Hydroponics and chameleons?


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I was curious if anyone one this forum had ever experimented with housing any species of chameleon atop a hydroponic growing medium. It just seems as though chameleon owners try so hard to mimic the optimal conditions that these guys live in and stop in the bottom couple inches of the cage (myself included). Any thoughts on the subject?
I haven't done any expiriments, but I have brain stormed.

One problem ran into is that for a true htdro[onic system the filter before the mister would have to be something in the nieghbohoood of reverse osmisis. This would make it nesc for a larger pump as well. In theroy a humidifer could be used instead but would not turn over the water amounts needed to keep all the water as pure as nesc. Most common hydro set-ups only alow for enough pressure to circulate water, relying on the plants them selves to filter the water.

Secondly, hydroponicsytems are not built with animal waste in mind. Not only the excriment, but dead crickets as well.

Thirdly since the water would mosy likely not be recycled, we would have to add water in the form of mist of drip, and water levels would therby be difficult to regulate.

My current set-up is as close as I am willing to try to get to the real thing:

Stand-up shower with two foot tall glass in the front to keep eveything in. I have green "weather sheeting" covering 80% of the walls and exsses all over the bottom. This allows crickets to climb to 3/4 of the hieight of the shower, and holds a lot of humidity. Plants are placed on the bottom, and durring cleaning time I find the roots tanlged in the sheeting so I know everything is THRIVING. this also allows roaches and other feeders nooks and cranys to hide and borrow in when the mister is on, or durring the day or whatever (mainly it is like peat moss...lots of places to hide.)

Cleaning is very easy as the plants can be removed (Jet can be coaxed to the ficus for easy (less stress) removal, and the ficus is kept at a size as to fit easliy in his out-side cage) and once the rest of the plants and limbs are out the sheeting can be wadded up and washed in the washing machine with mild soap. The shower it-self is cleaned and rinsed and everything goes back in super easy because the sheeting is hung using suction cups.

This set-up allows me to hold most of my feeders in the enclosure itself even though some people say not to. I don't have a problem with them crawling on him at all and I only have to add food when I notice him on the lower levels "on the prowel" or when I notice the carrot or poataoe is not getting eaten by feeders. Also, when he IS on the floor, his wheight tends to push out any critters from the folds of the mesh sheeting and gives him reward for effort (debate all you like if this is nesc or not, but you should see his colors when one of those bugs pops out from a hiding spot). I do see some ants regularly but with organic soil it is only natural, and the crickets and roaches that don't make it into jet's mouth are quickly taken care of. I am very carefull to take the plants out once a month or so and let the soil dry compleetly whcich helps with nats, mites, fruit flys and ants, all common to he use of organic soil. Small anoles are added from time to time and usually last a couple of days cleaning nats and flys before Jet finally gets them. Jet is the top of his food chain and I take care more of the chain itself than him, alllowing him to be as natural as I think possible.

This "semi-hydro-set-up" is as close to a natural set-up as I am comfortable with using, short of being outside (too hot right now in Austin). It does break a few no-no's from the opinions I have read online, (ants, keeping more feeders than nesc at one time) but I have had three chams in ten years all living to 5 or 6 years with little to no health issues, And this set-up is by far the most fun and succseful I have had. Not to mention since lights,fans and misters are on timers I can easily leave for as much as a week with no problems.

I will try to post some pics as soon as the camera is working again.

Two big problems come to mind:

1.) The chemicals added to the plant water would probably not be safe for a chameleon to drink.

2.) The lighting really is not strong enough in a chameleon enclosure. High intensity lighting is not recommended for chameleons in most cases.
I am sorry but maybe I read your post wrong.....

did you say that high intensity lighting is not recomended and also say it would NOT be enough Light?

I would love a conversation about this because a buddy has a FEW hydroponic set-ups and the light and heat spectrums of his (holy expensive) lights look awesome for a cham. I took a hybiscus to grow under one of his set-ups for a week and it went CRAZY. I have thought about switching over but think I would have to adjust my vitamin regimen; and frankly I don't feel like researching it.

Could you elaborate or clarify?
Yes, I worded that post poorly.

I meant to say that the recommended lighting for an indoor chameleon enclosure would not be strong enough for a hydroponic system. The high intensity lighting used with hydroponics will produce too much heat and their uv intensity could be too much for a standard indoor chameleon setup.
yeah, got it now.

The fan set-up is enormous on my friends set-up, and the UV sepctrum on his lights is beyond that os natural sunlight. Which I suspected could lead to overproduction of d3...no?

Also I think in this type of set-up my live plants would be overgrown in a matter of weeks and I would never see Jet again!! LOL:D
Another problem with hydroponics, is that constant moisture can cause toe rot, respiratory and shedding problems. Even rainforest species need their enclosures to dry out from time to time.
Compost tea is probably the safest fertilizer you can use around your animals and it works great in hydroponic setups. Add one cup of compost to a gallon jug and let sit overnight. If you live in an urban environment, you can use a large plastic tub (with lid). Fill halfway with soil, introduce a couple dozen red wigglers, and throw in your vegetable scraps and finely ground eggshells daily, making sure to turn the scraps under to avoid attracting roaches and growing mold. This will produce compost that is rich with worm castings and your plants will flourish.
I guess when I brought this thread up I had on particular kit in mind. The company that made it contacted me and told me they dicontinued it. I would have had to do a couple modifications but I think it could have worked. For some reason the thought of using substrate just will not leave my head. I know the dangers associated with paticular substates but that does not apply to all. With the right drainage and just picking up any fecal matter will stop most of my problem with what I want to accomplish. This is a picture of what I want to imatate in my cage. I keep veileds this a little bit east of Aden where conditions for veileds are at their best. Temperatures and humidity.
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You're right, what applies to one keeper doesn't apply to all. Although I am adamant about not using substrate, this stance is geared towards beginners.
Just because chameleons are housed in screen enclosures doesn't mean you can't have a planted soil or sand bottom providing you are vigilant about cleaning it and willing to accept the risks. It would be ideal if you could create
a habitat that is aesthetically pleasing to both you and your chameleons. Good luck with it!
I have a planted bottom in my cage. I have a homemade cage. In the bottom I have a little bit of Gravel, then Soil, I have my 2 Ficus Trees, and Hibiscus in the soil, then on the top of all the soil is covered in Sphagnm Moss. The moss holds up to 20 times it weight in water, seems to dry out between mistings. Is Mold resistan, and its easy to get fecal mater off of it. That is what I am using. I have a veiled male, and havent had any problems with this setup yet (Note: This is my personal preference, I know it is not recomended, and may not work for others).

I am considering something like Frank mentioned. I am going to use a big tub for the bottom. Build it from the bottom with rocks, the peat moss and the top with a heavy sand/peat moss mix. I may still isolate the primary plant in a pot and use the garden dividers to keep the sand from collapsing in. I am going to use that joint filling foam (seen on frog backgrounds) and cover the part of the pot the sticks out. While it is wet I am going to apply rocks and coco/straghum peat moss mix (black silicone to fill any gaps). I still want to put one or two very small plants at ground level just have not looked to see what I want yet.
My plants are still in the pots, except one. When I first did it I planted the trees in the cage. After one died, I put the other two I added in while they were still in the pots. The Sphagnm Moss covers them well.

I tried something like this in the past by taking two window type boxes that ran the entire length of the cage. I had a similar problem as you which is why I considered the option.

Perhaps some of you aren't familiar with the mutitude of different hydroponic methods there are. One in particular that would suite this need perfectly is called a DWC ( Deep Water Culture ) bubbler bucket. Basically the water is fully enclosed in a 5 gallon bucket with a lid with a netpot filled with grow medium ( Hydroton, Marbles, Etc. ) The nutrient are added through the hydroton with the usual 2+ quarts a day a fast growing plant would demand.

The best light to suite both the plant and the animal would probably be Mercury Vapor or Metal Halide, I know for a fact MH has a better UVB output then High Pressure Sodium, while not as conductive to bloom for the plant as HPS, it would do more for the animal. Mercury Vapor can support a plant, and obviously fufills the needs of the animal.

I can't think of too many problems using this system, the water is fully enclosed and unable to be reached by the animal or its food. Plant growth in these bubbler buckets can be absurd to say the least, Pending on light wattage heat could be a slight issue, but im sure you could cut back the wattage for a slower growing, more spindly plant, which would probably both be more conductive to keeping the Cham, rather then trying to harvest bulk from a plant.

My only further concern would be the edibility of the plants, generally before harvest the plant is flushed for 2-3 weeks with pure water and no nutrients to flush the nutes out of the plant, I assume if you used a lighter nute mixture you could grow the plant more slowly, and at the same time make it safer to be eaten by the animal.

Furthermore Low stress training is a method used to keep larger plants manageable in a smaller area, and would create many more horizontal branches for chameleon use.

This is a simple diagram of the system Here * Work Safe *

These bubbler buckets are a snap to build, they require a fishpump, airstone, water level checking tube, bucket, netpot, and grow medium. All easily aquired.

Be advised in searching any of this material or terminology on google, that you will be looking at tons of information on growing illegal plant life, but the information carries over to any plant that is managable in a hydroponic setup

Joel Letcher
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That is actually a very similar set-up to what I had in mind when I orginally posted this thread. I could not find it again when looking around to show what I was talking about. The use to sell a system like that in "high times". I thought about ordering it from the company for some experimentation. It had all glass sides and was like an octagon I believe. It had lighting on the sides along with the top which I did not like but it just looked cool. At $250 something it is a little expensive to rip up to try to get it to work. Not to mention the fact I may be tagged on an FBI watch list so I left it alone. I do not know though I keep looking at frogs and there terrrariums and thinking I want some so I may still attempt it.
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