Chapter 2:

UVA/UVB light and fixture:

  • The BEST brand of bulb to purchase is: REPTISUN by ZOOMED, costing approximately $45 each (should be replaced every 6 months, not when they burn out). There are many cheaper brands that do not produce a full UVA/UVB spectrum, therefore inhibit calcium and other vitamin absorption and metabolic functions. Chameleons require 12 hours of this light per day. They need this light in order to produce Vitamin D3, which enables them to absorb calcium properly from their gut. You want this light to be as close to the chameleon as possible and do not want anything preventing the light from hitting your chameleon (i.e. leaves, other accessories). Make sure any wires found in artificial foliage or flowers are not protruding. Place a favorite branch directly under the UVA/UVB light and not too much else around it, so your chameleon has no choice but to sit under it! This light fixture should be placed directly on the enclosure, at a diagonal angle. Water contact caused by misting will not harm it, but should be avoided.

  • Get the longest fixture your enclosure will accommodate. This will ensure your chameleon receiving the necessary benefits. PLUS, the UVA/UVB bulb itself is the same cost for any size, so you might as well get the largest one you can!

Basking light and fixture:

  • The best brand of bulb to purchase is a 50-100 watt BASKING BULB by ZOOMED. In the summer you may want to decrease the wattage, depending on the ambient temperature in your chameleons room. A higher wattage bulb is dangerous, even for large enclosures. You want to create a "basking zone" for your chameleon, not warm the entire area. There should be a temperature gradient of about 65-85. This light must be at least one foot away from your chameleon. Ensure there are no vines or anything else around the basking area that could allow your pet to climb up higher and possibly get burned. Chameleons will try to get as close to the heat as possible and do not seem to recognize the danger or discomfort of a burn! A basking bulb is shaped like a mushroom and has a silver, frosted rim. This type of bulb creates a specific ray of light, allowing one small zone to be heated. Stay away from other bulbs on the market that are clear blue in color and resemble a light bulb because they create dispersed heat that can overheat your pet's enclosure.

  • There are other cheaper bulbs on the market. Don't be fooled by the price. They do not last more then a few weeks and do not produce a concentrated basking zone for your chameleon.

  • ALWAYS have a spare basking bulb on hand. After all, they will not give you any warning before they expire. In a pinch you can use a regular light bulb, but this should be avoided, as they produce heat that will diffuse and heat the entire enclosure, not just a spot where your chameleon can visit to heat up.

  • I recommend a dome fixture with ceramic socket. These fixtures may be placed flush on top of your enclosure, providing it is far away enough from your chameleon (minimum - one foot) and that you do not have any materials that will melt! You can also purchase a suspension device that allows you to lower and heighten the lamp as well as providing security. Remember, other pets or small children can easily knock the heat lamp down and could cause a fire!!! A chameleon itself can even knock it over if you let him hang out on a tree or vine in the room his enclosure is kept. Remember, they will gravitate towards anything they can climb and the cord attached to the lighting fixtures will be tempting!

  • Remember, thermal burns (burns caused by being to close to the heat lamp) are the number one cause of death in chameleons.

  • Never use a nocturnal bulb as a heat source (unless the room temperature drops below 65 degrees). Your chameleon NEEDS a cooling down period. This is what would occur in its natural environment. A constantly heated aquarium can make for a sluggish, unhappy chameleon who may not want to eat and whose metabolism and other physiological functions can be disrupted.

There is a magazine written for marine and freshwater fish enthusiasts called Freshwater and Marine Aquarium (FAMA for short) that has tons of mail-order pet suppliers in the back of the magazine. There are a few advertisers listed in the back of FAMA that sell the ZooMed UVB 310 bulb for under $25.00 (not including shipping). In the second fixture, use a full-spectrum fluorescent bulb such as a Vita-lite (which can also be found cheaper through mail-order). Both of these bulbs must be replaced after 6 months, as their ability to emit true full-spectrum light diminishes over time.

Enlightening information:

It is critically important that the owner provide a heating lamp to create a basking spot of 90° to 105°F [32° to 38°C] at one end of the enclosure. The ambient air temperature in the rest of the cage should be in the 70's at nighttime, with a preferred rise to the 80's over the course of the day. Veiled chameleons that are not provided with appropriate basking spots will develop respiratory and/or digestion problems over time.

The wattage of the heat bulb required to create a basking spot of 90° to 100°F varies with the ambient temperature, but do not "guess" the temperature inside the enclosure. Purchase a good quality reptile thermometer and use it to determine the wattage needed. For example, if you purchase a 75 watt bulb, and it only raises the temperature under the basking spot to 85°F, move up to a 100 watt bulb, which should raise the temperature to 90° or 95°F. Different types of bulbs produce different results!

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