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This is part three of a multipart series about creating an ideal habitat for your chameleon. The previous parts covered choosing an enclosure and selecting a room for the habitat to reside. This section is going to review how to “decorate” the space with branches, vines, and plants based on your chameleon’s needs.
Can You Take Me Higher
The majority of chameleons are arboreal; they feel safest when they are up high amongst the tree branches. That is why chameleon enclosures focus on height over width, and why you need to give them branches upon which to climb.
When it comes to climbing surfaces, you generally have two choices. You can go with real branches or vines and live plants, or their manufactured counterparts. Which method is best for you can depend on a number of factors which we will explore below.
The Genuine Article
If you want to help your chameleon feel at home in their enclosure, then having real branches and plants is a great way to go. Often, you can find suitable branch sections from a nearby tree, or at a suitably equipped pet store. Make sure the branches have a suitable amount of width, as tiny twigs won’t provide the support or gripping surface needed for your chameleon to climb, especially once they are full grown.
Before placing a new branch (that you find yourself) into the enclosure, thoroughly clean and sanitize the surface. You want to remove and dirt and debris, as well as loose bark on the surface. Additionally, you want only to include branches from trees or shrubs that are known to be NON-TOXIC. That means you may need to do some research before grabbing just any stick off the ground.
Once cleaned, you can cut the branch to a suitable size. In some cases, you can simply wedge them in place. At others, you may want to secure them to the enclosure with appropriate hardware. If you use hardware (like screws), make sure that they are not accessible to the chameleon. You wouldn’t like stepping on a nail sticking out of the floor, and your chameleon likely feels the same way.
If you choose to purchase branches from a reputable supplier, they will often be sanitized and scrubbed before you receive them. Some places will even cut the branches to length for you, saving you the trouble (especially if you don’t own suitable tools).
Vines provide additional climbing surfaces but are more flexible. This means you have more options in how they are placed. Finding suitable vines in your local environment may prove challenging, but long, flexible branches can also do the trick. As with the branches, cleaning and sanitizing are important, as well as confirming the vine material is non-toxic. For example, grape ivy may be a suitable choice, as well as flexible branches from a willow tree.
When possible, using live plants is the way to go. Not only do they provide your chameleon with the shade and camouflage they may crave, but they can help hold humidity in the enclosure. They are also great for the air, especially when dealing with small spaces.
There are many suitable plants for use in chameleon enclosures. Some of the most popular choices include Ficus Benjamina, Umbrella Tree, and Pothos Plants. These may even be available at your local hardware or home improvement store, depending on your location and the current season.
When choosing plants, you want to make sure they are free of pesticides and fertilizers. You may have to repot the plants in a new planter with organic soil, and the exposed surfaces will need to be properly cleaned and sanitized. Often, this can be done with a clean bucket full of water that has a squirt of anti-bacterial soap mixed in.
Place the plant into the water “head down” without putting the roots in the solution. Swish the plant to make sure the solution reaches all of the surfaces, and leave it to sit for around five minutes. Then, thoroughly rinse the plant with clean water. Repeat the processes AT LEAST two more times before repotting the plant.
A Suitable Facsimile
Sometimes, managing live plants is overly complicated. For those occasions, fake plants can work as a suitable substitute. When choosing fake plants, make sure you pay attention to the quality. Often, it is unwise to simply grab some from your local craft store, as these were not designed for the rigors of having your chameleon walking all over them.
If you do want to work with fake plants, consider options designed specifically for reptile enclosures, and purchase only from reputable dealers.
This is part 3 in a multipart series focused on creating an ideal environment for your chameleon. Come back for additional advice to help you build your chameleon’s perfect home.