Wood and Panthers


New Member
I was wondering about wood and panther chams. I know cedar is toxic but are there any other types of wood that are as well. My problem is that I built an enclosure that is identical to the one my veiled is in but the breeder I am buying my panther off of says you can't put panthers in wood enclosures. He keeps trying to get me to buy a cage from him. My veiled has been in the same type of cage for about a year now and is very healthy. I also have no problems with mold or moisture build up. The cage is about 95% screen with 1"x2" spruce wood as the frame. Is there any problem with my enclosure wood type? Is the seller just trying to make money off me? Does anyone else use wood with panthers and if so, what kind of wood? Has anyone sealed their enclosure with a non-toxic selaer? What kind of sealer? Would this prevent any possible issues?

Thanks in advance and sorry for so many questions in a row
The wood one I had started showing signs of rotting at the seams. I just decided to go with window screening. You could probably paint it and it would be sufficiently sealed. Mine was rather old when I finally noticed it.
I used pine on the cage I am using now. The cage has housed one Cham prior to mine. The cage is about 8 years old. I dont think what wood you use matters, it all comes down to sealing. I used a Water Based Polyurithane. I put about 5 coats on. The first few coats absorb into the wood. I then Sealed the seams inside the cage with Silicone. If you seel the wood right there should be no issue with it rotting out. A word of warning though, you need to air out the cage after applying all the sealers. Place it out in direct sun in fresh air. I took my cage about a week to finally get rid of all the fumes. If you do not do this, when you apply your heat lamps it can cause fumes in the cage that can harm your cham or critter.

Personally it sounds like the breeder is trying to get more out of you. Like I said If you take the time and seal the wood properly you should have no problem with the cage lasting a long time.

Are you keeping Panther chameleons in your wood cages? I have heard that panthers are suseptible but veileds are not. That would explain why my veiled is fine. I was told by a vet, whom apparently specializes in reptiles, that panthers can ocassionally be allergic to wood that is not native to madagascar depending on the individual. Has anyone heard this or had experience with this? Has anyone kept a panther in a wood enclosure that was not sealed for more than a few weeks? Did you have any health problems?

I'm just curious as to the relationship between panthers and wood because with the panther I purchased, I noticed it had a respiratory infection the day after I got it. I think it was developed by stress from shipping since he came from Germany to France to Canada. But the breeder was saying that its my enclosure(which is the same as my veileds and hes fine). I don't know what the real problem is but the chameleon is being treated right now and I don't want to take him back just to have him get sick again.

Any help on this would be great.
The wood you use would be irrelevant as long as you sealed it. I prefer poplar for this application because it is cheap, readily available, straight grained, and mills well. It also takes paint very well, and you are not forced to fill the grain to get a smooth finish, as you are with pine. It would not be wise to use unsealed wood with the level of misting and water throughput you are looking at to keep a chameleon healthy. You can use several sealers all effective and all have their pros and cons. Marine epoxies work very well but you will need to allow time to let the cage gas off before putting a chameleons into it, fiberglass resin is another option same gas off problem. I have started to use latex-based 20-30 year exterior grade paints. You will need to retouch them every year or two but they hold up well indoors and out, and you do not have the harsh fumes to deal with.

The allergy issue is mute. It would be folly to say that all animals of a species or morph carry an allergy to a particular wood or whatever. There will be some chams that will be allergic and some will not. Just seal it up and watch your animals. I despise screen cages so I would not buy one. But they are very convenient, and readily available. For a new keeper they are often recommended and definitely better than a 10gallon vertical aquarium, I think.
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OK thanks everyone for the info. I assumed sealing it would help so I will just do that.

You say you despise screen cages. Why? What do you use?
There are several issues with all screen cages that I find annoying at times, and occasionally bad for the health of the animals I keep. Most of these issues are indicative of the species I choose to work with and likely would not effect the average panther or veiled keeper.

First, screen cages are horrible insulators. I find it inconvenient and inefficient to heat and cool and entire room for the sole purpose of maintaining proper temperature ranges in a 2x2x4 cage or the like. I also find the rapid swings in temperature of open screen cages unacceptable. By using other types of materials for at least the sides and back you can provide some insulating properties to your habitat which will make creating microclimates much easier. It will also prevent the extreme rapid swing in temp, say when a door is opened or the air conditioner kicks on. These things will change the temp but the hope is that it will happen gradually enough that the chameleon can make choices about the gradient and react.

Second, maintaining humidity in an all screen enclosure is like trying to bail water from a boat with a spaghetti strainer. Sure you can tape shower curtains on your cage and other nonsense. Of course the more densely the cage is planted the better it will hold humidity. However solid walls on at least three sides and the bottom provide humidity gradients and again the cham can choose where it is most comfortable. For example the bottom corners of my cages hold humidity very well and when the heat rises you can be sure to find all of my chams down towards the back corners soaking up the humidity and staying cool.

Third, drainage. I do not like the look of a cage sitting on top of a Rubbermaid tub, or with an appliance pan shoved in the bottom. But more than that I do not find it sanitary. The water in that catch basin has passed through the potted plants and washed over fecal matter, crickets have drowned in it. It is a bacteria haven and unless emptied and bleached daily can cause problems. With the drain pan inside there is often gaps between the sides and the basin that the cham could get stuck in, feeders for sure, not to mention the chams access to the water. Even if you cover it in mesh do you want your cham trying to shoot into that dirty water to grab a drowning cricket. By using solid walls and bases I can plumb my enclosure, mine drain out side to a flower bed, this also allows me to mist for extreme periods of time if needed to simulate rainy seasons, hydrate sick chams, etc.

Next, aesthetics. This is big for me. I hate the idea of buying a beautiful chameleon, with great potential for color and size, only to stick it in an unsightly cage. I find screen cages difficult to hardscape and plant as well. I like to give my animals as many perches as possible of varying sized and textures, again in gradients so that they can choose. Same with planting density. While this can be accomplished in a screen cage I find it more difficult than when I can drill the walls and hot glue branches in place, mount planters for orchids and vine type plants, etc.

Last, injury. Some chameleons will rub their noses and heads on screen till it is raw. They likely do not recognize the screen as a barrier, like an iguana plunging headfirst into glass, and why should they it is not in their instinctive behavior set to recognize a man made transparent barrier. In addition larger chameleons will often climb screen and break off toes, causing infection, broken joints etc. These are just issues I would rather not deal with.

In addition solid wall enclosures provide more privacy and security to the chameleon. This in my opinion increases psychological well being.

So in short, ha, I find them unsuited to keeping my chameleons. I do however see there use for new hobbyist as convenient and the lesser of certain evils. If you do some research you will find I am not alone. On the other side of the pond keeping chameleons in terrariums is more common and accepted than in the US, and by most opinion they are way ahead of us in breeding efforts and chameleons health. This cannot solely be attributed to caging, but it must play some role.
What do you use for the front then to maintain visibility? Acrylic? Glass? If so does the chameleon not get stressed by its reflection?

Could the solid sides be sealed wood or do you use a different material? With solid sides, how many vents do you add?

And last, with a drain at the bottom I was curious if you had any kind of substrate?

Sorry for the mass of questions, but thanks for your help.
No problem. I have been using 2x2 poplar as my frame. Into this frame I am rebating 3/8" shower board. It looks similar to a dry erase board on one side and the other side is sealed. I silicone it into the rebate and then paint the other side with the latex based outdoor paint mentioned earlier. My doors are frame and panel construction using 1x2 poplar, I substitute what would typically be a raised or flat panel field with 1/2"x1/2" PVC coated galvanized hardware cloth. I use the same hardware cloth for the top. I have yet to need fans or additional vents with this arrangement. I do not use a substrate mostly because I like being able to wipe the bottom out and then spray with a diluted bleach solution. I have considered using pea gravel in a thin layer, I think it is heavy enough to stay put, drains well, can be cleaned easily, and will hold some moisture and help with humidity. I have yet to do so b/c I have not needed additional humidity.

Here is a link to a current thread that shows some of the cages I have built. If you are interested I believe I have some build photos I can email you just PM me.

Pics of setups
Hi All,

I'm new to this forum, but have a question. I have a Panther cham, and would like to know if anyone can recommend or has a link with directions for building the ideal cage for him. He is currently being housed in a temporary Reptarium screen cage, but the zipper is a real issue for me and I would also like to set it up with a drain system underneath for the misting/standing water issue.

Any links or insite would be greatly appreciated.
Scrappy, Just cruise around the Eclosures forum. THere are a number of threads in here that go over what you are looking for. As far as the "Ideal" cage, that is in the eye of the beholder. Some designs are as simple as a wood frame with all screen and a door. Others have solid sides, with screened door and top. You need to look at what you need to have to make the "Ideal" Micro Climate for you Cham and design around it. As far as drainage people have used utility sinks, Washer/Dryer colection pans, Cement mixing buns, etc.

Panther Enclosures

Thanks for the responses. I actually went to the MARS show yesterday in Timonium and purchased a nice screen fresh air habitat. It has a solid bottom, but I've figured out a drainage that I think will work nicely. Thanks again for the suggestions :)
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