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Trioceros jacksonii xantholophus

Species: Trioceros jacksonii xantholophus.  The two Greek words that form the subspecies name refer to the yellow colour of the dorsal crest (xanthos = yellow; lophos = crest/neck).

The largest subspecies of jacksonii, xantholophus is commonly found up to 2500 meters above sea level on the south, north and east slopes of Mount Kenya.  They are medium sized, with a maximum snout to vent length of just under 6 inches (total length 12.5 inches), and an average length of just under 5 inches snout to vent.  Males have three horns while females typically have none (exceptions occur of course).  Coloration includes varying shades of green and yellow for the males.  females can be dappled mossy green, brown, dappled dark brown and white and just about everything in between.  

Xantholophus appear to favour dense shrubs, but have adapted to disturbed forests and urbanization fairly well.  The environmental conditions in their native range are seasonal, with rainy conditions occurring from November to December and from April to May. Generally, however, the daytime temperatures are around 23C, with maximum highs up to 30C.  Night time temperatures often drop to between 10 and 12C during the warmer times, and below 5C during colder times.  Sources suggest night time humidity often approaches 100% with dense fog, while daytime humidity drops to 40% during the day, depending on the time of the year.

I have found xanths to be fairly sedentary in my enclosures, finding preferred areas in their enclosures and sticking to them. However, a male in search of a female is about as restless as a chameleon can get—spending all day traveling through its enclosure in search of a mate.  Once in captive care for a few months, and if provided ample space and cover, I find all my xantholophus fairly friendly.  At least, they do not automatically head for cover when I enter the room.  Indeed, most of my xanths take to hand feeding very quickly.

While I keep all my adults in large homemade enclosures, a standard 16 – 18 cu. foot enclosure should be considered minimum cage size.  My enclosures are all screen, but I have no problem hitting 100% humidity at night, since I keep my xanths in a heated greenhouse.  I think any enclosure type can be made to work, provided the following parameters are met: Daytime ambient temperatures should be around 21-23 degrees C with the opportunity to see a maximum of 28C in the higher portions of the enclosure. Daytime humidity can drop below 45%.  However, it is the night time specs that people find so hard to achieve.  Night time temperatures should be below 15C, and preferably closer to 10C, and night time humidity needs to be maintained around 95-100%.  

I tend to give any chameleon species from higher altitudes higher than usual UVB exposure—or, at least the opportunity to be exposed to such.  There are places in their enclosures where my xanths can easily see UVI 8.  My thought here is that since high altitude species are that much closer to the sun, and since light (including UVB) decreases with the square of the distance, higher altitude species are exposed to higher levels of UVB when they are out basking.  That being said, my enclosures are densely planted, and my xanths have the opportunity to move in an out of the direct UV light.  Unfortunately, I have not noticed a particular preference for exposure. Miss Pickles, my oldest female typically lounges around in UVI 2-3 for most of the day, while her male counterpart, Rhino, moves from close to UVI 9 to UVI 0 regularly throughout the day.  I wish I had data about the preferred UV exposure of xantholophus, but the fact is that all my xanths are different. Some prefer longer term low level exposure, some appear to prefer quick intense exposure.  

For hydration, is use the following methods in the greenhouse:

  • Misting:

    • 12am (10 minutes), 2am (30 seconds), 4am(30 seconds), 6am (30 seconds), 7am (10 minutes). These numbers are what I’ve found to keep my enclosures around 100% humidity all night.

  • Dripper:

    • I run a dripper from 12pm – 2pm every day.

    • I rarely see them drink 

Once outdoors (May-September), I keep the same cycle; but I add a separate misting system with one nozzle/enclosure, about 6inches from the ground.  I keep this misting pump on a thermostatically controlled switch—the probe of which is placed about a foot off the ground in one of my xanth enclosures. If the lower portions of my enclosures go above 28C, this pump will mist the bottom 6” of the enclosure until that zone falls below 28C.  This way, I’m able to create a cool zone in the bottom of the enclosure without saturating the upper portions.  To be perfectly honest, with soil-bottomed enclosures that are heavily planted, the temps near ground level rarely get above 25C even when ambient temperatures near 35C, so this might be overkill.  

I feed my xanths all the typical chameleon fare during the winter.  This includes crickets and Surinam roaches as the staple feeders (they both gutload extremely well); BSFL, silkworms, superworms and morio beetles as near staple feeders; and occasional treats such as hornworms, waxworms.  When I have cultures going, I also feed bean beetles and fruit flies.  However, perhaps the most relished food items for my xanths are snails.  They go absolutely bananas for them! Interestingly, they often don’t use their tongues for snails, preferring instead to walk right up and crunch!  I use helix aspersa that I breed myself, and feed snails no larger than my thumbnail.

My supplement regime for all my xanths is as follows.  I mix Arcadia Earthpro A(EPA) with Arcadia Calcium Pro MG(CPMG), at a rate of ~10 parts EPA to 1 part CPMG.  I then mix that 50/50 with plain calcium, and use at every feeding.  I do not use any D3, or any preformed vitamin A in my supplement regime.  That being said, my way is certainly not the only way.  It requires careful monitoring of UVB levels, as well as considerable effort in my gutloading practices (see the section on gutloading).   I have never seen edema, or signs of over supplementation with this regime.

Xanths are livebearers that incubate their young internally until they are ready to be born. Incubation can be as long as 10 months, but it is usually around 6 months.  Because females can retain and store sperm, they are able to re-impregnate themselves without subsequent copulation.  Breeding in captivity has been reported to occur anytime throughout the year, but my females appear not to be interested in males for many months of the year.  Indeed, they get downright nasty towards males—who tend to be relentless in their pursuits—displaying all sorts of warning colours, gaping, hissing and doing their best to throw them from whatever branch they are on.  When females are receptive, copulation generally takes less than 20 minutes, provided the feigned chase doesn’t last too long.  Litters of around 20 appear to be the norm with my xanths, and all of my newborns were eating within an hour of being born.  

The babies of all Jackson’s subspecies are notorious for suffering mass die-offs between 2 and 4 months of age.  Up to 40% losses have been reported to me from other keepers/breeders. For this reason, most breeders do not sell Jackson’s babies younger than 4 months old.  I personally wait until 5 months at a minimum. That being said, I have not had this problem with my xanths.  So far as I can tell, the only thing I do differently is to raise all babies individually from day 1, and make sure to get them cold at night (10C).  My first litter of xanths was 100% up to 8 months, at which time they were all sold.  This could certainly be a coincidence, or maybe I’m just lucky.  At any rate, I would recommend individually raising all babies regardless of species.  

Trioceros jacksonii xantholophus: About
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