Heating


 

There are four main areas to heating a Chameleon enclosure. Basking area, background heating, a thermal gradient and night -time drop.


Basking Spot


The basking spot should closely match the temperature of the Chameleons natural habitat in direct sunlight (somewhere between mid and late afternoon) and should be brighter than the surrounding areas. This is where the primary UV exposure should occur. This can be achieved with either a PowerSun (Mercury Vapour) Reptile UV bulb if the size of the enclosure permits or a combination of a UVB Reptile Fluorescent bulb and a normal household spot bulb or halogen bulb.

 


Background temperature


The background temperature should closely match the temperature in the shade. This area should still allow UVB exposure but must be cooler than the basking spot.


Thermal Gradient


A Thermal Gradient is where the temperature varies in the enclosure from the maximum (under the basking spot) to the minimum (furthest away from the basking spot). With chameleons this gradient should be vertical. There should be a noticeable difference between the maximum and minimum temperatures. This allows the Chameleon to decide the temperature it prefers/needs at any given time. No chameleon spends all day in the shade or all day in the sun.

 


Night time drop


As would be experienced in their natural habitat, a drop in temperature at night is important for many species of Chameleon to allow them a proper period of rest. It is important to understand the climate where the chameleon comes from to ensure the correct minimum temperature.
For example Panther Chameleons don't thrive with night-time drops much below the low 60°F's. Temperatures below that can be fatal in weak individuals. This is because they come from a less variable climate than for example, the Veiled Chameleon which can (although it is absolutely not recommended) survive night-time temperatures approaching freezing*.

* Sorry to state the obvious but please do not try and test the freezing statement. 50°F is a better minimum for Veiled chameleons in captivity.

In fact night-time and maximum temperatures can be an important factor in deciding the species of Chameleon to be kept. Its harder to cool an enclosure than to heat one. If you come from a cool area then it might be more advisable to consider one of the species classed as Montain (or mountain living). These are higher altitude species that are used to lower more variable daytime temperatures and often require a significant night-time drop. Species commonly available in the hobby are Dwarf or Mount Meru Jackson's Chameleon, High Casqued Chameleon and Fischers Chameleon.
People who come from warmer areas should consider avoiding some of the Montain species. Mount Meru Jacksons Chameleon for example, will suffer from heat stress in captive conditions when the temperature hits the 80°'s. They also need a noticeable night-time drop. If your summers can reach 90°F or higher then these animals can suffer and may die without additional cooling or air conditioning. The more tropical species can be easier to keep as they tolerate well the high temps and additional night -time heating if required is a simple matter of using a heat mat, or a radiator depending on the enclosure.


Heating and Humidity


With very few exceptions, all chameleons come from humid climates. The high temperatures often quoted in books and on weather sites can only be tolerated if the humidity is also sufficiently high.

For example Panther Chameleons can handle periods where the temperature goes into the 90°F's with little sign of stress PROVIDING the humidity is high (80% or over). In the recent summers we have had the temperatures have hit the 90°F's regularly. When these sorts of temperatures are likely, increased humidity and the addition of a water dripper is a must.

Ideally a misting system should be installed which will provide an area where the Chameleon can cool off as well as drink ad lib. If the cage will allow it, runing the mister all day is the better option. Clearly there has to be sufficient drainage and a large enough area where the chameleon can leave the mist and bask without getting wet.

When in their natural habitat the chameleon would be able to retreat to cooler more humid areas if need be. In captivity we must be very careful to provide a sufficient range of conditions to allow the chameleon to still do this. The picture below shows the range and temperatures in a garden.

As you can see there is a huge range of temperatures in a very small area so just because the weather channel says its 80°F does not mean the chameleon will be exposed to or indeed desire that exact temperature.

 

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