Below is a chameleon care sheet based upon our extensive experience breeding these fascinating lizards. We have bred countless numbers of chameleons at our facility, and have learned optimal care requirements.
No one has bred as many chameleon species as we have over the past several years. Learn exactly how we care for our's so successfully.
There's so much well-meaning but incorrect information about chameleons available online that we thought we'd share our experiences raising and breeding many species at our California location.
Meeting the aforementioned special needs of your new chameleon isn't difficult, nor time-consuming, but it does take some mild planning and forethought. Please set up a proper captive environment prior to ordering your chameleon. We invite you to utilize the simple instructions detailed below to help insure success with these incredible lizards.
We are confident you will find these reptiles both captivating and ultimately rewarding--many of our customers report their captive breedings (and resulting eggs) as some of the most memorable and satisfying experiences this hobby can provide.
Housing: Perhaps the most misunderstood aspect of keeping chameleons is that an all-screen cage is generally recommended to maintain these lizards successfully. The primary reason is that they require good ventilation, something a glass, plastic, or wood-sided enclosure ultimately prevents (it can lead to stagnant air, which can cause respiratory issues).
Screened cages have other advantages in that they are very lightweight, easy to move, and simple to clean. We recommend using something in the general size range of 16" x 16" x 20" for small or young chameleons, and for the larger species, 24" x 24" x 48" is ideal. Whether you build your own, or purchase something pre-fabricated, we highly recommend an all-screen setup for most every species (Pygmy chameleons are one notable exception).
Safe Plants: Chameleons enjoy climbing and exploring, and if you're going to utilize live plants in your setup, make sure they are safe (non-toxic). Live plants provide added humidity, and they look fantastic, so we do highly recommend them.
Chameleons sometimes consume leaves (albeit rarely), and crickets will snack on plants as well, so it's important they are safe to ingest. Below is a list of a few commonly available safe plants, most of which can be purchased at a local hardware store or nursery:
Ficus benjamina - Highly recommended.
Pothos - Grows quickly, but does not grow "up" unless you wrap it around something vertical, such as a stick.
Schefflera arboricola - Highly recommended, inexpensive, sturdy.
Remember that most plants purchased at a department store or nursery have soil that contains fertilizers, and the leaves may contain pesticides. Since some chameleons have been known to nibble on leaves, and feeder insects certainly do, it's important that you remove all the original soil and rinse the plant in water several times (we add a little soap). Re-pot the plant in new soil that does not contain fertilizers (we use organic soil). It doesn't take long, and it pays big dividends.
Hydration: Chameleons do not recognize a water dish as a source of water. This is a critical mistake many new chameleon keepers make if they don't do their research. These lizards lap up water from leaves and walls of the enclosure, and thus must be misted regularly and/or have a drip-system in place (each drip session should run for 15-30 minutes).
Simple drip-containers are available at a very low price, or you can splurge and purchase an automatic misting system with all the bells and whistles.
Some hobbyists, ourselves included, have experimented with placing ice cubes on the top of the screen cage, and letting them melt and drip naturally onto leaves (or some other object). Some chameleon keepers claim "cold water isn't natural," but don't we humans appreciate cold water, even though it's not "natural?" Food for thought.
Food: Chameleons prefer live insects such as crickets, hornworms, silkworms, and roaches. There are no pellets or pre-made chameleon foods available. We primarily feed our chameleons crickets, but we like to mix it up with silkworms, superworms, hornworms, roaches, and blue bottle flies occasionally.
Flies aren't necessary, but they're inexpensive. When the flies escape the cage, which is almost unavoidable, it's frustrating for us humans. We offer our chameleons food every day and have had excellent results, including captive reproduction on many occasions.
Once per week we dust the insects prior to feeding with Repashy LoD calcium supplement, and once per month we dust the crickets with Repashy vitamin powder (do not mix the vitamin powder and the calcium powder during the same feeding, use them on separate days). We also feed our crickets high-quality food items, such as mustard greens, collared greens, dandelion greens, carrots, and more.
We're also currently experimenting with a few other supplements and insect gut-loading techniques and will report results to this care sheet when solidified. Aside from baby chameleons, we generally use crickets in the 1/2" to 3/4" size range as there is less undigestible chitin when compared to adult crickets. Baby chameleons can be fed live fruit flies (hydei and melanogaster), and pinhead crickets.
Chameleons will often snatch a cricket (or other feeder insect) from your fingers if you hold it about 10-inches from the lizard. This can make for a fun and harmless experience.
Lighting: Purchase a quality UVB bulb for your chameleon, preferably a Zoo Med Reptisun 5.0 bulb. It's important that you position the enclosure decorations, branches, and plants so that your chameleon can get to within six inches of the UVB bulb. Replace the bulb every 9-12 months or thereabouts (err on the side of sooner, rather than later). UVB lighting is very important.
You'll also need a basking bulb for heat--we use halogen flood bulbs (not spot bulbs) in the 45w to 65w range, depending upon the distance to the basking spot. You want the surface temperature to be around 100F to 110F. Use a temp gun to calibrate accurately (this is an an absolutely indisposable tool for all reptile hobbyists, whether you keep snakes, lizards, turtles, or tortoises).
Price Range: We offer chameleons for sale at a variety of price points, ranging from around $25 all the way to $1,000, depending upon the species and associated rarity. We also have chameleon supplies for sale, including everything from screen cages to misting systems, on every single chameleon page (just scroll down a bit on each page). We also have chameleon kits that include everything you need to keep your chameleon healthy and thriving!
Special Notes: Proper care often results a long-lived pet chameleon that brings you years of enjoyment and captivation. There are, however, some species that are more appropriate for beginners or hobbyists with little experience, including the more forgiving Jackson's, Veiled, and Panther chameleons.
The most challenging chameleon species, in our experience, are Trioceros montium, and Kinyongia taverna.
We were the first to successfully hatch Yellow-lipped Parson's chameleons, after 577 days of tedious incubation! We're experts who can teach you everything you need to know to care for, and breed, these lizards.
Copyright 2018 - Backwater Reptiles, Inc.
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- Why buy feeder insects?Reptile and amphibian food should be varied, which is why we offer an array of feeder insects for sale. It's always far more cost effective to buy feeder insects in bulk, which often saves up to 70% off pet store prices. Plus, the feeders are delivered right to your doorstep. We offer live crickets for sale, as well as mealworms, wax worms, nightcrawlers, and now even lizards, all at the lowest possible prices. Our reptile and amphibian feeder insects and lizards include a guarantee of live arrival.