

Early morning at 8:30 and 9:00 AM and at night at 19:00 and 20:00 the cages are misted by an automatic rain system for 1 minute at the time. Foggers are turned on a 19:00 at night till 23:00 and turn on at 6:00 AM. As the cages are quite wet after the misting the humidity stays high during the night. (I don’t leave any equipment on a night due to some bad experiences with electric fires...) 

Feeding and supplementation

information: 

1. What kinds of feeders do you use for your cristatus? Are there any that are favoured by your specimens? 

I use all kind of prey insects. But mainly crickets (4 species) They seem to be more interested in darker specimens. I do feed the flies and small grasshoppers but it is not their favorite. The seem to have a fascination for caterpillars and waxworms. So silkworms and waxworms are on the menu.


2. Can you describe your insect nutrition regime (gutload)? 

All insects that arrive at our facilities are unpacked and housed in large containers where they are fed fresh vegetables and fruit. 

3. What, if any, supplement dusts do you use with cristatus? 

Polen and additional calcium. 

4. What dusting/supplement schedule do you follow for cristatus? 

Pollen and calcium mix at every feed. 

5. Do they ever show signs of over-supplementation? 

I never use vitamin supplements for any montane species. Their renal system and liver seem not to process that well and gout and edema will appear when over supplemented. 


Breeding information: 


1. Can cristatus be bred anytime, or are they seasonal breeders? 

Yes they are. They are triggered by the rainy season in nature. 

2. If seasonal, how do you go about mimicking the seasonal change that will induce breeding? 

Not much, breeding in captivity is triggered by the condition of the males. When males are becoming restless and more “fired-up” during the day it is time to introduce them to the females.


3. Are cristatus eager breeders, or are they more reserved? 

 No they are not. The can be considered drama queens. Male seem to prefer the jump and grab method so if breeding does not occur during the first hours separate the animals. Or the male just shows off one time and then jumps and hides.... As this a quite docile species most keepers are keeping them together. As the animals are becoming to familiar with each other breeding instincts are not triggered. So best Is to separate the animals.


4. How do you know if a female is receptive? Gravid? 

Females do not show any other coloration but are very aggressive when they spot a male if they are gravid. 

5. How long does breeding last? 

Minutes to halve an hour. They do breed multiple times till the female does not allow the male to come close. 

6. What is the gestation length for female cristatus? What is the incubation length?
I have experienced different gestation periods, I had even a female that gestated her eggs for 4 months. 

7. How many eggs do female cristatus lay? What laying techniques do you use: 

I only had small clutched up to 12 eggs. Laying bin does not seem to work well for them. They choose the most “beautiful and densely potted plant and dig out the root system and lay the eggs tightly/compacted together between the roots and utterly destroy your plant....
a.

What medium do you use for a lay-bin?
Pot medium.

Do you allow females to lay in their cages, or remove them to a separate container?
They don’t like to be moved.
c. How do you incubate cristatus eggs? What temperature and moisture levels do you incubate cristatus eggs at? Is there a diapause?
Eggs are put in a vermiculite mix of fine and a bit larger granules. Mix should be moist and eggs buried so only the tops show. No diapause is required and eggs will hatch between 9 and 12 months.
d.

What tips can you share about breeding cristatus, and the incubations process?
Have patience... 


Other pertinent information: 

1. Are there any important topics I have missed? 

Ventilation. Trioceros critatus lives I a moist environment but stale/still air kills. Air movement is very important for all montane species. So I use ventilators.


2. What are some of your thoughts about the species? 

It a wonderful species to work with. They are a visible species and when exposed to the right conditions and husbandry techniques they will thrive and can be bred to several generations.