When we think of a chameleon, the first picture that comes to our mind is it sitting on a branch, looking to its next prey, and BAMM! Grabbing the insect with its strong and long tongue within a fraction of a second. But what if you’re keeping it in a cage? Let’s say a bird’s cage. Will it be a good idea?
You better not use a bird cage for keeping chameleons as that’s for sure, is not going to be the best or safest option. Yes, it’ll have the kind of ventilation you’d like to have for your lizard but that’s all! Once you’re putting your reptile in there, it can injure itself by getting the feet stuck between bars or can become the easiest meal for your cat roaming in the house.
Then what can you use for keeping your reptile? An aquarium? Or is there something better than that? Well, let’s find out!
Why Using a Bird Cage to Keep a Chameleon is a Bad Idea?
You’re probably looking for some solid reason to not let your chameleon be in that bird cage. Well, we’ve got more than enough reasons to discourage you from letting a bird cage be your chameleon’s next home.
Bugs That Are Still Alive Will Be Able To Get Out
If you keep your chameleon in a bird cage, there will be plenty of room for the crickets and other live insects to escape, the one you left there as their meal. Usually, in screened enclosures, there’s not enough window for the insects to slip away.
The Bars Are Too Wide
Have you seen bear trap? Guess what? The cage can simply work like a bear trap for your chameleon. It’ll at least give you lizard a similar kind of feeling. There’s a high chance of the feet of your reptile getting stuck in the bars and that’ll sure leave them injured. Chicken wire or screen mesh could be used to line the walls, but there’s no guarantee that they’ll be safe enough for the chameleon.
Dampness, Rust, & Humidity
Bars on a birdcage are susceptible to rusting, which can compromise the safety and health of the chameleon. On top of that, the bars of the bird cage may become dangerously slippery if it rains or is otherwise humid outside. Despite this, your chameleon will still try to climb up but the possibilities are quite high that it might fall and get itself hurt pretty badly.
Why You Can’t Use an Aquarium Too?
You’re probably thinking about all the possible options as your chameleon’s next habitat including an aquarium or fish tank. This one can’t be that bad, right? Well, we’ll have to disappoint you a bit on this one too as this option also got a fair share on the ‘disadvantage’ side.
Do you know what is common in all good fish tanks? They’ve got no leaks. This means nothing goes out of it. Clearly, the same goes for the humidity as well. So, humidity and trapped heat will slip in as a result of inadequate ventilation. This means, your chameleon may have to deal with breathing difficulties.
It’s possible that your chameleon might mistake its own reflection for an intruder and go into the ‘stressed & aggressive’ mode. In the worst-case scenario, the lizard can get scared and either hide or try to attack its own reflection.
There’s no way to deny that chameleons are too good at grabbing their prey. But a fish tank can simply turn this feature against them. We mean, your chameleon’s tongue can get hurt trying to swat a fly on the other side of the glass. Injuries to the limbs, head, or spine are also possible due to the translucent and harsh walls.
Poor Drainage Systems
For obvious reasons, aquariums don’t come with a drainage system. But that literally backfires when you’re putting chameleon in there. Water that you’d spray on the chameleon may not be able to drain out due to the glass seal. On top of that, humidity in the enclosure will rise, and a puddle of water will form on the floor. And guess what? Both of these are bad for the reptile and might trigger health issues.
What Kind of Cage Should You Get for Your Chameleon?
Okay, we bet now you’ve dropped the idea of getting a bird cage. Now the question is – what kind of cage should you go for then? Well, let’s not just make you stick to a certain type. Just go for the ones that come with the following features.
Size of the Cage
A cage of 2 by 2 by 4 feet is better for the chameleon, especially when you’re asking for a Veiled, Panther, or Jackson’s. To push the conditions to their best, go for the wider cages. After all, adult chameleons will quickly outgrow the standard 30″ and 36″ cages, the ones you usually see in pet stores and zoos.
It’s unnecessary to wait until the animal reaches adulthood before constructing an appropriate enclosure. A young chameleon that is old enough to be bought and sold can be housed in an enclosure meant for an adult.
Don’t rush into buying a chameleon if it’s so young that it “needs” a smaller cage. Sometimes you can buy a chameleon that is too young. In such cases, you should get the chameleon from a reputable breeder.
You’re probably wondering – should you only get larger enclosures? After all, they’re a bit expensive, right? Well, the correct answer is, the cage must be large enough so that the chameleon’s complete body length fits comfortably in the areas of the gradients that you set up.
It’s rare to find a chameleon that requires a large living quarter. They are content with a location to sleep safely, a spot to soak up some rays, and a watering hole for sustenance. Even a very cramped area is adequate for this task. However, you’ll need a cage whose dimensions increase as the chameleon’s body gets larger in order to provide room for the animal along the gradients.
From the care sheet, you should know that chameleons need screen cages to survive. Well, that’s not entirely true. Screen cages, glass cages, and a mix of the two are all viable options. Actually, the amount of fresh air the cham need depends on where you are. If you live in a chameleon-friendly environment, a screen cage is the way to go.
To regulate the temperature and humidity levels within, glass enclosures are the finest of the options. Most people in the United States and Europe like picking a hybrid cage, which consists of three solid sides with a front and top screen.
There is a place for the screen, hybrid, and glass enclosures too. By increasing the number of screens, airflow, and the rate at which heat and humidity escape both can be improved. More temperature and humidity regulations will be at your disposal, thanks to the added protection provided by solid walls. The correct enclosure can only be determined by its surroundings.
Most recommendations are based on screen time experience. There is a lot of support for and interest in using screen cages. Heat lamp and misting schedules designed for screen cages cannot be transferred to solid-sided cages.
Before you get a cage for your reptile, make sure that it’s offering you all the room and scope for setting up plants. After all, your chameleon needs plant cover. Like their natural habitat, they need concealment and leaf sipping in their new home too. On top of that, plants increase humidity and environmental “life” for the lizards.
But that doesn’t mean plastic plants have been totally useless in such cases. Breeders have employed plastic plants for decades without difficulty as they’re easy to use and clean. They can also cover cage spaces with vegetation instead of dirt. Useful, right? Hold on! There’s a problem too. If a Veiled Chameleon eats the plastic, it can be dangerous and cause major health issues.
You can use Pothos, Umbrella Plant, and Ficus which are the most popular plants (Ficus Benjamina) to be used in a chameleon enclosure. Umbrella plants and Ficus trees, both can be cage-floor plants.
No matter which plant you’re picking, make sure that they provide a hiding spot for your chameleon, they’re a drinkable source of water for the lizard and help to create a humidity pocket. After all, live plants create the dampness that chameleons need for survival and to be comfortable with the atmosphere.
If you’ve already researched the chameleons’ lifestyle, the one fact that shouldn’t skip your eyes is that they like horizontal perching. For that, they need horizontally-placed branches. So, the cage you’re planning to pick for them should give you enough scope to set all the required branches in there.
The first one is the basking branch. From the name, you can probably assume, this is the branch from where the chameleon can obtain heat and UVB. This branch should be 6″ from the UVB lamp’s tip.
It’s the drinking spot that comes next in the line. This branch should be close enough to water-dripping leaves for drinking. By the way, that doesn’t have to be a separate branch, but there must be branch space.
And the third one is the eating spot. This branch should be within the chameleon’s tongue range. So that it can grab any of your offered treats from the branch.
The last one is the hideaway branch. This horizontal branch would provide cover for your chameleon. When they don’t want to deal with unwanted strangers, they’d simply go there to hide and sleep.
Misting system is something that you just can’t avoid while thinking of an enclosure for your lizard. So, when you’re picking the next home for your reptile, make sure that it’s got all the scope to take in the right kind of misting systems like Mist King or something similar.
By the way, are you thinking about spraying all by your hand to save some bucks on the misting system? Well, feel free to count that as a bad idea. Want to know why? Click here and you’ll get a clearer picture of this.
In general, chameleons shouldn’t be kept in bird cages. When you consider the width of their limbs, being caught between the bars becomes an obvious hazard. As Better alternatives, you can try netting cages or screen mesh cages with sufficient ventilation and UVB light streaming in from above.