Humidity and Hydration for Your Chameleon
Proper hydration is an essential component of chameleon husbandry, but as regular readers of this blog already know, it’s not as straightforward as setting a dish of water in their enclosure and walking away. Chameleons will not drink from standing water, so you must find ways for them to drink water the way they would do in the wild – by licking droplets of moisture off plants and other surfaces in their cage.
In their natural habitat, chameleons get moisture from four sources: rain, dew, food and humidity. But many chameleon species evolved to live in dry climates that often experience periods of drought. So how do these chameleons survive through dry seasons where moisture can be scarce?
Overnight Humidity Replicates What Chameleons Experience in the Wild
The answer lies in what happens at night, while the chameleons are asleep. As the temperature drops, the humidity level increases. This natural cycle causes dew to condense so there is moisture available for the chameleons to drink when they wake up. As they sleep, the chameleons are breathing in some hydration in the form of the high humidity, which keeps them from becoming dehydrated overnight, even in dry climates. The humidity also means they need to drink less during the day, which can be life-saving in a dry period.
Experienced chameleon keepers are already familiar with the need to mist their pet’s enclosure, either manually or with an automatic misting system on a timer. However, to replicate what chameleons experience in the wild, consider using a humidifier to generate a fog bank at night. Doing this will create overnight moisture and have dew available in the cage for your chameleon when it wakes up in the morning.
Make Sure Everything Has Time to Dry
It’s essential to make sure all the cage surfaces have a chance to dry out fully. If you allow branches, climbing perches, plants or any other surfaces to be are damp ‘round the clock, you will end up with an unhygienic environment that can make your chameleon sick.
You can dry out your cage with a combination of the basking lamp and a fan. If you are using a fan, make sure to turn it to the lowest possible setting and aim it so it does not blow directly at the cage – you don’t want the temperature to drop to a point where it is no longer safe for your chameleon.
Other Ways to Imitate Mother Nature
If you are fully dedicated to mimicking your chameleon’s natural habitat as closely as possible, research the timing of the dry and wet seasons in the region of the world where they originate, and keep it consistent. If you’re in a “wet season,” you can use your normal misting system to give your chameleon an afternoon rain shower.
If you are not already using live plants in your chameleon enclosure, consider doing so as a way to supplement your chameleon’s hydration. An array of live plants from the top to the bottom of the cage can not only give your chameleon a leafy environment with plenty of hiding spots for when they don’t want anyone to see them, but using live plants can help maintain healthy humidity levels naturally. Live plants also turn your chameleon’s cage into a beautiful, growing art installation.