Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Enclosures/ Habitat

Veiled chameleons are arboreal creatures and require housing that is quite different from what one classically considers acceptable reptilian quarters. These animals spend their lives in the trees and should, therefore, be provided with a habitat that would be more suited to a parrot than a salamander.
Fresh, well circulated air, clean water that simulates rain or morning dew, dense vegetation, open above canopy basking areas and lots of vines and branches are basic building blocks in the creation of this captive environment.
Height is of greater importance than width or depth of the enclosure. They feel most secure when positioned as high as possible.
Lighting, temperatures, plants and water are all covered in separate entries on this site. In this entry I will deal exclusively with the actual structure that will house your veiled chameleon and all of his or her necessary trappings.
Bigger is always better, but in an effort to be realistic minimum dimensions have been established in the hobby which have proven quite sufficient in offering these animals the space they need. Consider these measurements as a inch or two here or there is not going to make much of a difference, but, you should try and remain as close as possible to the recommended size. For an adult female veiled chameleon the enclosure should be a minimum height of about 30 inches with width and depth coming in at close to 18 inches each. For an adult male the height needs to be closer to 4 feet with 2 feet width and depth.
Young veileds will benefit from a smaller enclosure. They will get lost in an adult sized one, and it may be difficult for them to locate their food. A smaller enclosure will also allow you to more closely moniter the eating, drinking and other daily activities of your young chameleon. I have had good luck using an enclosure 18 inches high with a width of 20 and a depth of 12 inches. This small enclosure will be sufficient until the animal reaches 4 or 5 months in age.
I have had great success using commercially available enclosures that are made entirely of aluminum window screen with a PVC floor. This enclosure allows for the proper ventilation, temperature gradient and evaporation of moisture required.
Humidity and temperatures stay in very acceptable ranges with dense planting and a good basking lamp.
There are very successful keepers who utilize glass enclosures. This requires very specific attention be paid to ventilation and build-up of moisture. Glass enclosures also hold in heat, so extra attention must be paid to how the basking area is executed and also to maintaining a gradient in temperatures to allow for thermoregulation.
Very young chameleons can be (and often are) kept in a glass enclosure with a screen top. In this situation the misting is light and the temps are lower.
The veiled chameleon habitat should be located as high as possible in your home. The cage should not be placed directly on the floor, but rather on a table, counter or some type of stand. Remember, these animals feel safest when high in the trees. You, your family, and your other pets may be regarded as predators by your chameleon. Giving your chameleon the opportunity to climb as high as possible in the habitat (preferably above your eye level) will go a long way in making him or her feel comfortable.