Checklist: Everything You
Need For Your Chameleon
 
Chapter 1:
Getting Started

BEFORE you bring your chameleon home, you will need to ensure you have all of the below!


1a. AQUARIUM:

  • Height is more important that length, as your pet will want to climb!
  • Should be large enough to maintain the ambient temperature requirements. If its too small, could risk overheating, if too large, could be too cold. *Remember, that you need a basking spot & a cool spot. (you may have to play around with various bulb wattages before you get the right temperatures)
  • Ideally, aquariums with vents are the best enclosures – ventilation is key
  • Clean regularly with antibacterial dish soap & water – rinse well. (Use vinegar to remove tough water stains from frequent misting. Always remove the chameleon prior to washing the enclosure and RINSE well!)
  • Ensure you have a thermometer (one to monitor the cool zone, one to monitor the basking zone) and a humidity gauge !


1b. AQUARIUM DESIGN:

  • Branches of varying circumferences (you can use a glue gun, to adhere them to the walls of a glass terrarium. The glue comes off easily with hot water & soap!) *the size of branches (circumference, should match the size of your chameleon & be adjusted as it matures). Like the feet of a bird, they require different sizes to grasp onto, to feet their feet in shape!
  • Privacy. This can be achieved by placing the terrarium in a quiet area. Never put it near a window, where it can over-heat, in a high traffic zone, or in a place where household pets can stare or pester them. The terrarium should be raised up off the floor, using a matching stand or piece of household furniture.
  • Never use heat rocks, pads!
  • Foliage. You can get great deals at craft stores, at end of season sales. Silk or artificially vines are great, and can be glues to the top of glass terrariums to create a canopy effect, making your chameleon feel right at home, up in the tree-tops J
    Real plants are fantastic, as long as you keep them clean and watch for stagnant water. *some plants are toxic – refer to section on safe plants before buying one.
  • I highly suggest purchasing some aquarium paper (found in the fish department of your local pet store) This decorative plastic can be adhered to the outside of the aquarium (not inside, as it is difficult to keep clean), with a few drops of glue or tape. It provides your chameleon with the privacy it requires AND is very esthetically pleasing. It comes in a variety of landscape depictions & can be cut to any size/shape. (Without this, many chameleons will “paw” at the walls of their enclosure)


1c. AQUARIUM LID:

  • Lids to most aquariums are sold separately. I highly recommend a metal lid, they cost the same as mesh lids, but are much stronger, and do not tear. They are essential for homes that have cats or other pets who will be tempted to sit on top on the aquarium and stare at the chameleon/feeder items.!


2. SUBSTRATE:

  • Substrate (ground cover) is used to retain humidity & absorb the water that will collect at the bottom of the enclosure from spraying/drip systems
  • Calcium sand is best. IF you decide to offer your chameleon its feeder items in a bowl, you could use other substrates specifically for chameleons. However. If your chameleon is a “hunter” you must be VERY careful, as it may ingest some bark etc….while eating a bug and choke or end up with an impaction (intestinal blockage)
  • Never use an inappropriate substrate, or something that can turn moldy, like potting soil.


3. ACCESSORIES:

  • Spray bottle (for misting enclosure)
  • Timer for lighting (to create consistent diurnal cycle)
  • Thermometers, (to monitor cool & basking zones)
  • Humidity gauge
  • Travel container for your pet
  • Container (& food), for crickets/prey items
  • Clear bowl to place feeder items in the aquarium


4. FOLLIAGE: (see aquarium design)

  • Real plants are best. Spray these frequently with water so your chameleon can lap up the water droplets. *Real plants also increase humidity levels.
  • Ensure they are pesticide free!
  • Ensure they are not toxic (many chameleons eat vegetation, and could die if the wrong plant is provided). Eating vegetation is usually a sign that there is not enough water being provided for your chameleon to drink on a regular basis.
  • Artificial vines found at craft stores are great & can be washed. They may be glued to a glass aquarium, and removed with hot soap & water. This is a good way to create a canopy effect!


5. FOOD:

  • You will need to have crickets & other prey items on hand as soon as you bring your chameleon home. Ensure you have purchased the correct size of prey item, according to your chameleon’s size. A good rule of thumbs is: bug should be no larger than your chameleons head.
  • A good indicator if your chameleon is a good weight is to look at its tail. This is where it retains a “fat reserve” The tail should appear plump – not flat and bumpy. This would indicate it is not getting enough food & is forced to use its reserves.
  • Chameleons don’t “over-eat” ensure you always offer your chameleon enough food. Hatchlings/juveniles should eat several times a day. Adults may be fed every other day to prevent boredom or hungry-strikes.
  • Variety is key! Purchase as many different items as possible. If you catch your own bugs, ensure they are pesticide free & not toxic (i.e lady bugs are toxic!)
  • Crickets that are allowed to run “loose” in the enclosure with a chameleon will start to prey on the chameleon & eat its flesh! Never stress your chameleon by placing too many feeder items, loose, in with it!
  • I recommend placing the feeder items in a clear bowl, inside the enclosure so
    You can monitor how much it eats, and re-dust them with calcium. It also prevents them from eating the substrate.


6. SUPPLEMENTATION:

  • I highly recommend Miner-All by sticky-tongue farms! (Calcium & multi vitamin in one)
  • Alternative recommendations: Calcium: "Rep-Cal Phosphorous-Free Calcium with Vit. D3" & Multivitamin: "Rep-Cal Heptivite with Beta Carotene".
  • When feeding a chameleon up to a sub-adult, dust feeder items DAILY. This may be reduced to every second feeding for mature chameleons.
  • Do not COAT the feeder items, lightly dust them! Over-supplementing is dangerous. Place the feeder items is a bag or plastic container with a bit of the supplement and shake LIGHTLY.


7a. LIGHTING: (UVA/UVB fixture & bulb)

  • Replace every 6 months* (not when it burns out)
  • Essential for a chameleon’s health! I recommend ReptiSun by ZooMed 5.0
  • This light should be as close to your chameleon as possible – it will not burn them.
  • Make certain there are not allot of dense artificial leaves blocking the light.


7b. LIGHTING: (Basking lamp fixture & bulb)

  • This creates the warm basking area for your chameleon.
  • Your chameleon will not sense if it is being burned, by being too close to this heat fixture. Thermal burns are a major cause of death.
  • Ensure your chameleon cannot get too close to the light. Some will hang upside down from the lid, directly under the heat lamp. Others will scale up vines/branches to get as close as possible!!
  • If you observe your chameleon doing this, you can alter the aquarium design, removing vines, braches, close by, or, purchase a stand for the light, so it does not rest directly on the aquarium lid!
  • Your chameleon should be about 1 foot AWAY from the heat lamp.
  • You may have to play around with various wattage of bulbs, until you find the right one for your enclosure design/size.
  • Reduce wattage in summertime / increase in wintertime
  • Always use your thermometer to monitor the temperature zones!
  • A nocturnal bulb may be necessary at night IF the temperature drops below the recommended range. *A drop in temperature at night is essential to maintain a chameleons metabolic functions. Keeping a chameleon consistently warm will result in a lethargic, unhealthy pet.


8. DRIP SYSTEM

  • Lack of an ample amount of water (dehydration, kidney failure), is a leading cause of death in chameleon.
  • Spraying the enclosure is not sufficient. All this does is increase the humidity.
  • Chameleons lap up water droplets from leaves in nature.
  • An easy drip system can be created by placing many ice cubes onto op the aquarium lid, allowing them to melt and drip onto a vine. It is essential that the chameleon is able to reach the vine/leaves where the water is accumulating, as well as to ensure the water is hitting the vines/leaves, not just falling to the ground.
  • Another quick drip system can be created by placing a Styrofoam cup with a small hole at the bottom, on top of the aquarium lid, allowing the water to drip down slowly.
  • I highly recommend using distilled water (just boil your own!) This is healthier for your chameleon PLUS you will notice a reduction of sediment build up on the glass walls of your aquarium if you do this.
  • I always mist the enclosures with hot water, to increase humidity levels, but offer my chameleons tepid water to drink.


Species – Specific, Environmental Requirements

Veiled Chameleons

  • HUMIDITY: Ideally, 50% or higher. This can be achieved through frequent daily misting.
  • TEMPERATURE – DAY : The ideal daytime temperature for veiled chameleons is between 75 and 85 degrees.
  • BASKING SPOT - A basking area should be created on one end of the enclosure to maintain a local temperature of 95-100 degrees. This basking area is best achieved with either an incandescent bulb or spotlight basking bulb being placed at one end of the habitat with a "basking-branch" placed underneath. Remember that the basking area does not need to get any hotter than 95 degrees
  • TEMPERATURE – NIGHT: Nighttime temperatures should drop down to 65-75 degrees.
    If temperatures fall below this zone, you may require a nocturnal bulb.

TIP: You can purchase “black lights” very cheaply at most hardware stores!


Panthers

  • HUMIDITY: Ideally, 60 to 80% This can be achieved through frequent daily misting.
  • TEMPERATURE – DAY : The ideal daytime temperature is between 85-90 degrees.
  • BASKING SPOT - A basking area should be created on one end of the enclosure to maintain a local temperature of 90-95 degrees. This basking area is best achieved with either an incandescent bulb or spotlight basking bulb being placed at one end of the habitat with a "basking-branch" placed underneath. Remember that the basking area does not need to get any hotter than 95 degrees
  • TEMPERATURE – NIGHT: Nighttime temperatures should drop by 10 degrees (65 Degrees). If temperatures fall below this zone, you may require a nocturnal bulb.


Jackson Chameleons

The natural habitat of C. jacksonii receives as much as 50 inches of rain annually. So humidity and water availability is critical for this species. As a true montane chameleon, C. jacksonii require cooler temperatures and one might expect from an equitorial reptile.

  • HUMIDITY: Ideally 50 – 70% during the day, and 80% at night. This can be achieved through frequent daily misting.
  • TEMPERATURE – DAY : The ideal daytime temperature is about 75 degrees. (between 60 to 78degrees, NOT to exceed 82 degrees ambient temperature)
  • BASKING SPOT – Not too much of a basking spot required! Temperatures should not exceed 86 degrees. Young animals should not be exposed to temperatures in excess of 78 degrees.
  • TEMPERATURE – NIGHT: Nighttime temperatures should drop down to about 60 degrees. If temperatures fall below this zone, you may require a nocturnal bulb.

Previous Section:
What To Look For When Purchasing A Chameleon