DIY Panther Enclosure

skoram

Established Member
Hello all. I'm fairly new to these forums. Been reading them for about a year but was unable to post due to an issue with registrations from foreign countries (thanks again for your help with this Brad).

I'm a US expat in South Korea and the proud owner of a 3 month old juvenile male panther chameleon. I also have a pair of giant day geckos which I have raised and bred over the past 2 years. Prior to that I kept fish and planted tanks for over 20 years but got a little tired of changing the water for 7 tanks every 2 weeks and am in the process of making an almost full transition to herps and vivaria.

Although I am very interested in reptiles (particularly geckos), I never considered purchasing a chameleon until I started seeing photos of beautifully colored panthers in various reptile websites and periodicals. I decided I had to have one and spent the past year researching and preparing. Admittedly, the long wait was not really due to my patience and caution, but rather the lack of availability in Korea. There were a few full grown adult panthers being sold for around $1,200 - way out of my budget for a single cham. I ended up paying about $300 for a 1 month old captive bred baby this past May.

He is currently in an 18x18x24 Exo Terra glass terrarium lit by a 26W Exo Terra UVB100 CFL and 6500K white LEDs previously used for one of my planted tanks. The enclosure is misted 6 times a day for 30 seconds each with a MistKing system using RO/DI water.

He was initially fed only Hydei fruit flies but has grown significantly since then and now eats about 15-20 small to medium sized crickets each day.

(DISCLAIMER: Having read these forums for a year, I am aware that most people think CFLs are junk and perhaps Exo Terra bulbs in particular. I am also aware that chameleons should be fed a varied diet. Unfortunately, compared to the US and perhaps many other countries, there is a HUGE lack of both vivarium products and live feeders. T5 UVB bulbs are not sold at all here and very few other products from Zoo Med and Arcadia. Additionally, the only feeders commercially sold here are crickets and meal/superworms. To address these problems I ordered several Zoo Med Reptisun 5.0 T5 tubes from Amazon and am also planning to try my hand at raising silkworms (eggs are available for purchase from some local silkworm farms).)

Despite my lack of experience and any other potential shortcomings, he seems to be doing quite well. In addition to aforementioned size increase, he eats well, has started developing nice coloration and feces looks perfectly normal (so far as I can gauge based on photos of "normal" chameleon poop). The flipside of his big growth spurt is that I think he will need a new, much larger enclosure very soon.

I was not happy with any of the commercial options sold in stores here and so, armed with some experience building tank stands for my fish tanks, decided to make my own wooden enclosure. I have in fact already completed building the enclosure itself and plan to spend the next week working on the interior (custom foam background with branches, live plants, etc.)

The purpose of this thread is to share information and photos about the enclosure and the building process with you and hopefully, in return, to receive your ideas and feedback.

To start, here are some photos of my panther taken when he was first purchased and one taken a few days ago.

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skoram

Established Member
I chose dimensions of 60 x 45 x 120 cm (LxWxH) as the only available space in my fish/reptile room was on top of an existing tank stand. The room is admittedly tiny (as are most homes in Korea, compared to the US) - about 2.5 x 2.5 meters. The winters are extremely dry in Korea and I didn't want to deal with water spraying onto my walls and floor from a full or mostly screen enclosure, so I tried to design something mostly solid with a strip of screen near the bottom for ventilation (in addition to the full screen top). Obviously this is a concept I borrowed from the Exo Terra glass terrariums.

For purely aesthetic reasons I originally designed an enclosure with acrylic front and side panels:

Clipboard01.jpg


But I realized several problems with this design: complicated construction, high cost of acrylic panels in Korea and potential stress from the chameleon seeing his reflection. I have already on several occasions witnessed my chameleon trying to grab or shoot at something reflected in the glass walls of his current enclosure and did not want to perpetuate this problem. Therefore I opted for simpler and less costly design:

Clipboard02.jpg


As you can see there is nothing really special about this design, aside from the aforementioned strip of screen above the lower acrylic panel. However, it was fairly easy to construct, relatively low cost (about $120 in materials in Korea - my guess is that this would cost less than $50 in the US) and will provide the chameleon with a more secure and comfortable environment vs. clear sides.
 

JacksJill

Moderator
Staff member
I would just make sure that the wood can't rot or get Molly's easily. That can cause major issues given time.
Molly's or perhaps moldy. Auto correct strikes again.
A plastic liner of some kind or a coating of silicone caulking will make your cage last longer.
You might want to make your screen portion nearest to the bottom to take better advantage of the chimney effect of the heat rising from the lamps at the top.
 

skoram

Established Member
Thanks for the replies all :) Wood has been coated in 3 layers of PU sealer used for outdoor decks (with most applied to the bottom), all the joints and intersections have been caulked with silicone as well. I'm also thinking about the plastic liner but so far haven't been able to find something that fits well and looks nice (clean aesthetics are very important to me)

@JacksJill - I'm leaning towards doing a bioactive setup with lots of leaf litter to minimize the chance of substrate impaction. Do you think that ventilation will be an issue with this setup? That is something I spent a lot of time pondering. I made the width of the screen portion at the bottom large enough to fit small PC fans just in case.

Here are some photos of the enclosure as I was putting it together (yes, I had to build the whole thing in that tiny room. staining and sealing were done in the stairwell :p).

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RcManChild

Member
I love bio active setups....

If you are worried about ventiliation buy an arduino along with some PC fans and program some code...

I plan to do this with mine when I get around to it I will post pics...
 

skoram

Established Member
I love bio active setups....

If you are worried about ventiliation buy an arduino along with some PC fans and program some code...

I plan to do this with mine when I get around to it I will post pics...

That's exactly what I had in mind :). I have a similar setup already with Arduino controlling high powered LEDs and heatsink fans over an aquarium. I even thought about using an arduino with humidity sensor and relays to turn mistking on when humidity gets a little low, but that might be going overboard :p
 

JacksJill

Moderator
Staff member
@jamest0o0 bioactive setups are more your thing then mine any input? @broderp this is more like what you did. How did you resolve the humidity issues?
I use a lot of plants but keep the bottom of my viv cleared for easy cleanup. My humidity isn't very extreme so I use a screen cage.
These guys should be able to help.
 

jamest0o0

Chameleon Enthusiast
Depending your humidity, the solid sides and substrate might keep it up too high. Its hard to say... If you could get one side screen it would help out a lot. A small fan pulling air out(without causing a draft) could be useful. I know some people have trouble keeping humidity down without substrate, so with could make it more difficult obviously. I would think you'd be fine though just make sure the humidity is able to drop. Chams can eat soil as long as there's no rocks or chunks of anything. Personally I use hydro balls-vinyl screen-sunshine mix4- topsoil(about an inch, removing rocks)-leaf litter(I like oak on the bottom and magnolia on top). Bioactive is the way to go IMO, I couldn't be happier with it. Learned a ton from extensionofgreen who seems to be MIA lately? There's Facebook groups and books that help with it too.
 

skoram

Established Member
It's pretty dry here in Korea at least half the year and the winters are very, very dry. I have skin problems every winter because of the dryness - so I will need help keeping the humidity up. It felt very ironic to have typed that sentence because as we speak we are experiencing record humidity levels in Seoul, Korea. Reminds me of a trip I took to Hong Kong many years ago - I feel like I am swimming through the air. However, we are in the middle of the monsoon season right now (lasts about a month) and I can always take James' suggestion and have a fan pull out air in the summer when humidity gets too high.

The enclosure is almost done and ready for planting (I spent a big chunk of last weekend shaving foam and covering with silicone and peat). Here are some photos from a few weeks ago when I was first arranging the background layout with pieces of driftwood:

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skoram

Established Member
After all the PU foam was applied and carved:
KakaoTalk_20170726_210254834.jpg


Started to apply coco-fiber to foam with silicone. Lots of thin spots :(
KakaoTalk_20170726_210301375.jpg


After many re-applications, finally mission accomplished.
KakaoTalk_20170726_210308664.jpg


If I can help it this is the last custom background I will ever make with silicone. Need to get my hands on that epoxy mix that the Europeans use for next time.
 

skoram

Established Member
No need to be sorry Jack - the room is in fact smaller than many walk-in closets in the US. the irony is that the room I am moving the enclosure into is even smaller :p.
 
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