Do Chameleons Need A Heat Lamp?


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When getting set up for a new pet chameleon there are lots of questions to ask and things to consider. A very important part of these considerations is how to provide heat for a chameleon. They live in hot climates so they’re going to need heat, right?

So do chameleons need a heat lamp? It is essential for a pet chameleon to have a heat lamp. There are many different ways to provide heat for other pet reptiles but a heat lamp is the only way that works to provide the correct temperature for a chameleon.

Why do chameleons need a heat lamp?

As I said in the introduction it is essential that a pet chameleon has a heat lamp. In fact, it’s so essential it should be near the top of your list of things you need to set up a home for your chameleon.

Chameleons need a heat lamp to imitate something they have constant access to in nature, that thing is the sun.

Chameleons live in hot climates and they’re ectothermic animals. This means they don’t have the ability to self regulate their body temperature like we do. Instead, they have to rely on an external source for this, the sun.

It should be starting to become clear why a heat lamp is needed but I need to explain why only a heat lamp will work.

Other reptiles, like snakes, for instance, can warm themselves all over their bodies but a chameleon only receives heat on its back. So in the wild they will bask in the sun during the day until they’re warm enough before moving out of the sun to cool off.

They repeat this process throughout the day until the sun goes down.

A heat lamp is needed to enable a chameleon to carry this process out in captivity. You should also try and get them out into the sun too from time to time but a heat lamp, because it’s placed on top of the cage, is the only way to provide basking opportunities for a pet chameleon.

What heat lamp does a chameleon need?

As chameleons have become a more popular choice of pet there are an increasing number of heat lamps available on the market. Not only that there are different types of heat lamp available from halogen to incandescent, standard size to miniature. Not to mention ceramic heaters that fit the same fixtures too.

Let’s not forget fixtures while we’re here too. Some small, some large, some have a dimmer switch whilst others glow for a while to mimic the moon when the lights go off.

The type of heat lamp fixture I recommend is this Flukers one from Amazon as it comes built-in with a dimmer switch that you can use in case of the temperature gets too hot.

As for the heat bulb itself the 75w flukers spot bulb will do nicely but don’t forget you always need more than one in your house for when one bulb burns out.

Where does a chameleon’s heat lamp go?

As it mimics the sun you need to place it above the chameleon but not just anywhere on the roof of the cage.

The best place to put a heat lamp is on the roof and in one corner of it. This is because you need to give your chameleon a way to move out of the heat when it needs to.

This creates what’s called a basking spot for your chameleon and is where they will spend the majority of their time during the day. So make sure you create a nice basking spot for them and for you to look at.

Do this by placing a perch directly underneath it and maybe some foliage too so the chameleon feels a bit safer. Don’t put any laves directly underneath the bulb though as it can block heat from reaching your chameleon and will cause the leaves to dry out and whither.

It’s also important that you make sure the basking spot is above head height at all times. This will make the chameleon feel much safer. Below head height and they will feel threatened because they will feel like they are being hunted from above, in the same way birds of prey sometimes hunt them in the wild.

What temperature should a chameleon’s heat lamp be?

Temperature rates will vary between species but in general, for panther and veiled chameleons it should be between 90° and 95°. The temperature should be slightly cooler for baby chameleons.

You’ll have to regularly check the temperature for fluctuations, using a temperature gun is easiest. This is where a lamp with a built in dimmer switch is really useful as you can just dial the heat down rather than turn it off altogether if things get too hot.

You’ll also have to make sure the distance from the top of the branch to the basking spot is correct so sufficient heat reaches your chameleon’s body. Around 8 to 10 inches should be fine.

How long should a chameleon’s heat lamp stay on for?

As the heat lamp is designed to mimic the sun it should stay on for as long as the sun is usually up.

Obviously this varies throughout the year and if you really want to be exact you can turn the lamp on and off at sunrise and sunset either for your own location or, to further nerd out, you can look up the different times of day the sun rises and different times of the year in your chameleon’s natural habitat!

I personally think that’s a bit unnecessary so 12 hours on and 12 hours off is absolutely fine.

To make this a lot easier for you because it’s unlikely you’ll always be around to turn the lights on and off, you’ll need to get a digital timer. This strip is perfect for powering your lights and keeping them on a timer.

Do chameleons need a heat lamp at night?

This will depend entirely on where you live, how cold your apartment/house gets at night, the time of year and so on.

Chameleons can tolerate a significant temperature drop at night time. In fact it is necessary for them to regulate their metabolism.

A good night time temperature is 60° to 65° with veiled chameleons being able to dip into the 40s so it’s unlikely they will need an extra heat source at night.

If you are worried though you can buy a ceramic heater like this that just fits into a standard dome fixture. This will provide heat without the light that will disturb your chameleon’s sleep.

Would a heat rock help my chameleon?

As I mentioned earlier, chameleons absorb heat most effectively through their back so a heat rock would be an expensive waste of time.

It could feasibly help with the ambient temperature of the cage but the heat lamp combined with the temperature of the room is sufficient enough.


A heat lamp is essential for a chameleon’s set up. Not having one will lead to your chameleon becoming very ill very quickly.

Hopefully this post has given you enough information about why they’re so important, and that it helps you to decide what heat lamp you need should you go ahead with getting a pet chameleon.

Any further questions or comments you may please leave them below and I will try my best to answer them when I can.

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6 responses to “Do Chameleons Need A Heat Lamp?”

  1. Cat avatar

    I was thinking about getting a chameleon, but it can get quite hot in my house for a couple of weeks during the summer and even into October. We don’t have air conditioning. Would a veiled chameleon be ok with days in the 90s and 100s and nights that don’t really cool off until midnight? Is it ok to put a little electric fan near there cage to make sure they stay cool enough? And would they still need a basking lamp on those days?

    1. Dave avatar

      Hell Cat,

      Yes these temperatures will be absolutely fine for your veiled chameleon. You may not need a basking light during the summer but it will all depend on the temperatures in the enclosure. You will need to have a thermometer to check temperatures as a standard part of your setup anyway so you can decide when to have the basking light on based on these readings. A fan won’t be necessary to cool him down at night.

  2. Amber avatar

    I’m in a Chameleon group and they said that just having a dome fixture isn’t good it’s bad for the chameleon and he is not getting enough heat if I purchase the one you said on here will it be fine or do I need to get the T5ho light fixture too ?

    1. Dave avatar

      Hello Amber, I’m Not quite sure why someone in your group would say that as it’s incorrect. Chameleons need a heat source which is provided by a heat bulb in the dome fixture like I mentioned. They also need UVB light from a separate source which is the T5 bulb you’re talking about. This doesn’t provide heat though it only provides UVB. To be clear chameleons need:

      1. A source of heat from a heat bulb in a dome fixture
      2. A source of UVB from a T5 fixture

      I hope that helps. Please check out my article about chameleon lights here for more information.

  3. Dana Metallo avatar
    Dana Metallo

    I just want to make sure that a veil chameleon does not need any light or heat lamp on at night. Unfortunately we were not educated on our new pet and we have seen many different answers. We live in FL and keep at AC on 72 during the day and 68 at night. She is in a screened enclosure. Thank you for your help in educating is all!

    1. Dave avatar

      Hi! Thanks for reaching out. You’re correct, veiled chameleons do not need a heat or light source over night. I found a 12 hour on and 12 hour off schedule worked best. In the wild veiled chameleons can even cope with a light frost before the sun rises and they can get warm again. Your temperatures sound fine coupled with the heat lamp during the day but there’s no need for anything at night. Hope this helps you

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