Chameleons make great pets. But to keep a chameleon healthy and safe, you need to give it a good habitat. You can buy mesh or glass chameleon cages, or reserve an entire room for your chameleon. Whatever of these you choose, make sure your chameleon has plenty of branches and natural objects to climb on, and also can access to basking bulbs and UV lights.
Generally, most chameleons need very large enclosures with good fresh air circulation. Most of them are arboreal, so they need large plants to climb. Some chameleons need more moisture. Many like occasionally to be misted with water. Everyone needs a regular source of water to drink. Like bearded dragons, chameleons need access to natural sunlight or a light fixture that delivers intense, warm, full-spectrum light.
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Choosing your chameleon’s basic habitat
Decide what kind of habitat you prefer. There are two types of habitats – vivariums and free-range habitats. Vivariums are a very traditional chameleon habitat, similar to the lizard cages in the zoo. In contrast, open range habitats provide a full room for your chameleon to move around freely.
There should be at least one large window in the chameleon’s room. The window should face east. If the window faces west, make sure to provide cool areas where the chameleon can get out of direct sunlight.
If you can’t house your chameleon in the room with natural light, you will need to provide an artificial UV light. Install both UV and basking lamps, outside the top of the cage or in a free – far-off location where the chameleon can easily access them.
Creating a caged habitat
You can choose either a horizontally-oriented glass aquarium tank or a vertically-oriented screened cage. Chameleons can grow up to 24 inches long. So the screened cage should be at least 20 inches wide, 20 inches deep, and 45 inches height.
Next is the bottom – a real bottom habitat, where the tank is completely self-contained, and the water is either absorbed directly into the substrate or evaporated out into the tank. However, the real bottomed tanks can be problematic: the plants get waterlogged and the number of humidity levels may fluctuate. But, the wrong bottomed vivariums will provide better drainage.
Substrates are the bottom layer of the vivarium that the chameleon will walk on. For substrates, you can choose the substrates from coco coir bricks, shredded wood fern, orchid bark or a combination of these. Shredded newspapers are the best option.
A few fake rocks, artificial plants, and vines will make your chameleon’s vivarium comfortable.
You need to protect the terrarium with a lid to keep your chameleon from escaping and getting into trouble. As far as aquarium tanks you need to strike a balance between keeping the environment humid – chameleons love – and having it so humid that the vivarium’s interior is obscured by moisture on the glass. An easy solution is to keep only a thin slice of the top open to the air. This piece should be of fine screen or wire. This way, fresh air will flow through the cage. But it will still stay relatively toasty within.