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How To Setup For Your New Panther Chameleon

by Vincent on November 1, 2011

Introduction to Chameleon Care

Are you setting up for your new panther chameleon? Do you still have questions about what you need? Are you unsure about your current setup? Well you came to the right place. This article will focus on setting up a new home for your panther chameleon. Throughout the article, you will find helpful hints and tips that will save you both time and money!

Chameleon Setup One

Sample Chameleon Setup

Sample Chameleon Setup

Sample Chameleon Setup

What kind of Cage do I need?

The first thing you will need is an all screen cage. Panther chameleons need a screen cage because they require good ventilation. Don’t let anyone tell you different! Stagnant air and constant moisture can get them sick. A well-ventilated cage will dry everything out. The type of screen cage you purchase will depend on your budget and needs. The two most popular cages being used today are aluminum screen cages and Reptariums™. Both are good chameleon cages, and each has its pros and cons. The following is a quick overview and comparison of each:

Reptarium™ Aluminum Cage Winner
Price Very inexpensive, and they come in many sizes. Prices range from $22 to $85 depending on size. Can cost twice as much as Reptariums™ of a comparable size. Reptarium™
Maintenance Can be taken apart completely for cleaning. The material is lightweight and can either be hand washed or machine washed. The bottom of the cage will require a plastic tray. You have the option to buy the Soft Tray from the manufacture of the Reptarium™, or you can make one, using plastic/vinyl that can be purchased from a hardware store. Most come with a solid bottom that can be easily cleaned. Tie
Durability/Construction Light weight, packs away nicely, and has a PVC frame that can be used for attaching vines and other things to. Screen material is prone to being chewed up by crickets. Cup feeding can almost eliminate this problem. The zipper can cause wear on the fabric and seams. High temperature of Heat lamps can melt the material if not placed far enough. Hinged door, hard bottom, and cricket proof screen. Some are prone to corrosion. Heat lamps can be placed directly on top of the cage Aluminum Cage
Accessibility The zipper can be difficult to open and close at times. Hinged door makes very easy opening and closing of the cage Aluminum Cage
Mobility Very lightweight, and can be moved outdoors with very little effort. Some larger cages are difficult to move out doors. Adult cages of 2X2X4 are fairly difficult to move in and out. Reptarium™
Visibility The cage material is dark making visibility low. Screen material is easy to see through. Aluminum Cage

Reptarium

Reptarium

Aluminum Cage

Aluminum Cage

The two cages are both better than a glass tank, which is not recommended to house most chameleons in. For panther chameleons, they should be avoided completely.

Hints and Tips on Cages:

  1. Do not use any medium/bedding on the bottom of the chameleon cage.
  2. If you decide to put something at the bottom, you can place paper towels on the bottom of the cage to collect waste and excess water. Be sure to replace it frequently as need. (it should be replaced at a minimum of once a week)
  3. Keep the cage DRY and CLEAN

What size cage should I get?

The size of the cage will depend on the panther chameleon’s age and sex. At 3 months old, a 20”x18”x12” or similar sized screen cage will be fine for a male or female (see video here). As they grow and mature you will need to upgrade to a bigger cage. An adult female will need at minimum an 18”x18”x36” screen cage or larger. An adult male will need at minimum a 24”x24”x48” screen cage or larger.  The following table will help you choose the appropriate size cage for your chameleon.

Cage sizing chart

Age Reptarium Aluminum Screen Cage
0-9 months 22 Gallon 20″x18″x12″
6-12 months 38 Gallon 36″x18″x18″
12+ months 100+ Gallon 48″x24″x24″

For chameleons 0-9 months old, do not deviate from the recommended cage size. If you are starting from scratch, we highly recommend that you consider ordering our setup kit. However, for chameleons 18 months and up, the rule of thumb is to give them the largest enclosure you can afford.

How do I furnish my chameleon’s cage?

Now the fun part! Your chameleon will need a few things to make it happy. Let’s start with the plants.

Chameleon Safe Plants

Chameleon Safe Plants

The most commonly used plants for chameleon cages is the ficus tree, umbrella tree, and pothos. All three are safe to use. They can be found at your local hardware/garden/nursery store. The pothos and umbrella tree are quite hardy. The ficus tree, on the other hand, can be a little tricky at times. The number of plants you use will depend on the size of the cage. You have to consider that the more plants you have, the more you will have to clean.

Hints and Tips on Vines and Branches:

  1. Arrange your branches diagonally. This makes cleaning easier. At 6 minutes and 42 seconds into this video, you’ll see exactly how to do this.
  2. To attach artificial vines to the cage you can use small black UV resistant zip ties. These can be found at your locale hardware store in the electrical department. The zip ties will fit through any of the common cage screens.
  3. If you are using a Reptarium™ use the frame to your advantage, and attach the vines to it.
  4. Before you use any branches that have been collected outdoors, YOU MUST TREAT THEM FIRST! The easiest way is to bake them at 350F for 30 minutes. This works fine for smaller branches. If you have a larger branch that will not fit in the oven, then do the following: Fill a 32 gallon trash can with water add a 1 cup of bleach. Allow the branch to soak completely over night. Remove the branch and spray it off with the hose. Allow the branch to dry completely before placing it in the cage.
  5. Always wash and re-pot any plants that are purchased from the store. Most plants are sprayed with pesticides so make sure you wash them with a light detergent and rinse them. It is also a good idea to re-pot the plant with fertilizer-free soil. An alternative to re-potting the plant is to place large landscaping stones over the soil. Panther chameleons are notorious for eating both plants and soil.
Vines and Branches

Vines and Branches

Whether you use artificial branches and vines, or the real thing, you will need at least three pieces. One closer to the basking area, one in the middle, and one at the lower end of the cage. The important thing is to provide different temperature levels in the cage to allow the chameleon to thermo regulate. Keep in mind that you should use at least 3 pieces. The more the merrier. Panther chameleons are cold-blooded, which means they cannot generate their own body heat. In order to regulate their body temperature, they either move closer to, or away from a heat source.

What kind of lights do chameleons need?

Now let’s focus on providing the appropriate lighting and heating for your chameleon. Chameleons need two simple things with regard to heating and lighting. The first is a basking bulb to provide a heat source. The second is a UVB light source to help your chameleon produce the proper amount of D3. The following table outlines the various options you have for setting up a light and heat system:

Advantage Disadvantage
OPTION 1: 60w basking bulb and a small light dome for heat + fluorescent light fixture and a Zoomed® Reptisun™ 5.0 UVB fluorescent bulb. (Included with our Ultimate Setup Kit) This setup is ideal for juvenile chameleons. The combo has proven to raise healthy chameleons consistently. UVB will only penetrate a maximum distance of 12 inches. More equipment on top of cage.
OPTION 2: Is to use a single mercury vapor (MV) bulb. MV bulbs contain UVB/UVA/heat all in one bulb. They require a 10” dome with a ceramic socket to handle the heat and spread the light out. We currently use one made by Zoomed® called the Powersun™. Good for larger enclosures. The bulb can penetrate up to 6 feet deep. Less clutter on top of the cage. All-in-one bulb. Can get very hot. Never appropriate for juveniles.  This should not be used with cages shorter than 48″.

WARNING. THERE ARE TWO REPTISUN BULBS. MAKE SURE YOU GET THE 5.0. THE 10.0 SHOULD BE AVOIDED.

Chameleon Lighting

Reptisun 5.0

Powersun Bulb and Ceramic Heat Dome

Powersun Bulb and Ceramic Heat Dome

Some Hints and Tips on Lighting/Heating

  1. If you are on a budget, you can use a regular 60w clear light bulb as a basking bulb.
  2. In extreme cold or heat you can change the wattage of the basking bulb to increase the temperature. You can also adjust the basking temperature by raising or lowering the basking bulb from the basking site.
  3. If you are buying a young chameleon, more than likely you will need to upgrade the cage size at a later date. Buy a 24” fluorescent bulb and fixture. When you upgrade the size of the cage, you won’t have to buy another bulb and fixture. At least not another fixture. Be sure you replace your bulbs frequently.
  4. Watch out for burning your plants! Make sure the bulb is not too close to any plants.
  5. Change your Reptisun 5.0 annually.

The basking lamp should be placed in the top corner of the cage. Place some vines and branches about 6 – 10 inches under the bulb. For smaller enclosures and  a lower watt bulb, place the branches 3-5 inches from the bulb. Your chameleon will suffer thermal burns if he/she gets too close to the basking light. Place the fluorescent bulb along the top of the cage. Remember, the fluorescent bulbs are only effective up to 12 inches. Make sure your chameleon can get close enough to the bulb to absorb the bulb’s UVB.

Never put a chameleon in a cage without first checking the temperature of his/her new enclosure. You will want to check the temperature of the basing spot with a thermometer, as well as various sections of the cage. Make sure you are providing a range of temperatures throughout the cage. A digital thermometer is recommended for an accurate reading. The following table outlines the appropriate temperature for panther chameleons.

Temperature Ranges

Cage Area Temp
Basking area 85ºF – 90ºF
Daytime (ambient) 75ºF – 85ºF
Nighttime (ambient) 65ºF – 75ºF

 

How do I water my chameleon?

Chameleons will not drink standing water. They will only lick water drops from leaves. To simulate this in captivity we use a dripper, which can be as simple as a small cup with a hole in the bottom, or as elaborate as a store bought dripper. The BEST method is an automatic misting system.

Drippers

The least expensive device is the dripper. A dripper works by slowly dripping water over plants, which creates movement. The chameleon is attracted to this as it simulates rain-drops. Drippers should only drip water for a 20 minute duration, 3 times a day. Many people make the mistake of letting it drip all day long, which floods the cage. This can get the chameleon sick.

The placement of the dripper is very important. Place the dripper over a plant with heavy foliage like a pothos, ficus or an Umbrella tree. Make sure that your chameleon can drink from the leaves. You will also want to place a small bowl or pot saucer on the bottom of the cage to collect the excess water. Be careful that the water level in the collection bowl does not get too deep, as it can drown your chameleon.

Spray Bottles

Regardless of what type of watering device you decide to use, you should also supplement watering with a spray bottle. These can be purchased at your local hardware store for a few dollars. It is important to mist your cage and plants at least 3 times per day. This will help keep the humidity level up, and give your chameleon a chance to drink. Do not mist the chameleon directly. Spraying water directly on a chameleon will cause him/her stress, and can even get them sick.

Automatic Misting System

This is by far the best way to hydrate a chameleon.  They solve many problems associated with drippers.  Since writing our first caresheets, many new products have hit the shelves.  Misting-system prices range from $59 to $159.  They offer the benefit of hands-free watering.  The biggest advantage is that a misting system can prevent many health problems associated with over and under watering.  We strongly recommend that you invest in one if your budget permits.

Tip: Many high-end misting systems come with digital timers.  The problem is that these timer have a minimum duration of 1 minute.  This can also lead to over watering.  To correct this, there are timers that have a minimum duration of 1 second.  Ideally, you should mist for 30 seconds, 4 times a day.

Conclusion

If you are starting from scratch, we highly recommend that you pick up our Ultimate Setup Kit. It takes the guess-work out of chameleon care, and ensure that you have everything.  We even give you a 30 Day Health Guarantee if purchased with a chameleon.

Now that you know how to setup your chameleon’s new home, it would be wise to setup the cage a few days before you are expecting him/her. This will allow you to make adjustments, and make sure that everything is working properly. It is very stressful for a chameleon to be bothered during his first few weeks in his/her new home. Try to minimize the stress by getting everything setup in advance.

{ … read them below or add one }

Brandon Richardson November 11, 2011 at 1:52 am

Hello :)
I recently purchased, and recieved your guys’ ultimate kit on Nov. 10, 2011.
I was wondering just a few things.
First, what is the best material to use for the bottom of this cage?
Also, it seems like the basking light is a little too small, I thought it would be bigger. I believe it might be 5″ or 6″.
Second, I was never told when i would be receiving the actual baby girl chameleon that I purchased from you guys. Im very curious, especially since I want to have a very inviting habitat for her. Plus I still don’t know the things listed in this email. I’ve searched throughout the internet and I couldn’t find much, maybe im looking in the wrong places, but I thought it best to contact you guys. Im SUPER excited to get my new friend, whenever that may be…
Also, if there is an exceptional website you guys could direct me to, to inform me more on gut-loading, i’m still very nervous about that whole aspect but still, very excited.
I look forward to hearing from you guys very soon!

Reply

admin November 13, 2011 at 11:04 am

The best material to put at the bottom is a paper towel. Do not use substrate or you will risk impaction. The basking bulb is perfectly sized for that setup. Is there any particular reason why you want a larger dome?

Please contact us at info@screameleons.com for questions regarding the chameleon you ordered.

For gut-loading info, please read our Learn section.

Reply

Brandon Richardson November 11, 2011 at 2:01 am

P.S.!!!!
I am also very unsure about what times I should have on, or off for the timer that was included in the kit. It is one of those General Electric ones and I have searched quite a bit, but I haven’t found anything to help me. One more thing, I was unsure about where I should put the humidity gauge that was also included in the ultimate kit, It never said in the set-up video, maybe you guys should remake the video, and suggest a proper spot.

Reply

admin November 13, 2011 at 11:02 am

The light cycle is 12 hour on and 12 hours off. The humidity gauge should place away from the lights. Somewhere in the middle will be perfect. You should be able to see where we stuck it on the video though.

Reply

Maddie January 4, 2012 at 9:45 pm

Hey I am also confused. When with the beginners package does the chameleon baby arrive?

Reply

Vincent January 4, 2012 at 9:47 pm

First you’ll get the supplies shipped to you first. Once you put it all together you just give us a call toll-free at 888-486-5552 or email us at info@screameleons.com to arrange the delivery of your baby.

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Maddie January 5, 2012 at 5:33 pm

Thank you :)

Reply

Maddie January 8, 2012 at 6:28 pm

So you never turn off the lights over the cage at night?
I’m just wondering because for Herman our tortoise we turn the lights off at night and it says pretty warm in there still.

Reply

Vincent January 8, 2012 at 8:39 pm

12 hours on and 12 hours off is their light cycle.

Reply

Faye January 23, 2012 at 8:01 pm

Can i house a veiled chameleon in the ultimate set up cage?

Reply

Carol February 16, 2012 at 3:40 pm

Can I put a orchid in with my chameleon?

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Carol February 16, 2012 at 3:42 pm

Is a orchid toxic to a chameleon?

Reply

Vincent February 17, 2012 at 6:59 am

Double check that it isn’t toxic. If you are unsure it is best not to.

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Caleigh March 10, 2012 at 6:56 pm

Hi There,

I have just purchased a Panther Chameleon and was wondering about the light cycle. Once the lights have turned off after their cycle, is it ok to have the lights on in the room that the terrarium is in? Will it affect the chameleon’s sleep cycle if they’re not in complete darkness? Thanks!

Reply

Vincent March 11, 2012 at 12:22 am

Please follow the instructions in the Owners Manual that was sent with your chameleon. The day and night cycle are both 12 hours.

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Erika P April 2, 2012 at 10:37 pm

Can you have your chameleon in a large glass enclosure? I was hoping so because I have a rather cool room and i’m afraid i’d have to really heat up the cage for the cham to be comfortable.

Reply

Vincent April 3, 2012 at 7:53 pm

It’s best to use a screen cage. You can also try two sides of plexiglass if you feel that you are too cool. You want the cage to be well-ventilated.

Reply

Evan May 19, 2012 at 1:43 pm

1)If I were to buy a Powersun single MV bulb for my 48″ cage, How close should the chameleon be allowed to get to the light? Still 6-10 inches? And, is the best placement of the bulb in the top center of the cage?

2)Is the Powersun an optimal choice? Or is the UVA heat bulb and UVB florecent bulb a better choice for a 48″ cage? If so, would the proper wattage of the UVA bulb still be 60w, or do I ned to upgrade the watts because of the size of the cage? Should I also upgrade the UVB florecent to a 10.0?

3) Last question, I never hear anything about a nightbulbs for chameleons. Are those not recomended?

THANK YOU!!

Reply

Farrah May 20, 2012 at 9:26 am

Hi Evan,

The basking temps should be around 85-90 degrees. The PowerSun bulb should be placed in the middle part of the cage. The UVB can penetrate up to 6 ft. down. It’s powerful and it can get real hot so use a large ceramic dome for it.

The PowerSun is great for the large adult cages. You do not need any other UVB bulb. If the temps. at night go below 67 degrees, you can add a night infrared heat bulb to keep the cage warm.

Hope that helps!

Reply

Matthew McCrady January 2, 2013 at 7:10 am

Hello, I have just recently, just this past evening actually, to look into getting a chemeleon as a new addition to our family. I really have been impressed with the amount of information and the ease of finding answers to my many questions on your website!! I started reading from the introduction and followed the natural progression downward thru the various topics i.e. watering, feeding, illness, ect. I just read some of the questions/statements posted by customers and felt I needed to let u know that your website and all critical, pertinent information is clearly and easily obtained. My question to your customers: Were you really not able to find out how long the light should be turned on for?? Do you really think they’d have you purchase a starter kit with a basking light that wasn’t large enough?? Screameleons prides and ensures their babies are healthy and want this transition to be as free of stress as possible, so why would they mail the baby along with the starter kit?? I’ve been on this website reading all their information for maybe 45-50 minutes and I was able to answer all of your questions without reading Screameleons responses. Kinda scares me that if you can’t find these simple answers on your own, you should be getting a hermit crab or goldfish instead of a chameleon. Btw I can’t wait to start saving money so my partner and I can get a baby from you asap. Thanks for the knowledge, it was absorbed fully!!

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