What you need for your Veiled Chameleon habitat enclosure

Selecting a Cage

Buying a good cage is the first step in setting up a good habitat for your veiled chameleon. Chameleons need good ventilation to survive in captivity. Keeping them in an aquarium type setup is not recommended and there are several reasons for this:

  • They do not have the fresh air circulating.
  • Chances of bacteria growth are high due to the humidity levels.
  • They can see their reflection in the glass causing them stress.

There are several cages available on the market. Some are affordable, and others which are made of wood, can be quite costly. There are also plans available for constructing your own cage if you are handy, or you may wish to build one of your own design. Let’s look at some of the cages available to purchase:

Reptariums

These are cages that have been constructed out of plastic tubing and a special screen material. They come in various sizes from the smallest being 22 gal, to the largest 175 gallon. Depending on the size of your veiled chameleon, you should be able to find one to suit your needs.

Using Live Plants

Live plants have both advantages and disadvantages. Keeping them living under the humidity and lighting of a chameleons habitat may not be right for the plants you choose. You will want to do a little research on what type of plants will thrive under these circumstances.

Before you run out and buy live plants, be aware that many are toxic! Some veiled chameleons like to eat the leaves and flowers. If they consume a toxic plant, it can be fatal. 

Pros
  • Live plants do provide natural climbing, sleeping and hiding places for your chameleon.
  • They help keep the humidity up in the cages.
  • Live plants will produce good oxygen through the natural process of absorbing carbon monoxide, thus creating cleaner air in the habitat.
  • Some chameleons will eat the flowers or leaves of the live plants, thus providing added nutrition to it’s diet.
Cons
  • Most live plants can not hold up to the conditions of the chameleon habitats and will wilt, rot, and die if not switched with other plants every few weeks.
  • Some live plants which are considered safe still have a sap which can irritate the eyes of veiled chameleons and lead to infections.
  • Live plants require added care to an chameleons habitat.
  • Living plants and the soil they are in present a whole new set of problems when it comes to parasites, bugs, and ingestion of things that can be harmful to a chameleon.

Before using live plants

To use any live plant in your veiled chameleon cages, you will need to take steps to make sure you are introducing a safe and clean plant. The following are a few things you will need to do to prepare your plants before adding them to your habitat:

Cleaning the Plants and Leaves

Plants purchased at stores and nurseries usually have a film of fertilizers and insecticides on the leaves and branches. It is very important to wash these off and protect you chameleon from the poisons these chemicals present!

  1. Mix a bucket of warm soapy water using dish washing detergent.
  2. Using a sponge or rag, wash each leaf and the branches thoroughly.
  3. Rinse well with water to remove chemicals and soapy water.
  4. Repeat this three or more times until you see the residue gone from the leaves. The plant should look healthy and leaves shiny.

Many people do this right in the shower to make it easy to wash. I would suggest using the natural sunlight in the morning or late afternoon if weather permits, to allow the plant to dry in.

Preparing the Soil

Due to the fact that the plants purchased are normally in soil that has small bugs, and contains vermiculite and other chemicals that can be harmful to your veiled chameleon. It is best that you remove the plant from it’s current soil and replace it with all fresh soil. You should also cover the soil with a fine mesh to prevent the chameleon from eating the soil! If you find the mesh to hard to maintain and keep the soil covered, then use very large clean stones that the chameleon cannot ingest. These stones can easily be removed each week to clean.

Rotating Live Plants

As mentioned, it is hard on any plant to survive long term under the conditions of the chameleon habitat. To eliminate the problems of having your plants die and wilt or rot on you, you can rotate them on a regular basis.

Remove and thoroughly clean the plants you remove and set out for some fresh air and natural sunlight, or place in your favorite sunny window. You should do this every two to four weeks depending on the plant and the humid conditions of your cages.

Full Safe Plant List

  • African Violet (Saintpaulia)
  • Asperagus Fern (Asperagus setaceus plumosis)
  • Bird’s Nest Fern (Asplenium nidus)
  • Boston Fern (Nephrolepsis exalta)
  • Bouganvillea (Bouganvillea)
  • Camellia (Camellia japonica)
  • Corn Plant (Dracaena fragrans)
  • Croton (Codiaeum sp.)
  • Dracaena (Dracaena)
  • Ficus Benjamin (ficus benjamina)
  • Fuchsia (fuchsia)
  • Hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis)
  • Japanese Aralia (Fatsia japonica)
  • Potted Palms (Areca sp.)
  • Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum)
  • Swedish Ivy (Plectranthus australis)
  • Umbrella and Schefflera (Eriogonum umbrellum)

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What type of cage should I use for my veiled chameleon?

Most veiled chameleon keepers agree that an all screen cage is the best way to provide the environment needed for your chameleons. These are available commercially or you can easily build one yourself. Home Centers and Hardware stores have all you need. For Screening Suntex plastic screening and Lumite work very well. For the top and front Black coated aluminum screen is advisable, the top for basking lights, and the front to allow for better viewing.

Is an aquarium alright to use as a cage?

Aquariums are not recommended to be used as cages. Veiled chameleons, being arboreal, need a lot of air flow around them. The reflection caused by the glass causes chameleons stress. Being very territorial, the reflection appears as a challenger or enemy that will never retreat. This causes them to take a defensive posture and never be allowed to relax. Glass also allow them to see a place they want to go, but cannot get to, they then claw at the glass repeatedly or hang upside down on the top screen lid.

How do I maintain the humidity in my cage?

By keeping the cage well planted and by misting the cage during the day works well. An ultra sonic humidifier works very well. If you have a room with a door, closing the door will keep the room more humid.

You can read more about it in our humidity page.

What plants are safe to put in my veiled chameleon cage?

The best plants to use with your chameleons include: 

  • Pothos
  • Ficus Benjamina
  • Chinese Evergreen
  • Hibiscus
  • Sheffelera

Choose a plant that is the right size for your animal, make sure branches will support your chameleons weight with out breaking.The most important thing to remember is to make sure that the plant is not toxic, as many chameleons eat foliage. For outdoor cages Grape and Kiwi vines are excellent.

What substrate should I put in my chameleon cage?

The best substrates for your veiled chameleons are either newspaper, paper towel, sterile soil, peat moss, or bark chips. Newspaper is easy to change and removing fecal material is easier. This should be done on a very regular basis. Soil allows for a more natural planting and better aids in keeping humidity high. Be sure to remove all fecal matter daily from a soil substrate. When buying a soil or mixing your own avoid perlite, sterelite, and vermiculite. These minerals can be inadvertently ingested and may cause an intestinal blockage.

You can read more on our veiled chameleon substrates page.

How should I water my chameleon and how often?

Water can be accomplished by two means, a drip system and twice daily misting of your chameleon’s enclosure. Dripping can be achieved by poking a small hole in the bottom of a paper or plastic cup and filling in with water. This can the be placed on top of you chameleon’s cage so that it drips down, through the foliage, until it is collected by means of another container at the bottom of the cage or it runs into the soil of a plant. You can move the cup to different plants everyday to avoid waterlogging you plants. The dripping immediately attracts a chameleons attention enticing them to drink. Misting will let droplets of water form on the leaves and these will be licked up. Misting also can clean a veiled chameleons skin and eyes. Some species need to drink daily, others less often. You will need to know the type of environment your animal comes from to make this decision. A water dish is inappropriate, in addition to chameleons not recognizing standing water, bacteria and fungus will develop quickly. In warm weather it is advisable to keep your chameleons outside. When it rains they will drink naturally. Some use their showers to simulate rain. If you choose to do this use extreme caution. A tree is placed in the shower and the shower is turned on. A gentle flow is best, as is a mild temperature. Leaving half the tree out of the water will give the animal the option of leaving the water if it chooses. Cage drip systems that simulate gentle rain may be preferable.

You can read more about it on our watering page.

What kind of lighting do I need?

You will need to provide full spectrum lighting for your chameleon. This type of lighting allows your animal to produce Vitamin D for proper absorption of calcium. Tube type fluorescent bulbs are essential for animals kept indoors. Buy the best bulb you can afford, unless you are keeping your animals outside in direct sun. Look for a bulb with high UVB output. This is money well spent. Screw in type fluorescent bulbs have been poorly rated for UVB light output and are best avoided. In addition you will need a basking light for many species. Basking lights allow your veiled chameleon to thermoregulate, adjusting their body temperatures to be comfortable. For most species a low wattage regular incandescent bulb is fine. Use a 40-60 watt bulb in a metal reflector hood type fixture. Place this on one end of the cage top angled at 45 degrees to simulate a low angle sun. Use a thermometer to determine that the temperatures in your cage are with in the range of the species you are keeping. Keeping the basking light on one end allows the animal to move to the other side should they feel too warm. You can keep your light on a timer for a regular photo period and use no additional heat source for night. A night cool down is beneficial.

You can read more about it on our lighting page.

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