Do Chameleons Need A Heat Lamp?

by Dave

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 just about any 50w halogen spot bulb will do but as you always need more than one in your house for when one bulb burns out, this six pack from Amazon is good value and will fit the fixture mentioned above.

Where does a chameleon’s heat lamp go?

Well 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 inderneath 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 from species to 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. One like this is fine. I recommend the two-pack as you’ll need to plug other lights into it also.

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.

Conclusion

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.

Share this Post

Leave a Comment