By far the most popular choice of chameleon to be kept as a pet is the veiled chameleon, closely followed by the panther chameleon and the Jackson’s chameleon. In fact, veiled chameleons are so popular they are now widely available in chain pet stores like Petco and Petsmart.
Before getting a veiled chameleon it’s really important you know how to set up their cage properly. Getting this right from the start will give your veiled chameleon a great chance to have a long and healthy life and will save you time, money and worry in the long run.
This guide on how to set up a veiled chameleon cage will cover everything you need to know.
Veiled Chameleon Cage
First things first is deciding on what type of cage to get for your veiled chameleon. There are a few things you need to consider:
- Size – Do you have room for a veiled chameleon’s cage? Most people do but the ideal size is 24x24x48 inches. Any smaller than this and your chameleon will be very uncomfortable. Height is most important as chameleons are arboreal, meaning they live almost the entirety of their lives in trees.
- Glass v Screen – There is an ongoing debate about which is best. The argument goes screen is best for ventilation but glass keeps in humidity and heat. For a veiled chameleon, I recommend screen as their humidity level requirements are met by standard room humidity levels.
I personally recommend this hybrid cage from amazon. It has a glass front to make viewing of your veiled chameleon easier and screen sides to provide better airflow and humidity. I housed my veiled chameleon in this cage for the entirety of his life and he lived a long and healthy life in it.
You can also build your own DIY cage and some people get really creative with these things. I’m not very good at DIY so I will leave this to others but you need to be aware of materials used before carrying out such projects because wooded cages can become warped and rotten, glass can be difficult and expensive to use and any mistakes can cause injury to your veiled chameleon.
Where to put a veiled chameleon cage?
Veiled chameleons are generally pretty shy creatures and they can stress very easily. The location of your chameleon’s cage can be a big factor as to how much low-level underlying stress they feel over time.
To avoid this situation from getting serious I suggest putting your chameleon in a room that has low foot traffic from people in your home.
If you live alone or just you and your partner then this won’t be a problem as you can have your veiled chameleon in any room you like.
If you have a big family though, with small children, other pets like dogs and they’re often in the living room then your chameleon may feel uncomfortable.
That’s not to say you can’t put them in a room with lots of activity going on but it just makes things easier if you can keep things relatively free of activity.
Wherever you put your veiled chameleon’s cage, make sure it is elevated on a table and that your chameleon is able to perch above your head. Veiled chameleons are often hunted by birds from above in the wild and being able to survey the room and stay above all the activity will certainly make them calmer.
Veiled Chameleon Cage Lighting
Lighting is probably the most important aspect of setting up a veiled chameleon’s cage. It’s so important I’ve written a more general article about chameleon lighting here.
To summarize though, a veiled chameleon needs two types of lights. One is the a UVB strip light and the other is a basking light.
Veiled Chameleon UVB Light
In the wild, a veiled chameleon will use sunlight for heat and another purpose, the absorption of calcium.
Sunlight contains UVB rays and veiled chameleons use this to convert vitamin D into vitamin D3 which they in turn use to absorb calcium into their bones.
If this isn’t recreated in captivity your pet veiled chameleon’s bones will begin to become brittle and deteriorate. This painful condition is called metabolic bone disease and is a common issue in many captive reptiles and a leading cause of death but it is so easily avoided with the correct lighting set up.
Your first instinct may be to go out and buy the bulb with the highest output possible but this is a bad idea for veiled chameleons. Too much exposure to vitamin D3 is rare but can have its own problems.
When shopping for bulbs you will see 10.0 and 5.0. Veiled chameleons need the 5.0 one. I recommend this lighting kit from Amazon that comes with the bulb you need and nicely across the top of the cage I mentioned above.
Veiled Chameleon Basking Light
As I mentioned earlier, veiled chameleons also need the sun for heat because they are cold blooded and cannot raise their body temperatures on their own.
Veiled chameleons will move in and out of direct sunlight and shaded areas as their body temperature fluctuates throughout the day.
This means you will need to provide a temperature gradient to enable your chameleon to move in and out of like they would in the wild.
To do this a basking heat lamp needs to be placed on top of the enclosure and aimed at a spot on a branch about 12 inches below it. I recommend using this clamp lamp along with the 50w mini bulbs that fit it as these will provide a tightly focused basking spot for your veiled chameleon and reaches the required temperature it needs, which is around 95 degrees.
Providing Water For Your Veiled Chameleon
I’ve written a more comprehensive article about giving chameleons water and how to do it, here but in summary veiled chameleons need water not only for hydration but also humidity.
Veiled chameleons, like other chameleon species, are not the easiest of pets to provide water for in captivity. With most pets, you just either provide a bowl of water for them to drink from or a water bottle attached to the side of the enclosure but this will be useless for a veiled chameleon.
This is because veiled chameleons do not drink standing water, in fact, they hardly even recognize it as water. Instead, veiled chameleons hydrate themselves by licking water droplets that form on leaves in the morning dew or when it rains.
Like the light from the sun, you need to recreate this in captivity or else your chameleon will become seriously ill through dehydration. There are a few ways to do this and which will be suitable will depend on how busy you are and what your budget is.
Hand Misting Your Veiled Chameleon
This is how most chameleon keepers start off. It’s a simple method of filling up a plastic spray bottle, I recommend one with a pressure pump like this one as it will save your hands and wrists from aching, fill it up, pump and away you go with spraying.
However, like me you may find that this gets old pretty quickly because you have to mist the enclosure at least twice a day and you have to do it until your chameleon recognizes water is present and not just until everything is wet.
Dripper System For Your Veiled Chameleon
This is the method of placing a water dripper on top of the enclosure and letting it drip at a slow to moderate speed onto leaves underneath.
You can but a commercially available dripper like this one that will enable you to have more control over the speed of the drops. You can, however, recreate the effect by poking a very small hole in the bottom of a plastic cup, filling it with water and leaving it on top of the cage.
Veiled Chameleon Misting System
By far my favorite choice for so many reasons. I won’t repeat here as to why you might prefer one and what one to get as I’ve written an article about that here but to sum up they’re the quickest, easiest way to provide water for your veiled chameleon and they provide you with peace of mind knowing your pet is getting enough water.
They’re not break the bank expensive but they are certainly not the cheapest option either, but their ease of use and the amount of time they save make them well worth it though in my opinion.
Drainage for your veiled chameleon cage
I will say right off the bat the I personally never bothered with a drainage system. This is why I advocate for paper towels as substrate for the bottom of the cage. A decent brand will soak up water well and dry out from the heat lamps. Cotton towels work well too as long as both are changed and cleaned regularly it’s fine.
As ever though you may want to try a different option to deal with excess water and that’s where a good drainage system can come in handy. This is especially true if the bottom of your cage is made of wood as this will prevent wood rot.
It doesn’t have to have to be elaborate. Most commercially bought cages will have a piece of PVC at the bottom. A few small holes drilled in the middle will be enough to allow the water to drain out into a tray underneath. This one from Amazon has the correct dimensions for the cage size I recommend.
All you need to do is have container underneath the drain hole to catch the water and empty it easily.
Veiled Chameleon Monitoring Equipment
To ensure your chameleon has the right temperature, has the right level of humidity and that the lights go on and off at the exact same times every day you’re going to need a few bits of extra equipment.
Monitoring the temperature will mean you have to check it in two places at least once a day, the basking spot and the ambient temperature of the cage. The easiest way to do this is with a temperature gun like this one. Temperature guns are really easy to use, accurate and will in no way disturb your veiled chameleon.
Next, you need a hygrometer to measure the levels of humidity in the cage. A digital one is the most accurate and this one, in particular, has great reviews.
Finally, and these are pretty essential and often overlooked, but you need timers to control the lights in your veiled chameleon’s enclosure. It’s nigh on impossible to be there at the same time every day when the lights need to be turned on and off in your veiled chameleon’s enclosure. So make life easier on yourself and more comfortable for your pet by picking up a power strip like this it takes care of the timers and power supply for your entire setup.
Veiled Chameleon Furniture
Finally, you’ve gotta kit out your veiled chameleon’s pad with some cool furniture. We’re not talking sofas and armchairs here but veiled chameleon style furniture, and this involves plants, vines and a little bit of flooring.
Veiled Chameleon Substrate
In terms of flooring, also known as substrate, there’s an ongoing debate about whether chameleons need it or not. I’ve addressed the question of whether they need it or not and what options are available here. In my view, all they need is some simple paper towels at the bottom to catch any bits of stray poop and absorb some of the water.
Veiled chameleon plants
Having a veiled chameleon means you’re going to have to get involved with a little bit of plant care.
You’re maybe like me and absolutely terrible at plant care and are instead tempted to throw some plastic plants in there and leave it at that. There are several reasons I don’t recommend doing that.
- Veiled chameleons eat plants – Yep, that’s right they will, every now and then and some more than others, chow down on the plant life. It will be easier to say what couldn’t go wrong than what could go wrong if your pet chameleon eats a piece of plastic foliage!
- Live plants help with humidity – Live plants are living and breathing like you, me and your veiled chameleon. This means they produce mositure which in turn keeps the air humid. Veiled chameleons are easier to provide correct humidity levels for and live plants make it even easier.
- Plastic plants look bad – I guess this is a personal choice but the way I see it is your getting a veiled chameleon that lives in lush forests on treetops so why not recreate that in their cage in your home? Not only will the cage look amazing but live plants will help make your veiled chameleon feel more comfortable and have plenty of places to hide.
Not all plants are equal though, especially not when it comes to placing them in veiled chameleon cages. Most are unsuitable for them. I’ve written more about plants for chameleons and provided a detailed list of what types are suitable here.
Getting a chameleon cage setup right from the beginning is the single best way to ensure your chameleon has a long and healthy life.
The cage can be as simple or as elaborate as you like but remember, veiled chameleons live in lush green forests so it’s best to try to recreate that as much as possible. It really does look amazing when you get it right and your pet will love it.