The Top 5 Most Important Things to Know Before Bringing Home a Chameleon
Chameleons make captivating and intriguing pets. Between their jewel-like colors and their unique adaptations, they can be fascinating to watch and interact with. However, chameleons have specific needs related to their habitat and diet that make them relatively high-maintenance.
Here are the top five things new chameleon owners should know about keeping them healthy before adopting one as a pet.
1. Chameleons need plenty of room to roam.
One mistake many first-time chameleon owners make is not buying a large enough cage. Healthy chameleons are active and energetic. They instinctively enjoy hunting and exploring their surroundings.
When it comes to keeping a chameleon happy and healthy, a bigger enclosure is always a good choice. Chameleons also need a cage that’s taller than it is wide, so they can climb vertically. Some truly dedicated chameleon owners even opt to create a free-range habitat for their scaly friends.
2. The more plants, the better.
Chameleons prefer plenty of foliage, vines and climbing areas to simulate their natural habitat. Having lots of plants not only gives them places to hide and climb; it helps provide different temperature gradients throughout the enclosure. Many chameleon keepers opt to use real plants for a naturally beautiful look.
3. Chameleons need a highly varied diet.
Making sure a chameleon gets enough nutrition is very important. Malnourished chameleons can fall prey to health problems such as bone disease and organ failure. Unlike keeping a dog or cat, feeding a chameleon isn’t as easy as pouring some kibbles into a food dish.
Chameleons are insectivores that rarely eat dead insects, so if handling live bugs grosses you out, you may want to consider a different pet. In the wild, chameleons eat a wide variety of insects, which have, in turn, eaten many different types of fresh vegetation. A chameleon keeper can replicate these circumstances by feeding the insects a diet of fresh vegetables, fruits and greens before offering the live insects to the chameleon. This essential practice is called gutloading.
Calcium and vitamin intake are also crucial for healthier chameleons. You can buy powdered supplements to dust feeder insects with before placing them in the enclosure.
4. Chameleons have specific lighting requirements.
Using appropriate lighting is absolutely critical to your chameleon’s long-term health. Chameleons must have UVB light to survive because it allows them to absorb the calcium from their food. Over time, lack of UVB will lead to metabolic bone disease, a serious health condition that causes malformed bones.
It’s equally important to create a temperature gradient, with warmer temperatures near the top of the enclosure and cooler temperatures lower in the cage. This range of temperatures allows your cold-blooded chameleon to seek out its own comfort level by hanging out at different levels within the habitat.
If you can keep your pet safe and secure outdoors, you can also take your chameleon outside to soak up natural sunlight. The sun provides both UVB rays and basking temperatures that are far superior to artificial lighting.
5. It’s essential to avoid dehydration.
In the wild, chameleons lick water droplets from leaves to get the hydration they need. First-time chameleon owners may overlook the importance of proper misting, but it’s vital if you want to avoid the health problems that arise when a chameleon becomes dehydrated.
In addition to providing your pet’s only water source, frequent misting also helps maintain proper humidity levels in the chameleon enclosure. For keepers who are using live plants in their chameleon’s enclosure, misting has the added advantage of keeping the greenery watered, too.