By Terri Estes
So, you don’t have time for a dog, and you are not a cat person. Or maybe you have allergies, but you would like to have a pet to enhance your life. How about a chameleon? With the right housing and set-up, they are relatively low maintenance, and they are very interesting to watch. Their unique color-changing ability is fascinating, and they don’t require a lot of space. A 20-gallon tank makes a great home for chameleons.
The tank should have a screened top for good ventilation. They need a UVB and UVA light source that is on a 10-to-12-hour light cycle. They sell light bulbs and fixtures in pet stores with these specific requirements for certain reptiles. They also need a basking area with a temperature between 85 to 90 degrees and a cooler side of the tank should be 75 to 85 degrees. Under tank heating pads help achieve appropriate temperatures. Chameleons are ectothermic, meaning they rely on external heat sources to regulate their body temperature, so these different heat zones are important. They also need a misting system to maintain a humidity between 50 to 70%. And lastly, they need climbing branches, hiding places and foliage to simulate their natural environment. Try to provide different shades of greens and browns for color changes. Chameleons change color to blend into their environment. However, they also change colors in response to various other factors such as mood, temperature, communication and stress.
Once your tank is set up with all these necessities, you are almost ready for your new addition. Food and water need to be considered. Chameleons eat insects. Luckily, most pet stores sell crickets, meal worms, wax worms and silkworms. Dusting these various insects with a calcium supplement and a vitamin powder made specifically for chameleons helps them receive their essential nutrients. They also need access to fresh water, so a shallow water bowl is necessary. Regular cleaning and disinfection of the tank is important to maintain hygiene and prevent bacterial growth.
All of this may sound like a lot, but really, once the tank is properly set up, it is all about feeding and observing your new family member’s unique ability to change colors. It’s like having an animal kingdom show right in your own home, where you can learn about your pet’s natural behaviors and individual personalities. No, they are not cuddly and are not known to form strong bonds with their caregivers, but they can become accustomed to the presence of familiar individuals who provide their care.
Fun Animal Fact: Green Sea Turtles have an average lifespan of around 80 years, but some have been reported to live well over 100 years.