How much is a chameleon?

Furcifer lateralis in Ambalavo
Furcifer pardalis aus Vohimana 2018
Furcifer pardalis in Ambanja 2018
Brookesia superciliaris in Mitsinjo 2018
Calumma parsonii parsonii yellow giant aus Vohimana, 2016

Keeping and breeding chameleons are relatively costly compared to other pets. Each chameleon has to be kept in its own terrarium, which takes up a lot of space but also means more effort. The electricity costs alone can reach astronomical heights for some breeders. This could be reflected in the price of the animals – however, with most lovers the sales costs do not even cover the running costs of the offspring. However, this article is not only intended to illuminate the purchase price of a chameleon, but also everything that is still to be paid for by the owner.

Purchase prices of chameleons

As with other animals, supply and demand determine prices for chameleons. Years ago Parson’s chameleons could only be purchased in the mid-four-digit range, but today the prices have already reached the mid to high three-digit range due to increasing numbers of offspring. Panther chameleons have been relatively stable for years at 100 to 200 € – the price can be considerably higher for newly imported animals or rarer local forms (or in countries where chameleons are less well available than in Germany). Leaf chameleons are often cheaper because of lack of popularity (often said to be “small brown critters”) and because of their short life, but they are more challenging in keeping. Carpet chameleons have ranged between 100 and 150 € for years. The above-mentioned prices apply to young animals in Europe. Adult animals, which have already successfully had offspring, are accordingly more expensive in a purchase.

With apparently disproportionately high or extremely favorable prices one should always be taken aback: Is someone selling a particularly coveted, supposedly rare locale of a panther chameleon only as expensive as possible, or has someone even saved a lot on rearing costs? Another, more recent example: During the Corona pandemic, there was and still is a huge increase in domestic animals kept. The high demand for pets could not and cannot be met in some cases, causing prices to skyrocket. In this situation, in order not to fall for resourceful sellers who take advantage of the situation, it may be worth waiting a little longer than planned for the desired chameleon from the right breeder.

Our basic view is that if you want to buy a certain animal, the price should play a subordinate role. In the case of chameleons, it is not worth trading for ten Euros or negotiating discounts when buying several animals: they will cause sufficient costs later on so that these alleged savings will no longer play a role.

Acquisition cost

Besides the purchase price of the animal itself, the terrarium and its lighting are part of the whole purchase price. Depending on the material, size, and lighting types, several hundred Euros can quickly be collected here, but there is no upper limit. If you want it to be particularly large and beautiful, you will find it in four digits. For example, what a self-built terrarium (without lighting) made of aluminum profiles, forex plates, aluminum gauze, and glass costs, we have put together here. In addition, you will need other equipment such as timers, extension cords, sprinklers or spray bottles, and boxes for feeders.

The branches and substrate for chameleon terrariums can usually be obtained free of charge from gardens and nearby deciduous forests. The plants, however, must be bought.

Ongoing keeping costs

Especially in the case of chameleons, it is important to consider the running costs of keeping the chameleons before purchasing them. As with most pets, these far exceed the purchase costs over the years.

  • Electricity: Something that is often forgotten, but usually causes the highest costs when keeping many chameleons. Who buys many new terrariums over one year, but does not adjust the monthly advance payment for the electricity bill, can experience a nasty surprise at the end of the year. Roughly one should calculate with approximately one Euro per watt of lighting over the terrariums per year in Europe.
  • Replacement for terrarium equipment: If you do not have a particularly green thumb, you will have to replace individual plants every now and then over the months. Even lamps break down at some point, in the best case you already have a replacement for this case in hand.
  • Veterinary costs: Hardly any chameleon remains healthy for life. Accordingly, as with other pets, you have to reckon with costs for illnesses. A certain financial cushion should therefore always be available, e.g. for an egg binding surgery or x-rays and blood tests. Emergency surgeries or hospital stays can quickly cost several hundred Euros due to the intensive care provided by specialists. In addition, there are regular fecal examinations, which are also recommended for healthy chameleons.
  • Food & Supplements: Who breeds food animals himself can get off cheaply here. Most keepers, however, purchase feeders from wholesalers, which of course have to be paid for. Prices plus shipping can be found on all major websites. Supplements such as vitamins and calcium are usually only bought every few months.
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