i have a question my cage is 16 by 16 by 30 i got it from tyler at bluebeast but when i put my two ficus in 1 has almost all the leaves pressed aginst the top of the cage is this allright or should i cut it back or cut the roots
You should probably do both. It helps to re-pot trees every two years (and with some fast growers, annually) to prevent them from becoming root-bound. This doesn't necessarily mean you have to put them in a bigger pot. In the art of Bonsai, the roots are cut back heavily every time the tree is re-potted. As much as two thirds of the roots can be cut back (just don't get rid of all the soil around the root).
If the tree isn't heavily root-bound though, I'd suggest just trimming the roots back so that it fits nicely into its pot.
As for trimming the branches back, you can do that quite liberally too. Especially at the start of the growing season (spring). New buds and shoots will grow quite vigourously after pruning.
Ficus sometimes drop their leaves whenever they receive a shock, so be prepared for this if you do re-pot the tree. However, provided you keep it well watered (and well drained) and give enough light (but no direct sunlight) it might even go through the whole operation without any leaf drop.
You'll have to prune the branches again every so often to keep it within the size of the cage. Just like your cham, that tree will be looking for a way out of there...
I would also warn you that the sap that will ooze from the pruning on ficus is toxic. You may want to leave one plant in there. Prune the other one. Give it a couple days to dry out. Then swap out and do the other one the same way. A good way to tell if a plant has toxic sap is to cut off a branch. Then rub the sap on an arm if it becomes red and irrated it is toxic.
Survival tip/camping: If out in the woods this same method will work. You really do not want to rub a irratating leaf down there.
Good point Jordan - I forgot to mention that the Ficus oozes a milky sap when you prune it. It takes a day or so to dry out, so don't put your cham on a tree that's just been pruned.
Also, it's good practice to seal the pruned branches (on any tree) to prevent them from becoming infected and rotting. You can buy special tree sealants for this, but a much cheaper solution is to simply dab wood glue on the ends of the cut branchs (you can even get waterproof wood glues). An added benefit of the wood glue is that it dries clear, so it doesn't leave the ugly stains that most tree sealants do. Also, most wood glues are non-toxic, but I'd expect that there might be chemicals in tree sealants that could be harmful to your pets.
Once again, give the tree a few days after pruning before you put it back in with your cham.
When a tree is pruned, the new growth will be diverted to the buds just below/behind where the branch was pruned.
That is why pruning is usually carried out in early Spring just as the new buds start to form. That way you can see where the growth will be diverted to.
On a ficus, the buds appear as new leafy shoots - usually papery and lighter than the established leaves. If you prune just above such a shoot, the plant will divert its growing resources to that shoot, and the growth of the branch will veer off in the direction of the new shoot. It won't continue to grow where you cut it.
It all has to do with sap flow within the tree. When you prune and seal off a branch, there is nowhere for the sap to flow anymore, so if moves into the next available outlet, which would be the nearest bud/branch.
You can use this knowledge to shape the growth of the tree to the way you want it to fit in your cage. You can encourage the tree to form branches in directions that might provide a better climbing structure for your cham within the cage.
both of the trees have more leves at the top of the tree leaving the middle barren of cover is there a way of shapping the tree to make it grow leaves at lower spots on the tree. or do i just have to keep cuting the roots until i get a desired loocation of the leaves
You can prune some of the folliage that has risen to the top and is blocking the light from penetrating into the mid section. You could use a bonsia technique involving copper wires. Wrap the branch you want to munipulate. Pull it to the desired location and wrap around the trunk that this branch comes off of. If it is a thick branch you may have to bend it a little. Give it time to grow that way then try to move it further. Sorry I hope that made sense. My brother has my digital camera for the next couple of days or I would take a picture.
You only need to prune the roots to provide room for them to grow. Roots that become constricted within the pot will hamper the overall growth of the tree.
By cutting off the growing tips on all of the main branches/trunks you force the tree to stop growing up, and cause it to spread out more. However, if the tree is very top-heavy, you might have to prune it quite heavily to encourage lateral branching lower down and it will take quite some time for the tree to reach its original height again, so this might not be the best option for a tree that you want to use in a cham cage (you need the height to allow your cham to get to his basking spot).
Pinching back the leaves at the top would help. By removing about a third of the tree's leaves, you'll not only encourage it to sprout more leaves, but as Jordan mentioned it will also allow more light to penetrate lower down.
I wouldn't worry about the light bulb. The lights are there for your cham, not for the plants. Make sure that the cham gets the right heat and light requirements - the plant is secondary. Most of the time, if the lighting is right for the cham, the plants can cope. At the very worst, if the plants do struggle, you can always rotate sets of plants outside for a couple of months to allow them to recover, whilst others take their place in the cage.
Some people do use additional flourescent bulbs (non-UVB) to help their plants grow, because they don't affect the thermal gradient in the cage significantly.
It's always good to have a back-up tree, especially if you are using Ficus. There is the possibility of massive leaf-drop whenever you disturb a Ficus (sometimes even simply because you move the tree to an area that has different lighting conditions), so it's good to have another tree to fall back on rather than have your cham exposed in a tree with no leaves...
It's definitely worth picking up a book on Bonsai. The basic principle of bonsai is essentially the same as what we are trying to achieve with trees in our cages: to grow a healthy tree within a confined space/shape. There are many bonsai techniques you could use, and most of the trees use for chameleons are also commonly used in bonsai: Ficus Benjamina, Hibiscus, Bougainvillea and Camellia. I've even seen Schefflera bonsai before.