DIY & Other Money-Saving Tips

Tuesday, April 9, 2013
I've always said that by knowing a few tricks you could end up saving a lot of money, money that can be better put towards other things instead of spending it on overpriced merchandise at a pet store. Below are my best tips and suggestions on how to save a little money while still taking great care of your pet reptile (because this is still an expensive hobby!)

This is supplemental to this blog entry: Average Cost of Owning A Chameleon
And for things I cannot live without, regardless of money: My Favorite Reptile Products


Always check places like,, or even your local classifieds (like for supplies before going to your local pet store. Often reptile supplies like cages and supplies will cost much less, even after shipping, than at a pet store. And people often sell gently used supplies for very little that you can disinfectant and use. Definitely disinfectant things like used cages and cage decor, so your pets don't pick up parasites or other undesirables.


Things like light fixtures, normal heat bulbs (not UVB bulbs), and other supplies can be found at home improvement stores like Home Depot or Lowe's, and even cheaper places like Walmart. A fixture does not have to be reptile-specific, and you can buy an 18" fluorescent bulb fixture from one of these places for $10, instead of spending at least $30 at a pet store for a "special" fixture. It's a lie, they don't do anything that a Walmart fixture can't do. And heat bulbs (not UVB bulbs) meant just to provide a basking spot can also be purchased from here, just find the wattage you need to provide the basking spot you need. Halogen bulbs will last a lot longer but you can also buy a multi pack of normal incandescent bulbs for $6 and replace as needed. Still way cheaper than paying $7-20 for a single "reptile specific" incandescent basking bulb at a pet store. Additionally, unless your home gets very cold (under 60°F on average) you do not need a red night-time bulb, especially not for chameleons. Most reptiles do well with a night-time drop in temperature and will not be harmed if their tank drops into the 70's or lower, and some reptiles can see the red light and will not be able to sleep. It's just another ploy to get you to spend money (like all the lights below).
Some examples of common pet store bulbs that you do NOT have to buy. Unless it is a UVB bulb, you do not need to spend more money on a reptile specific bulb. Also, they will trick you by saying they output UVA, which is not as important as UVB and a normal incandescent will also produce it. Also, stay away from bulbs with strange colors, they are unnatural. 

Instead of spending lots of money on certain projects, see if you can make them at home. For example, a water dripper at a pet store will retail for $10 or more, when you can make it at home for the price of a 1 gallon container of water or milk. Or any container that you can make tiny holes into with a needle. For my outdoor cages I use washed gallon jugs with several tiny needle holes on one side and a single air hole on the opposite side. A gallon will drip (depending on the number of holes and their size) for a long while, if not hours, and it costs about $3. Additionally, if you are a handy person you can look into building your own cages, either out of wood or PVC pipe and save money that way. As long as the chameleon's needs are met there is no reason you could not make your own cage if you are capable of doing so. You might be able to build a cage for half of what it costs to build a flimsy screen cage or a small glass terrarium. If you want to make an enclosed cage, acrylic plastic will be much cheaper than glass but look just as good.


Seriously, this will save you so much money! You might pay as much as 14-20 cents for a single cricket at a pet store (so a hundred crickets may cost you $14-20!) where as you can buy a bulk amount of crickets for much less. Typically, you can order 1,000 crickets for about $14 (much better, right?) and even with shipping you end up saving. Going to reptile shows will also get you a better deal, as you can save shipping and carry home as many boxes of crickets as you want. And a thousand crickets will last you a while, especially if you don't have very many reptiles. The only thing you need is a big plastic container to keep them in, provide fresh food and water, and you may have food for a month. You can save a lot of money every month by buying bugs in bulk. Also, look into ordering bugs you can breed at home, such as superworms and roaches. This will also save you a lot of money! 

Read more about how to keep insects in your home properly here: Keeping Insects - Chameleon Food


This scares some people, but instead of spending lots of money on an expensive log at the pet store or yards of flimsy fake vines, cut branches from a tree. Stay away from sappy trees but live branches from most trees make excellent, FREE cage decor that are going to hold up very well to humidity and heat, provide stable, study perches, and feel much more natural. And they look SO much better in your cages. If using something from outside scares you, you can always disinfect them in the oven or by soaking them in a hot bath with some bleach, rinse, and let dry outside.

These are live branches, cut from a tree outside. They still look phenomenal in my cages a
year later, no mold, decay, or bugs. Great and better looking alternative to those expensive fake vines. 
Also, I find that plants from a small private nursery are better and cheaper than plants from Home Depot or Lowe's. They are usually bigger, in better health, and cost a little less so your wallet will thank you and you'll be happier with the quality of plants you are getting.

More to come!


  1. Hi Olimpia! Your blog is so amazingly fantastic and all inclusive, it's such a huge help to a beginner like me! I just wanted to ask about something in this entry. You mentioned disinfecting gently used items... How would one safely going about doing this? Which products/methods should I use in order to not harm the little guys? Thanks for your amazing advice! Rock on :)

    1. Thank you Renee! What you use to disenfect will depend on the material, but you could soak a screen cage in a bleach and hot water solution for example, or bake any natural branches for a little while in the oven. With something like bleach, as long as you rinse really well and let it air dry it will be safe for solid, non-porous things like metals or plastic.

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. What types of trees are reptile OK and what aren't?

    1. My favorites because they are relatively hardy and easy to care for are pothos (a.k.a evil's ivy), umbrella plant (schefflera arboricola is the safest species), or the ficus. Another one that chameleons LOVE, especially veileds that enjoy eating flowers and leaves is the hibiscus, but they do not usually do well indoors under low light. So those are best for outdoor cages or if you have 2-3 plants and rotate them between outdoors and the cage.

  4. So many great ideas out there for saving water. Thanks for sharing your ideas!

  5. Great web site. Clean un cluttered and usefull. :) Your aluminum edged vivarium doors and build instructions , supply location and list would be great. Hope to hear from you soon.

  6. Love it. Good website and I love that there is no ads. Some websites have way too much ads.

  7. Hi just curious what chameleon is that in the picture

  8. I am happy to find this post Very useful for me. as it contains lot of information. I Always prefer to read The Quality and glad I found this thing in you post save money

  9. I’m undoubtedly bookmarking this for potential recommendation. It's a very useful article for me. Thank you for letting me know.
    reckless driving in virginia


All material, unless otherwise cited, is copyright to Olimpia Martinotti. Powered by Blogger.

Search This Blog