In this article on the Scale area blog we are going to explain what a panther chameleon ( Furcifer pardalis ) or a Yemen or veiled chameleon ( Chamaeleo calyptratus ) needs in the terrarium, both measurements and lighting and decoration. We will leave the parameters (temperature, humidity) and food for another article. I base myself on these two species since they are the most commonly kept in captivity and the terrarium is the same for both, but it may be applicable to other species with small differences.
The first thing we have to know is that chameleons are delicate animals, so you have to be very well informed about their care and offer them a quality terrarium with everything they need to make them as comfortable as possible and therefore extend their life expectancy. .
One of the main aspects to take into account is that the terrarium has to be made of mesh, it cannot be made of glass. This is mainly due to 2 reasons. The first is that chameleons in nature are in large places with plenty of ventilation and fresh air at all times, they also need high humidity and spray them with water, so a glass terrarium would not allow proper ventilation, causing stagnant air along with humidity and temperature, this being a perfect climate for agents that are harmful to health and cause respiratory difficulties in the animal. The second reason is that chameleons are very territorial animals and they always have to be housed individually, regardless of the animal's sex, so the reflection from the glass can make them believe that there is another individual and cause them extra stress.
How big does a chameleon's terrarium have to be?
The recommended minimum measurements would be 45x45x80cm in the case of an adult female and 50x50x100cm in the case of an adult male, since their size is larger, always being taller than wide terrariums because they are arboreal animals and you will rarely see them for the terrarium floor. I personally use 50x50x100cm in females and males so they have more space. https://www.scalearea.com/products/terrarium-mesh
What does a chameleon's terrarium have to be like inside?
As for the interior, we have to try to resemble the natural habitat of these animals as much as possible, and provide them with natural plants (better than artificial ones) to give the terrarium leafiness and that the animal feels protected in addition to the fact that the drops will remain in them. of water when spraying and you can drink from them. It should also have branches and lianas at different heights, with the first branch starting at the top at the point of sunbathing, and from there place more throughout the rest of the terrarium so that the animal can choose the height at which it stands according to the parameters it needs.
I personally don't use substrate since chameleons don't usually go down to the ground and it's easier to clean the droppings, but you could use coconut fiber or another substrate for tropical reptiles. In the case of having a female, it is important that when she is a subadult, put a coconut fiber cube about 30cm deep because, even if she is not in contact with males, she could lay eggs and she needs to have a place to do so.
You can put a feeder so that the food does not remain loose in the terrarium, but it is always good that to eat some prey they exercise their tongue by throwing it far away. There are many types of feeder, but the most basic is a container tied with a bridle to a high branch.
Chameleons are not going to need a drinker as such since they do not drink stagnant water like most reptiles, but they need to be stimulated by seeing the water shine and move in the form of drops on the leaves, sucking these drops is like the animal is going to drink water. We can achieve this in 3 ways: Spraying water manually with a sprayer, installing a constant drip system or with a rain system, the latter is my favorite since you program it 3 or 4 times a day and you ensure fresh water, Even if you are not at home, in addition to raising the humidity, it never hurts to also have the drip. Another option would be a nebulizer, but this, being a fine drop, is more designed for humidity than a drinker. Fountain drinkers are not recommended since the water is the same all the time and dead prey or droppings can fall, creating a perfect breeding ground for bacteria.
You can put a drain at the base of the terrarium for excess water or simply dry when necessary and control the amount of water.
What lighting does a chameleon's terrarium need?
Now we turn to the lighting issue, one of the most complex when it comes to keeping any reptile in captivity.
The first thing we have to know is that every reptile needs 4 things: ultraviolet B radiation (UVB), ultraviolet A radiation (UVA), infrared (heat) and visible spectrum (light). forward.
Once we know this, we must also know that according to a study carried out by Ferguson and his colleagues, it shows that in the case of the panther chameleon it needs a maximum UVI of between 1.1 and 3 and in the case of the Yemen chameleon something higher, between 2, 9 and 7.4.
For this we have several options of UVB bulbs, for my taste the mercury vapor and the HID are discarded since, although they are all in one in the case of the mercury vapor the lighting is very poor and in the case of the HID it emits a lot of radiation and very concentrated, it would have to be moved away too much and the advantage of all in one would not be so much since part of the heat would be lost, I like this type of bulb better for desert animals.
Therefore, for chameleons we have two options left, one would be a combination of a compact 5.0 bulb + heat or halogen spot and the other option that is my favorite without a doubt is a 5.0 T5 tube that will emit good light and quality of light. UVB throughout the terrarium accompanied by a spot of heat or halogen to create the point of sunlight. Another advantage of separating UVB from heat is that you control the terrarium much more, if it is very hot in summer you can turn off the spot. https://www.scalearea.com/products/kit-illuminacion-camaleon
At night these animals do not need anything, since the night temperature drop is healthy for them and they can withstand night temperatures of up to 16ºC.
Everything mentioned above would be the main thing to take into account when creating a terrarium for your chameleon, all the products in the photos of the article can be found on my website www.scalearea.com , remember that if you have any questions you can contact with me.
We have complete kits for chameleons with the aforementioned, so that you can easily choose what you need to have your chameleon with the best possible quality of life. Everything your chameleon needs here: https://www.scalearea.com/collections/complete-kits