So, you finally ready to purchase a chameleon. Knowing the risk of sounding like a broken record, I advise you again to prepare the enclosure and buy ALL the necessary equipments BEFORE purchasing the chameleon.
This basic care is SPECIFICALLY geared toward 2.5 months old or older MALE Veiled and Panther Chameleons. A special care (discussed in 101E chapter) is needed for young babies and females.
I use an aluminum screen enclosures with plastic PVC bottoms. They are cheap, light weight, and very easy to clean. Glass enclosure is generally not a good choice. Air circulation in a glass cage is very poor. Since they are ARBOREAL creatures and live mostly their whole lives on the trees in the nature, the need for good air circulation in captivity is imperative.
Glass is reflective. Your chameleon can mistakenly think his own reflection as another chameleon in vicinity. since chameleon is territorial, this can cause him great stress.
Another disadvantages is the fact that most chameleon is unable to recognize glass as barrier. You will often see them trying to walk through it. And, this overtime will add stress.
However, it does not mean that glass enclosure cannot be used to house a chameleon. In fact, people in Europe have been successfully using glass enclosures.
But, do be aware that Europe's dry and cold climate is quite different than America's. So, in certain areas over there, a glass enclosure actually benefit them more in retaining heat and humidity.
Realize that most of the keepers there modify their enclosure to have at least 2 sides of ventilation strips/ holes to tackle the problem with air circulation.
Reptarium can also be used. I do, however, steer away from using it. Be aware that visibility of Reptarium is quite poor, the zipper is annoying, Crickets can escape by chewing the screen, and the plastics screen also blocks 50% of the UVB light. So, minor adjustments are needed for a chameleon to thrive in Reptariums.
Here are the recommended sizes:
2.5 - 6 months old Baby: 18"L x 18"W x 36"H or equivalent volume (Female panther and veiled can stay in 18 18 36 cage permanently).
6 months male and older: 24"L x 24"W x 48"H or larger
Babies need to be kept in smaller enclosures so they can find their food easily without getting lost. Rest easy that buying 2 cages for one chameleon is not a waste of money. You can always use the smaller one as a sunning cage for your chameleon later on.
No substrate is necessary to avoid a possible impaction, cricket escaping by burrowing into the substrate, and growth of bacteria and mold.
A bare PVC floor is the best and the most sanitary. Paper towel can be used, provided that you routinely change them.
The whole cage should be cleaned on regular basis (once a week). Chameleon's waste and dead feeders should be removed immediately to maintain cleanliness.
Put the cage in a low traffic room to reduce your chameleon's stress.
You might also want to put the cage as high as possible. Have at least the top part of the cage to be higher than your eye level. Chameleon loves to perch on the highest spot. It gives them a sense of security.
Your chameleon needs 3 components. Heat, UVB, and UVA to thrive in captivity.
UVB promotes healthy growth and strong bone density by allowing your chameleon to produce vit D3, while UVA enhance its appetite, sex drive, and their immune system.
Heat will keep them warm and their metabolism active.
If you keep your chameleon indoor, 2 kinds of lighting are needed:
- UVB = a 5.0 Zoomed ReptiSUN TUBE. (+ UV Fluorescent Light Fixture)
DO NOT buy reptiGLO or COMPACT bulb. A 5.0 ReptiGlo does not provide as much UVB as reptiSUN. If for some reason, you can only get 5.0 ReptiGlo linear, be aware that you need to change them more often than ReptiSun. Some people use a 10.0 ReptiSUN in their enclosure. But, I have never used them and have never felt the need to spend extra dollars for this type of lighting. The 5.0 one does great job already. Also REMEMBER to change the tube once every 6 months. UVB lamp looses its effectiveness after that period of time.
Compact bulb has been proven to cause photo kerato conjunctivitis to your chameleon.
Follow this link for further study of lightings for your reptiles' need.
Reptisun emits UVA as well.
- UVA and Heat = I use a 50-watt Zoomed Repti Basking spot lamp. (+Clamp Lamp Fixture)
You can use a regular incandescent house bulb as a substitute.
I live in a place with warm climate so 50 or 60-watt seems to do the trick for me. Some of you who live in colder climate might benefit from having a 75 watt-bulb.
Put your heat lamp on the screen top corner of the cage allowing some areas inside the cage to be cooler for your chameleon to escape to when he overheats. Chameleon is a smart animal. They will regulate their body temp by moving closer or away from the basking spot and moving up or down the enclosure.
In general, chameleons love a well lit environment during the day. So, try to imitate it as best as you can. Some people add another light (such as a normal house fluorescent tube to brighten the cage even more. ReptiSun and incandescent bulb are actually quite dim).
Do notice that the 3rd light tube is just a normal household fluorescent bulb that does not emit UVB nor significant heat. Its function is only to add brightness to the cage period. Although the benefit of having a 3rd light (as to brighten the cage) on their mood is quite apparent, is this type of additional lighting necessary? Not really, I have raised healthy chameleons using only those two primary lights. But, a 3rd light is quite nice and beneficial to have.
Provide a horizontal branch under the basking spot (no closer than 6" to avoid burning) for your chameleon to perch and relax while basking.
NEVER EVER PUT your lamps INSIDE of the cage.
Doing this might put your chameleon in risk of burning itself by staying too close to the light bulbs. With that being said, you will also need:
2 digital/analog thermometers.
If you want to get the digital one, I suggest getting the one that is equipped with hygrometer (this will be explained in the humidity chapter).
Put one nearby the basking spot and the other one as far as possible from the spot.
With those equipments you will have 2 readings: the highest and lowest temp in the cage.
The basking spot temp should be around 82F - 85F for babies and 90F - 95F for adults (some can tolerate 100 F. But, I found that my chameleons usually start to gape when the temp past 95 F).
The enclosure temp should be around 70F - 80F.
Put the lights on a lamp timer. Turn the lights on for 12 hours and off for the rest of the day.
Chameleon needs to go to sleep during the night. Therefore, the room should be dark after their 12 hours lights on session. I put mine on at 6 am to 6 pm. Chameleons are diurnal. They are active during the day; So, it is best not to bother your chameleon by turning on any kind of lights in the room after his 'day' hours.
There is absolutely NO NEED for Infra red heat lamp or any other types of heating such as ceramic heater during nighttime. Veiled and Panther benefit from having a 10 degree drop during nighttime. You will not need any night heat source unless the cage temp drops below 60F.
The best lighting that you can provide for your chameleon is the real SUN.
If you live in the area where sun is available all year around, I recommend you to take him outside and allow him to bask to his heart content. The best time to take him outside is 10 am to 2 pm. Positioned half of the cage to be in the shadow, so he can escape from the sun if he overheats.
I do not recommend letting him free roam without supervision during sunning. Chameleon is an avid climber. It can escape pretty quickly. Also, wild birds (raven or crow) might decide to make your chameleon their lunch.
Chameleons with access to sunlight are proven to be much healthier than the one that do not. If you feel that it is a hassle to take the cage outside, you can always put the cage nearby a window. Please be aware that UVB ray cannot pass through glass or plastic. Thus, you need to open the window to make sure that your chameleon gets all the UVs he need.
But, be aware of temperature shift, if you do so.. The gravest mistake is underestimating the sun's ability to quickly warm things up and having your chameleon to be overheated from being bombarded by the heat from the sun and the heat from the basking bulb. Consider these elements and switch off the heat bulb or take him away from the sun if the weather temp seems to be too hot for him.
_______________________Lesson continued to 101B
Source(s): Kammerflage Kreations and chameleonforums.com