Size and ventilation are the key factors when deciding what cage is best, as well as visibility of your chameleon for display.
With this in mind, the best type of cage I recommend is a 24x24x48 inch hybrid cage. This is a cage that has screen sides and glass/acrylic front for better viewing. This offers a combination of superior ventilation with the screen sides and the viewing abilities of glass.
Screen comes a close second because of the ventilation, but it has less optimal viewing. I do not recommend glass for a beginner as they require too much vigilance to prevent over heating, too much humidity and so on.
Choosing A Chameleon Cage
The first thing to realize when choosing a chameleon cage is that the selection available is pretty limited.
Sure, there are plenty of reptile cages available, but only a small selection are appropriate for a chameleon. This is mainly due to the size of the cages on offer.
Size and space
The size of the cage is extremely important for a chameleon’s health and well-being. Many cages available on the market are too small.
The cage size recommended for an adult is 24x24x48 inches, with 24x18x36 being the minimum. Anything less than these sizes is too small.
Height is the most important aspect when choosing an appropriately sized cage because chameleons spend 99% of their time up in the branches.
In captivity, they will regularly be climbing up to their basking spot and then back down again to thermoregulate their body.
Chameleons in captivity also need to be able to climb as high as possible. This allows them to feel safe and a lot less stressed. Placing a cage on a high table helps in achieving this.
Proper ventilation is crucial for a healthy chameleon habitat. Ventilation refreshes the environment inside the cage. We’ve all felt the stale air in a room that’s been closed up too long. Chameleons need regular air exchange, like the breeze they experience in trees.
Ventilation inhibits mold, bacteria and fungus that thrive in warm, stagnant conditions. However, some humidity is also essential for chameleons and live plants. This requires a careful balance.
To achieve this balance, we need ventilation during the day to dry things out, and increased humidity at night. Screen cages ventilate well, but can lose moisture quickly.
Glass or solid-sided cages retain humidity but lack airflow. Hybrid cages provide the best balance of retaining humidity and allowing for good airflow.
Cage Types Compared
Screen cages have wire mesh walls on all sides, allowing maximum airflow. This ventilation means the interior cage temperature and humidity will match the ambient conditions of the room.
This can be ideal if the temperature and humidity in your home already fall within the suitable ranges of the ambient temperature needed for your chameleon species.
For example, many homes are comfortably within the ambient range required for popular beginner species like veiled and panther chameleons.
Adding a concentrated heat source like a basking bulb or ceramic heat emitter in one part of the cage is essential to create a warm basking area for when your chameleon needs to regulate their temperature, while the rest of the cage environment remains at room temperature.
The excellent ventilation of the screen cages I use give you a wider margin of error before overheating occurs. The entire room or even house would have to reach dangerously high temperatures to put your chameleon at risk.
The drawback of screen cages is that raising the humidity significantly above room levels can be challenging. Homes are often kept at a lower humidity than what many chameleons prefer, especially at night. This will require frequent misting during the day and fogging at night to raise humidity levels.
Overall, screen cages are an affordable, low-maintenance option when your ambient home conditions already match the temperature and humidity needs of your chameleon species and are recommended by experts.
Hybrid cages incorporate both screen and solid walls, usually with the lower portion made of wood or plastic. This configuration retains more heat and humidity than screen-only cages, while still allowing ventilation up top.
The solid lower walls let you create a warmer, more humid microclimate inside. This gives you increased ability to provide ideal conditions. The humidity retention helps maintain the higher nighttime humidity levels required.
Hybrids, like this one, cost more than basic screen cages, but have advantages over both screen and glass enclosures. The combination design essentially gives you customizable control over the environment.
Many chameleon owners find the enhanced humidity control of hybrid cages well worth the price. I personally think they offer the perfect balance of moisture retention and airflow for the needs of most keepers and chameleon species.
Glass cages have full glass walls with minimal ventilation. This effectively contains heat and seals in moisture inside the tank.
The limited airflow allows you to easily maintain interior conditions that differ dramatically from the ambient room environment. This makes glass cages ideal if you need to provide a warm, tropical environment in a cool, dry home.
However, the heat and humidity buildup can happen faster than expected in glass cages. While screen cages can safely accommodate a heat lamp running all day, glass tanks can overheat dangerously quickly without vigilant monitoring.
Similarly, humidity accumulates rapidly in glass and can reach excessively high levels if you aren’t extremely attentive. Proper ventilation is essential for glass tanks.
Glass cages allow the greatest control over temperature and humidity, but require the most meticulous oversight to prevent issues. In experienced hands, glass tanks work well, but because of the careful attention required to ensure correct temperature and humidity levels, they are not suitable for beginners.
Baby Chameleon Cages
It is not necessary to purchase a cage for a baby chameleon, but they can make caring for them easier.
The same factors for adult cages apply when considering your options.
The cage’s small size makes it easier for the keeper to locate the baby inside, something that is more difficult to do when housing a baby in a full size cage.
It also allows for more effective monitoring of temperature, humidity, health, and whether they’re eating and drinking enough.
Baby chameleon cages like this are also useful for temporarily housing an adult chameleon when you need to deep clean their cage, take them to the vet or want to take them outside to expose them to natural sunlight.