Chameleons are some of the most popular pet lizards to have because they are quite intelligent and are very appealing to the eyes with their ability to change colors and adapt to their environment. A healthy chameleon also means that you took care of it properly and gave it the right food and the ideal type of cage. That is why there is always something special about providing a good home for your chameleon or any other pet in general.
Building your own chameleon cage instead of going to the store to buy a pre-made terrarium or habitat can be a worthwhile endeavor that will make both you and your pet lizard happy. It is going to be an enjoyable journey on your part because you are not only going to be building a home for your pet, but you are also learning more about what a chameleon needs since you do not want to build just any cage. After all, the cage should be made to fit the needs of your chameleon.
In that regard, there is also a need for you to learn more about what a chameleon is and what are its needs before you start building a dream home for your pet lizard.
Chameleon basic information
Here are some of the things you might need to know about the chameleon before you start building a cage for one:
The chameleon is small to the medium-sized type of lizard that belongs to the Chamaeleonidae family. The size of a chameleon depends on the species as they are usually about an inch to more than two feet long. In some cases and depending on the species of chameleon, males can also be either larger or smaller than their female counterparts.
A physical feature that seems distinct to the chameleon is that its legs are quite slim and long. Meanwhile, each foot ends with claws that look like pincers. The reason as to why the chameleon has long legs and pincer-like feet is to allow it to be able to climb up trees, branches, and other elevated structures easier since this animal is arboreal (tree-dwelling). Even the tail, which is long (almost about as long as the rest of the body) and looped, was made for it to hold on to other structures such as branches (for bigger chameleons) and twigs (for smaller chameleons).
Chameleons have large eyes that tend to protrude out of their eye sockets. And another thing that is amazing yet so weird at the same time is that a chameleon’s eyes can look in different directions at the same time. That means that the right eye can look forward while the left eye can look downwards. The reason for this is to allow the chameleon a wider field of view whenever it is scouting its area for potential prey and threats.
As to their heads, chameleons usually have a crest at the top of their heads. The crest can vary in size, depending on the species of chameleon. Meanwhile, these lizards also have tongues that can extend more than the length of the chameleon’s entire body and are so fast and sticky to allow the reptile to catch a flying insect in an instant. The tongue is also so strong that the chameleon can capture prey that is close to about half its own body weight.
The natural habitat of a chameleon varies depending on the species. Some chameleons like living in deserts, while others prefer to be in tropical rainforests and grasslands. There are also those that live in mountainous forests. Generally, chameleons are arboreal, but there are species that are terrestrial. What can be concluded, however, is that many species of chameleon prefers to stay in warm areas regardless of how wet or dry they are.
Like many species of reptiles, most chameleons are carnivorous animals that will only eat meat-based food. A lot of chameleons, especially the small ones, feed on a wide variety of insects and invertebrates such as crickets, mealworms, super worms, cockroaches, spiders, and moths. However, larger chameleons have a more varied diet that may consist of smaller animals such as birds, mice, or even smaller reptiles.
In your case, try to feed your chameleon with a diet that is as varied as possible. Give it all sorts of different insects and invertebrates such as crickets, wax worms, mealworms, and other similar types of food for chameleons. However, because invertebrates tend to lack calcium, you should never forget to dust the chameleon’s meals with a calcium supplement that can counteract the high phosphorus levels found in most invertebrates.
Another thing to take note of is to make sure that you gut-feed the invertebrates because they usually lack the right number of vitamins and minerals that your chameleon needs. For gut-feeding, try to feed your chameleon’s meal with nutritious vegetables and greens prior to feeding the invertebrates to the reptile. This will allow your chameleon to eat the invertebrates while the vitamins and minerals from the leafy greens are still in their systems.
Behavior and temperament
One of the most common types of behavior observed in chameleons is its ability to camouflage or change its color so that it will blend with its environment. This is regarded as a survival method used by chameleons to escape the eyes of potential threats and predators. Scientists believe that a chameleon’s ability to camouflage depends on environmental conditions such as temperature, lighting, stress, and even mood.
Generally, a chameleon is not aggressive towards its human, especially if it was bred in captivity instead of caught in the wild. They usually come with a calm and good-natured demeanor. However, there are plenty of chameleon species that tend to be shy around people as they perceive them as potential threats to their survival. Nevertheless, most chameleons are safe for handling, especially when they have been used to handling ever since they were young. But a stressed and threatened chameleon may attack you if you try to handle it by force. You can easily tell when a chameleon is stressed as it changes its color to something close to dark brown and black.
While chameleons are not aggressive, they tend to be so against each other because they are quite territorial. A chameleon will not hesitate to attack a fellow chameleon that it belies is encroaching on its territory. As such, it should always be remembered that chameleons are territorial reptiles and should be kept in isolation away from their fellow chameleons.
Cage tips and considerations
- Now that you know more about the chameleon, it is now time for you to know some tips on what kind of cage or habitat you should make for your reptile.
- Chameleons vary in size, and their cage should vary accordingly as well. However, the general consensus is that a chameleon’s cage should at least 2 x 2 feet in terms of dimensions and can be bigger depending on how big the chameleon is. This allows the reptile to have a lot of space it can use for roaming.
- Height is always more important than width when it comes to building a home for your chameleon because these lizards are arboreal or tree-dwelling animals.
- Try to simulate the type of environment the chameleon comes from as much as possible because these reptiles are sensitive and delicate animals that can easily weaken if they live in a home that does not feel natural. Get to know your chameleon first so that you would know what kind of environment to provide it. For example, a chameleon that comes from a desert should be given a home that is similar to a desert in terms of design, temperature, and humidity.
Building the cage
1. Decide what kind of cage you want
The type of cage you want to give your chameleon depends entirely on you and on considerations such as space and availability of supplies. You may want a vivarium, which is a traditional and safe cage for it, or an open room that will allow the chameleon to roam freely. Whatever your decision is, this is where you should start. In this case, however, we will teach you how to make a tubed cage.
2. Gather the materials
The materials you will need to create a tube cage for your chameleon are the following:
- Hardware cloth is about 4.5 feet long. This will serve as the body of the entire cage.
- Wire ties that you would be used to tie the hardware cloth into a tube.
- Two or more plastic water dishes that are commonly used for plants. These will serve as the base of the tube cage.
- Silicone caulking which will secure the hardware cloth on the plastic dishes.
- Roll the hardware cloth into a tube shape that is wide enough that the ends of the tube only overlap one another by about 3 inches.
- Secure the top and bottom ends of the rolled hardware cloth using the wire ties. Use the other wire ties to safely fasten the entire tube.
- Place the tube on top of a plastic water dish and then secure it by using the silicone caulk. Make sure that you are liberal with the silicone so that the base of the tube cage will stay strong for years and years. Expect that you would be replacing the plastic dishes in the future if they wear down.
- After assembling the tube cage, add the desired substrate into the chameleon’s home. The substrate should depend on you and on the species of chameleon you have. You may want to make the substrate as deep as possible if you have a chameleon that likes digging.
- Place sturdy and non-toxic plants that are at least a foot tall inside the cage to serve as climbing spots for your arboreal chameleon.
- Add a light and heat source depending on your choice. Make sure that the light and heat source should never make direct contact with your chameleon, or else it will end up with a nasty burn.
5. Cover with the lid
Get the other plastic water dish and use it as a lid for the tube cage. Do not attach the lid using the silicone caulking because you would need to remove it from time to time in case you want to take your chameleon, feed it, mist the enclosure, or make certain additions to the cage.