A chameleon cage is spot cleaned daily to remove any poop, dead insects and other mess. Substrate needs to be changed, and any surfaces wiped down weekly. The whole cage should be emptied and disinfected once or twice a year.
How often to clean a chameleon’s cage
There are three frequencies of cleaning that need to occur for your pet chameleon’s cage. You may think it will take a lot of time but really, apart from the annual or twice-annual clean, cleaning your chameleon’s cage only takes around 10-15 minutes.
- Daily – Spot cleaning should form part of your chameleon care routine on a daily basis.
- Weekly – This is similar to your daily cleaning routine but involves the substrate being removed and changed as well as a more general wipe down of surfaces that need it.
- Annual – Or twice a year during the spring and the fall, depending on your requirements. This is a deep clean where the entire cage is emptied and deep cleaned.
What you need for the job
Before we can start talking about how to clean a chameleon’s cage, we need to know what tools are needed.
For Daily Cleaning:
- Paper towels – This is one of the most effective tools in your cleaning arsenal. You’ll need it to wipe any surfaces, accessories, and they’re useful for picking up any dry or wet chameleon poop.
- Damp cloths/sponges – For the same reasons as paper towels, but these are more effective at cleaning poop off of leaves and for wiping more stubborn areas.
- Tweezers – This is only for the more squeamish among you. Useful for picking up dried poop and dead insects.
- Surface cleaner – Some people insist on products like wipeout as they’re labeled as reptile safe. I personally find this unnecessary and using a standard unscented antibacterial spray or even white vinegar is fine. Obviously, don’t spray it on the chameleon itself or near to it. This should be used to spot spray any areas of the cage that poop and dead insects have come into direct contact with.
For weekly cleaning:
Pretty much the same tools are used, but you’ll need some rubber gloves as you’ll be giving a bit more of a thorough wipe down and any cleaner can irritate the skin.
You’ll also need to replace the substrate if you use any, and a dust pan and brush can make cleaning out the bottom of the cage easier for any bit of dried poop you missed and for removing fallen leaves.
For annual cleaning:
Again all the tools above will come in useful, but as you’re really giving it a deep clean you’ll need:
- Buckets – These should be large enough to soak any accessories you’ve removed, like vines and branches.
- Antibacterial Dish Soap – This should be used to soak the removed accessories in to disinfect them. Also used for weekly cleaning.
- Window Scraper – This is useful for scraping any stubborn bits of dirt from glass enclosures, as well as for scraping any stubborn bits in general from any type of surface.
- Steam Cleaner – Optional but highly recommended as no chemicals are used, which is great for you, your chameleon and the environment. You’ll need to get a larger one, as smaller cleaners don’t get the steam hot enough to properly disinfect.
- Back Up Cage – Again this is optional, but if possible you can use it to house your chameleon in the sun for a few hours outside while you give the cage an annual spring-clean.
How to clean a chameleon cage
Daily cage cleaning
This should form part of a general daily cage check after you’ve fed and watered your chameleon.
Remove dead insects – Do this either using paper towels or tweezers.
Remove live insects – Chameleons don’t always eat all their food and any leftover live insects can bite your chameleon and eat your plants, so check thoroughly for these and remove any you find.
Clean feeding cup – This only applies if you cup feed your chameleon. Remove the empty cup, wash with soapy water, dry and replace.
Spot clean – Use a tiny bit of antibacterial cleaner sprayed onto a damp cloth and wipe any areas where poop has come into direct contact with the cage or if any is stuck to a leaf. Skip this part if you use paper towels as substrate and the poop landed on it, as this can be changed later in the weekly clean.
Wipe any pooling water – This only applies if you see any on the floor of the cage. Soaking up with a paper towel will work fine. Don’t clean any drops off of leaves or from the side of the enclosure, as your chameleon may want to drink them.
Check the chameleon over – Don’t pick them up, just take a look at them. Does everything look OK or do you notice anything different, like sunken eyes? Stuck shed skin? Any unusual marks? If so, investigate further.
Weekly cage cleaning
In addition to daily cleaning, you’ll need to do a weekly clean and maintenance routine. This involves watering the plants as most of them require weekly watering and removing and cleaning the substrate.
This is the main reason I prefer paper towel substrate because it absorbs water and is extremely easy to remove and change. You can simply gather the paper towels into a ball, collecting up any poop, leaves or other mess and throw into the garbage.
Most screen cages have a removable bottom section that will need to be taken out, sprayed with antibacterial surface spray and wiped down.
I wouldn’t recommend completely removing all plants every week to clean them, as this will stress your chameleon.
Instead, remove a different plant each week and give it hosing down in the shower or outside. Gently wipe the leaves with a separate sponge that’s been dipped in soapy water.
Wipe down all the cage surfaces using an antibacterial surface spray and a damp cloth.
Rinse any soap off all the items you’ve cleaned, allow to dry, and then place back in the cage. Clean your hands with antibacterial soap or hand sanitizer when finished.
Annual Chameleon Cage Cleaning
This is where you do an annual, or twice-annual, deep cleaning of the cage. You’ll need to remove your chameleon for this and either place them in a separate backup cage outside or place them on a plant out of the way.
After that, it’s similar to a weekly clean, but everything is stripped out and removed from the cage, including all the vines and plants.
Clean all the plants in the same way you would clean one of them in a weekly clean, but do it much more thoroughly than just a gentle wipe down of the leaves.
Soak all the accessories and vines in soapy water. Afterward, allow them to dry and then spray with either the wipe away reptile disinfectant mentioned earlier or use a 10% bleach solution.
While the accessories are disinfecting, you need to really get into the cage and clean it with the disinfectant or bleach solution. Use a separate sponge for this. Allow to sit for 10 minutes or so, then rinse thoroughly with warm water.
If using a steam cleaner, place the cage either outside or in the shower and give it a thorough going over with the steamer. This will kill any germs as effectively as a disinfectant, providing it’s a large steam cleaner.
Regardless of what method you use for disinfecting, make sure you allow the cage to dry out completely first.
All the accessories and plants need to be rinsed thoroughly with warm water, allowed to dry completely before being reassembled back inside the cage.
Finally, you can place your chameleon back inside its freshly clean and sparkly home.