Humidity/Hydration/Drainage - live plants, sm. cage dilemma

Kimmers

Member
Although I read, and read, and read some more, thread after thread and gleaned information important and obscure before I got my chameleon, I was not prepared for the difficulties of managing water in a small screened chameleon cage. It had the set-up one week prior to getting my chameleon and I was testing my system during that time to make sure I maintaining humidity levels. As of this writing I've only had my panther 4 days. This is a an essay on the issues I am having already and will hopefully give other new chameleon owners some things to consider, think on, and ask further questions about before the final set-up is complete.

Balancing, humidity/hydration//drainage is proving more difficult than I imagined because I chose to use live plants for shelter, humidity and holding water on leaves for the chameleon to drink. I mist warm water 3 times a day for 1 minute. I also have a dripper. My humidity runs at acceptable levels. I allow the cage to dry out between misting. And in this short amount of time my plants are dying because they are drowning. I was not expecting that.

I repotted a Pothos and two small Umbrella plants with organic soil. The Umbrella plants had saucers but even removing them did not help the soil dry out. They were so waterlogged I took them out. The Pothos is wilted and losing leaves despite sitting atop another pot so it is not sitting in standing water. I can't easily take it out without rearranging the cage. The vines are entwined with the perching branches to provide places to hide, cool, and catch water. To do so I will have to put my cham in temporary housing.

My thoughts in hindsight on this dilemma for a small cage:

1) I should have added sand to the soil to drain better.
2) I should not have tied the Pothos vines up in such a manner to not be able to switch plants out easily.
3) I should have used silk plants in the upper portion of the cage for hiding, cooling, maybe drinking (Does the 'silk' absorb the water?)
4) I should have used live plants on the bottom for humidity so they can be switched out easily.

I hoping this helps other new owners and if more experienced owners have suggestions I would love to read them.

Kim
 

Correia7

New Member
I ran into the same problem when I got my ficus plant for my chameleon. :( However, realizing the problem now is better then realizing it months in the future. I'm sure you will fix it!:)
 

Coded

New Member
You could try a fabric based pot that drains and breathes better(than clay or plastic). I have some called smart pots.

 

Decadancin

Moderatoris Americanus
Staff member
1) I should have added sand to the soil to drain better.
2) I should not have tied the Pothos vines up in such a manner to not be able to switch plants out easily.
3) I should have used silk plants in the upper portion of the cage for hiding, cooling, maybe drinking (Does the 'silk' absorb the water?)
4) I should have used live plants on the bottom for humidity so they can be switched out easily.
Kim
1) Yes, many have done this with success. I did not with my enclosure, but my pothos are doing well without it. (My hibiscus is another story, but I think it needed more sunlight and as it started dropping leaves too much water was getting to the soil and not evaporating off the plant.) Make sure to add some gravel to the bottom of your containers to allow for easier drainage. (If it is too small you can use some screen to prevent it from falling through the holes.)
2) My pothos are both secured with twist ties, and although each time I want to remove them for a thorough cleaning it can be a bit of a pain, I wouldn't want the plant falling in the enclosure. With a good plant light and the right balance of water you shouldn't need to switch the pothos out, but maybe just trim it here and there :D.
3) I used silk and plastic plants for some time, and the silk ones will usually just soak up water after prolonged exposure with no real drying out time. They will generally hold onto water droplets pretty well.
4) I find the bottom of the enclosure is the toughest part to dry out, so this may not be as beneficial to the plant. :eek: I haven't done this myself, but maybe some sort of a cover over a portion of the container the plant is in would limit the amount of water getting into the soil? Could be worth a try if you continue to have plant issues. :)

Good luck finding the right balance! :D
 

vgaines

Member
1) I should have added sand to the soil to drain better.
2) I should not have tied the Pothos vines up in such a manner to not be able to switch plants out easily.
3) I should have used silk plants in the upper portion of the cage for hiding, cooling, maybe drinking (Does the 'silk' absorb the water?)
4) I should have used live plants on the bottom for humidity so they can be switched out easily.
I have two hibiscus trees (the ones with the braided trunks). One sits directly on the bottom and the other one is sitting on an upside down bowl.. I drilled lots of tiny holes in the bottom of each pot and I don't seem to be having trouble with overwatering. I have also drilled holes in the bottom of the enclosure where the water was puddling up. Now the bottom dries out pretty fast. I also have a GE 6500 K CFL daylight light from Wal Mart and my cage sits in front of a large window. My hibiscus are growing. I have very few dying leaves.

I find that my real plants puddle water on the leaves better than the silk ones. They seem to dry really fast. When I build my larger cage this summer I will be adding a wax plant and passion vine and I'm not sure how I will attach them. Maybe tying the vines to dowels that can be easily removed without breaking the plants. I'm glad you made this post because it gives me some things to think about...:D
 

Kimmers

Member
Thanks decadancin and vgaines for the incite on silk plants. (I really need to learn to multi quote!)

The Pothos pot has large holes and when I repotted I put a coffee filter and gravel in the bottom to prevent soil washout. It sits atop another of the same size turned upside down. I was worried about stability so I drove three sticks through the Pothos, out the holes and into matching holes in the bottom pot. I gave the whole thing a twist kind of locking them together. I'm going to try putting spacers between the two pots to improve drainage. Maybe they are locked to tightly together.

I also wonder if the droplet size in the mister (pressurized) is too large. It's turned down as far as possible. Maybe finer spray will maintain the humidity but with less water volume.

Keep the ideas coming!
 

Dr O

Veterinarian
i use 99% artificial as my cages are suspended and real plants become too heavy for the bottoms. between silk and plastic i find that silk “absorbs” the water which doesn’t make it easy for them to drink off of, but should certainly help increase humidity in an indoor cage. the plastic leaves and vines are where i may see them lap droplets if they’re not drinking when their timer waters them. but the majority of mine drink while they are being showered and not so much afterwards (except the really little ones who always seem to HATE getting misted).
 

Dr O

Veterinarian
I also wonder if the droplet size in the mister (pressurized) is too large. It's turned down as far as possible. Maybe finer spray will maintain the humidity but with less water volume

the one thing i would be concerned about here is that overall i tend to see more URI’s in reptiles that have a very fine mist in their husbandry. it’s not ambient humidity at that point; it’s really breathing in tiny water droplets which IME causes trouble over time.

imagine being in a steam room constantly; it often becomes uncomfortable to breathe after a period of time, and constant exposure could potentially lead to pneumonia or bronchitis.
 

vgaines

Member
the one thing i would be concerned about here is that overall i tend to see more URI’s in reptiles that have a very fine mist in their husbandry. it’s not ambient humidity at that point; it’s really breathing in tiny water droplets which IME causes trouble over time.

imagine being in a steam room constantly; it often becomes uncomfortable to breathe after a period of time, and constant exposure could potentially lead to pneumonia or bronchitis.
Just one question? Is it ok to have a dripper going most of the day and just do the misting 2-3 times a day? Rebel doesn't like me and I do not want him getting a URI because treating him would be stressful for both of us...:eek:
 

Dr O

Veterinarian
Just one question? Is it ok to have a dripper going most of the day and just do the misting 2-3 times a day? Rebel doesn't like me and I do not want him getting a URI because treating him would be stressful for both of us...:eek:
i would think that’s pretty close to ideal.
 

Kimmers

Member
Thanks doc! Droplet size would never have crossed my mind. Hubby is working on plans for an adult enclosure. He went to HD today to look at drain ideas after looking at the sticky thread. The adult viv will have an auto misting system.

Your guy most definitely does like to drink from the spray. I see the benefits to silk and plastic now. This has me thinking. Is there anything that needs to be done to the artificial plants before they are placed in the viv? Just a good rinse?
 

Dr O

Veterinarian
Thanks doc! Droplet size would never have crossed my mind. Hubby is working on plans for an adult enclosure. He went to HD today to look at drain ideas after looking at the sticky thread. The adult viv will have an auto misting system.

Your guy most definitely does like to drink from the spray. I see the benefits to silk and plastic now. This has me thinking. Is there anything that needs to be done to the artificial plants before they are placed in the viv? Just a good rinse?
just a good rinse is all i do.

dunno if you’re using a standard Reptibreeze/LLL/DIY type cage, but you are aware that they make drip trays for all sizes of cages? when i had them indoors in NY i used those trays, drilled a 1 1/2” or so circle through the bottom in one corner, glued a plastic hose nozzle to the underside of the hole and used 1-2” tubing to drain the cages into a 5 gallon bucket through it's lid that i just emptied every few days. put little rubber bumpers under the other 3 corners so the water always drained towards the hole.

don’t know if that helps, but there you go.
 
Top Bottom