Can You Use Outside Branches For Chameleons?

What is the most obvious spot for an arboreal reptile like a chameleon to hang on? Exactly! A branch of a tree. Clearly, they need the same thing in captivity as well. So, what most of the chameleon owners think of is getting a random outside branch to fill the gap. But is it really wise to use outside branches for chameleons?

Well, there’s no problem with using outside branches. But you need to make sure that they’re free of insects and sap. If you’re doubtful about the branch’s safety, give it a proper rinsing and baking right after soaking them in bleach. 

But how good are they against the ones that are specially designed for chameleons? And even if they are okay, what kind of branches should you go for in the first place? Well, let’s find that out.

How to Pick the Right Branches for Your Chameleon?

You’ve got no other choice but to be cautious, especially when you’ve got a unique pet like a chameleon. So, even if you’re picking a simple branch for this reptile, you need to be very careful. But what factors should you consider in the first place here? Well, here’s your list. 

1. Size 

The branches should be robust enough to support your reptile’s weight without breaking or bending. So, the size of these branches should be at least 1/4 inch to 3/4 inch in diameter, based on the size of your chameleon, of course. 

This kind of branch will help in preventing the chameleon from accidentally falling down. Plus, they’re big enough to eliminate the possibility of ingesting small pieces of wood, as they’re not too thin to break off easily. 

2. Texture

As chameleons’ feet are adapted for gripping and clinging, they like rough or textured branches for climbing and perching. Bark or rough-surfaced natural branches are more of an ideal choice here. Nevertheless, stay away from any branches that have thorns or spines since your chameleon might get hurt there.

3. Shape

Thanks to the arboreal lifestyle, chameleons require a wide range of perching and climbing options. So, you better provide your chameleon with a fascinating and varied habitat by supplying branches of varying forms, angles, and thicknesses. You should also let your chameleon have vines, ropes, and branches that are fork or Y in shape.

4. Type of Wood

Always choose branches produced from non-toxic woods. That’s because some of the woods can be literally fatal to chameleons. You can go for any of the risk-free plants like grapevines, manzanitas, hibiscus, and ficus trees. 

We won’t suggest you use branches from fruit trees or hardwoods. After all, their sap might be poisonous to your reptile. Furthermore, avoid using softwoods like cedar, pine, and others since they may exude oils and resins. We guess you already know that they too are toxic to chameleons.

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What Type of Branches Should You Have for Your Chameleon?

When it comes to making a chameleon enclosure perfect, you simply can’t stick to a single branch. After all, they don’t hold on to the same branch for the whole day in the wild, right? So, you need to have a bit of variety in your reptile’s enclosure as well. The last time we checked, these three types of branches worked perfectly for a chameleon. 

1. Structural Branches

The diameter of structural branches is often an inch or more. We know that’s not the size you had in mind. But they’re not for the purpose you’re thinking. The intention is for them to be just robust enough. But for what? 

Well, they are usually installed horizontally along the top and bottom of the cage and serve as plant holders, perching spots, and branch anchors. By the way, chameleons can use these branches for climbing too, but like we said before, that’s not what they’re designed for.

2. Perching Branches

You need to select perching branches with the same attention that you use to pick out a plush sofa. Whether basking or sleeping, your reptile will spend a lot of time perched in the same spot. So, you should grab branches that are perfectly comfortable to perch on since they do pick favorite areas and spend a lot of time there.

If you’re asking for an ideal option, we’d say you better go with the natural branches of varied diameters and textures. In case you’re looking for something with interesting shapes and attractive nature at the same time, feel free to grab oak branches.

The best position for perching branches is horizontal. But that doesn’t mean you’ll see no chameleons that sleep in a vertical position. But that’s nothing more than an unusual exception.

3. Network Branches

Chameleon use the network’s branches to get from one perching branch to another, or to any other part of the cage. In a sense, you can simply call them the reptile’s highways. One of the best things about using these branches is, you can make the most efficient use of the available area in your chameleon’s enclosure. 

And having a variety in the size of these branches is totally okay. It actually doesn’t matter how thick or thin the twigs in the network are as long as they lead the chameleon to its destination.

What Else Can You Use for Decorating Your Chameleon’s Enclosure?

Who said you’d have to stick to branches only to make your reptile’s nest look more of a natural place? You can and should always add other stuff in the enclosure to make it the best place for your chameleon. A few things we can suggest here are – 

1. Vines 

The addition of vines to your chameleon’s habitat will give it a more natural appearance along with providing it more places to climb. Feel free to use artificial vines if you like, or you can simply go for the real plants with trailing stalks. While decorating the enclosure with vines, be careful to fasten them firmly to the branches or other fixed objects. After all, you don’t want your reptile to fall down.

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2. Plants

In addition to improving the enclosure’s aesthetics, adding live plants will make it more functional by serving as perches, hiding places, and of course, a humidifying source. Umbrella plants, ficus, hibiscuses, and pothos are all perfect choices if you’re asking for the ideal houseplants. You also should check the individual plants you intend to use so that you can make sure your chameleon can safely interact with them.

3. Logs

Not only can logs be utilized as a natural climbing surface, but will also serve as the perfect hiding place. But make sure that the logs you’re choosing won’t injure your chameleon, such as those without chemicals or splinters.

4. Ladders

If you want to give your chameleon a change of scenery and give it more opportunity to climb, don’t step back from using ladders and other artificial decorations. But to be on the safe side, check that none of the fake decorations you use include little bits that are small enough to be swallowed by your pet.

How to Make a Branch Safe for Your Chameleon? 

Well, if you’ve got a perfect branch and can’t feel like letting it go, you better use it for your chameleon. But don’t forget to make it safe before using it. Now the question is – how are you going to pull this off? Well, just by following some simple steps like –

Step – 1: Stripping Off Dry Bark

Clean the branches of any flaky or dry bark. Feel free to use a wire brush or scrape it off with a knife. If the branch comes with any parasites or other hazardous impurities, this will help you to get rid of them.

Step – 2: Disinfecting with Reptile-friendly Disinfectant

Clean the branch well with a disinfectant safe for reptiles. This will help to eliminate any germs that can harm your chameleon. Be sure to completely rinse the branches after cleaning them, as directed on the disinfectant’s packaging.

Step – 3: Thorough Rinsing

Remove any remaining disinfectant from the branch by rinsing it completely with clean water.

Step – 4: Drying Under the Sun

The branches need to dry thoroughly in the sun. Let it be there for the whole day. 

Step – 5: Baking 

Bake the branch for an hour at a temperature of 200 to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. This will help eliminate any lingering germs or other potentially harmful elements.

Step – 6: Soaking in Bleach and Water

To be extra safe, you can wash the branch in a mixture of bleach and water in the bathroom sink. Mix one part bleach with ten parts water and apply it. The branches need to be soaked for at least 24 hours with the water covering all of its surfaces. After soaking, give it a good rinse.

Step – 7: Rinsing and Baking Again

Once you’re done with soaking, bake the branches at a temperature of 200 to 250 degrees Fahrenheit for another hour after a thorough rinsing in clean water. This will guarantee that the branch is free of any bleach residue and are suitable for your chameleon.

Why Using Outside Branches is Not Always a Good Idea?

It’s true that there’s often no major danger in using outside branches after sterilizing them. But that doesn’t mean you should always grab a random branch and put it in your reptile’s enclosure – for the following reasons, of course. 

1. Unsafe

Nobody knows what kind of pesticides and other harmful substances the branch has been exposed to. If they are, there’s always a chance of it being toxic, and if your reptile ingests any of it or absorbs it through its skin, it can be pretty much harmful to its health. 

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In addition, it’s a must for chameleons to avoid coming into touch with the thorns or spines as that can injure the reptile. But unfortunately, they’re common in lots of natural plants and trees.

We know what you’re thinking. Yes, it’s possible to mitigate the risk by cleaning and disinfecting the exterior of the branch thoroughly. But no matter how careful you are with the cleaning, it’s too tough to find out what the branch has been exposed to lately. So, the best thing you can do is get branches that are designed to be used in reptile enclosures. 

2. Inappropriate 

When it comes to trees and ledges, various chameleon species have distinct requirements. For instance, whereas some chameleons like climbing smooth and straight branches, others favor perching on branched and bushy ones. But finding out an appropriate outside branch is often a tough nut to crack. 

So, in case you’ve got no idea about what type of branches your reptile needs, don’t just put a random branch in there. After all, you never know what kind of injury or discomfort the branch will lead to. 

3. Weak

Chameleons that are heavier than average ones might fall into serious injury if you try to balance them on flimsy, shaky branches. And there’s no guarantee that the one you’re getting from outside will be strong enough to hold them all the way. 

On top of that, weak branches might also not be able to hold the weight of the vines and plants you wish to grow in the enclosure. Clearly, this can make it challenging to build a safe, all-natural habitat for your chameleon.

4. Hard To Position

Just because a branch from outdoors is suitable for your reptile’s species, that doesn’t mean it will also be a secure place for the color shifter. The thing is, outside branches can be a bit difficult to position in an enclosure, especially in a position where the lizard can find it comfortable.

For instance, if you place branches too close to the sides or top of the cage, your chameleon can get injured if it tries to jump or fall off. In the same way, branches that get close or touch the heat bulb might cause serious harm to your chameleon.

5. Unclean

Outer branches can harbor insects, germs, and other creatures that can be damaging to the health of your chameleon. No matter how perfectly you’re cleaning the branches, it’s next to impossible to ensure that they are totally free of hazardous organisms. 

Furthermore, in case the branches are not thoroughly dried after washing, they might serve as a breeding ground for germs and mildew. Your best chance here is utilizing branches built expressly for reptile cages can assist in reducing these concerns.

Final Words

By the way, just getting the right branches is not enough. You need to your reptile the right cage to the make right branches more useful. Hold on a second! Are you thinking about using bird cage for your reptile? Well, don’t do that, at least not before reading our blog on – Can You Use A Bird Cage For Keeping Chameleons?

Muntaseer Rahman

About Author

Hello, I’m Muntaseer Rahman, the owner of I’m passionate about aquarium pets like shrimps, snails, crabs, and crayfish. I’ve created this website to share my expertise and help you provide better care for these amazing pets.


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