Experienced keepers: artificial light only?


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I'd like to hear from experienced keepers whether montane species can be kept happily, healthily, and to roughly their natural life expectancy in an environment lit solely with artificial lighting, assuming their other husbandry needs (UVA/B, hydration, nutrition, etc) are well met. I very much want to grow my cham hobby (addiction?), but my supra-terrestrial cage space is exhausted (per spouse) and the only other option is to build set-ups in the basement, which has no natural sunlight. I've had a contractor in to estimate for wiring, plumbing, installing white FRP board, etc, but still I hesitate. Like the rest of us, my current critters seem "better" -- more activity, more appetite, more engagement -- when that sunny orb is shining outside their window than when it is not. Is there a way to compensate? I just let a desperately wanted cb Quadricornis slip through my fingers because I was unsure he could thrive in the environment I could provide... Maybe bright (MV, halogen, metal halide) lights can make the difference or...? Mike? Jenna?
Thanks in advance,
Zerah!! So glad to know you're still out there, somewhere... Yes, it was this article of yours that prompted me to ask the question of other long-term keepers. If I read the article correctly, your cham room also has (had?) a window, so the animals could see natural light, even if they couldn't be in it. Would they do as well with the halogens you added if they were in a windowless room, do you think? I know that many who are deeply into the hobby keep chams in basements, but also that many animals die there, and that many others are just passing through such settings en route from egg or crate to proud new owners. Like you, I'm frustrated by the lack of available systematic observation/information about optimal light spectra and intensity, and I'm still hoping folks like Bob McC will help fill that gap and give us new options. In the meantime, I'd like to know whether currently available bright artifical light (halogens, halides) can maintain arboreal species long term in the absence of visible natural light. (And then how many "Hail Mary"s I'd have to say each time I leave the house to keep it from burning down!) So, I thought I'd use this forum to try to scare up some of those observations and experience from folks who do it. I want to grow my hobby, I have designed a basement room to keep a pair each of Quads and Fischers and montiums and deremensis...and of course my Jacksons...but won't do it if it exacts an even higher cost to the animals than being caged in my nice bright office.
Zerah, thanks again for being such a treasure.
yes you are correct my cham room had a bank of large windows on one wall. The basement issue is always a concern as you point out and are intelligently researching. MH will in most cases replicate within reason sunlight. I feel this has been adequately demonstrated by the research and dedication of reef hobbyist. Given the proper spectrum, color index and PAR for our purposes if you took the effort to vary light cycle and intensity in pattern of natural season you would likely see good results in any room of the house.

The issues I find more pressing in a basement are air circulation, mildew/bacteria/mold, and humidity. Turning the air over in that environment is critical especially with several thousand watts of MH lighting and the resulting heat from not only the bulbs but also the ballast. In addition monitoring watering schedules, and removal of waste water such to adequately "dry" the basement environment will be critical. Then of course the micro flora and fauna that would grow on the walls, floors and cages; the resulting health problems...just a lot to cover.

I think it can be done, and I think it can be done well, but you may spend as much as you would to build a nice small greenhouse.
Hi Leslie,

I have kept all my montane species (quads, fischers, weidersheimi, deremensis, etc) successfully with fluorescent UVB/A lighting (5.0 for smaller caging systems and medium size such as 30" x 30" x 30") and a low wattage basking light (40 watt) without any problems indoors. My C.T. weidersheimi perreti have successfully been breeding and have produced several cb clutches. I also have successfully bred quadracornis gracilor's, and fischeri's with the same habitat environment.

Despite them liking cooler temperatures, they do use a basking light in the mornings when they wake, before they sleep, and females when carrying eggs. They have filtered sunlight through windows, with an exhaust air system to pull the air circulation out of the room with fans to prevent mildew, and occasionally if the weather is pleasant (not too hot) I will also bring them out for some sunshine. They like this as well. I put them under a tree with filtered sunlight. This has seemed to make them very happy and healthy with successful breeding.

I would be careful using a metal halide or halogen close to their caging areas as it can be pretty strong for these species in my opinion. This should be fine if you make sure they aren't too close to their caging area. You might increase lighting in your basement by just adding some dayglo or other bright lighting throughout the room to brighten it up. Even track lighting can brighten a dark room up. MV is also a good suggestion by Zerah.

Be careful of mildew, etc. Air circulation is key. Fans not directly pointed at the cages may help this problem in order to circulate the air and perhaps your contractors can put an exhaust system to pull the air out to keep it fresh.

They are great chameleons. Definitely one of my many favorites :) .
Thanks so much for those thoughtful replies. Mold definitely is a major concern -- it thrives in this climate -- though I was hoping you'd all tell me that it could be easily avoided with appropriate materials (PVC sheeting), bright lights and good drainage and ventilation (like a bathroom exahaust fan vented to the outside). What I hear you saying is, "...Maybe", which is less reassurance than I was looking for. Until I come up with a work-around, if there is one, I will keep in mind Zerah's advice to "do more with the species I keep". Thanks again guys.
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