Advice please for first chameleon

ds15

Member
I am looking at getting my first chameleon and it will be my first reptile pet. I have been researching chameleon care the past couple months and now I want some input straight from the experienced keepers. I will be setting up my enclosure for a while before getting the chameleon to make sure it's ready and that I have all the necessary supplies and setup.

Decided:
Male Jacksons chameleon
Live plants (pothos for sure, maybe others)
Bare bottom (something like paper towels)
I have a lot of clean branches and sticks to use
No misting system for now, just spray bottle
Full screen cage

Undecided:
1. Is a 18x18x36 big enough?

2. I have seen the enclosure kits, are they any good or do they come with cheap stuff that I will end up wanting to replace? Do most of you use 2 thermometers and a hygrometer?

3. Some places say to take everything out once a month to deep clean. How is this possible with the way a lot of the cages are set up? How deep of a clean do YOU do and how often?

4. Lighting suggestions? Sort of goes back to #2

5. How do YOU keep/store feeder insects or worms and what kinds? I don't want to be making multiple trips a week to the store.

6. Favorite supplements. Gut loading and dusting.

Like I said I have been reading a lot but I want your personal experience. Thanks to anyone who takes the time to read and respond.

Edit: FYI I did read through the "Basic Husbandry" links on this forum.
 
Last edited:

CamrynTheCham22

Avid Member
I have never kept Jacksons, but I do know about some of your equipment questions. As far as the enclosure kits go, the only useful things in the it are the cage, the light fixture (definitely not the bulbs, they are bad quality and burnt out immediately), and maybe the plastic plant addition. I bought on of the kits once and it wasn't a very good buy. I would probably just go and buy the cage alone instead of the kit. Also, screen cages start to lose stability and their sturdiness after a while if you are going to be using the doors and such a lot, and they have absolutely no water proofing (which leads to water damage on the surface it sits on if you don't have any backup) I have experienced it myself and my screen cage right now is on the verge of falling apart. I am definitely going to be investing in a bigger glass enclosure because they are waterproof, keep humidity in, feeders don't escape, stronger, etc. That's another thing screen enclosures have an issues with: if the feeders are small enough, they will absolutely find a way to escape. I am not sure if you were planning on buying a screen cage, but those are just a few things to consider.
As for the meters, it is wise to invest in a digital thermometer and digital hydrometer. The analog ones get miscalibrated very easily, but the digital ones are tougher and more accurate.
For cleaning the cage, I do a deep clean every few months where i take out everything, switch out the plants, hose down and cut the branches, renew my laybin (for my female veiled) and make sure to water all of my plants. I clean out the poop more often, though, just with a wet paper towel or something like that.
I keep my feeders in medium sized storage bins. Right now I have some dubias that I am trying to breed, but the atmosphere where I live is too dry I think. If you put your feeders in a bin with some egg crates and gutload, they should breed if it has good air flow, warmth, and humidity. I order mine from dubiaroaches.com and I get pretty good service.
The best supplements are probably products from Repashy and Repcal, since most of their products do not contain phosphorus. Approximately twice a month dust with D3 calcium, and all the other feedings just dust with regular non-D3 calcium.

I think I have covered some of the bases, and hopefully it helps a bit.
 

ds15

Member
One more question, do any of you feed freeze-dried foods as opposed to live? I have seen that some people say they won't eat them unless they are live, but people say the same thing about some fish that I have, and I have had success transitioning fish to my preferred food (but I still feed them a variety).
 

celeste_knitter

Chameleon Enthusiast
One more question, do any of you feed freeze-dried foods as opposed to live? I have seen that some people say they won't eat them unless they are live, but people say the same thing about some fish that I have, and I have had success transitioning fish to my preferred food (but I still feed them a variety).
You need a variety of live food for chameleons that are properly gut loaded & dusted with a schedule of supplements just prior to feeding. Chameleons will not respond to dead feeders...They need live insects & a variety: dubia or discoid roaches, crickets, superworms, silk worms, horn worms, and bfsl at a min.
 

ds15

Member
What light fixtures do you guys use? I have been looking at lightyourreptiles.com. Do you like UVB bulbs in a longer style like a T5 or a single dome bulb? Any experience with the jungle Dawn plant bulbs? I've seen lots of good reviews.

Update: I am now leaning towards a veiled chameleon and a 2x2x4 screen cage with dragon ledges. Going to make my own drainage system. I like how the ledges allow for keeping the bottom free making cleaning and draining easier.
 

CC's Baby

Avid Member
Thanks for posting this. I am also in the process of purchasing and getting my new first panther chameleon. Been looking at options and I find that DragonStrand tends to offer the best option for cages. I am personally looking to buy the clearside 2x2x4 one but would really like the EXTRA BIG ONE but cannot afford that one to start. Maybe later after I find that I am successful. My biggest concern is the feeders. I like you don't want to have to make a trip to the store all the time but don't want to deal with crickets that are noisy being housed. I am trying to figure out the feeding part and find the best solution, so I will keep checking this post as well for any more good ideas from the experienced keepers on this forum. I hope we both have great luck in these new babies. I am excited about "feeling honored" to have such a gorgeous creature to raise and providing him with the best environment possible. Good luck to you!
 

ds15

Member
Thanks for posting this. I am also in the process of purchasing and getting my new first panther chameleon. Been looking at options and I find that DragonStrand tends to offer the best option for cages. I am personally looking to buy the clearside 2x2x4 one but would really like the EXTRA BIG ONE but cannot afford that one to start. Maybe later after I find that I am successful. My biggest concern is the feeders. I like you don't want to have to make a trip to the store all the time but don't want to deal with crickets that are noisy being housed. I am trying to figure out the feeding part and find the best solution, so I will keep checking this post as well for any more good ideas from the experienced keepers on this forum. I hope we both have great luck in these new babies. I am excited about "feeling honored" to have such a gorgeous creature to raise and providing him with the best environment possible. Good luck to you!
Looking through other threads I have seen your posts and I know you have been researching as much as I have. I actually got in touch with Todd from lightyourreptiles.com and I am going to be talking with him tonight about lighting.

As far as feeders, it seems like dubia roaches are high in nutrition, not noisy, and easy to house long term or even breed. Maybe look into that option. The chams still need variety though. I want to provide the best care possible but I don't want it to be an inconvience if you know what I mean. Because then it makes having a cham a chore instead of fun.

I'll post any updates or questions here, and maybe when I get the cage set up I'll start another thread because I will probably have questions again once everything is set up. Good luck!
 

CC's Baby

Avid Member
Awesome -- Yes, you are one step ahead. I am hoping to also get some advice from Todd on the lighting as well. Sounds like we are both leaning toward the best recommendations. I will follow your post and see what you find out. I am still going back and forth on my cage size at the moment. I am most likely going to buy the Clearside 2x2x4 so if you are talking with Todd about lighting for that size, I will follow your post and see what he says. I am also going back and forth on live plants or a mix of silk and live plants. Have you decided where you are going with that yet?
 

celeste_knitter

Chameleon Enthusiast

ds15

Member
Awesome -- Yes, you are one step ahead. I am hoping to also get some advice from Todd on the lighting as well. Sounds like we are both leaning toward the best recommendations. I will follow your post and see what you find out. I am still going back and forth on my cage size at the moment. I am most likely going to buy the Clearside 2x2x4 so if you are talking with Todd about lighting for that size, I will follow your post and see what he says. I am also going back and forth on live plants or a mix of silk and live plants. Have you decided where you are going with that yet?
Definitely live plants, I'll probably use fake as well until the live plants fill out.
 

CC's Baby

Avid Member
Only the largest crickets make noise. I get my crickets from Ghann's and there is no noise at all - even with the largest ones. Variety is KEY in feeding a chameleon: crickets, dubia (and/or other types of roaches), silk worms, horn worms, BFSL, spikes, etc are all needed in varying amounts to keep your cham healthy. I have a specific "kit" for my crickets that I got here: https://www.armstrongcricket.com/collections/cricket-keeper/products/poly-kit?variant=18042588299347
 

CC's Baby

Avid Member
Only the largest crickets make noise. I get my crickets from Ghann's and there is no noise at all - even with the largest ones. Variety is KEY in feeding a chameleon: crickets, dubia (and/or other types of roaches), silk worms, horn worms, BFSL, spikes, etc are all needed in varying amounts to keep your cham healthy. I have a specific "kit" for my crickets that I got here: https://www.armstrongcricket.com/collections/cricket-keeper/products/poly-kit?variant=18042588299347
That is helpful to know. THanks so much. I will check that out!
 

CC's Baby

Avid Member
Definitely live plants, I'll probably use fake as well until the live plants fill out.
Yeah, I think if I do any live plant, it will be a pothos ivy because I am not allergic to those. Unfortunately, I am allergic to ficus trees as well as poinsettias plants. So I was reading about the soil you have to use and add to the top of the live plants so that the chams do not become poisoned by any fertilizers that may come from the plants original soil and how you have to wash them first several times. I see the importance of it, however, I am not sure where I get that soil replacement yet . Need to go back and refresh on this. That was my other question ---- I guess this is for Todd as well. So the UVB lights , T5 or whatever is for the cham only and the dome light or basking light is a halogen or other? Does the UVB light not help the live plants and/or what additional lights are needed for the plants to survive?
 

ds15

Member
Yeah, I think if I do any live plant, it will be a pothos ivy because I am not allergic to those. Unfortunately, I am allergic to ficus trees as well as poinsettias plants. So I was reading about the soil you have to use and add to the top of the live plants so that the chams do not become poisoned by any fertilizers that may come from the plants original soil and how you have to wash them first several times. I see the importance of it, however, I am not sure where I get that soil replacement yet . Need to go back and refresh on this. That was my other question ---- I guess this is for Todd as well. So the UVB lights , T5 or whatever is for the cham only and the dome light or basking light is a halogen or other? Does the UVB light not help the live plants and/or what additional lights are needed for the plants to survive?
Use organic soil, and put a layer of gravel/rocks on top so the cham can't ingest the dirt. I'm using pothos, schefflera (umbrella tree), and probably maranta (prayer plant), possibly fittonia. I think UVB helps plants, but it's not full spectrum 6500k.
 
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