Caging . . .
Chameleons have varied needs depending on their native habitat and behavior. It is important to learn as much about your chameleon and it's natural environment in order to help you select the right cage style and size. The age of your chameleon will also be a determining factor when choosing an enclosure.
All of our chameleons are housed in screen cages with hard plastic bottoms. The cages are light weight and great for outdoor sunning. With full screen on the sides and top, they allow for maximum ventilation and easy cleaning. The cage should be relative to the size chameleon you will start with. One feature we like on our cages, is a flip forward, bottom panel. This is a big convenience when feeding flying insects, such as domestic house flies. It also makes cleaning a breeze (cage bottom is removable)!
For Babies . . .
In order to properly meet the needs of a baby chameleon, they require smaller cages. If the cage is too big, it will be difficult for the baby to find it's food. Another concern is thermoregulation. Avoid purchasing a large cage for a baby chameleon, hoping to make it your one and only housing expense. Keep in mind that you will later replace the first cage with something larger that gives your animal more room. In most cases, you can still use the smaller cage you first invest in, as an outdoor sunning enclosure.
A good size for a baby cage would be something that measures 24"L x 12"W x 24"H.
For Juveniles to Adults . . .
Your choice here will depend on the eventual size and activity level of your chameleon. This cage may be the last one you will need for your chameleon. Unlike the baby cage, you may buy something a size or two larger than necessary, so that the juvenile may grow into it. A healthy juvenile chameleon (approx. 4 to 12 months old, depending on the species), should have no problem with an "adult sized" cage. Male Panthers do great in a 30"L x 18"W x 36"H, while females can be housed in something a little bit smaller such as 24"L x 16"W x 30"H .
Housing In Pairs or Groups
The idea of keeping "groups" of the same species of chameleon in the same enclosure may sound appealing:
1. Less cages = less dollars spent.
2. Males and females with ready access to one another for breeding purposes.
3. The ability to observe interesting interactions between cage mates.
While the above may be a motivating factor, there are certainly other considerations that must be addressed:
1. Rival males of most species (and females of some species) will not tolerate each other when sexually mature.
2. Unreceptive females can suffer from the stress of undesired affection.
3. Gravid females often become anti-social.
4. Weaker individuals can suffer from intimidation by more dominant cage mates.
5. Unrecognized stress between co-habitants can lead to health degradation and in many cases death.
For the aforementioned reasons, we do not recommend co-habitation. Chameleons like to be "king" or "queen" of their own castles!
We are often asked about keeping different species within the same enclosure. Since we do not personally practice this method of housing, we can only offer some common sense considerations:
1. Habitat requirements for each type of species may differ
2. Larger species will often feed on, or intimidate smaller chameleons
3. Individual behavior toward one another can not be generalized or predetermined
If you are planning to keep a variety of species together, consider chameleons that naturally occur together in the wild. Provide a large enclosure that is heavily planted with plenty of room for each chameleon to choose a "spot" to call it's own. Be sure to observe the chameleons regularly in case they don't get along and changes need to be made immediately.
Some chameleon keepers like to free range their animals. Free ranging a chameleon can be an extremely rewarding way to keep this magnificent creature. The chameleons seem to enjoy the freedom associated with a enclosure free environment and interaction without barriers is very exciting.
There are some serious cautions regarding this setup that need to be mentioned. Whenever a chameleon has no cage restrictions, you must be in constant awareness that the animal "could" be walking about within any given room of the house. You can loose track of them for periods of time, or if you don't notice your pet on the floor and step on him/her, it could prove fatal for the animal and heartbreaking for you. If you have other pets such as dogs, cats or birds, be aware that they may become potential predators, no matter how sweet or friendly they are. Other free ranging chameleons in your home are an additional consideration. Sometimes chameleons will not interact at all, interact in a positive way or end up intimidating each other by invading one another's trees or territory. This can lead to fights that prove fatal. It can go all sorts of "unexpected" ways. Be prepared to make necessary adjustments to overt any disasters.
Secure lighting of the primary tree the chameleon is housed on, is an important safety factor. You can use a tripod set up or secure a clamp lamp to a nearby mini blind, but make sure it is safely attached. Potential fire hazards must be avoided at all