Pro-Tips for Beginners and Planning to Get a Chameleon

First off, if you haven't already heard this, you've got to do lots of research about all aspects of chameleon care before you're really ready to get a chameleon. If you're thinking, "it's okay, I can just get one and figure it out along the way," then you are doing it wrong and you will most likely end up with a sick pet. A whole lot of the forum posts on here are new timers who got a chameleon and need immediate help because something about their care is seriously wrong and their chameleon got sick or isn't behaving normally. Chameleons are advanced pets compared to other types of pets because they have such different needs. Essentially you have to create a mini ecosystem for your chameleon to live in. You'll also have to come up with a system that works for you when it comes to daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly care needs.

Below I'll describe some of my pro-tips for people are getting started, or planning to get a chameleon. I am by no means an expert, this is just a rough list. Ultimately you are responsible for your pet. You will most definitely want to refer to the care sheets on this website. They are excellent.
  • Location: You want to really think about what the climate is like where you live in the world, but also what the climate is like in your home. Maybe certain rooms in your home are better suited for your chameleon setup than others for temperature and humidity reasons. You also have to keep in mind traffic. Most chameleons do better in more private areas, opposed to high traffic areas, for many reasons.
  • Enclosure: Get your enclosure all set up and ready to go before you get your chameleon. You want to make sure that it has plenty of plants, tons of climbing vines and branches that fill the space, install your lights and misting systems, etc. all beforehand. Once it looks right you really want to do what I call "dry runs" before you get your chameleon. What I mean is, make sure your lights/misting systems are working on their timers and test the temperatures and humidity levels in multiple locations in the enclosure at least every hour for at least two days to make sure everything is suited for your chameleon before you get him/her. You will also have to continually monitor these numbers. For example, my setup is in my bedroom that is highly affected by the weather. Therefore if it hasn't rained in many days I have to increase my misting to accommodate for dryer climate. Similarly, temperatures can change especially depending on your lighting situation.
  • Feeders: You need to make sure you have feeders and you have started the gutloading process before you get your chameleon. If you're just getting started, experiment with many types of appropriate feeders for your cham in the beginning, especially as you get better at keeping feeders. I highly recommend making DIY bins for your staple feeders that have excellent ventilation to avoid smells and die-offs. (I've been keeping crickets for months and I swear they do not stink.) Also, if you forget and/or screw up the supplements then your chameleon will get sick. Please don't do that. Come up with a schedule and a system to help you not forget, and stay on top of it.
  • Routine: I think this is one of the most underrated topics because it seems like common sense, but a lot of beginners seem to be clueless about the time required to care for a chameleon (mostly due to lack of research). Whether you are a student, working professional, a combination, or some other lifestyle, everybody has a different daily schedule. You must think about your daily routine and how your chameleon care will fit into it. Don't forget, it's not just about feeding him/her every day. You have to make time to clean the enclosure, empty drainage containers, clean feeder containers, deep clean e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g. (periodically), etc. I recommend setting aside time for unexpected husbandry troubleshooting...more time than other common pets because chameleon care can be trickier than most pets. Also expect to make adjustments as the seasons change.
  • Vets: You need to have a vet that can see your chameleon that you can drive to before you get him/her. This is another common thing beginners post about. Example post: "The nearest reptile vet is 2 hours away and I don't get my paycheck for another 2 weeks." This is almost always an extremely frustrating post to veteran chameleon keepers because it comes across like that person is just making lame excuses, wasn't prepared to care for a chameleon, or isn't willing to care for their chameleon. Either way it is neglect, and if it was a dog or a cat people would be just as outraged, and so just like any pet animal, you need to be prepared for vet visits no matter what, and only then can you hope to never need the vet. Still not a bad idea to take him/her to get checked out initially.
  • Handling: Chameleons' natural instinct is not to trust you. You're much bigger and you slightly resemble a hairless ape (sorry, but from their perspective we do). If you want to handle your chameleon you have to have realistic expectations about how frequently he/she will let you handle him/her as well as what is appropriate. You don't want to keep your chameleon out of the enclosure (and proper environment/husbandry) for too long. You also don't want to stress him/her out too much either. To be able to handle your chameleon you'll have to build trust and establish that you're not a threat. This is done in a lot of different ways. Do your research and try things, but if your chameleon is super dark or almost all black then you've clearly gone too far.
  • Miscellaneous: Around everything (enclosure, feeder keepers, etc.) make sure your feeders aren't able to escape unless you enjoy wasting money and keeping your chameleon hungry. If you are using an automated misting and drainage system make sure your floors are protected from unexpected water leaks or overflow. Have a backup plan for power outages! When the power goes out your chameleon will most likely be fine for short periods of time, but for long periods of time you still need to provide for him/her.
  • Specific to setups in your bedroom: I recommend buying an eye mask for those days you want to sleep in...those lights are nice and bright. Make sure you don't need to turn on your overhead lights when he/she is sleeping (think about routine). Also if you can't sleep with the sound of chirping crickets, then when your cham does get big enough for larger feeders stick to medium crickets and maybe buy other feeders that are bigger. Of course you can keep your cricket bin outside of the same room, but still maybe one cricket gets left behind in the enclosure and is chirping all night. *things to think about*
This list doesn't include everything to get started. I do hope it gives a good start to beginners who maybe don't realize how many details go into keeping a chameleon and some things you want to think about before getting one.

Here are some of the latest pics of my growing boy sleeping. He's been in a different spot every night for a few weeks now, so every night I get to play "where's Pepe?" He's roughly 7 months old, my first chameleon, and I got him when he was 3-4 months old, and so I think I'm doing a pretty good job so far. Feel free to let me know if you think otherwise. :)

:love: One of my favorites.

:rolleyes: Still sleeps on the screen about 40% of the time... not sure if he'll ever grow out of this...

:notworthy: I can only assume this was an attempt to hide from the frequent picture taking lately...although I haven't been waking him up so he's really just being a weirdo chameleon.


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