How To Set Up A Proper Chameleon Enclosure


Before acquiring any new pet it is prudent to have their habitat set up properly so that they can settle in quickly into their new home and feel safe and comfortable. Chameleons have a reputation for being very difficult reptiles to keep, but their needs can be easily met by just providing a few specific things in their environment. There is no single right way to set up an enclosure but there are a few basics that must be met - how this is accomplished can vary depending on materials, personal preference, cage size, the specific animal, etc.

Note: I highly recommend automizing your set-up as much as possible. Connecting the lights to a timer is not just convenient for you as the owner, but it provides the chameleon with a stable, predictable night and day period. Routine is often good for animals. You can also find automated misting systems with timers, and while these are optional, having the water on a timer is also good for both owner and pet. Also, having as much as possible on timers allows you to leave for the weekend without worrying about having someone to turn lights on/off and provide water.

When a chameleon's cage is set up correctly half the battle is done for you! The best way to succeed with chameleons is to provide them with everything they need in their enclosures. Happy, content chameleons will be healthy chameleons in the long-run!

THE ENCLOSURE

There are many options available on the market that are suitable cages for chameleons. These include:
      - Screen cages
      - Glass terrariums/vivariums (not to be confused with aquariums)
      - Glass/Acrylic and screen combos
The style of cage will depend on your climate and personal preference. Glass retains moisture and heat better than screen, so for homes in cold, dry climates a glass vivarium like this may be better. Where as a screen cage in a hot, humid home will provide better air circulation and not get at warm and stagnant. Only you can determine which style will work best for your specific situation.

The enclosure size will depend on the species of the chameleon and their size/age. But these types of cages are commonly available in many sizes, from hatchling to adult. For most chameleons it is encouraged to get two cages when acquiring a chameleon of about 2-4 months old - one smaller cage while the chameleon is young and then upgrade to the full-sized adult cage when the chameleon is about 6-8 months old. This helps them gain experience hunting in a smaller space and allows the keeper to monitor food uptake more closely. However, chameleons can also go directly into an adult cage as long as the keeper keeps a closer eye on how they are eating and drinking.

As an alternative to buying a cage, any handy keeper can build their own cage out of whatever pet-safe materials they choose. This allows the keeper to customize the cage to meet their preferences and needs and can be a great option.



ENCLOSURE ESSENTIALS 

A. Lighting: As reptiles, chameleons are exothermic and depend on outside heat to be active, have healthy immune systems, and digest their food. They need a basking bulb and a UVB bulb. The basking bulb will provide a hot spot that the chameleon can bask in to warm up. The wattage of the bulb will depend on the specific temperatures the species needs, but for example, a 60w bulb will give me roughly 80-83F temps.

The UVB bulb provides artificial sunlight, allowing the chameleon to synthesize vitamin D3 in their skin, which is essential for calcium absorption in their bones. Usually, a Reptisun 5.0 UVB light is recommended, but there are many brands that are as good or better.

B. Misting System: While optional, I highly recommend an automated misting system like Mistking or Aquazamp. This allows me to provide water at a set routine every day, whether I am home or not. And it allows the chameleons to drink without me hovering in front of the cage holding a water sprayer. Whether or not an automated system is used, access to plenty of water throughout the day is essential.

C. Basking Spot: Chameleons should have an area where they have the best access to the basking bulb. This can be a few branches or the top of a plant, but it should be located at a safe distance from the bulb itself so the chameleon does not burn themselves by accident. I prefer branches, but some chameleons will not bask on an exposed branch and will prefer a leafy plant to hide in and feel safe.

D. Branches/Vines: Adding branches or vines to a cage will provide walkways and pathways for the chameleon to get around the cage. If not enough of these are available they may resort to climbing the screen sides, which can rip out nails on an adult animal. I believe it is important to provide these, even if there are plenty of plants, because they are usually sturdier than plants and chameleons like the stability.

E. Plants: Since chameleons are arboreal, they thrive in plant cover above the ground. Live plants are strongly recommended, but fake ones are ok if necessary. Live plants will hold humidity better, provide better surfaces for drinking, and provide better cover than artificial ones. In the cage above it looks like I used very few plants but the pothos (hanging devil's ivy) will grow quickly and fill in the cage nicely in a couple months. However, plants like ficus, hibiscus, and umbrella plants also make great chameleon plants.

F. Drainage: This will depend heavily on the type of enclosure you keep. I have screen cages with bare bottoms for the purpose of cleaning, so I have drilled a few small holes in the PVC bottom to drain away water from the misting system into a bucket under the shelf holding the cages. If you have a glass vivarium with plants in soil, this may need a different strategy which will be better explained by someone more experienced with naturalistically planted vivariums, but a layer of clay balls under the soil may be needed to drain the water away from the soil and keep the roots from drowning. Drainage holes can also be drilled professionally into the bottom of glass terrariums so the water can be drained into a bucket, for example. You may not need to mist enough to need drainage in glass cages, but if you do, try to avoid stagnant water pooling at the bottom at all costs.

These are the essentials of a proper chameleon cage. If all of these are met, then chameleon keeping automatically becomes easier. If the environment meets the chameleon's needs properly they are more likely to thrive long-term. The rest comes down mainly to proper diet, which will be covered in a separate blog.

Additional Examples of Proper Chameleon Cages


A large DIY chameleon cage, measuring 5' x 4' x 3'.


Above are two examples of small chameleon cages (36" x 18" x 18") using natural branches and small plants for baby chameleons. There is enough cover to hide in and plant surface to drink from but there is still enough open space for the chameleon to hunt down its food effectively. 


Above are two large screen cages (48" x 24" x 24") for a pair of panther chameleons. For the female, on the right-hand cage, there is enough open space on the floor of her cage for me to add a laying bin when she needs it. 

Another view of one of the cage above. The branches extended nearly to the floor but nothing touches the floor.
This makes cleaning extremely quick and easy, and means that there is never stagnant or dirty water hiding behind
a plant pot or two. 


101 comments:

  1. Hello Olimpia! First off I have to say im OBSESSED with your blog and articles! there PERFECT! i was becoming quite frustrated and upset with the crappy and generic information i was getting off the internet, either people who knew nothing or just plain false and crap information was being put out there. then by a stroke of luck i found your blog and i was saved! there amazing and ive been taking ALL of your information and opinions!
    anyways just a quick question: could you tell me the names of the plants you used in your first photo (the one where you labeled A to F). Also HOW did you get the plants to stay up? tied? glued? wouldnt the weight of the plants tare through the screen? And lastly how do you arrange your lighting? uvb in the front and basking in the back/or uvb on the side and backing on the other side? should it matter?

    thanks! you'll prob see me ask you alot more questions these next few days!

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    1. Thank you Heidi! I'm glad you've found it helpful!
      Question #1 - The top one is a pothos (easily and cheaply available almost everywhere) and the other two with flowers are different bromeliads. I couldn't tell you the exact name of them, but I also see them all the time at any home improvement store.

      Question #2 - I used heavy-weight fishing line (I happen to have 50lb weight line) or clear zip-ties to secure branches and plants together. The pothos, which is the heaviest plant, is secured using the fishing line and this is threaded through the top screen and tied to a wooden dowel. Since the dowel rests on the frame of the cage (it's cut to be 24" long) the weight is distributed through the frame, and the screen isn't harmed as a result. The bromeliads are much lighter and were just tied to the branches with either line or zip-ties. The branches are secured using thumb-tacs through the screen as well, so the screen is also unharmed.

      Question #3 - I usually pick one corner where the basking light sits on, so they have as much room to move away from it as they want. Usually I'll pick a back corner, since there's probably more airflow towards the front and they can cool off if they want without having to go down in the cage. But it's usually preference - as long as the basking light and UVB are close together you're in good shape. You want them to bask under both at the same time if they want to, it's the most natural thing.

      Hope that helps! Feel free to ask me anything else.

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    2. What kind of branches are you using?

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    3. Hi Cheyenne,

      I use natural branches that I cut down from trees outside. What species the tree was, I don't remember, but it was a non-poisonous tree that needed pruning anyway. There are lists online about which trees/plants are poisonous and which are not, so I would look through one of those to make sure you don't use something like Brazilian pepper, for example, which is highly irritating to the eyes and skin. I do not "pre-treat" my branches before I use them in cages, I only check that they don't have holes from bugs, I hose them off, and use them. I still have the same branches almost 4-5 years later! In good shape, too.

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  2. First of all. Wow!!! What a freaking fantastic blog.Heidi was right. You explain it all so well!
    A couple questions though:

    I have read that a simple paper towel layer at the bottom of glass terrariums is a good choice for soaking up extra water. Changing it every 1 to 2 days. To me this seems really simple and almost careless. Would this same concept be better if I used something else like (dry moss, clay balls, polymer pads for soaking up excess water, soil, reptile carpet, etc)?

    By choosing a glass terrarium, what does the cleaning routine consist of?

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    1. Thank you so much Brian!

      Something like paper towel, shamwow, or shelf liner is always going to be the easiest thing to have in a screen cage. With screen, things like soil will just fall through the screen and make a mess. But in a glass terrarium, if you google how to set up a living terrarium properly you can definitely get away with doing an elaborate soil layer with clay ball drainage. And if you add insects to the soil to act as clean up crews they will keep the soil healthy, so all you have to do at that point is wipe the glass, spot clean up any poop you see, and remove and wash any branches/perches that might have poop or sperm plugs (if you have a male.)

      The only bad thing about glass terrariums is that depending on the species you have they start to become really expensive up in the size you need for an adult veiled or panther. But they keep humidity and temperature more stable, so as long as you have good instruments to monitor temps and humidity, you don't have to mist as much and you don't have to worry about temperatures doing weird things with your AC or heating.

      If you have any other questions please ask! I've never done a write up about keeping reptiles in a glass terrarium but I probably should, because it's how I keep all my geckos.

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  3. The main reason I was choosing a glass terrarium is due to an automatic mist system. Im looking at purchasing the monsoon mister. With a screen cage I am worried the over spray of mist will damp everything outside the cage(assumption). With a glass terrarium over spray woule be blocked and stay within(hence, the reason I was asking about flooring). If I choose a screen cage would the monsoon mister be ok? Or would a dripper be better with excess water soaked up by say a ficus pot? Would humidity be ok with just a dripper. FYI)) I live in San Antonio tx, humid summers, colder dry winters 40º.

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    1. I don't have any first hand experience with the monsoon mister, but the overspray may depend on the size of the cage and how full it is of plants and things. Like in the cage above (a 48" x 24") the nozzle of my Mistking aims at the pothos plant and from there the droplets come down along the vines, so I didn't have any water hit the walls, but it's a big cage. In my smaller 36" x 18" cages I did have a little bit, but it wasn't something I couldn't solve with a bit of plastic taped to the back 3 sides.

      A dripper is a good idea, you can definitely use that for a good portion of the drinking water. It wouldn't be enough for humidity though, I would think. But you could potentially use a dripper for most of the drinking water and then a couple misting sessions to get everything a little wet and bring up the humidity. The humidity doesn't have to remain high all day, it's ok if it fluctuates between mistings - you never want the cage totally wet all the time and you don't want it totally dry all the time either, you want a bit of both throughout the day.

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    2. Thanks so much for explaining how to hang branches, Etc. inside the flimsy wire mesh cage! I've been wondering about that. I live in Hawaii where the air in our home is about 80f do you think I need to use a basking light even though the natural ambient temprature is favorable?

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  4. Thanks! Gave me some really good ideas! It looks as if some of your branches are floating sideways!!!

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    1. Thanks! Just some thumb-tacs and push-pins :) One or two on each end holds up a branch without tearing through the screen.

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    2. Where or how did you get all you needed (branches) to set up all the branches like this? I am about to get a baby Ambilobe Panther Chameleon male in a screen cage 2'x2' x 4'tall, I already have a live Croton beautiful plant and plenty of fake bendable vines ready, but natural sticks would be awesome. Is that something you simple got outside, cleaned up and then set up? Also, how can I go about having this Croton (potted plant) in my cage without the worry or such a potentially insane mess? Water overflow etc. What does your cage rest on or what keeps it propt up so I too....can set up a drainage bucket idea like you have

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    3. Neo Strike, check out this other blog post: http://www.muchadoaboutchameleons.com/2012/04/my-chameleon-room-cages.html

      It goes into how I set up my cages, the branches, and the drainage I had for the room. If you still have questions, shoot me an email! I find that keeping plants off the floor helps them drain, so maybe buying a plant stand would help.

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    4. Plant stand? (found at Lowe's?) yes I actually saw the whole thing shortly after I posted this >< sorry about that. I was simply planning to have the plant on the bottom, but resting a type of stand (couple inches high) to allow the excess waters to fall directly under it and the whole cage itself resting on a couple of 4x4s with a plastic water drip pan/bin underneath (bit of a tight budget as well as not very good as a craftsman >.<

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    5. Also you stated your Bromeliads weren't doing well under the misting nozzles.... so you removed them. Meaning they weren't getting enough water or too much? Would you not recommend them for my cage? Curious cause they sure look real beautiful

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  5. Just going to say I love this blog. I've been on the forums for a year or so now, and have found your blog useful for the longest time as well. Using these two resources I completely spoil my chams. I absolutely love your setups and advice. Thanks!

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    1. Thank you so much Tom for the kind words!

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  6. Would a 5ft tall by 4 wide by 3 deep made out of plexi glass wood and screen be too much for a panther?

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    1. No, I bet he would love that! I had a cage with very similar dimensions for a panther male and he loved it, he was very active patrolling his territory.

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  7. Your setups are amazing.. I have always used glass setups bought at a store I was wondering if a homemade one 5ft tall 4 wide and 3 deep made out of screen wood and plexi glass would be too big for a panther
    Thanks

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    1. Thank you so much! No not at all, that size would be awesome for a panther. He/she would love it!

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  8. Hi Olimpia! I have am a brand new chameleon owner after months of research; your blog has been a stable in getting ready to bring my baby home :) I felt I had things fairly ready and two days ago received my baby Panther. We are so far assuming male but I am not sure on his age. He is roughly 3 or so inches from nose to base of tail, not tip of tail. I am trying not to bug him too much yet to get a more accurate length.
    I am having trouble getting his home to a 90+ temp. It usually hovers around 80-85. I live in Iowa and currently it is a typical chilly "spring" :/ I am currently using an Exo Terra UVB 100 26W although after some reading I am thinking I should switch to the Zoo Med brand. I have a ZooMed blue 60W. Chauncy is in a large Reptibreeze aluminium 46x46x91 home with a large live schefflera arboricola (umbrella plant?). I hope to put in a hibiscus but have to wait until mid May before those are available here.
    My question is should I use a second heat bulb? and would you recommend replacing my UVB to Zoo Med brand? once things finally warm up around here I plan to get Chauncy outside some but but when winter rolls around again all too soon I am sure I will be in this same predicament!
    And while I am here, my Mist King is set to arrive today. I read that during the colder weather here in Iowa it is suggested to mist every hour for one minute to bring humidity up. Currently I hand spray about 4 times a day starting at 730am and last one at about 6pm (lights are 7 to 7) and use a dripper. Leaves are dry when I spray. Does this sound ok? Once humidity kicks in here this wont be as much of a problem.....except maybe when the air conditioning is on.....

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    1. Hey Jenny, congrats on getting a new panther! Typically breeders sell them no younger than 2.5-3 months of age, so that's probably how old he is.

      That is actually a really good temperature for a panther baby (babies dehydrate easier than adults, so keeping things a little cooler help with this), I wouldn't try to get it higher than 85ish until he's older. So a basking temperature of 80-85 is great and then the rest of the cage should be about room temperature, so I think you're doing fine. The UVB you are using is Ok, but I do prefer the Zoomed Reptisun bulbs, but you don't have to change it now - you can wait until the bulb you have now turns about 6 months old and then change it.

      I love my Mistking, and I'm sure you will too! I think that's a good schedule if he seems hydrated (check his poop - if it consists of a brown part and a white part then you are in great shape. If the white part instead more yellow or orange he needs to drink more often.) As long as the cage dries out between mistings you can play around with times and amounts as much as you like, depending on him and if you need to raise the humidity.

      Sounds like you're starting on a great foot! Congrats again on the new baby!

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    2. Thank you for your help, I feel much better :)

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  9. Another question for you Olimpia! Is it necessary to have a mister and a dripper? I realize I can hand spray as well, but I want a mister on a timer to help me to be super efficient. Is a mister throughout the day enough for humidity and drinking for a little soon-to-be-mine Faly Panther? Thanks for your forever support! :)

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    1. Nope, a mister by itself is totally fine. You don't have to use both if you don't want to.

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    2. I was told you should not use a mister, you never want to get water in their eyes or you will have a big vet bill

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  10. Quick question, are the Terrariums shown in the last picture custom built or store brought?

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    1. The last ones are from LLLReptile.com, they offer them in black or silver, like mine.

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  11. Hello, Love your blog as I am fascinated with chameleons.

    I live in Britain (American Ex-pat) and my last chameleon passed away, so Iam on to my second. My last was a female Yemen who lived comfortably for years in a 4x3x20in deep viv passed away after 4 years. The male Yemen I have just gotten had a beast of a daddy, so I am looking at the corner the present viv is located, and thinking of building a viv into the corner of the rooms contour. The area based on the contour of the corner would allow me to build a viv that is 3.5 ft wide 4ft high, but I can only make is 17in deep. Is that deep enough?

    I also wanted to ask about the cool british climate and cages. I am thinking wood with loads of ventilation same as the store bought one I have which I know is a good habitat, but I am thinking a cage might be a better choice. I leave the door open when I am home, and my 7 month old cham climbs to the top of his devils Ivy and sits with his head out of the door for an our or so just looking around. He is quite friendly unlike my female as I dont attempt to handle him often, and when he is by the door he will grab onto my shirt and climb to my shoulder. I gave him time to get used to my hand in the viv while daily spot cleans and he is starting to get comfortable with me at closer proximity. Seems like a curious little guy.

    Sorry so back to the materials, my living room can get to 50f in the winter evening here, and I was wondering how cold is too cold for an indoor caged enclosure similiar to yours i.e. maybe the large EXO Terra as its a similair depth to the area I might build the wooden one. Also the Wooden vented Viv stays quite dry even with misting and using a dripper, I am thinking as a yemen is a Dessert/Mountain Cham, if it was a touch dryer than the wooden Viv, they should be quite happy with that.

    So is my depth to shallow at 17in for Male Yemen to grow up in, and is a cage doable for a cooler British climate or if wood is working stick with it? Also with a cage do you cup feed your chams. I am a believer in a natural habitat and want my cham to hunt. How do you feed in your cages?

    Thanks again and kep blogging away, as I love reading your stuff.

    Cheers

    Shawn

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    1. Hey Shawn,

      Thanks for the kind words about the blog!

      That cage size sounds good to me personally, since he's gaining a lot of width so that should make up for the lack of depth. And then as far as temperature, it's alright if the night-time temperatures go all the way down to 50F, veileds can tolerate slightly lower temperatures than that as long as they can warm up again in the morning, which should be no problem as soon as the lights switch on. So it sounds like you can definitely put together the cage you're thinking of building, I think it would work well. If it ever gets too dry you can see if adding a couple more live plants or just misting a little longer throughout the day will help, but that's easy to fix typically. Veileds are usually fine with lower humidity as long as they are well hydrated via drinking.

      I also like to let mine hunt unless there's a reason they can't (like a tongue injury or something like that) so I let crickets, grasshoppers, and anything that flies loose in the cage and then only cup/hand feed things like worms or roaches, which move around a lot less in a cage.

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  12. Hello,
    Before I get a a panther chameleon, I would like to know how much space a male panther chameleon would need.

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    1. Hey,
      An adult panther will need a cage that measures at least 4' in height and 2' in width and depth, and bigger is better. As babies or youngsters they can live in smaller cages but as adults they need more space.

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  13. Hey Olimpia,

    This is Shawn in the United Kingdom again. I took your advice in the blog and ordered the large LLL Reptile cage (24x24 base) and also ordered the extension which makes it up to 5 or 6 feet tall.

    My 12 month old male yemen is getting big and is quite active but would you start with the extension added or wait until he is older to add the extension. Also I have a reptisun 10 UV, and am I to understand that would be ok in the larger et up as long as its by the heat source i.e. he will get enough UV when he warms up.

    Also if you did suggest he will love the extra space would you add more feeders to be found when he hunts, and would you increase the misters timer to ensure he is hydrated. Presently my mister goes on for 1 minute twice daily. Though the feeders will have an easier time climbing the screen will he be able to find them, and will a 1 minute spray twice a day be enough for such a tall set up...... if you recommend the taller set up is good for him at this early age

    Thanks

    Shawn

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  15. Hi olympia, i have read that using substrate is bad for a chameleon, causing impactation and what not, my question is, i have had my panther chameleon for 2 weeks now iin a 16x16x30 enclosure (he is about 3 months old) and use just a little layer of eco earth substrate made of coconut husk, its really ground up, it helps soak up the water and seems to keep humidity up, i change it every 2 weeks and i do daily spot cleaning, and overall i like the way the cage setup looks, soooo, should i stop using it and use newspaper or paper towels, thanks

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    1. Forgot to add that its a screen cage, i use a mistking system and its hard to keep humidity up, by using this substrate seems to help, i live in tijuana mexico and the weather fluctuates a lot here i could have a four season day, lol

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    2. Hey! I don't really worry about impaction as much as most people tend to (and I've had to put my dog through surgery 3 times for intestinal impaction, so it's not that I'm naive!) because I've worked with reptiles so long that I know that the cases I see that include impaction are either one of two cases: 1. that the chameleon ingested something physically impossible to pass, like a rock or a piece of bark, or 2. that the chameleon is suffering from medical issues (like severe dehydration, metabolic bone disease, weakness, etc.) that make it impossible to pass even normal things, like insect shells, much less anything else.

      So when you tell me that you have something fine and particulate like ecoearth (which I've used a lot for geckos) I just don't see it as a big risk for a healthy and well-cared for individual. Others may disagree but in my experience impaction happens a lot less often than people on forums would like to believe! lol

      So I think it's fine. It sounds like you're keeping it pretty clean and tidy, so I wouldn't force you to remove it. I don't use anything on the bottom of my cages just because it's easier to maintain but I think ecoearth is fine.

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  16. hi my name is savanah! ive been looking into getting a veiled cham and although this is quite a silly question I must ask. where do chams "go to the bathroom" and how do you clean it up?

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  17. savanah again I thought of another question. I live in northern ga where we have pretty hot summers (90+) and cold winters(anywhere from below freezing to 60 ga weather is crazy) but my house stays at 68-70 degrees ive concluded that I want to build the habitat myself 2'x2'x4' but am not quite sure if screen or glass would be more suitable. I was thinking two sides screen and the rest plexiglass but how would I keep crickets and other small insects from escaping through the screen. also any advice of which material would be more suitable! thank you!

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    1. Savanah, sorry for the delay. I seem to be just seeing these comments. I think with your temps screen would be perfect for a few reasons: 1. Chameleons can tolerate temps in the 60's indoors just fine, and he would not need additional heat at night. As long as his lights pop on in the morning he will be fine. 2. Because Georgia has nice weather a screen cage gives you the option of moving it outside on great days so he can bask in natural sunshine.

      You'd have to use fine aluminum screen otherwise the crickets will chew their way out. If you're lucky you may be able to find it at a home improvement store, if not you can probably order it online somewhere.

      Also, just one more tip! If you have the room to make the cage just an extra foot or two wider, the chameleon would be much happier. I know 2' x 2' x 4' is the standard minimum but adult veileds and panthers can be close to 20" long, so a 24" wide cage is good but could be better if it were 36". Since you're building it from scratch you have more freedom with what size you can make.

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  18. Hello! I'm completely in love with your setup! I'd love to know how you hung the pothos without a pot showing? It's gorgeous like lush green waterfall.

    Thank you!

    -vanessa

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    1. I was just lucky that I found these amazing, thick and long pothos plants from a small local nursery. They're cheaper and 3x as big as anything you can usually find at a Home Depot! Plus the pots they come in are dark green, so they sort of disappear.

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  19. Hello Olimpia...just a quick question...Have you ever had any issues with a panther Cham eating the fake leaves. I have a Pothos in with him but he is trying to eat the fake leaves.
    I swear this little guy will be the death of me.

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  20. Hello:)
    I saw you covered recommended plants, I was wondering if you could add succulents like aloe as well- just to change texture a bit? Would that not be recommended? Thank you!

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  21. Hi, I am in the process of buying all my items to set up a habitat before I bring my first veiled chameleon home. I was shopping the plant section at Home Depot and every plant that is good for a chameleon had a pesticide tag on it that it had been treated with Neonicotinoids. What do I do about this? Is it harmful for chameleons? Will it eventually just wear off the plant? Do I need to repot the plants in new soil? I purchased two Devil's Ivy plants and would like to be able to use them. I'm no expert on pesticides but the idea scares me. What do you think?

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    1. Hi Carrie,

      Unfortunately we nowadays everything is covered in pesticides. It's a good idea to wash the plant first and repot with new soil. The good thing about devil's ivy is that it's a tough plant, so you can really do a lot to it and the plant will still be healthy! Some people even spray down the leaves with water mixed with those veggie washing tablets (or a little bit of Dawn dish soap), and then rinse with water.

      Insecticides like that do only have a certain "shelf life" before they denature or fade off the plant, so they will not be on the plant forever as well. Neonicotinoids affect the nervous system in bugs, so your chameleon is too big to be affected in the same way by these chemicals but I understand your worry, I wouldn't want mine living 24/7 surrounded by them either.

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    2. Thanks so much for your reply! I'll follow your recommendations. I can't wait to bring my first little guy home.

      Keep up the great work on the blog. It's an excellent source for me, at least.

      Delete
  22. How did you get your branches to stay? I am having a hard time stabilizing all the branches and vines

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    Replies
    1. How do you mean, stabilize? I use thumb-tacs and push-pins through the screen of the cage to suspend branches horizontally and I use thin zip-ties or fishing line to tie two together and make a sturdier walkway.

      Delete
  23. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Saba - candari.s@gmailSeptember 28, 2015 at 5:27 PM

    Hello! I am a new owner of a panther as well as a beginner. I am however being coached by people that have been reptile owners and lovers for a long time. Today is the first day my panther has been home alone and I cant help but sit here worried that hes not getting enough water. I didnt mist (buying that today) however I do have a dropper and I did make sure the plastic leaves had water on them (getting real plants soon). My question is how much or at what rate should the dropper be dripping? I have seen him climb up to the hose of the dropper and suck water out, is that a sign that there isnt enough water? He is a pretty active little guy and has no problem eating from my hand but so far I have let him eat by my hand as well as catching his own in the cage. I have read a lot of your stuff and have tried to follow a lot of the tips in getting him setup.Sorry I know my thoughts here are a little scattered, just want him to be safe and happy.

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  25. Hi! I love your blog and it has helped me research alot. I was just wondering about the average weight of a screen chameleon cage. I'm trying to find a table to place it on, but alot of them have a 50 pound weight limit. I just wanted to know your thoughts on the subject. Thanks alot, Mike.

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    Replies
    1. Screen cages themselves are super light, I don't think the 4' x 2' x 2' ones weighs more than 10lbs or so, it's very easy to move them around. What will weigh more are the plants and things you put inside the cage itself. But if you use only two big, bushy plants and vines then I think you would still be under the 40-50lb limit.

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  26. Hi! I love your blog and it has helped me research alot. I was just wondering about the average weight of a screen chameleon cage. I'm trying to find a table to place it on, but alot of them have a 50 pound weight limit. I just wanted to know your thoughts on the subject. Thanks alot, Mike.

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  27. Olimpia!!! You are a wealth of knowledge and I am so grateful to you for sharing!!! I have a Veiled Chameleon named Yemen. I'm so excited because I just purchased a huge screened enclosure for her upgraded habitat and I've been trying to find resources with information on how to optimally set it up... I have to look no further!! Thank you thank you thank you!!!

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  28. Hello,

    I'm looking to own my first Panther cham but want to wait a couple of months until I know more through my research. My main question is regarding the cage. Is there a big difference between Screen cages and a Glass one? I live in the UK and it can get rather cold.

    Hope to hear from you soon!
    Holly :)

    ReplyDelete
  29. Could you take pics of the sides and back? I am confused as to how you have the branches held up?

    Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  30. Hi, I was wondering what type of plants/trees you used in the 4th and 5th picture. I cant find them anywhere and knowing the name of them would help me so much! Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, that vine plant is called either a [golden] pothos or a devil's ivy, depending on where you go. But they are both the same thing (Epipremnum aureum), they are extremely hardy plants, do well in low-ish light and high-water conditions, making them perfect for a chameleon cage. They grow quickly in good light, too, so if you have one under the cage lamps they can really take off in growth. I tend to find the biggest ones for the best price at independent nurseries, the ones at places like Home Depot or Lowe's tend to be overpriced.

      They are a little toxic if you ingest high amounts of them, but you'd have to eat so much that in general the chameleon community feels these are great plants.

      Delete
  31. The Pothos and Devil's ivy don't look like the ones in the picture? I'm looking at the one with all the small branches for the baby chams. The Pothos/Devils Ivy look more green with no twigs. Where do you get the sticks for the cages?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ah, sorry, I must be looking at the wrong photo. The baby cage on the right is using umbrella plant, Shefflera arboricola. Sometimes you can find the very small ones in nurseries as well or large ones big enough for adult cages. These plants also do very well. The cage beside it has varrigated pothos (baby plants as well) and both have a couple orchid species, but I couldn't tell you which ones.

      The branches were all cut from outside. I personally don't disinfect my branches, I just rinse with water, check for bugs, and place them in the cage.

      Delete
  32. My Chameleon keeps getting Respiratory infections, I've tried looking up ways to keep him from getting sick and the only thing I have found is to keep his humidity extra high. What are some ways I can keep his cage extra moist? I had a fogger but it suddenly broke. (It was really random). I have natural plants and moss in his cage, I spray a few times a day but his humidity is really hard to keep up. Please help, he's not his beautiful bright green anymore! :(

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm sorry to hear that! The first thing I would say is to actually do the opposite, I would NOT want to keep the humidity at 90% every moment of the day. That will also lead to other issues, like skin sores and other issues that come from being too wet all the time. I would shoot for a high of 70-80% but let it drop and dry out in between mistings. It's healthy for them to have periods of humidity and periods of more dryness.

      Next, I would ask you what your temperatures are in the cage. Keeping it too cold might be making him susceptible to infections. And if all of that is ok, I would ask if you're gutloading (feeding) his insects a healthy diet and supplementing him with calcium and vitamins, and how often. Nutrition plays an enormous role in health, obviously, so keeping his diet good will help his over-all health and let him fight off infections better.

      Delete
    2. His temperature fluctuates from 80-90 degrees and about 60-70 at night. And I mostly feed him crickets, he wont eat meal worms or basically anything but crickets, and I get the, covered in calcium when I purchase them. should I buy him vitamins? if so which kind do you prefer?

      Delete
    3. 80-90°F is OK, but make sure the rest of the cage is cooler, closer to 75° towards the bottom so he can regulate his body temperature.

      As far as feeding, since I'm at work and can't write up something very long on keeping insects and supplementing, check out these blog entries and if you still have questions feel free to ask them:

      http://www.muchadoaboutchameleons.com/2014/07/the-anatomy-of-gut-loading-ingredients.html
      http://www.muchadoaboutchameleons.com/2013/06/how-to-keep-feeder-insects.html

      For supplements, I buy a phosphorous-FREE calicum without any vitamins and then a mltivitatim. The reason I don't buy anything with phosphorous and try to avoid calcium with vitamin D in it is explained here: http://www.muchadoaboutchameleons.com/2012/03/chameleon-physiology-supplements.html

      Delete
    4. Thank you so much! :)

      Delete
  33. Hello, hope all is well!
    I saw your comment above, "Glass terrariums/vivariums (not to be confused with aquariums)".
    Are aquariums okay to use as a "cage" or are they discouraged?

    Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Alison! As a general rule, yes, they are discouraged just because it's hard to keep a good environment going in one for a chameleon and most new keepers may not do it properly. Chameleons have that sweet spot between needing high humidity and good ventilation, and getting good airflow can be hard in a cage that only has mesh on the top. Also, it's harder to reach a chameleon from above without scaring them, so in that regard they can be an inconvenience.

      The good thing about terrariums like those made by ExoTerra or Glasscages.com is that they have mesh tops, and usually some form of ventilation along the bottom-front and front-opening doors, so the air is constantly moving around in a cage like that and you have the convenience of being able to reach into the cage much better.

      So it's not a hard no, but there are easier cage types to use, I think!

      Delete
    2. Ok thank you! I'm glad I asked because I was going to buy an aquarium on a nice wooden stand next week from someone on Craig's list. I like it because it has a nice wooden top on it so it would look all uniform. :)
      I will look on those sites you mentioned.
      Thank you again!

      Delete
  34. Hi Olimpia. I've been researching for a couple months now on getting a pet cham. I've read a little more than half of your blog so far and have to say, like everyone else, how amazing your information has been. I'm about to start building my enclosure. Going to make it fully automated and ordered a mistking last night. I live in upstate New York and am concerned with the temperatures so I'd like to go with glass but have read in a few different places that this may not be ideal. On a site that seemed pretty reputable, they stated that recently it's been found that the reason is that seeing their reflection constantly, can cause a lot of unwanted stress. I was wondering what your thought on this was? Also was wondering if would be okay for me to email you for other help getting started?

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for the kind words about the blog! There definitely is a lot of varying opinions about glass terrariums but in my personal opinion I think they are a great option depending on your conditions. Cages built like the Exoterra ones, with the air vents on the door are great because the air gets drawn in from the bottom and rises out the top, thus creating a constant air flow through the cage. The humidity and temps will stay much more stable but there is definitely air moving. It’s not like using a big aquarium, where air will stay much more stagnant and could potentially lead to issues with respiratory infections, or whatnot. Glass cages are the standard in a lot of very cold countries, like the UK or Germany.

      Regarding the reflections, it amuses me that people spread that notion without offering the super simple solution to that problem. Light! Glass is glass, and the glass in your cage will work the same way as the glass in your house windows. If there is more light on the outside then you can never see yourself reflected, but if it’s dark outside and light inside then you see yourself. Unless you keep the chameleon cage in a dark basement or live with blackout curtains like a vampire, the window light in a normal home should be bright enough so that the chameleon can’t see himself at all. That, and making sure the cage is densely packed with plants, I don’t think reflections should be a problem. I think it’s a problem that has very simple solutions, so it’s not a concern big enough (for me) to not consider glass cages a good option for some people.

      Yes, definitely feel free to email me at Olimpia515@gmail.com if you need anything else.

      Delete
    2. Awesome! I can't believe I didn't think of that. That's a good point. Thank you very much!

      Delete
  35. Hi there. I am a new Cham owner and I'm hoping for some creative ideas around getting them water. I've got a great set up of plastic plants that are plastic and cascade well, and hold small bits of water well when I give them a good spray down, but I hate for her to have to wait for me to get water. I want to set up a dripping system for her, but she's in a mesh cage and I can't find a way to get the drips to go in the tank and not pile up on top of it. The holes in the mesh are so small that I can't fit the tube in them, and unlike the metal screen tops for cages, I'm confident if I cut this it will wreck the cage. I'm hoping someone else has a creative idea that they use and can share.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, sorry for the delay in answering! Do you have one of those Reptarium cages with the thicker plastic mesh? I’ve never had one of those but I’m sure there’s a way to get the water to cross the mesh more easily. I wonder if it’s possible to get something fine, like a needle or a thumbtack and gently stretch one of the holes in the mesh? You wouldn’t have to cut it, but if you work the needle around in a circle you might be able to create that one larger mesh hole that lets water drip through more easily. Besides that, I’m not sure! If you want, email me a photo of what the top of the cage looks like and I’ll see if I can think of anything else. (Olimpia515@gmail.com)

      Kind regards,
      Olimpia

      Delete
  36. I am thinking of getting a chameleon as I have geckos and would now like something to add to the collection. This may sound like a stupid question but does the basking light need to be on all day/night? My geckos have heat mats so not used to basking reptiles, thanks

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    Replies
    1. Not stupid at all. You only need a basking light on during the day; chameleons need full darkness to sleep and it is good for their metabolism to get a break during the night and cool off. Some pet stores will try to sell you a nighttime bulb (something like a black light or a red light) but it's totally unnecessary. Unless your home gets below 50-55°F at night there is no need to add extra heat to a chameleon's cage at night, and the colors of those bulbs will keep them up at night (since they have such great color vision.)

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    2. During the winter it may get cold in my place like that, I have RF ceramic heat (no light ) fixture to keep the area very warm, but during the summer when my place is never any colder than 70 at best, or 78 at the most.... a night time warmer of any kind?

      Delete
    3. Nope, chameleons actually do well with a night-time temperature drop. For babies it’s best to keep it above 65F but adult chameleons can go down to 50F at night without any problems as long as they can warm back up in the morning. Some species actually need this kind of cool-down at night more, like cool-weather chameleons such as Jackson’s. So it doesn’t HAVE to come down that much at night but it just means that you don’t have to worry if your house/room cools off at night during the seasons.

      Delete
    4. I'll receiving a baby Ambilobe Panther Chameleon. Lil over 2 finger widths long. So this is in fact why I needed to know.

      Delete
    5. I didn't see pictures or details exactly... but how to you properly attach the plants to the logs or sticks within the cage? I want to mimic your setup as best as I can. I didn't see the 2x2 or 2x4 (or however big it is) log or block you had across the cage...but... I'm assuming its dead center of the top of the cage? and (even though I can't yet figure out how...) you attach your line from there to the pot of the plant.... and then.... whats left to attach to the branches? I'm just really struggling to figure that out and rather not mess it all up with trial and errors cause I'll have a tiny lil baby to attend to with this cage.

      Delete
    6. Tim,
      Inside the cage I like to use fishing line a lot. It's clear, so it makes tying a plant to a branch or securing two branches together easy and discrete. The wood across the top of the cage is just a normal long bar of wood you can get at any home improvement store, I cut it to be 24" wide and it has to rest ON the frame of the cage. It doesn't have to be dead center but the two ends of the wood have to be resting on the cage frame to distribute the weight of the plant. Don't have the wood sitting directly on the screen, for example. And then I tied 3 strings from that wood bar to the pot of the plant, so the plant is hanging. I will try to make a tutorial about this in more detail.

      Delete
  37. Great blog! Where did you get the cages the pair of panther chameleons are in (shown above in your post)? That's exactly what I'm looking for.

    Mary

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    Replies
    1. Hi Mary, thank you! Those are from LLLReptile.com, it's their own brand screen cage (so, not brand Reptibreeze, Reptarium, or anything like that) in silver. The photos usually show them in the black, but there's a drop-down option to buy them in silver or black. These are the 4' x 2' x 2' cages. The bottom flap swings open for quick and easy floor cleaning without having to open up the big front door.

      Delete
  38. Hi i have a very large fish tank and I was going to set it up for chameleons but from reading this i get the idea that this is not suitable could you please let me know if i can or am i better off buying a different set up.

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    Replies
    1. Hi! Generally a fish tank is not great for chameleons for a few reasons, one being that they usually aren't very high and chameleons light height. You could potentially raise baby chameleons in an aquarium but for anything older than 1-2 months of age I would recommend a different cage. It can still be glass if you prefer it, but tanks made by ExoTerra, for example, will be much better for chameleons. Screen cages are usually cheaper, bigger, lighter, and the more popular choice for chameleons.

      Delete
  39. Hi! I was wondering if you could possibly help me out? I recently picked up some plants for my veiled's cage from Petco in the reptile section. They were only labeled tropical terrarium. Can I assume that they're safe for her, or should I remove them ASAP??

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    Replies
    1. Hi! Are these live plants? I would assume they are safe, whether they are real or plastic. If they are plastic I would still wash them off just in case they are dusty/dirty from sitting on a shelf but they are fine as long as you see that your chameleon doesn’t start eating the fake leaves or something!

      Delete
    2. First of all, thanks a ton for responding so quickly. You're blog is so informative and has been a tremendous asset to my research for my first chameleon. Yes, they are live plants! I just didn't know if because they were found in the reptile section, maybe they're safe for most reptiles but by some chance toxic to chameleons. Even though the leaves aren't that sturdy, she often climbs down them to or uses them to get to her crickets.

      Delete
    3. You're very welcome! Thank you for the kind words. If you ever need more plants you can usually pick them up at local nurseries for less than at the big chain stores; plants like umbrella plants (schefflera arboricola), devil's ivy (pothos/golden pothos/verigated pothos, etc.), and even ficus (ficus benjamina) are all pretty good plants for cages. And they shouldn't cost you more than $10-15 for a good sized one.

      Delete
  40. I love your advice everything is perfect for my on the way veiled chameleon i just have a a few quick questions. If my chameleon has a dripper will it also need a mister, can it live without humidity but a good water source. what is recommended for bottom of the cage, can i use products like spic and span to clean the cage? also i have a cold house should i put a blanket at night when it gets colder or should i put him outside? can i feed crickets their nutritious vitamins so my chameleon can have a healthier diet

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Sidney,

      - Yes, even if your chameleon has a dripper they still need the benefits of misting. It doesn’t have to be with a misting system but you should still spray down the cage at least 2-4 times a day so that he has a chance to experience more humidity, wash out his eyes if he needs to, and drink extra. Spikes in humidity are good for their skin, it keeps it from drying out too much.

      - On the floor of the cage you can use whatever you find easier, I personally just leave the plastic bare but you can use shelf liners, paper towels, a sheet of rubber, etc. Whatever you find easy to clean and your chameleon cannot eat.

      - You could, I would make sure to rinse the cage well with water after using any chemicals and make sure it air dries before he goes back inside.

      - How cold is cold? Chameleons can tolerate temperatures down to 60-65 as babies and down to 50 as adults. So your chameleon is ok at night if the temperature drops as long as his lights click on in the morning to warm up like usual.

      - You can feed the crickets high quality commercial food (examples like Repashy Superload or Bug Burger, Cricket Crack, DinoFuel, etc.) along with fruits and veggies and that will make sure your crickets are as nutritious as possible. If you feed them just the vitamin supplement powder that won’t usually work, crickets won’t eat the powder because it doesn’t taste like food.

      Let me know if you need anything else!

      Delete
  41. Love your blog! It's been extremely helpful for me setting up to becoming a first time panther owner! Just a quick enclosure question: I live in Colorado and want to make sure I set up a safe and stable environment for my little panther. I'm torn between a glass cage and a screen one. I want his enclosure to be stable heat and humidity-wise- glass is better for that, but I also have heard that males can become very stressed in glass enclosures because they see their reflections as threatening males. Do you have some possible hybrid enclosure advice or do you think screen is still ok despite my native climate?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for the kind words! That reflection thing is true, but I think it has a really simple solution; glass cages work the same way as your glass home windows, if it is dark outside but light inside you will see your own reflection. If there’s more light on the other side, you won’t. I find that if your glass cage is in a normal, bright room the ambient light will be enough to not create any reflections. Also, keeping the cage filled in with plants will definitely help as well.

      That said, if you’re looking for something a little in-between, Dragon Strand cages are a really good option. They are half acrylic and half screen, so you get the best of both worlds but without the weight of glass. So it’s up to you, I think a cage that is mostly enclosed (whether it’s a Dragon Strand or a glass Exo Terra) will work really well in Colorado, particularly during your winters! Let me know if you need anything else!

      Delete
  42. Hi Olimpia, I am 10 years old and I want to get a male Panther chameleon in about 2 1/2 to 3 months and I don't know if I should use a dripper or a misting system, my budget is about $75 to $100 and I am going to build one of your DIY cages because everything else is in my budget enough, and I want to have some wiggle room just in case I forget to get something. P.S. I am saving up for my chameleon after I get all of the

    ReplyDelete
  43. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  44. Hello! I am SO happy I found your blog. Years later after this posted, I still have questions. What are some common plants easily found that can be put inside the cage?

    ReplyDelete
  45. Thanks for sharing such a informative content with users about Animal Cages. To get more details visit our website.

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