Before the new inhabitant can enter its cage, you need equipment to create a natural environment inside. Besides back panels, living plants and living substrate, a chameleon cage needs mainly branches.
If you ask friendly for fresh cut branches in allotment gardens, you may get nice branches for free – or cut them in your own garden. In the forest, you can collect dead branches or those fallen down in storms. In Germany, the risk to infect your chameleon with parasites is negligible. This might be else in other countries, e.g. in warm climate with a lot of free ranging wild reptiles in gardens. In case of doubt, please ask your reptile vet about your local situation. In Germany, it is possible to use all branches naturally without cleaning or heating actions.
Trunks and cork tubes are useless for chameleons. Branches that the chameleon can grip with hands and feets completely are perfect. Please do not use conifer branches due to its sticky resin. Instead you can use branches of fruit trees, hazelnut, willow or other deciduous trees. The branches are fixed inside the cage with aquarium or food silicone. As an alternative, you can also fix branches at ventilation meshes with raffia, or you tilt larger branches between the cage walls. Instead of natural branches or as additional climbing opportunity, you can also use lianas or vines from a pet shop.
A densely planted cage offers enough possibilities to hide and seek shelter for your chameleon. Chameleons that live in sparsely equipped “naked” cages, do not live a long life in most cases. After equipping the cage with branches, you need to plant one or two smaller trees – you can find a detailed selection in this article.The upper third of the cage can be left a little sparser, but should be also planted with vines like pothos or passion flower. Basically: The more you have too search the cage to find your chameleon, the better it is planted.
Water bowls, foggers, fountains or wells and waterfalls should not be part of a chameleon cage. Wooden ladders as used for guinea pigs or rats, bird perches, big stones or plastic caves from pet shops are also very unsuitable. Also renounce to use hemp or coconut fibre ropes, because chameleons cleaning their eyes and rubbing them against the ropes might be harmed by the fibres. They can also become a problem when accidentally eaten up.
To ensure your chameleon can drink enough, drippers are perfectly. Please put the tank or bin outside the cage – it needs unnecessarily much space inide, that the chameleon cannot use then. If you do not want to sprinkle water several times per day by hand, you can install an automatic raining system.
Examples for fully equipped cages
The cage on the left is made from Aluminium profiles and forex with a door completely covered by gauze and gauze top. The back wall has been coveredy by ornamental cork. The plants have been well growing, and the upper third is a little more light. On the ground, there are some Calathea species and Chamaedora palms. On the right side, a passion flower vines to the top. On the back wall on the right side, there is a big spider plant and on the left is a nest fern, in the middle a pot with another big fern. On the top in front on the right side and on the back wall high up are two Epipremnum aureum plants that vine through the cage. Additionally, the cage has three Lousiana mosses fixed on branches. The branches are from old apple trees.
The right cage is very high and large with forest soil and many branches of an old fruit tree. The back wall is made from a mat of willow branches that the chameleon can climb. The lower area is covered by a Kentia palm an a Ficus benjamini, a passion flower grows in the upper part. On the left, there is a flower pot with Pothos. Both vines should grow a little more before the chameleon enters its new home.
The left cage shows a well equipped cage for smaller chameleon species. It has many thin branches, the upper third is a little more sparse and the back panel consists of ornamental cork that is well to climb on. The substrate is soil from a deciduous forest, and the cage is planted with different Asplenium species and Radermachera.
The right cage may look nice, but is inappropriate for keeping chameleons: There is a plastic plant on the right side and a water bowl on the left – both should not be inside a chameleon cage. Additionally, the substrate consists of bark mulch, which is also unsuitable since it might cause severe obstipations when eaten. Another problem is the hardly dense planting and a lack of many thin branches. Those plump cork tubes cannot be used by the chameleon and waste valuable space.