March 24, 2023 15 min read
Hello readers! I am Neptune the Chameleon’s mom and have spent years educating and mentoring thousands of chameleon keepers across the globe in proper chameleon care. After seeing subpar kits and countless keepers struggle to know what supplies to purchase for their new chameleons, I teamed up with Pangea Reptile to give you a kit that will help your chameleon live their best life! Let’s talk through what everything in the kit does. If you learn by watching videos, be sure to check out this video:
The hardest parts about keeping a chameleon as a pet are knowing what information to listen to and getting them set up correctly. I am going to encourage you to try not to deviate from the recommendations being made in this kit. There is a lot of misinformation and old products out there that are not safe or recommended to use for a chameleon which I talk about frequently on my social platforms. You can follow me @neptunethechameleon on Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, and Facebook.
First up we have the enclosure. The ZooMed XL Reptibreeze will work for either a male or female veiled, panther, or Jackson’s chameleon that is 3 months old or older. This enclosure size will work for the entirety of their life. Chameleons should be housed individually and never kept together. If you purchased a chameleon egg or a hatchling, I’d suggest looking at how to set up an enclosure for a baby chameleon.
Once the enclosure is assembled you will want to provide some sort of way to raise the enclosure at least 2 feet off the ground. Most keepers use a table or nightstand, but I personally use garage shelf racks so that I can also have a way to drain the excess water. More on that later.
Next up let’s talk about lights. Now this can get very complicated and there is a lot of different information out there on the internet, so I will try to keep it simple. But let us first establish that there is more than one way to keep a chameleon.
What I am recommending is the simplest lighting combination that has been proven to be very successful with veiled, panther, and Jackson’s chameleons. Chameleons need a white heat bulb (do not ever use red heat bulbs) to help regulate their temperatures since they are ectothermic (cold blooded). Heat bulbs should be placed on the outside of the enclosure and usually to one side/corner of the enclosure towards the back.
The ideal temperature ranges will vary based on your species and sex of chameleon, but the general basking temperature for a female chameleon is 80°F and 85°F for a male chameleon. This can be measured by the thermometer provided in the kit. The 50W Pangea Halogen bulb that comes with the kit should be able to give you the correct temperatures. You may need a lower or higher wattage bulb to achieve the correct temperatures because the temperatures are dependent on how far away your basking branch is from the bulb, and the temperature in the room the chameleon is kept in. The heat bulb should be on for 12 hours and completely off at night which can be achieved with the timer that comes in the kit! Nighttime temperatures will vary per species, but all species benefit from a temperature drop at night. Veiled chameleons do best with nighttime temps of 55°-65°F, panther chameleons should be 60°-70°F, and Jackson’s chameleons should be around 50°-65°F.
UVB bulbs get even more complicated than heat bulbs. I am recommending you use a T5 HO Arcadia 6% or the Reptisun 5.0 UVB bulb, which is what the kit comes with. This bulb is 100% necessary and acts as the sun for your chameleon. Without the proper UVB bulb, your chameleon is at risk of developing life threatening health issues like metabolic bone disease. If you do not own a solar meter then your UVB bulb will need to be replaced every 6-12 months – just because the UVB bulb turns on, does not mean it is putting off enough UVB because the bulbs get weaker and less effective over time.
You may hear some keepers recommend using a T5 Arcadia 12% or Reptisun 10.0 UVB bulb especially for veiled chameleons. This goes back to my earlier comment that there is more than one way to keep a chameleon. There has been research that demonstrates that a veiled chameleon can successfully live and produce healthy offspring underneath a 6% or 5.0 UVB. So, then we wonder as a chameleon community, is the 12% or 10.0 UVB too much UVB? Are we overdoing it? We know too much UVB is harmful to humans (sunburns, cancer, etc.) but we are still learning the long-term effects of too much UVB on chameleons. If you want to learn more about this, check out Chameleon Academy. This kit is meant for new keepers, so I do prefer to err on the side of caution and recommend you use a bulb we know for sure is safe. Your UVB bulb should be placed on the outside on top of the enclosure and does best when placed horizontally to run left to right.
If you purchased the Advanced kit, then you will also receive a plant LED light. I have seen a HUGE improvement in plant growth since adding one to my own enclosures. They are not necessary, but you will find it to be much easier to keep your plants alive in the enclosure if you do decide to get one. This should also be turned off at night and run alongside your UVB bulb.
Your heat and UVB bulb (and plant LED light) should be on for 12 hours and off at night. Luckily for you, the kit comes with an outlet timer for you to plug your lights into and customize when they turn on and off. The specific times you pick can vary just be consistent. My lights turn on at 8am and off at 8pm.
The kit does not come with any branches, which allows you to customize it to your chameleon’s needs and personal aesthetics. Most chameleon keepers locally source their branches. I personally use natural branches from outside and have had great success using birch wood but there’s lots of different kinds you can use. If you do decide to use natural branches from outside be sure they are washed and cleaned to avoid bringing any foreign contaminants into your enclosure. Make sure the branches you pick are not too thick. Your chameleon’s foot should be able to grip around the branch. It’s always a good idea to provide a variety of sizes of branches to give your chameleon lots of options. Avoid using bamboo because it is very slick and can be difficult for your chameleon to climb. Also avoid branches from sap producing trees because the sap may cause irritation or physical impairment, and fake bendy and or mossy vines where a wire may poke out of the vine.
The branches you put inside of the chameleon enclosure have multiple purposes. The branches are used for traveling around the enclosure, enabling proper thermoregulation, ensuring your chameleon is comfortable, holding up other décor and foliage, and also general aesthetics. Use sticks and branches to your advantage to make an awesome display but also to keep your chameleon comfortable.
The first purpose of installing branches in your enclosure is to provide your chameleon pathways and highways to safely travel through the enclosure. Without a proper branch setup, it is likely your chameleon will try to climb the screen which could cause them to fall and rip out their nails. Chameleons typically move side-to-side so I would try to place your branches horizontal with a few running diagonally along the top, middle, and bottom. The branches are how your chameleon will get around, so any empty space is unused space. Every enclosure will be different but just so you have an idea, I ended up using 25 branches in my enclosure.
The most important branch in your enclosure is your basking branch which is the one that will be underneath the heat bulb. It is SUPER important that this is the appropriate distance providing the correct temperatures so your chameleon will not burn themselves because chameleons are unable to recognize if the temperature is too hot and will accidentally burn themselves causing irreversible damage. If you have a baby chameleon, you will need to factor in the growth of your chameleon and adjust the branches as needed because they will get closer to the heat bulb as they grow. I recommend basking branch placement typically 4"-6” away from the basking bulb.
The final purpose of the branches is to act as an anchor for you to attach your plants. Once your branches are in the enclosure you can move on to attaching your potted live plants.
Branches can be attached to the screen enclosure by using fishing line, floral wire, zip ties, push pins, Dragon Ledges, etc. There’s lots of different ways you can do it, so be sure to check out my various tutorial videos for inspiration and step-by-step instructions.
The plants inside of the enclosure give your chameleon additional things to climb on as well as places to hide. If you are looking for ideas on what plants to use for your chameleon’s enclosure, check out my plant playlist for tons of ideas and inspiration. Some of my favorite plants to use include pothos, begonias, philodendrons, dracaenas, and monsteras but there are lots of other plants you can use!
Here is a link to the Neptune the Chameleon Plant Playlist
It is important to make sure you are using live plants that are safe for your chameleon since some chameleons, especially veiled chameleons, will eat the live plants which is why fake plants are not recommended for most chameleons. Avoid using fake plants, ropes, or hammocks, and really anything besides natural branches and live plants because they have been known to cause preventable issues with chameleons.
When building your enclosure, I would suggest starting at the top and working your way down when adding in your plants. Use smaller plants that do well in heat, high light, and with lots of water towards the top and then use bigger, more sturdy plants that do well in low light for the bottom of the enclosure. Remember any empty space, is unused space. A good rule of thumb is to you should be able to sit across the room and have a hard time spotting your chameleon. They need lot of plant coverage to be able to hide and feel secure. I ended up using 8 smaller plants attached to the upper branches and 3 big potted plants at the bottom.
I’d recommend either making the bottom of your enclosure fully bioactive (drainage layer, bioactive soil, isopods, live plants, etc.) or putting large potted live plants. If you’re a new keeper, the potted live plants are the easier option, and you can always make your enclosure bioactive in the future. The large potted plants help catch the water from your mister and give your chameleon things to climb on. There is no need to use additional substrates like bark, reptile carpet, etc. Paper towels can be used if that will be helpful for cleaning up, but they’re not usually needed.
Let me start off by saying there are a lot of hydration methods when it comes to chameleons. I am going to share what has worked for me and what I recommend to new chameleon keepers I mentor. I hope once you learn more about chameleon care that you feel empowered to customize your hydration schedule based on your environment and specific chameleon. Chameleons are attracted to movement with their food but also with their water. Chameleons are shy drinkers so try not to freak out if you don’t see your chameleon drink.
The general recommendation in the chameleon hobby right now is to mist 2-4 minutes in the morning before lights turn on and 2-4 minutes at night after lights turn off. Avoid spraying your chameleon directly. You will be very tempted to mist them during the day to make sure they are getting enough water – try not to do this. Instead, monitor your chameleon’s poop to make sure they are staying hydrated. If you mist during the day, you’re creating a hot and humid environment which is not ideal for a chameleon. Allow your enclosure to dry out throughout the day. Avoid using water features like a waterfall which can be hard to keep clean and sanitary for your chameleon.
We use a mister to help maintain the appropriate humidity levels and provide moving water for our chameleons to drink. You can manually mist your enclosure with the spray bottle that comes in the Basic Kit, or you can customize the automatic MistKing misting system that comes in the Advanced Kit to mist on a set schedule. The MistKing is a GREAT purchase so that you can automate your enclosure to be able to go on vacation and have peace of mind that your chameleon is hydrated. Not to mention your hand will thank you for not having to stand there for 2 minutes and mist.
I would suggest placing your MistKing nozzle in one of the front corners so that it can point towards the center of the enclosure. You can adjust the angle of the nozzle so that it will avoid misting your walls. You also have the option to add a cool looking background to the back of your enclosure which can also help mitigate the amount of water that hits your walls.
Something not included in the kit is a dripper. You can purchase these separately or even make your own! The dripper is a small container you fill with water to put above the enclosure to drip water onto your chameleon’s plants to provide additional drinking opportunities. It’s not a necessary item to have but can come in handy.
If you purchased the Advanced Kit, then you also have a fogger! Foggers are used to help increase the nighttime humidity level for a chameleon. The fogger can help simulate fog rolling in at night which is what they would experience in the wild. And then they can breathe in the moist air and stay hydrated that way.
Below are the current humidity ranges recommended for the commonly kept species. These are general guidelines and are subject to change as the hobby is learning more about chameleon care. These numbers are measured via a hygrometer (which comes in the kit!) and are controlled by a multitude of factors including the natural humidity of where you live, how many live plants are in the enclosure, how often you’re misting, how long you are misting, if you are using a fogger, etc. Remember that you're aiming for your humidity to be higher during the night and should be 70% or higher.
Veiled chameleon: 40-50%
Panther chameleon: 50-60%
Jackson’s chameleon: 30-50%
All species: 70-100%
Learn more about chameleon hydration, humidity, etc.
Between the misters, foggers, and drippers, there is a lot of water that comes with a chameleon enclosure. There are lots of different ways you can manage the water, but I will share what I do. I drill a few small holes in the bottom of the PVC floor and put my enclosure on top of a garage shelf and a bucket underneath. The water will pool towards the center and be caught in the bucket below. The rest of the water should be caught by the large potted live plants at the bottom of the enclosure.
Chameleons are insectivores and should only be feed live bugs that have been gut-loaded and supplemented. When planning out your chameleon’s diet you need to make sure you include lots of variety, as well as making sure you are feeding them nutritious bugs. Some healthy bugs you can feed on a regular basis include crickets, dubia roaches, silkworms, black soldier fly larvae, locusts, red runner roaches, black soldier flies, blue bottle flies, hawkmoths, silk moths, wax moths, etc. Some bugs that are great to feed to your chameleon as an occasional treat would be: superworms, hornworms, wax worms and mealworms. You will want to avoid feeding your chameleon things like butterworms, earth worms, spiders, fruits & veggies, freeze dried bugs, and bugs from outside.
Crickets, dubia roaches, silkworms, black soldier fly larvae, locusts, red runner roaches, black soldier flies, blue bottle flies, hawkmoths, silk moths, and wax moths.
Superworms, hornworms, wax worms and mealworms.
Butterworms, earth worms, spiders, fruits & veggies, freeze dried bugs, and bugs from outside.
It’s important that all your feeders are gut-loaded before feeding them to your chameleon Gut-loading is the process of feeding your live bugs healthy fruits and veggies before feeding the bugs to your chameleons to ensure they have the proper micronutrients. Without gut-loading, you’re basically feeding your chameleon an empty bug shell. It is important you use the correct items to gut-load with since not all fruits and veggies are created equal.
Learn more about gut-loading:
Feeding tongs are a great tool to pick-up the live bugs that you will need to feed to your chameleon. If you are comfortable grabbing the bugs with your bare hands, go for it! That gives me the heeby jeebies so I use the tongs to pick up the various live bugs and wanted to make sure the kit included some. The tongs are not typically used to feed your chameleon directly because you can accidentally damage your chameleon’s tongue while using them. The chameleon’s tongue can get stuck to the tongs and could result in amputation. The safest method to feed your chameleon is by cup feeding where you put the bugs in a cup or feeder run.
Feeder run: An object set up in an enclosure that contains feeder insects and allows them to walk on a path (often vertical) to draw the attention of a reptile.
Some people choose to have the bugs run loose in the enclosure. I do not recommend tossing bugs in the enclosure because you will not be able to ensure they are gut-loaded and supplemented if they aren’t eaten right away. Additionally, it can be tricky to keep track of how much your chameleon has eaten. Make sure the bugs are moving around in the cup to catch the attention of your chameleon. Be aware that it can sometimes take a chameleon 2 weeks before they feel comfortable enough inside of their new enclosure to start eating.
I briefly mentioned making sure the bugs are supplemented. Let’s dive into that a bit more. Supplementation is the process of adding powdered vitamins to the live bugs before feeding the bugs to your chameleon. These supplements are necessary if you are going to keep your chameleon indoors since they are not able to get access to natural sun and the benefits that come with it. (Putting your chameleon by a window will not suffice since house windows are built to cancel out UVB). Additionally, the supplements help balance out the improper calcium to phosphorus ratio that is present in the bugs we feed to captive chameleons such as crickets, dubia roaches, etc. Without the proper supplements your chameleon is at risk for developing health issues such as swollen eyes, metabolic bone disease, etc. Both kits come with PangeaCal without D3 and a multivitamin with D3. The supplements you use, and how often you use them will be dependent on your species. Please watch the video below to learn about proper supplement schedules:
How much your chameleon eats depends on the age of your chameleon. A growing baby chameleon will eat a lot more and more often than an adult chameleon who is not growing as much. Chameleons 3 months to 8-ish months should be fed once in the morning around 10-15 bugs. Try not to stress too much on the quantity of bugs since that will vary on the size of bugs you feed and your chameleon’s feeding preferences and habits. If your chameleon is consistently eating and pooping, then you are doing a good job. If they stop eating all together, then you need to investigate further and see why that might be happening. Once your chameleon is around 8-9 months old (give or take) then you can start cutting back on their food to every other day until they reach adulthood at 12 months old. Then they will eat 3-4 bugs every 2-3 days. That is a rough guideline. You should really learn the signs of an underweight, overweight, and healthy weight chameleon to help you be able to adjust their diet and quantity of bugs as needed.
Something that is not included in the kit is a laying bin. If you have a female veiled or panther chameleon, you will need to provide her with a laying bin, so she has a place to lay her eggs. They will lay infertile eggs even if they have never been with or have seen a male chameleon. Jackson’s chameleons give live birth, so they don’t need a bin.
Watch to learn more about egg laying and how to set up a laying bin:
I hope this helps get you started in your chameleon keeping journey! They really are such a joy to watch and take care of. Remember that the two most difficult things when it comes to chameleon keeping is getting them set up correctly and knowing what care information to listen to. Lucky for you, you have these great Kits available to you and this blog along with my hundreds of free videos on YouTube. Good luck with your chameleon!
24” Pangea Reptile T5 HO Fixture
Zoo Med Deep Dome Lamp Fixture
Vivarium Electronics LED Light
Pangea Thermometer & Hygrometer
Pangea Rubber Coated Feeding Tongs
24” Pangea Reptile T5 HO Fixture
Pangea Thermometer & Hygrometer
Pangea Rubber Coated Feeding Tongs