Chameleon Care

Simple Chameleon Care

Chameleon care is easy. But only if you follow some basic principles. Too often these basics are ignored or forgotten and the chameleon dies. Unfairly, because of this many people believe that chameleons are hard to keep.

This site is designed to offer general advice and information on caring for chameleons. It also has articles on specific species. A blog will have snippets on caring for baby chameleons, food, cages and other topics.

The amount of information will grow, so please bookmark this site and revisit often.

What appears on this website has worked well for me. I have kept 13 species. And successfully bred six species, hatching and rearing literally hundreds of babies.

If you’ve never kept chameleons before check out The Beginner’s Guide to Exotic Chameleons Care

The following is a quick summary of the chameleon care requirements for the more commonly kept species:

Housing

I prefer to avoid glass-sided cages. It can be difficult to provide adequate ventilation. Reflections from the glass may cause some chameleons to assume a territorial posture and the on-going battle against its own reflection can lead to stress.

Where possible, I like to use netting cages. These are not without their shortcomings. Few look attractive and the netting can obscure the view of the animal inside. Escaped crickets have a nasty habit of chewing through the netting.

In some climates, a chameleon keeper will have no choice but to use a glass-sided cage.

For more details: Choosing the best cage for your chameleon

Lighting

UV light is essential for the health of a chameleon. The only exceptions are certain pygmy chameleons. All others need UV light. Check with your pet shop on the type and strength. I will be posting a chart showing UV strengths. In the meantime, be aware that the UV light drops off logarithmically. If the light is placed a metre or more from the reptile, it is all but useless.

Ordinary fluorescent tubes are useless.

Natural daylight is unbeatable. In Malaysia and South Africa, I have kept several species outside using the sun as the only source of UV. In other countries/climates, artificial UV light may be unavoidable.

Heating

You may think that keeping chameleons in  South Africa has spared me the struggle with low temperatures. That’s not so. In winter in Gauteng, especially at night, temperatures can plummet and frosts are not uncommon. With many cages to care for, I found it easier to heat a room than to heat individual cages. Even in the UK, I adopted the same approach.

I do not use nor like infra-red basking lights. I have seen too many chameleons with burns due to carelessly positioned lights.

Water

A chameleon needs running water from which to drink. For most people, this means using a spray system. This can be manual or automated. There are many systems on the market that will run off a timer and give preset amounts of water via a spray.

Whatever system you use, spraying means sufficient water is used that it runs down the leaves or branches for several minutes. Imagine a heavy downpour and try to simulate that. The timing depends on the climate in which you keep your animal. Twice a day for ten minutes may be adequate in some places, whereas a chameleon in another location may need double that.

Simply hand spraying for a couple of minutes each day will lead to the death of your chameleon. And it might take a few months.

Chameleons very rarely drink from a bowl. The chameleon’s life is not worth the risk in trying it.

Waterfalls have been used to provide a constant supply of running water in the cage. I do not use them.

Chameleons are not careful where they drop their waste. Any droppings that land in the warm water of the waterfall is then circulated and aerated. A fouled waterfall cannot be a good source for the animal to drink from.

Food

Chameleons are insectivores. A varied diet is best. Some will eat vegetation but the bulk of their food should be insects. Check out how to breed your own insects.

Please check out the six most frequently asked questions about chameleons for more information.

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