Building a Special Needs Cham Enclosure - All advice welcome!


Avid Member
Hello everyone!
I have a special needs
panther chameleon named Scary Terry. I am new to this and need your help.
He is shown here at the vet with an upper respiratory infection, and I think he got it because I do not have the right set up to support his needs!
I know I can not be the only cham owner that needs to create an enclosure that is safe for chams that could fall or get stuck. I need all the help I can get.
I am an art teacher, and summer break is coming. I want to create the perfect enclosure for this little guy- and I can be very creative. I have more creativity than cash, so wherever I can make something instead of buying will help.

About my chameleon:
Terry came to me a couple weeks ago with a curve in his spine from a fall with a previous owner that healed improperly. His calcium is stable, and his bones are good- just crooked.
Terry moves the most on turf. He can walk on a semi flat surface 6 steps or so and then topples right or left. He gets excited to move outside on flatter surfaces. On vines, he often flips over by accident or grabs his own back leg thinking it is a vine. If the vines are closer together, it is better. Bigger vines are better.
His back legs are the biggest issue. Terry will fall off of vines if they are narrow and weak, and he will often try to move and miss, then fall. It makes him defensive and angry to others to feel like he can not move fast, so he does not like handling. Still, I have to do it to feed him and move him around if he is stuck. I want to reduce my need to handle him and make him more independent.

I have set up a vertical enclosure with screen canopies for him and it is NOT working. It is WAY too dark and cold at the bottom due to all the canopies and concentration of vines i put in to prevent him falling. Once he gets to a lower level, can not maneuver enough to control his heat. Sometimes I have found him on a lower level super cold, and the other night he fell asleep with his face too close to the humidifier. I HAVE to change it.
Terry loves to go outside, and moves the most out there so Ideally I could move his enclosure or props outside in the sun.
Feeding and water is a huge issue. He does not move fast to hunt, and so I hand feed him. I think he could catch some prey if they were easy to catch. He does not move around for water, so I syringe feed that. I am afraid to set up a drip and have him get stuck and waterboard himself. I rarely see him drink off leaves.
Doctor recommended a horizontal enclosure, but I want to do something NICE for him, not just a hospital box.
Can you help?
I will post photos of what I do.
I am showing you what I already have so you know what I've got to work with! I know it is not right.

  • Cage Type – Screen- 18x18x36 (could I turn it sideways?)
  • Lighting – Lugarti T5 UV 22” (diagonal across top) w reflector, basking bulb, heat bulb if temp drops during day
  • Temperature - 72-82
  • Humidity – Use a diffuser and misting
  • Plants – Combined fake plants and vines with screen canopies. Set this one up a little different because he looses balance, so there are canopies and a substrate to prevent him losing balance and falling.
  • Placement – Near window. I am in California and I could place it in a sunroom over the summer near a screen.



Chameleon Enthusiast
I forgot to mention it in your last thread, but kudos for taking this little fella on! I'm going to chew on this a bit, and I agree that he's more likely to do well in an unconventional set up. Scary Terry sounds like he'll need a set up similar to a foster bird I had last year with severe neurological issues (head tilt, no sense of balance; semi crippled leg). Now, obviously Terry's needs will be different due to him being a reptile, but I think we can apply some of the same principles.

My phone is very low on battery and I have some errands to run, but I'll try to get back to you later. In the mean time, hopefully others will chime in!


Avid Member
So normally we use height to create temperature zones given chams are arborial. All of our other reptiles have lower and wider enclosures and gradients are created side to side very easily.

It's unusual but I See no reason why you can't lay your setup sideways (assuming you can safely use the doors) and create an environment specifically for Terry. This is a special case so there's no right or wrong, rather just suitable or not for his needs.

Your main concern is providing a safe environment for his needs. Heck, if it were me I'd somehow work in a soft floor or catch netting, no matter how much extra work it would be to look after it all.

You may have to get longer UVB tubes and possibly add an extra heat lamp but you will have to dial it in as you go.

Please let us know how you go on.


Avid Member
Rare case in when a repti hammock may be benifical for a chameleon. zoomed makes ones and i think theres afew other companies who make something similar.
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