help with homemade enclosure in a pinch

chamimom

Member
Hey, guys. So I haven't been on in a long time because I started up graduate courses while homeschooling my kids and taking care of all our animals. I am in a bind, though, and am trying to quickly set up an appropriate partially homemade chameleon enclosure. I brought home two chameleons this week that people were desperately trying to rehome and advertising for free (yes, I know it was a big-time risk--however, they seem to be in good health thus far though a vet check-up will be necessary, of course), because I didn't want people who didn't want to do the research or work hard to be able to take proper care of them to grab them up. I was told they were both males. As it happens, one is actually a female. I had the appropriate enclosures, one completely set up within a day for the male and the other sprayed down and left out to dry in the Cali sun. The male is set up in the fully set up enclosure. I had the plants, lighting, and everything I needed for the second set-up. However, I left my dogs out accidentally, and when we came home, that appropriately sized enclosure (2x2x4) was broken. Thankfully that one hadn't costed me as much as a new one! The enclosure I brought the female home in is not nearly large enough. I set her up with everything she needs---uvb, heat, live plants to hide in, and I'll get a pot of soil for her in case she needs to lay eggs (I've had a female before, so I know her needs). Bill Strand's enclosures are not shipping until mid July, and I really don't know if she will lay eggs in such a small space as her ridiculously small enclosure allows. So...don't laugh, but I have a large chinchilla enclosure we are no longer using, because I moved them to an even larger one that would support a group. This enclosure has bars, but they are horizontal bars and close enough together to where I do not think the chami would escape, and even if she did, there aren't many place for her to go in my office, and she is safely closed off from our cats there. I plan to put up siding and a backing inside the enclosure, too, which I can do quickly with plywood and a layer of leftover pieces of waterproof stone/plastic composite flooring we had put into our house. They are the kind that click together. I will put on a screen front instead of the doors. However, the thing is five feet tall, 2 feet wide, and 2 feet deep and has wheels on the bottom that I cannot take off. They are welded to the bottom of the cage. So I cannot set it up on anything so that her ground level would be higher up. She also will not be able to get to a point at the top to where she would be above my head. I try to do that with my chameleons to make them feel secure. I have a few questions for you all:

1) Do you foresee any issues with the enclosure construction plan itself outside of the height issues?

2) If I make sure to put plenty of plants at the bottom--I plan to make the entire bottom a top soil/sand mixture set on top of a flooring with drilled holes for drainage with a drainage tray or box underneath--will she feel comfortable enough to lay eggs if she needs to with plenty of plant coverage even if she is at floor level? I was thinking that out in the wild, they would have to go to the ground to do that, too, so I'm not sure whether or not this would be problematic.

3) With the enclosure being 5 feet, would a quad light fixture with reflectors with T5 UVB bulbs be enough to light that enclosure for the chameleon, and also what strength of bulbs would be needed to support the plant life from above. The plants I got so far are money tree and a sizeable pothos that would have filled out one side of her enclosure very nicely. However, with this enclosure, I will probably have to get one or two more plants.

4) Last, but not least, is there a reason people do not use the clay balls/stones they use for gecko enclosures for chameleon enclosures to help with drainage?

As a PS, the male's eyes and coloring look good. However, he was a Petco buy. The girl who got him said she did so because he was stuck in an 18 inch enclosure with a bunch of babies, and he was larger than them, and it didn't look like he was getting much food. She was also just feeding him meal worms after she got him. He is about 1 to 1 1/2 year old and he is very, very small. I'll get him a vet visit. The female seems to be in good health, although obviously we will want to get her a vet visit as well to be sure.
 

Beman

Chameleon Enthusiast
Wow ok lots of info there which is great...

1) Do you foresee any issues with the enclosure construction plan itself outside of the height issues?

Possibly. Might consider corrugated plastic sheets for the sides of the cage. No issue with rot and you can easily poke a hole in them slide in a zip tie and attach them to the cage. Now the top... So your going to need to raise the UVB and heat off the top. A standard T5HO with a 5.0 or 6% uvb bulb would need a 11-12 inch distance to the branches due to the bars on the top not reducing the UVI output. This would put the cham in a 3 UVI level at that distance. But since they will climb you need it off the top so she can not hang on under it and also you want to raise it so that your not loosing a foot of space at the top of your enclosure. Now with the cage if it is metal there is a chance for it rusting.


2) If I make sure to put plenty of plants at the bottom--I plan to make the entire bottom a top soil/sand mixture set on top of a flooring with drilled holes for drainage with a drainage tray or box underneath--will she feel comfortable enough to lay eggs if she needs to with plenty of plant coverage even if she is at floor level? I was thinking that out in the wild, they would have to go to the ground to do that, too, so I'm not sure whether or not this would be problematic.

Could be an issue. If you have not gotten a fecal done to ensure she is parasite free you may end up wasting a ton of money. Also potential for the bottom to rust. I would consider potted plants instead and get a wash tub for her lay bin.

3) With the enclosure being 5 feet, would a quad light fixture with reflectors with T5 UVB bulbs be enough to light that enclosure for the chameleon, and also what strength of bulbs would be needed to support the plant life from above. The plants I got so far are money tree and a sizeable pothos that would have filled out one side of her enclosure very nicely. However, with this enclosure, I will probably have to get one or two more plants.

Answered the UVB in the first question. But if you are running a quad which one are you buying? This makes a difference. Yes the 3 plant bulbs in a quad would be plenty for the plants. Again you would want to raise the fixture.

4) Last, but not least, is there a reason people do not use the clay balls/stones they use for gecko enclosures for chameleon enclosures to help with drainage?

This is actually recommended for use in all bioactive set ups for chams. I even put a layer 1 inch thick in the bottom of my potted plants in the cage. https://www.chameleonforums.com/blogs/intro-to-bio-activity.2429/
 

chamimom

Member
Thanks so much for responding, Beman! I will wait to get more plants and things and to move her into a new set-up until after she has her vet appointment. I will also take into consideration the stuff about the metal and rot, although I think the waterproof material I am planning to put in along with covering any exposed wood (which should really only happen at the bottom) with pond epoxy, which we already have (YAY!) would do the trick. I'll consider the corrugated plastic, too. That would be easier. The only metal that should be exposed to the inside of the cage is the top, and if that becomes an issue, it actually comes off, and I can put a screen top on instead.

So if my new girl gets a clean bill of health from the vet's, she shouldn't have a problem with laying eggs that low as long as she has plenty of plant coverage? That should make her feel secure enough to lay, do you think?

I really appreciate your help! (I don't know how to get this green box off underneath so pay no attention to that, lol. I must have clicked on something that put it there, and now I can't get it to go away, haha)
 

Beman

Chameleon Enthusiast
Thanks so much for responding, Beman! I will wait to get more plants and things and to move her into a new set-up until after she has her vet appointment. I will also take into consideration the stuff about the metal and rot, although I think the waterproof material I am planning to put in along with covering any exposed wood (which should really only happen at the bottom) with pond epoxy, which we already have (YAY!) would do the trick. I'll consider the corrugated plastic, too. That would be easier. The only metal that should be exposed to the inside of the cage is the top, and if that becomes an issue, it actually comes off, and I can put a screen top on instead.

So if my new girl gets a clean bill of health from the vet's, she shouldn't have a problem with laying eggs that low as long as she has plenty of plant coverage? That should make her feel secure enough to lay, do you think?

I really appreciate your help! (I don't know how to get this green box off underneath so pay no attention to that, lol. I must have clicked on something that put it there, and now I can't get it to go away, haha)
So is the pond epoxy the great stuff brand? You can use things like flexseal as well. Anything you use you will want to do outside and let it gas off for a good week. Otherwise it can be toxic for them to breathe.

So if you build a frame top and use aluminum window screen attached to it then you can rest your fixture on the top. Let me know which quad you are using. The vivo sun one is really good and has a separate reflector for each bulb. You want this type of quad. Then you will use a 5.0 or 6% UVB bulb and the branch should be no closer than 8-9 inches below it. As long as it has the aluminum window screen as a barrier to reduce the UVI out put.

So egg laying has so many aspects. Supplementation has to be on point. For an adult female Feeding amounts should be 3 feeders 3 days a week only. This combined with lower basking temps of 78-80max for a female. The reduced feeding and lower basking temps produces smaller clutch sizes. So this lowers risk of egg binding. Uvb lighting needs to be on point too.
Ensuring that she has an area for laying made of washed playsand that holds a tunnel. Plants set up around it so she does not feel like she is being watched.
 

chamimom

Member
Yes, the pond epoxy is the great stuff, I believe. I'd have to double check. Whatever it is, it's the kind I used to modify a rescued bearded dragon's cage because she was deformed and couldn't climb up to get heated up. Thanks for the tip about needing to let it air out for a week; I probably would have only done it for a couple days if you hadn't told me.

Thanks for the further info on the lighting. I have a solar meter, too :). With the four beardies and the cham I had, I figured it was much worth the money.

Would washed play sand mixed with topsoil do for the egg laying? I've seen people say they used that combo and had it work okay. What's your opinion?
 

Beman

Chameleon Enthusiast
Yes, the pond epoxy is the great stuff, I believe. I'd have to double check. Whatever it is, it's the kind I used to modify a rescued bearded dragon's cage because she was deformed and couldn't climb up to get heated up. Thanks for the tip about needing to let it air out for a week; I probably would have only done it for a couple days if you hadn't told me.

Thanks for the further info on the lighting. I have a solar meter, too :). With the four beardies and the cham I had, I figured it was much worth the money.

Would washed play sand mixed with topsoil do for the egg laying? I've seen people say they used that combo and had it work okay. What's your opinion?
The pond foam version gases off a bit quicker because it is actually made for ponds. You just want to make sure you can not smell any odor to it.

Ok you are ahead of most people. So with the solarmeter and your lighting your looking for a UVI level of 3 where the cham comes up off the basking branch.

Yes you can do a combo of playsand and top soil... Just make sure your soil is organic without the little foam pieces they put in. Some females will try to eat those and they are an impaction risk. And make sure there is enough playsand that it completely holds a tunnel without caving in.
 

chamimom

Member
The pond foam version gases off a bit quicker because it is actually made for ponds. You just want to make sure you can not smell any odor to it.

Ok you are ahead of most people. So with the solarmeter and your lighting your looking for a UVI level of 3 where the cham comes up off the basking branch.

Yes you can do a combo of playsand and top soil... Just make sure your soil is organic without the little foam pieces they put in. Some females will try to eat those and they are an impaction risk. And make sure there is enough playsand that it completely holds a tunnel without caving in.
Thank you!
 

chamimom

Member
The pond foam version gases off a bit quicker because it is actually made for ponds. You just want to make sure you can not smell any odor to it.

Ok you are ahead of most people. So with the solarmeter and your lighting your looking for a UVI level of 3 where the cham comes up off the basking branch.

Yes you can do a combo of playsand and top soil... Just make sure your soil is organic without the little foam pieces they put in. Some females will try to eat those and they are an impaction risk. And make sure there is enough playsand that it completely holds a tunnel without caving in.
Okay, so this is related to the set up but yet unrelated to the DIY enclosure, but I wanted specifically to ask you this question. I have seen you and others say that the substrate has to dry out in between mists (I am going completely bioactive; someone actually gave me a bit of a larger enclosure, though still not quite adequate, in which to house the female I just brought home and she's all set with what she needs for now), but how is a female going to burrow if she needs to lay eggs if the substrate is completely drying out? I have a play sand and top soil at the ready for when we finish the larger enclosure, but even play sand cannot have a tunnel dug in it if it is not fairly wet.
 

Beman

Chameleon Enthusiast
Okay, so this is related to the set up but yet unrelated to the DIY enclosure, but I wanted specifically to ask you this question. I have seen you and others say that the substrate has to dry out in between mists (I am going completely bioactive; someone actually gave me a bit of a larger enclosure, though still not quite adequate, in which to house the female I just brought home and she's all set with what she needs for now), but how is a female going to burrow if she needs to lay eggs if the substrate is completely drying out? I have a play sand and top soil at the ready for when we finish the larger enclosure, but even play sand cannot have a tunnel dug in it if it is not fairly wet.
It is not the substrait that we want to dry out between mistings. It is the upper enclosure vines/branches... You do not want them walking on wet surfaces all the time. This is why moss vines can be very dangerous as well. They do not dry out well and they hold bacteria. If the feet are wet consistently this can cause issues to the pads of their feet. Making them more susceptible to sores and infection.
 

chamimom

Member
It is not the substrait that we want to dry out between mistings. It is the upper enclosure vines/branches... You do not want them walking on wet surfaces all the time. This is why moss vines can be very dangerous as well. They do not dry out well and they hold bacteria. If the feet are wet consistently this can cause issues to the pads of their feet. Making them more susceptible to sores and infection.
Good news. Someone gave me a free enclosure that is a step up from the one she was in. It still is not big enough. I like to go as big as I possibly can, but she seems to have settled in and is doing just fine--eating, poops look okay. Both of my rescues have their vet appointments tomorrow. I'm kind of worried I will not be able to get a fresh sample of poop for then. They didn't poop today, so I am a bit nervous. I was going to bag it and put it in the fridge. I really want them checked for parasites.

I think the male seems like he has some MBD going on, but IDK. He's very alert, though, eyes still bright, eats well. He has some stuck shed on his head that won't come off because he actually likes going into the path of the mister when it goes off. He'll climb up there once it starts going and just sit in the water, lol. And the humidity levels are doing well, and he drinks off the leaves when he needs to. His humidity levels are anywhere between 40-53 during the day and go up to around 80 at night. I think I read on Chameleon Academy's website (if I am remembering correctly) that those levels are what are needed.

Doing the other enclosure for the female is taking longer than expected but can't wait to get it done. Since I just moved her to another enclosure after already being brought to a new home, I will probably wait for quite a while after it's done to move her again. Any recommendations for how long to wait?
 

Beman

Chameleon Enthusiast
Good news. Someone gave me a free enclosure that is a step up from the one she was in. It still is not big enough. I like to go as big as I possibly can, but she seems to have settled in and is doing just fine--eating, poops look okay. Both of my rescues have their vet appointments tomorrow. I'm kind of worried I will not be able to get a fresh sample of poop for then. They didn't poop today, so I am a bit nervous. I was going to bag it and put it in the fridge. I really want them checked for parasites.

I think the male seems like he has some MBD going on, but IDK. He's very alert, though, eyes still bright, eats well. He has some stuck shed on his head that won't come off because he actually likes going into the path of the mister when it goes off. He'll climb up there once it starts going and just sit in the water, lol. And the humidity levels are doing well, and he drinks off the leaves when he needs to. His humidity levels are anywhere between 40-53 during the day and go up to around 80 at night. I think I read on Chameleon Academy's website (if I am remembering correctly) that those levels are what are needed.

Doing the other enclosure for the female is taking longer than expected but can't wait to get it done. Since I just moved her to another enclosure after already being brought to a new home, I will probably wait for quite a while after it's done to move her again. Any recommendations for how long to wait?
The most time wasted is letting the cage air out after water proofing it. You can not add anything to the cage while this is being done. You do not want the fumes to permeate the other stuff. Your looking at a week to two weeks.

As long as she is not gravid she can be moved when the cage is complete. Unless a fecal comes back positive for parasites. In that case you need to know the parasite type before doing anything. Some are much harder to clean for and get rid of than others.
 

chamimom

Member
The most time wasted is letting the cage air out after water proofing it. You can not add anything to the cage while this is being done. You do not want the fumes to permeate the other stuff. Your looking at a week to two weeks.

As long as she is not gravid she can be moved when the cage is complete. Unless a fecal comes back positive for parasites. In that case you need to know the parasite type before doing anything. Some are much harder to clean for and get rid of than others.
Okay, thanks. I wasn't sure if that would cause her too much stress. There's no way she is gravid, either. She wasn't ever in with another chami :).
 

Beman

Chameleon Enthusiast
Okay, thanks. I wasn't sure if that would cause her too much stress. There's no way she is gravid, either. She wasn't ever in with another chami :).
So females lay infertile eggs like chickens. They do not have to be with a male. This is why we stress the importance of specific temps and feeding amounts for a female to reduce clutch size. They show a different color when they become receptive and then gravid.
 

chamimom

Member
Right. Thanks :). I've had a female before and had a bioactive for her so that she could lay eggs if needed, because it was much easier, I felt, than a container and I also strive to create the most natural environment possible (she hadn't been with a male, either.) I kept temps low and lowered her amount of feeding to keep her from getting overweight (which I strive to do for males anyways--just even more careful with females) as suggested from you, I believe, in this forum a while back :) You were/are very helpful. She never did lay eggs. I just said she hasn't been with a male, because she can't be gravid, because gravid means pregnant with fertilized eggs, right? Or does it just means she has eggs, fertilized or unfertilized? Maybe I misunderstood what the term refers to.
 

chamimom

Member
Right. Thanks :). I've had a female before and had a bioactive for her so that she could lay eggs if needed, because it was much easier, I felt, than a container and I also strive to create the most natural environment possible (she hadn't been with a male, either.) I kept temps low and lowered her amount of feeding to keep her from getting overweight (which I strive to do for males anyways--just even more careful with females) as suggested from you, I believe, in this forum a while back :) You were/are very helpful. She never did lay eggs. I just said she hasn't been with a male, because she can't be gravid, because gravid means pregnant with fertilized eggs, right? Or does it just means she has eggs, fertilized or unfertilized? Maybe I misunderstood what the term refers to.
Well, I shouldn't say I had her bio the whole time. I switched her and did bio shortly before she passed. Before that I had a bin and thought it would be easier. Because I had her bio for such a short time, I don't count it as my first. I am working on more research for bio for these other two if they get a clean bill of health from parasites. But she at least has somewhere to lay if she needs to for right now.
 

Beman

Chameleon Enthusiast
Right. Thanks :). I've had a female before and had a bioactive for her so that she could lay eggs if needed, because it was much easier, I felt, than a container and I also strive to create the most natural environment possible (she hadn't been with a male, either.) I kept temps low and lowered her amount of feeding to keep her from getting overweight (which I strive to do for males anyways--just even more careful with females) as suggested from you, I believe, in this forum a while back :) You were/are very helpful. She never did lay eggs. I just said she hasn't been with a male, because she can't be gravid, because gravid means pregnant with fertilized eggs, right? Or does it just means she has eggs, fertilized or unfertilized? Maybe I misunderstood what the term refers to.
So they go through two phases... Receptive meaning open to mating. Then Gravid meaning no longer receptive and getting close to laying eggs regardless of being fertile or not. You will see very distinct color changes with both phases. :)
 

chamimom

Member
So they go through two phases... Receptive meaning open to mating. Then Gravid meaning no longer receptive and getting close to laying eggs regardless of being fertile or not. You will see very distinct color changes with both phases. :)
Oooooh, okay. Thanks for letting me know, LOL. I have been mistaken this whole time. Appreciate the help with correcting that. Thanks!
 
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