beginner here with lots of questions!!

emmagrace22

New Member
Hi there!! So I've been researching about these little buddies for quite a while now and have finally decided to get one! I will be getting a male panther chameleon in a few months but thought it would be a good idea to start building and setting up the enclosure now to make sure everything runs properly and will be ready and safe for the little guy when he arrives. ( and to also not break my bank at one time- )

I've heard many different things about what kind of enclosure to purchase and I think a hybrid cage (mesh and glass) would work best. I live in Georgia USA and the weather here is known to have some extreme mood swings, for example snow and temps in the high 70s in the same week- the humidity also fluctuates like crazy here. For this reason, I'm worried about an entirely mesh enclosure as I want to make sure it stays at the right humidity and temperature. It can also get very hot here and I know the mesh would give proper ventilation. Is this okay? and are there any cages on the market with both?? I have the space for a 2x3x5!
- another thing as well is the substrate. I've seen so many people have different opinions about this and I've seen some people use paper towels?? I also have sugar gliders and use paper towels in the pull out tray at the bottom and thought it would work for chameleons as well?? So for that you would just line the bottom of the cage with the towels and place everything else on top and replace the towels (daily i assume?) right?

What equipment is needed? Like what kind of lights, humidifyer, mister, safe plants and vines, draining systems (I'm not sure exactly what these do or how they work so please let me know!) thermometers, etc. and just any other absolute necessities?

What do they eat and in what quantities? How often?

What age can they be purchased and where/how?

Do you have to have a small cage for when theyre little?

When bringing them to their new home, how can you make them feel comfortable and not stress them out too much?

As for supplements and such, I'm aware of the potential diseases and the importance of calcium and other minerals in their diets. What exactly do they need, how often, and how to give it to them??

Can the cage be put in the same room as my sugar glider cage? They are nocturnal and are sometimes pretty chatty, and they also have the most wonderful and delightful habit and grabbing hand fulls of food and throwing it out of the cage :)'D) they would be at an out-of-range distance however. I also have a dog and cat that routinely come in my room and my dog refuses to sleep anywhere but my bed, is this an issue? All of the other animals are in different rooms and shouldn't be an issue. It would also be against the wall to the side of my desk where I do schoolwork all day every day, would this bring stress to the chameleon?

Thank you so so much for all the help in advance I really really do appreciate it! Any and all information to ensure that I can make sure everything is perfect and safe is so very valued!! <3
 

MissSkittles

Chameleon Enthusiast
Hi and welcome! :) It’s awesome that you’re asking questions and learning before getting set up and getting your chameleon! Unfortunately I haven’t the time to answer any of your questions right now but hopefully another member will come along that will. In the meantime, let me direct you to https://chameleonacademy.com/chameleon-husbandry-program-getting-started-with-chameleons/ which is perhaps the most accurate, up to date and comprehensive source for all things chameleon. Bill Strand who has created that site is also the owner of Dragon Strand enclosures, which are quite nice and you may want to check out.
Very glad to have you here!
 

emmagrace22

New Member
Hi and welcome! :) It’s awesome that you’re asking questions and learning before getting set up and getting your chameleon! Unfortunately I haven’t the time to answer any of your questions right now but hopefully another member will come along that will. In the meantime, let me direct you to https://chameleonacademy.com/chameleon-husbandry-program-getting-started-with-chameleons/ which is perhaps the most accurate, up to date and comprehensive source for all things chameleon. Bill Strand who has created that site is also the owner of Dragon Strand enclosures, which are quite nice and you may want to check out.
Very glad to have you here!

I've taken a little look at that website and its awesome! Thank you so much!! I'll continue to *thoroughly* read that site probably three times through haha! :)
 

MissSkittles

Chameleon Enthusiast
I have a bit more time now and can answer some of your questions.
Hi there!! So I've been researching about these little buddies for quite a while now and have finally decided to get one! I will be getting a male panther chameleon in a few months but thought it would be a good idea to start building and setting up the enclosure now to make sure everything runs properly and will be ready and safe for the little guy when he arrives. ( and to also not break my bank at one time- )

I've heard many different things about what kind of enclosure to purchase and I think a hybrid cage (mesh and glass) would work best. I live in Georgia USA and the weather here is known to have some extreme mood swings, for example snow and temps in the high 70s in the same week- the humidity also fluctuates like crazy here. For this reason, I'm worried about an entirely mesh enclosure as I want to make sure it stays at the right humidity and temperature. It can also get very hot here and I know the mesh would give proper ventilation. Is this okay? and are there any cages on the market with both?? I have the space for a 2x3x5! I’m not sure about hybrid screen and glass, but there are hybrids of screen and pvc, such as Dragon Strand, Zen Habitats and Tamura designs. If those aren’t in your budget, all screen would be fine and you can always ‘wrap’ sides to keep in humidity.
- another thing as well is the substrate. I've seen so many people have different opinions about this and I've seen some people use paper towels?? I also have sugar gliders and use paper towels in the pull out tray at the bottom and thought it would work for chameleons as well?? So for that you would just line the bottom of the cage with the towels and place everything else on top and replace the towels (daily i assume?) right? This is matter of what works best for you and how creative you are. Bare floor is fine but you’ll have water drainage to deal with no matter what. Soils aren’t usually recommended unless you go full bioactive with a drainage layer and clean up crew (isopods and springtails). They are actually much easier to set up than it sounds.

What equipment is needed? Like what kind of lights, humidifyer, mister, safe plants and vines, draining systems (I'm not sure exactly what these do or how they work so please let me know!) thermometers, etc. and just any other absolute necessities?
Must haves: a T5 ho fixture as long as the width of your enclosure with either a 5.0 or Arcadia 6% uvb bulb. Basking light & fixture. Live plants are best. Digital thermometer with a probe tip and a temp gun also helps. Method of misting...can be a spray bottle or a Mist King system (depends on your finances). Avoid Reptirain and such...better to save for a Mist King if wanting an auto mister. Yes, a drainage system...these vary as to what works best for you. Supplements! A phosphorus free calcium without D3. You’ll also need a calcium with D3 and a multivitamin. These can be gotten combined which is a bit easier - Reptivite with D3 is great. A good vet experienced with chameleons. Having a solarmeter 6.5 is always a good thing, but isn’t always in the budget. Having some sort of timer system for your lights is also super handy.
What do they eat and in what quantities? How often? Live bugs only. Amount depends on age. Young/babies eat more and as they get older, their feedings get decreased. Obesity is always something to prevent.

What age can they be purchased and where/how? A responsible breeder won’t sell a chameleon under 3 months old. There are lots of different places to buy from and often is hard to know if a certain breeder is good. Personally, if I were looking to buy a panther, I’d buy from Kammerflage. They may cost a bit more than other places but you know you will be getting a healthy animal and they are very supportive.

Do you have to have a small cage for when theyre little? Not really. It’s fine to put them in their full size enclosure. Just make sure their food is in a place that is visible and accessible to them. There are a few different feeder stations. I like Shooting Gallery.

When bringing them to their new home, how can you make them feel comfortable and not stress them out too much? Place them in their enclosure, offer hydration and maybe some food and let them settle in. Give them ample time to adjust...days to a week. Go slow and be patient with them...they are scared.

As for supplements and such, I'm aware of the potential diseases and the importance of calcium and other minerals in their diets. What exactly do they need, how often, and how to give it to them??
Calcium without D3 dusted lightly at every feeding. Reptivite with D3 used one feeding every other week.
Can the cage be put in the same room as my sugar glider cage? They are nocturnal and are sometimes pretty chatty, and they also have the most wonderful and delightful habit and grabbing hand fulls of food and throwing it out of the cage :)'D) they would be at an out-of-range distance however. I also have a dog and cat that routinely come in my room and my dog refuses to sleep anywhere but my bed, is this an issue? All of the other animals are in different rooms and shouldn't be an issue. It would also be against the wall to the side of my desk where I do schoolwork all day every day, would this bring stress to the chameleon? Not sure what to tell you about this. My chameleons are in my bedroom where my lazy cats sleep and they don’t seem to be bothered. They are up as high as I can get them which does make them feel safer. I don’t think noise would bother them much as their hearing is poor, but they are sensitive to vibrations. Also at night they need complete darkness.

Thank you so so much for all the help in advance I really really do appreciate it! Any and all information to ensure that I can make sure everything is perfect and safe is so very valued!! <3
Will add in separate post feeder & plant info.
 

MissSkittles

Chameleon Enthusiast
Here’s the feeder and ‘gutloading’ sheets. Like us, chameleons like variety in their diet. I have roaches as my main staple feeder and offer crickets and silkworms frequently too. Occasionally bsfl but I usually let those pupate into flies and give my chams some flying treats. I’m not a fan of hornworms or superworms, so those are rare treats. Whatever feeder you give, it’s important to keep those buggies well fed. Avoid the orange cubes and other things like that. Is best to feed fresh produce - greens, veggies and some fruits. The healthier your buggies are, the more nutritious they’ll be for your chameleon. Some of the feeders aren’t generally found in local stores so check the forum sponsors to order them.
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For plants, although panthers don’t eat their plants, they do lick them and you just want them to be safe. Here’s a good list for plants. You may need to get a plant light for many of them. When I get a new plant for my chams, I gently wash the leaves with dilute Dawn dish soap and rinse the root ball of as much soil as I can. Then I put in a new/clean pot with organic soil. Many cover the soil with 1” or larger river rocks to prevent the cham from accidentally ingesting soil.
You want enough plants to provide shady and hidden areas for your chameleon, similar to a tree or a forest edge. You want enough cover so that you need to look for at least a minute to find your cham.
Also need to add, you’ll need lots of branches or vines. You can use branches from outside...just avoid pine and other sappy trees. I wash/ rinse and then let sun dry before putting in my enclosures. No need to bake or sterilize.
Adding on to items nice to have...dragon ledges from Dragon Strand. Make it so much easier to hang plants and branches in your enclosure. Can’t forget zip ties either to attach it all.
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Klyde O'Scope

Chameleon Enthusiast
Hello, and welcome.
( and to also not break my bank at one time- )
TBH, the above statement sets off bells & warning flags. See:
https://www.chameleonforums.com/threads/chameleon-jokes.156191/page-9#post-1648765

Keeping a chameleon is an expensive undertaking requiring both personal and financial commitment. I just reviewed several articles on the costs of owning a chameleon, and IMO (and from my own experience) they are woefully out of date and lowball the costs.

IMO, one should realistically budget $1000 for a captive bred chameleon plus setup costs. If you can save some of that, I can almost guarantee it will be spent on rectifying mistakes and other contingencies.

In addition, it would be prudent to budget an additional amount for the first year's care (insect feeders, veterinary expenses, incidentals).

I've heard many different things about what kind of enclosure to purchase and I think a hybrid cage (mesh and glass) would work best. I live in Georgia USA and the weather here is known to have some extreme mood swings, for example snow and temps in the high 70s in the same week- the humidity also fluctuates like crazy here. For this reason, I'm worried about an entirely mesh enclosure as I want to make sure it stays at the right humidity and temperature. It can also get very hot here and I know the mesh would give proper ventilation. Is this okay? and are there any cages on the market with both?? I have the space for a 2x3x5!
I agree with a hybrid enclosure. Aside from the 3 that MissSkittles mentioned, there is always the option of DIY. Many people here have done that, ans while it may or may not save you any money, it will ensure you get exactly what you want.

- another thing as well is the substrate. I've seen so many people have different opinions about this and I've seen some people use paper towels?? I also have sugar gliders and use paper towels in the pull out tray at the bottom and thought it would work for chameleons as well?? So for that you would just line the bottom of the cage with the towels and place everything else on top and replace the towels (daily i assume?) right?
Paper towels could be a problem with all the moisture/water that a chameleon enclosure requires daily. Unless you decide to make the enclosure bioactive (which is fine, but it's a whole separate discussion and additional cost), I would recommend no substrate.

What equipment is needed? Like what kind of lights, humidifyer, mister, safe plants and vines, draining systems (I'm not sure exactly what these do or how they work so please let me know!) thermometers, etc. and just any other absolute necessities?
Lights: 3 types.
  • UVB—a T5HO fluorescent running full width of the enclosure. Fixture should have an integral mirrored reflector.
  • Basking—old-fashioned household incandescent (NOT LED) is best, followed by incandescent flood, then Halogen flood, then ceramic heat emitter (CHE) if you have good plant lights. LEDs will not produce sufficient heat.
  • Plant lights—LEDs DO make the best plant lights; you want one that will penetrate deep into the enclosure to reach the plants that are lower down. An excellent one is:
    https://www.sansiled.com/70w-led-grow-light-full-spectrum.html
Humidifier depends on if proper humidity can be obtained via other methods first.
Mister: Either MistKing or CliMist. Worth the expense.
Safe plants: Use live plants & vines only. Here are 3 lists from reputable sources:
https://chameleonacademy.com/plants/
https://www.madcham.de/en/pflanzen-fuers-terrarium/
https://www.chameleons.info/l/safe-and-unsafe-plants/
Drainage is simplest by gravity—down through the bottom of the enclosure into a drain pan, then out into a bucket. See: Drainage Systems for Cages - get creative!
Instrumentation:
You will need a few digital thermometers & hygrometers with probes. Combination hygrometer/thermometers are about the same cost as a thermometer, so I'd get a few of those. Units should be mounted outside the enclosure—only the probes go inside (units can be damaged by water). You will also need a Solarmeter 6.5x UVI meter; another item worth the expense. They can also be built DIY for less. Some also like IR temp guns, but with digital thermometers with probes, a temp gun isn't necessary.

Spend some time looking at enclosures. There are several Enclosure Picture Threads at the top of this forum section.

What do they eat and in what quantities? How often?
I thought you said you've been "researching about these little buddies." :unsure:
Panther chameleons are exclusively insectivores. See the charts above. How often depends on age and/or size. At 3 months they may eat 2 or 3 times a day (they're hungry little buggers); as they grow, their requirements will gradually decrease until they only need to be fed every other day. They will always need water every day—and several times a day and during the night.

As long as you mentioned "buddies", chameleons generally aren't. They're not a reptile who likes to "hang with you," be regularly handled, or even interact; they prefer to be solitary, and are happiest when we pretend we don't see them.

What age can they be purchased and where/how?
Best to acquire one from a reputable breeder, no younger than 3 months of age. You might also consider getting one from a reptile rescue.

Do you have to have a small cage for when theyre little?
NO, there is no reason to, and many consider it a waste of money. Better to save and get a better adult sized enclosure; they'll do fine in that from the get-go.

When bringing them to their new home, how can you make them feel comfortable and not stress them out too much?
By having it set up ahead of time with plenty of plants, things to climb on, food, and moisture/water. They may still go through a period of relocation stress (usually a day up to a week), which is normal.

As for supplements and such, I'm aware of the potential diseases and the importance of calcium and other minerals in their diets. What exactly do they need, how often, and how to give it to them??
Best to ask the breeder or consult care sheets. What they need depends on what they're getting or not getting from other sources.

Can the cage be put in the same room as my sugar glider cage? They are nocturnal and are sometimes pretty chatty, and they also have the most wonderful and delightful habit and grabbing hand fulls of food and throwing it out of the cage :)'D) they would be at an out-of-range distance however.
The same room might be alright, but I would physically separate the enclosures, and make sure the chameleon can't see the glider. A little noise isn't usually a problem, but chameleons should have complete darkness at night.

I also have a dog and cat that routinely come in my room and my dog refuses to sleep anywhere but my bed, is this an issue?
Possibly. It depends on the dog's disposition. I would definitely keep the cat out of the room entirely.

All of the other animals are in different rooms and shouldn't be an issue. It would also be against the wall to the side of my desk where I do schoolwork all day every day, would this bring stress to the chameleon?
Only if the lights are on after the chameleon's lights go off. This can be attenuated by providing light-proof covering such as blackout fabric.

Keep reading Chameleon Academy, Chameleon School, and other good sources, and watch videos by Neptune the Chameleon on YT. Also make yourself familiar with the Resources section and the archives here for quick answers. Any questions, come back here. ;)
 
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