Are All-In-One Supplements Really Better?

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There are few topics that frighten and confuse like that of supplementation. It can all seem very complicated and difficult, and there are hundreds of different supplement schedules with recommended brands and products listed online so choosing one to trust is no easy matter either. It can be enough to make anyone curse at the heavens and reconsider chameleons altogether.

I wrote out a guide to what the key players are as far as the vitamins and minerals and why each one matters, HERE. It sounds intimidating but it’s not! And knowing this stuff will make supplements much more straightforward and logical.

I’ve seen a lot of talk lately in some of the Facebook chameleon groups regarding the use of supplements that worries me, particularly the heavy push to get new keepers on an all-in-one supplement such as the Repashy Calcium Plus, in the belief that using a single product as instructed by the manufacturer will be more fool-proof and will confuse new keepers less. So the point of this blog post is to outline why I think that is a well-meaning but terrible idea.

Regardless of the quality and success of your other products, you cannot formulate a nutritional product that will work on all individuals of all species equally. I believe this to be self-evident. You cannot make an all-in-one calcium and vitamin formula that will work on all chameleons, all dart frogs, all monitors, etc. equally well. Currently the Calcium Plus product line comes in No D, Lo D, Normal, and Hy D varieties in an attempt to work for as many species as possible. The Lo-D version is touted as the ideal formula for all chameleon species because of the lower vitamin D3 content but many people use the normal/classic formulation as well. I love the Repashy products and have used many of them for many years, but I don’t buy into the marketing of Calcium Plus, even the Lo-D formula, as the end-all supplement for all chameleons.

Let’s compare some numbers, shall we? I’ve taken the liberty of converting the amount of vitamin D3 from these brands into the same units, so we can really see things compared apples to apples:

Repashy Calcium Plus Lo-D has roughly 3,624 IU/kg
Sticky Tongue Miner-All Indoor has roughly 4,400 IU/kg
Repashy Supercal Lo-D has roughly 4,530 IU/kg
Zoo Med Reptivite D3 has roughly  4,600 IU/kg
Exoterra Calcium +D3 has roughly  6,680 IU/kg
Repashy Calcium Plus has roughly  9,060 IU/kg
Repashy Supercal MeD has roughly 11,325 IU/kg
Exo-Terra Multi-vitamin has roughly 18,110 IU/kg

You’ll notice that the values start off with Calcium Plus Lo-D at the lowest end, then stay roughly about the same, and can increase dramatically by brand. There are more brands, of course, but this gives us a good idea of what’s on the market right now. You’ll notice that Calcium Plus Lo-D has the lowest D3 concentration on the list, but only by 17%. 

If we use veiled or panther chameleons as the example for the time being, the traditional wisdom has been to use a plain calcium at most feedings (to compensate for the low calcium content in most bugs), and then a multivitamin and/or calcium with D3 about 2-4 times a month. This is because a supplement should be supplemental to a good UVB bulb, so it should be given sparingly just to fill in any potential gaps. And since the content of most brands is fairly high, 2-4 times a month (depending on species) is more than enough. But the Repashy Calcium Plus Lo-D  has a very moderately lower amount of D3 to Zoo Med Reptivite; So why would anyone recommend something like Calcium Plus lo-D daily but recommend that all other brands be used much less often?

This is why I believe that it is dangerous and misguided to tout this all-in-one product as the only supplement keepers should be using. I would continue to use it sparingly throughout the month as a multivitamin and rely on a plain calcium more often. I simply do not believe that the numbers show this product to be appropriate for chameleons to ingest daily, and I believe we are doing new keepers a disservice by pushing this product so fervently in an attempt to simplify the topic of supplements.

Unfortunately, as with clothing, there is no one-size-fits-all product that will work on all chameleons universally and under all conditions. It means a little bit of research in the beginning, but in the long run it will make all the difference. When deciding what supplements to use and at what frequency, we have to take into consideration the following:

The species of chameleon.
The gender/age of the individual.
Does the animal live indoors or outdoors?
The UVB bulb they have (brand, type, age, etc.) or length of time spent outside.
The diet (variety of insects) and their gut-loading regimen.

This information is vital to provide a supplement schedule that will fit the needs of your specific chameleon. To blindly recommend an all-in-one product as a one-size-fits-all approach is to ignore completely all the factors that play into this topic, which can have dangerous long-term consequences.


As always, I am always available and happy to provide additional help or information to make any of these topics clear and easy to understand. Please feel free to post a comment below with any thoughts, concerns, disagreements or questions or email me. 

7 comments:

  1. May I quote this in my upcoming book? With proper attribution of course.

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  2. I am one of those who find supplementation to be enormously frustrating. The problem is:
    We don’t know what chameleons really need.
    We don’t know what we’re really giving them.
    The wide range of doses available illustrates that nobody knows how much is too much. At least Repashy has reported on his experiments to come up with his formulations. Some experienced keepers have been using all-in-one successfully for a number of years.
    As it is taught to novices, the conventional wisdom of calcium plus biweekly supplements also does not address the environmental and individual factors that you mention. Many keepers report problems despite following conventional wisdom. Is it possible they are over-supplementing with calcium?
    Until someone figures out dose-response curves for these factors, it seems like we are all making guesses based on suppositions. Where is the path to supplementation enlightenment?
    - Furciferocious on Cham Forum

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for your thoughts! I like that, “the path to supplementation enlightenment.” You’re right, and to not risk writing the next Iliad, I don’t explain how frustrating it is for me that people also repeat the “conventional” schedule without rhyme or reason. In the vast majority of cases it works because it is a very moderate schedule, but yes, that is still not a one-size-fits-all approach either. People don’t dust lightly, or they don’t think to mention that their chameleon gets natural sunshine, or they don’t have a good UVB bulb, or they don’t think to mention that they are treating the water with a reptile calcium liquid, etc. There are so many factors, no one thing can work for everyone in this regard. Which is why I don’t trust that Calcium Plus can be physically designed to work on all herp species, I find that to be waaay too broad a stroke.

      Trust me, I wish we had this kind of definitive information to give to people! If I could, I’d commission the research myself (come on, lotto!) Until then though, I am still of the mind that “less is more” when it comes to supplements, and that “more is more” when it comes to nutrition and UVB exposure. Do the latter properly and supplements are just gap-fillers, not the crutch that some people make it out to be.

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    2. Maybe a clever biologist will figure out how to crowdsource some experiments to get real data. ?
      - Furciferocious

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    3. First I want to fund myself onto that ChamEO expedition to Madagascar this coming February! But you did get me thinking. I'm going to ask some researcher friends and find out how they find out what the needs of a species are and see what it takes to get something like that done. Unfortunately, I have a feeling it's probably not an easy process. I'll see if there's any literature already on a different species, like iguanas.

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  3. I read that Post and got it fine and informative. supplement reviews

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